TUNIS: Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka was recovering in hospital here Friday after surviving an horrific crash in the eighth stage of the Dakar rally.
Shinozuka, who won the race in 1997, was flown to the Tunisian capital Thursday evening after overturning his Nissan pick-up in the Libyan desert.
It was originally feared the 54-year-old had suffered brain damage and chest injuries but scans showed he had escaped with fractured bones to his cheeks and nose. His life was not in danger, doctors said.
Doctor Kamel Ayachi, one of the doctors treating him at the private ‘Les Berges du Lac’ clinic, said Shinozuka underwent facial surgery during the night and was recovering well.
“There is no damage to his brain and he is in a stable condition,” Ayachi told AFP.
He said that Shinozuka would remain under supervision in the Tunis hospital while his injuries healed and would then be flown back to Paris.
The accident occurred in sand dunes some 373km into the marathon 727-kilometre run between Ghat and Sabha in Libya, the longest stage in the gruelling rally.
The vehicle went out of control on a series of hill jumps in the dunes and overturned before rolling several times.
Finnish driver Ari Vatanen had been close behind Shinozuka when the accident happened.
"I was first on the scene," said Vatanen. "Shinozuka spoke to me, he recognised me. I told him it wasn't serious, the helicopter is coming.”
Shinozuka, who was third in last year's race, had been in third position overall in the car section going into Wednesday's stage, 51min 20sec behind Peterhansel. – AFP