The prologue stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally has been suspended, as rally organisers confirmed that spectators have been hit after a car went off the road.
Saturday’s 11km special stage was intended primarily to determine the running order for the first stage of the rally proper on Sunday.
But the test was brought to a halt after Guo Meiling’s X-Raid Mini went off course, hitting a group of four spectators 6.6km into the stage.
The entire field of quads and bikes had previously made it through the stage safely, with Ignacio Casale setting the pace in the former and Joan Barreda and Ruben Faria recording identical best times in the latter.
Toyota driver Bernhard ten Brinke meanwhile had set the pace in the car category ahead of Peugeot’s Carlos Sainz and Ford’s Xavier Pons before proceedings were halted to allow emergency services to reach the scene.
The contingent of trucks had yet to start the prologue, which organisers confirmed will not be restarted.
A Dakar statement read: "There has been an accident at km 6.6 of the prologue's special, with car no. 360 [Guo] veering off the road and hitting four spectators.
"The organisers immediately deployed all resources available to the site of the accident: four medical helicopters, three medical vehicles belonging to the organisers and eight local ambulances.
"Injured individuals are likely to be swiftly taken to hospitals in the area following an initial medical evaluation by the organisers' medical teams on the site.
"The race directors immediately decided to neutralise the race. The remainder of the trip to the Rosario bivouac will be considered a link section."