Thirteen spectators were injured Saturday during the prologue for the Dakar Rally 2016 in Buenos Aires when one of the cars drove into a group of fans along the race course.
The Mini Cooper driven by Chinese racer Guo Meiling rammed into the spectators, the rally's organizer said. Three of the injured people were in critical condition, the Telam news agency reported, quoting the fire department. Five children were among the injured, all of whom were transported to hospital.
"From one second to the other, [the prologue] was tranformed from a party to hell," said the Argentinian racer Agustín Canapino, who witnessed the accident. "The driver jumped off the race course, lost control of the car and crashed into the people. It was a nightmare."
It was the first time since the 2005 rally, run in Spain, that a prologue was run.
The organizers suspended the prologue after the accident, leaving the start positions in the truck category undetermined.
In the car category, Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul won in a Toyota; in the motorcycle category, Spaniard Joan Barreda, driving a Honda, and Portuguese Ruben Faria, driving a Husqvarna, won the start positions. Among the quad-racers, Chilean Ignacio Casale on a Yamaha prevailed.
The 38th Dakar Rally is a 13-stage race over 9,000 kilometres of terrain through Argentina and Bolivia to the finish line in the city of Rosario. The first stage on Sunday is a 730-kilometre stretch from Buenos Aires north-west to Villa Carlos Paz.
There are 560 participants competing in 347 vehicles: 136 motorcycles, 111 cars, 55 trucks and 45 quads. The rally has been held in South America since 2009.