Dakar Rally ends for Aleš Loprais with tragic accident
The 2023 Dakar Rally was only a few days away from ending and Czech rally raid truck driver Aleš Loprais was in the lead. But he has now confirmed that he is dropping out of the famous race following an incident where a spectator died after being hit by his truck.
The tragic accident took place on Tuesday evening in the ninth stage of the competition. Loprais said that he had not even been aware that the collision had happened at all.
“A human life was lost and it was de facto my fault because I was behind the wheel, but I have to say that I didn’t know anything about it and neither did any of the crew. But there is video proving it and in any case, that doesn’t change the fact that a human life was lost. Therefore I want to express my sincere condolences to the family, his loved ones and friends – I’m very sorry and this will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
The 69-year-old Italian man was hit by Loprais’ truck while trying to take pictures of it from behind a sand dune. Although he wasn’t killed immediately, he was injured and began feeling nauseous two to three hours later. He had a heart attack while being transported to the hospital by rescue helicopter.
Loprais published a video on Facebook early on Wednesday morning apologising for the accident, with footage from both inside and outside the truck showing that the man was not visible from the driver’s seat. Loprais first found out about the accident at night when he was about to go to sleep. A few hours later, it was definitively confirmed by the organizers of the rally that Loprais would drop out and not start the next stage.
He had been in the lead in the truck category up until then, almost 27 minutes ahead of Janus van Kasteren from the Netherlands in second place. This was Loprais’ seventeenth time competing in the Dakar Rally and the 45th edition of the famous race overall. He celebrated his 43rd birthday on Tuesday.
Loprais is the nephew of the lauded Czech rally raid truck driver Karel Loprais, first competing in the Dakar Rally as navigator to his uncle Karel in 2006. From 2007 onwards he has competed as a driver, usually driving Tatra trucks. He has scored several stage victories in the Dakar Rally and his best overall result until now was third place. Apart from the Dakar Rally, Loprais has competed in a number of other rally raid races, including the Silk Way Rally and the 2008 Central Europe Rally.
According to available data, around eight dozen people have lost their lives in the Dakar Rally since 1979, although the exact number of deaths varies according to different sources. Some 27 of the victims were competitors with the rest being crew members, journalists and spectators.