Lorenzo Bertelli is out of the hospital with no serious injuries after rolling over on SS10 of Rally Portugal. He is very fortunate, since he had to wait more than three hours for an ambulance after the crash.

At first Bertelli felt fine, and they put out the OK sign. However, twenty minutes later, he started feeling sick and dizzy, having hit his head on the roll cage during the crash, leading the team to switch to the SOS sign and request medical assistance. After hearing his symptoms, the Chief Medical Officer declined the request, feeling that the symptoms were not serious enough to justify stopping the stage. A spectator who happened to be a paramedic checked out Bertelli, and had a very different opinion, but was unable to sway the decision. The ambulance did not respond until the stage was over, more than three hours after the crash.

It is understandable why Bertelli didn’t feel the symptoms at first. The adrenalin rush of driving a rally car, and the crash in particular, kept him going for a while. That’s what adrenalin is for. He only began feeling sick as the adrenalin wore off, which is perfectly normal. Head injuries are not to be taken lightly. Had the injury been more serious, Bertelli could have died, all because the powers that be felt that keeping the stage running was more important.

I’ve volunteered in many capacities at many rallies, and I find this absolutely appalling. My primary purpose as a rally volunteer is to keep people safe. Keeping the event running smoothly is important, but secondary to the preservation of human life. Never, in all the rallies I’ve worked, have I heard the slightest hesitation to cancel a stage and send an ambulance to an injured competitor, regardless of symptoms. That’s why they’re there. If situations like this aren’t taken seriously, what’s the point of having marshals and radio operators and ambulances in the first place?


You can read Fuckmatiè’s full report on the incident here.

(Photo credit: Fuckmatiè World Rally Team. h/t to Elana Rabinow.)