Sunday, January 3, 2016
Guo Meiling Not Wholly Responsible for Dakar Accident...
Guo made it a whopping four miles into the two week long race before she wadded up her X-Raid Mini. Various reports reflect different numbers of injured but most place it around ten individuals with four being serious.
Holding primary responsibility is Guo herself. On a picture perfect weather day and a brief prologue of only about 7 miles in which no one should have been running at full race speeds (the usual, you can't win the race here but you sure as hell can lose it here cliche comes to mind) Guo has no excuses for careening out of control. She simply lacked the skill, brains, experience or all three to be playing at the pointy end of the field.
She is not a professional racer as the rest of the X-Raid Mini team is. Look at the other names on the team--Al-Attiyah, Roma, Hirvonen, Van Loon, Hunt, Garafulic, Malysz, etc. They are ALL world class racers behind the wheel of a world class vehicle capable of running speeds virtually unimaginable to mere mortals. Meiling?? She's a "businesswoman", a vice chairman of a Chinese healthcare company who dabbles in offroad racing in her spare time. Her claim to fame to date? 1st place in the Taklimakan rally...on an ATV....in the women's class...five years ago. She has no results to speak of outside of China and has no place behind the wheel of an X-Raid Mini...except for one thing...money. I take a look at the photo of Guo crying behind the wheel seemingly uninjured (at least not seriously) while helicopters, ambulances and medical staff swirl around assisting the injured and I see someone completely out of her end of the pool.
Which I'm sure is what she and her company paid X-Raid in spades for this seat. Maybe X-Raid was blinded by the ash and the fact that there was an experienced codriver beside her. But Sven Quandt's team doesn't need the money really does it? So was it the shiny ribbon of putting the first female Chinese competitor behind the wheel of a Mini that sold it? I dunno...but Sven shares the blame here as well. Testing for Meiling behind the wheel of the Mini (which can be seen in numerous videos to have a squirrely temperment with a rear end that tends to buck violently in the bumps) was likely minimal to non-existent and evidently never under full race conditions. Video of the crash shows exactly what you would expect--a small bump raising the rearend of the vehicle followed by a massive overcorrection by the driver, through a fence and into the crowd. The road was completely flat, no rocks, no trees, no turns, nothing....just a complete clusterfuck by a driver who had no idea what she was doing.
Maybe such instances of "gentleman" drivers have happened in the past at the Dakar...it likely has...I'm just not cognizant enough about the Dakar's history to point out another one. This one however just stinks of the same problem that another dangerous sport has seen in recent years.
Climbing Everest and other world class peaks in the past 20 years or so has largely become a bucket list item for the rich. We all remember the Into Thin Air disaster on Everest and there have been a number of other, similar and larger disasters resulting in numerous deaths in recent years. Many times these involve problems caused by the "client" climbers. Climbers who have a minimal amount of big mountain experience ponying up large sums of money in order to latch on to those who are more capable and experienced in hopes of bagging that peak which will give them bragging rights back home. Sound familiar? Its the same disease--paying clients who want a shortcut to the top and experts only too willing to take the cash in exchange for equipment or support.
No one will ask Sven about the money that changed hands or the vast gulf of experience and talent between his other drivers and Meiling. Meiling will likely never return to the Dakar and will likely be lost to history. If no one ends up passing on from her and X-Raid's misadventure in the 2016 Dakar it will be a lucky thing. Here's a toast to needing less luck in avoiding fatalities at the Dakar in the future...