Several spectators were injured when Chinese racer Guo Meiling lost control over her Mini Cooper and veered off into a group of fans. At least three people are in critical condition, officials say.
Guo's car careened off the road near the Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires during the special stage of the Dakar Rally on Saturday. Hundreds of racers were competing for start positions a day before the official beginning.
A man and his 14-year-old son sustained the most serious injuries, Carlos Mondino, the health secretary of Arrecifes in the Buenos Aires province, told the Argentinean Todo Noticias channel.
"In total, we had 10 patients, including four children and one pregnant woman, who is ok," said Daniel Modesto, head of a local hospital.
The Mini Cooper driver Guo was also hurt, according to the Dakar rally organizers.
Hundreds of drivers racing across South America
The officials suspended the prologue stage of the race, leaving the start position in the truck category undetermined.
"From one second to the other, the prologue was transformed from a party to hell," said the Argentinean racer Agustin Canapino, who witnessed the accident. "The driver jumped off the race course, lost control of the car and crashed into the people. It was a nightmare."
Guo is the first Chinese woman to compete in the world famous rally.
The 38th Dakar rally has over 560 participants competing in 347 vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles and quads. The drivers are set to travel 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) on tough terrain through Argentina and Bolivia. The race wasmoved from Europe and Africa
to South America in 2009, due to security concerns.
dj/bk (AFP, AP, dpa)