Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Deaths cast pall over Dakar Rally

Updated: 2014-01-12 07:21
By Agencies in Salta, Argentina ( China Daily)

Deaths cast pall over Dakar Rally

Belgium's Eric Palante rides on the podium ramp during the symbolic start of the 2014 Dakar Rally in Rosario, Argentina. [Photo/]

Belgian motorcyclist and two journalists die during fifth leg

Three deaths overshadowed Friday's sixth leg of the Dakar Rally, as the race claimed the life of Belgian motorcyclist Eric Palante and two journalists, who were following the event.

Palante's body was found after he failed to finish Thursday's fifth stage.

Nani Roma of Spain kept the overall lead in cars despite finishing sixth in the stage, and fellow Spaniard Marc Coma stayed on top in bikes after taking second on the stage from Tucuman to Salta in northern Argentina.

Roma, driving a Mini, has a large lead of 30 min, 30 sec over Orlando Terranova of Argentina, and 40:54 ahead of 11-time winner Stephane Peterhansel.

Coma leads fellow Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort by 42:17 and is an hour ahead of Alain Duclos of France.

Organizers said they searched for the 50-year-old Palante after he failed to finish the fifth stage, which most riders completed on Thursday, and found his body along the route.

The cause of death was being investigated, and officials offered few details.

This was Palante's 11th Dakar Rally, according to an event biography, which said he would have turned 51 on Jan 21. It said his goal was to win the amateur trophy for motorbikes.

"He knew the race very well, and over the years his enthusiastic but serious approach had made him one of the pillars of the event," organizers said in a statement.

Organizers said they received no alert from Palante.

Meanwhile, two members of an Argentine news team also died on Thursday when the car they were traveling in fell into a ravine, the Super Rally magazine said.

"The dead are journalism student Agustin Mina, 20, and Daniel Ambrosio, 51, who loved auto racing," magazine manager Francisco Delgado told AFP.

The Dakar, raced over rugged terrain in difficult-to-control areas, often produces fatalities. Last year, French motorcyclist Thomas Bourgin was killed in a collision with a Chilean police car. Two fans also died in a collision between a support vehicle and two taxis.

The Dakar began on Sunday in Rosario, Argentina, and ends on Jan 18 in Valapariso, Chile.

It is now in its sixth year in South America after starting out as a grueling and frequently fatal race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital Dakar.

Saturday in a rest day.