The United States contingent in the 2017 Dakar Rally has suffered a major blow – even though the Rally doesn’t begin until Jan. 2.
Dakar Rally coverage begins on Tuesday, January 3, at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
In a release, driver Bryce Menzies, who was slated to compete in his first-ever Rally, has been forced to withdraw from the world-renowned race through Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. The reason given is the 29-year-old Menzies continues to experience complications from an injury he sustained in a crash last August. The official Dakar website has also confirmed Menzies’ withdrawal.
“I am beyond disappointed to have to withdraw from starting this year’s Dakar,” Menzies said, according to the release. “It has been a lifelong goal of mine that will have to wait another year before I can attempt.”
Menzies broke the world record for a truck jump, flying 379.4 feet through the air, in August near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
After setting the mark, Menzies had planned to repeat the jump – and try to break his new mark – during a live webcast a week later. But during practice for the second jump, his Red Bull truck crashed and Menzies suffered a broken shoulder.
Since then, he’s experienced complications, including the need for an additional surgery, leaving him physically unable to perform in the Dakar Rally.
“I knew it would it be tough to get back to 100 percent after my injuries from the world record New Frontier jump,” Menzies said. “Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get to a point where I’d be both comfortable in the car for that long and technically able to compete at the level warranted to win.
“It also wasn’t worth re-injuring anything and then being out for the more races this season.”
But Menzies isn’t giving up totally on racing in the Rally: he’s just postponing it a year.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of my MINI later this year as we put in the homework needed to get ready for 2018 Dakar,” he said.
Menzies will be replaced in his MINI John Cooper Works Rally by Argentinean driver Orlando Terranova and German navigator Andreas Schulz.
Terranova finished fifth in the 2013 and 2014 Dakar Rally’s, while Schulz is a two-time winner of the legendary event (2001, 2003).
“(Menzies’ withdrawal is) really bad news, X-raid Team Manager Sven Quandt said in the release. “Bryce is a very gifted driver and certainly would have secured several good results in his first Dakar.
“But it also is of major importance that he fully focuses on his recovery to afterwards return to motor racing in top form. So, we and MINI opted for letting Orly and Andi switch to the MINI John Cooper Works Rally. They are a very competitive pairing.”
Menzies’ original co-driver was slated to be fellow U.S. racer Peter Mortensen. There has been no word yet on whether Menzies’ withdrawal from the Rally will also force Mortensen out or if he’ll join another team. Like Menzies, Mortensen was also slated to compete in his first-ever Dakar Rally.