Carlos Sainz at the Dakar Rally. Photo credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

After an alleged wreck between Dakar Rally competitors Carlos Sainz and Kees Koolen, who can’t even agree on whether it happened in the first place, Koolen is threatening legal action. Koolen told Autosport it “would have been a lot easier” for Sainz if Koolen had died, because then he wouldn’t be able to talk.

Huh? What? How did this escalate so quickly?

Reuters reported Monday that Sainz, who led the Dakar Rally’s car class recently, got a 10-minute penalty for allegedly hitting Koolen without stopping to check on him in the seventh of 14 planned stages:

Sainz denied hitting any quadbikes during Saturday’s fourth stage and Peugeot indicated they would appeal.

“Nobody really can understand this penalty,” Peugeot Sport head Bruno Famin told motorsport.com. “This leaves the door open to anything. If any competitor can say that he almost collided with another, we will all have a 10-minute penalty.”

Koolen, a former chief executive of online hotel reservation website booking.com, had complained that double world rally champion and 2010 Dakar winner Sainz had hit his quadbike and failed to stop.

Dakar rules say competitors who see an incident have to stop, help those involved and alert rally organizers about it, according to Autosport. Race stewards handed Sainz a penalty for the situation.

There are a lot of problems surrounding all of this madness, with the first being that Reuters reports Sainz and the head of his Peugeot race team deny that the wreck ever happened. Sainz said he didn’t hit Koolen or anyone else racing in the small, four-wheeled quad class on the day of this alleged wreck, but Koolen is adamant that Sainz hit him and was unsatisfied with the 10-minute penalty.

Thus, Koolen told Autosport that he’d “file a criminal offense” if Sainz didn’t “take serious penalties” from race organizers for the alleged wreck. Koolen said the worst part was that he didn’t get an apology from Sainz, who, again, claims he didn’t hit a quad rider. From Autosport:

“I’m a businessman and have access to a lot of good lawyers, maybe the best lawyers in the world, better than these organisations have themselves,” said Koolen. ...

He believes he is lucky to have survived the incident.

“I was doing maybe 20km/h, the Peugeot was doing top speed, maybe 120/150/180,” said Koolen, the reigning quad cross-country rally world champion.

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Koolen told Autosport there was a lot of damage on his quad, despite Sainz’s claims of not hitting a quad:

“My origin is that I’m an mechanical engineer. The part that was hit and deformed, I will ask a 3D engineer to calculate it, but I think you need 1500 kilos to deform something, maybe 2000 kilos.

“I have the parts saved. I expected somebody to steal it so I can’t prove it anymore, but I have saved them and will give it to a calculating company, they will see what the force was. “If the car hit me 20 centimetres to the left, I would be dead.

“I think if I would be dead, it would have been a lot easier for Peugeot and Carlos because then I wouldn’t be able to talk anymore.”

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Oh, my. Alright, then. Sainz, who said he knows for sure he didn’t hit any quads, told Autosport that he “miraculously avoided” Koolen, and didn’t touch him.

Sainz said he thought the wreck was more Koolen’s fault than his, and that “Of course if you hit somebody, you stop.”

So, Koolen said there was a wreck, Sainz said there wasn’t. Koolen said there was damage, Sainz said there wasn’t. Now, Koolen wants to take legal action for a wreck in which reports don’t mention any injury, in a race that provides more than $5,500 in medical insurance for competitors at current exchange rates.

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Both Sainz and Koolen are still in the rally, with Sainz ranked fourth in the car class and Koolen fifth in quads at the time of publishing.

Update, Jan. 17 at 4:25 p.m. Motorsport.com reports that race stewards took Sainz’s 10-minute penalty back, after his Peugeot team gave them telemetry and other information from the vehicle that suggested there wasn’t a crash.

The stewards gave Sainz and his crew “formal advice” to take extra care in overtaking other racers after taking the penalty back. From Motorsport.com:

“The telemetry does not show any crashes,” said Peugeot Sport boss Bruno Famin. “Maybe a brush, but nothing like an impact. The accelerometer didn’t register it, just as Carlos hadn’t.

“In the telemetry you can see Carlos follows the quad during 12 seconds at 50km/h and when the quad loses control, he brakes again to 37km/

“It is clear that Carlos braked hard and turned the steering wheel sharply to avoid the quad.

“I’ve read some statements from the quad rider. I think Carlos’ behaviour in this incident was perfect and the quad rider should thank Carlos for having avoided him. These are the facts. ...”

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Famin also said he’s happy stewards looked at all of the evidence from Peugeot, since they “didn’t have all the data to make the decision” a few days ago.