Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb has hit out at Dakar stewards after he was handed a time penalty for a speeding infringement.
Loeb, racing for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, was placed fourth when he was handed a five-minute penalty following Wednesday’s fourth stage in Saudi Arabia, dropping him to seventh.
“You’ve got to know me a little after all these years and only very rarely do I have a ‘rant’. But this evening, I need to share with you the incompetence of the stewards’ panel,” the Frenchman wrote on Instagram.
The penalty came after Loeb exceeded the maximum speed limit through a controlled zone. A drivers’ GPS is supposed to warn them when they’re entering such zones, but Loeb says a known issue meant this didn’t happen.
He says the stewards refused to listen to reason and imposed the penalty, despite them gaining just a few seconds.
“We have just been penalised by 5 minutes for exceeding the speed limit in a controlled zone. During all my participations, during all the stages and during all the speed control zones, I have always done my best to respect this rule.
“The only condition is that the GPS system, via an alarm, tells us when we enter these ‘invisible’ zones. Today, in this zone where we are penalised, the alarm did not sound when we entered the zone. So I couldn’t slow down in time.
“In spite of our explanations but especially in spite of the GPS system provider’s admission of a problem with the equipment in our car today, the stewards didn’t want to know anything and decided, sitting behind his desk with the only risk of spilling his coffee when we risk our lives every day in the car, to impose a penalty much higher than what this GPS ‘bug’ made us save…about 2 to 3 seconds if I’m being generous.
“I am a passionate person but I am above all a competitor. And today, if I am on a race like the Dakar, it is first of all to achieve what I am employed for: to sign a result that is worthy of the team’s ambitions and worthy of my ambitions. And for that, there is no room for incompetence or incompetents.”