No matter what happens in the Dakar Rally, no matter how bad it gets, you don’t abandon your teammate. And yet one driver competing in the Side-by-Side class reportedly did just that yesterday, in the middle of the world’s most grueling rally raid event, this year taking place in Saudi Arabia.
Xavier Blanco, co-driver for Ricardo Ramilo competing in the #438 Buggy Masters Team car, was stranded 170 kilometers into a 464-kilometer stage, according to reports from Spanish outlets Diario AS and Marca. The split was the culmination of disagreements between the two in the car, seemingly over Ramilo’s driving, which left Blanco fearing for his life.
At one point, Blanco evidently couldn’t take it anymore and ordered Ramilo to stop the car. Blanco got out and refused to continue — so Ramilo sped off without him.
The co-driver shared a statement with Diario AS, which has been quoted below and translated (roughly) by Google:
My decision has been due to the behavior of the pilot towards me. It was not the first time nor the second, until I decided to get off when I see that my life is at risk and the pilot ignores. Next, what has done has been to abandon me, literally, I have abandoned myself in the middle of the desert. I did not want to go back up and he said well, “there you stay.” In the team we have been putting up with this character for 15 days, if you have seen the videos you you have been able to give an account of the level he has.
According to Marca, Blanco had his passport and mobile and satellite phones on him, so he called his team for a lift. More than an hour later, team chief Eudald Noé and a mechanic picked him up. Noé told Marca:
He called us, gave us the location and I personally, together with another mechanic, went to get him to the track and we just arrived at the camp. Xavi got off because he could see himself in danger, this man was driving very badly and he told him that he couldn’t leave that way. He got out and this man left him lying in the desert.
At this point, you might be curious to hear Ramilo’s side of the story. Is he regretful over what happened? Is there any aspect of this episode he wishes he could have handled differently — particularly the teammate-stranding part?
Evidently not. Here’s what the driver told Deportes Cuatro, by way of Marca:
It is not how Xavi tells it, the first because it was not a desert. We had just left a control that is on the road and arrived at another which was also on the road, there was no desert.
I’m left stranded, I have to continue without a telephone charging cable, without a satellite phone, without the cardboard to seal at the checkpoints and without being able to run because at the next checkpoint I find out that I can’t run alone. He left me, it’s the other way around.
You see, Ramilo, the dude with the vehicle, was the real victim here!
The audacity of this man to claim his co-driver stranded him because he chose to continue on without any navigation equipment. His arriving to the next checkpoint and learning he’s violated the rules by deserting his teammate is just icing on the cake. Also, the “I didn’t leave him in the desert” defense seems a little disingenuous when both the co-driver himself and your boss says you did.
For reference, this is what Stage 11, which runs from Al-‘Ula to Yanbu, looks like:
You can track Ramilo’s path through the stage via the Dakar website (make sure to click the “Lightweight Vehicle” tab at the top to view the Side-by-Side entries). To save you some time, I’ve also included a GIF that highlights how erratic his route gets about a third of the way through the stage, starting between the third and fifth checkpoints. (If the GIF is blurry on your screen, expanding it should help.)
I can’t determine where exactly Blanco gets left behind. Nevertheless, seems like you would’ve had an easier time figuring out where you were going with a navigator, buddy! Surprising no one, car #438 later withdrew from the rally.