Sainz reinstated as Dakar leader after organizers admit GPS error

Error in navigation system saw Spanish former champion lose more than 20 minutes

Spain's Carlos Sainz steers his Buggy during Stage 1 of the Dakar 2013.
Spain's Carlos Sainz steers his Buggy during Stage 1 of the Dakar 2013.FRANCK FIFE (AFP)

Spanish rally driver Carlos Sainz was bumped up overnight from 11th place in the overall rankings of the 2013 Dakar to first place, after organizers determined that a problem with their GPS system had resulted in his puzzling loss of time.

“I can’t understand it, I can’t understand it,” were Sainz’s words as he finished Sunday’s stage, dumbfounded by his finish, 18 minutes and three seconds behind Stéphane Peterhansel, who had ostensibly won the stage.

The Red Bull Qatar team driver had not got lost in his buggy – he was convinced of that. But according to the Spaniard, who won the 2010 Dakar, it was impossible to get the GPS system to recognize that they had passed one of the obligatory waypoints along the route.

“It wasn’t a navigation problem, I’m sure of that,” he said. “We passed the waypoint three times, but it just wouldn’t work. In the end I decided to carry on, knowing that they were going to dock me an hour. And when I was least expecting it the GPS came online around six minutes from where it should have done so. I’m sure that the GPS had some kind of problem.”

And when the race organizers checked out the route taken by the Spaniard, they saw that his hunch was right.

The malfunction had seen Sainz lose 21m26s. When that time was reinstated, he became the leader once more, having already taken the win on Saturday’s much shorter stage.

Today will see him tackle the route between Pisco and Nazca, a stage that promises to be kinder to the competitors than Sunday’s. What’s more, it is not in Sainz’s interest to win today, so that he is not heading out first in on the fourth stage in Arequipa, one that is well known at the Dakar for its difficulty.

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