Belfast Telegraph

Death of biker puts question mark over Dakar Rally

By Pat Smith

Joan Roma claimed victory yesterday in the third stage of the Dakar Rally, an event overshadowed by the death of Argentinian competitor Jorge Martinez Boero, which has raised yet more questions about this dangerous race.

Roma won on the stage between San Rafael and San Juan in Argentina as fellow Mini driver Krzysztof Holowczyc moved ahead in the general standings in the car category.

Hummer driver Robby Gordon, fifth in yesterday's stage, is second behind Holowczyc, trailing by just 54 seconds.

Giniel de Villiers, the 2009 Dakar champion, is third, one minute and 40 behind the Pole.

Stephane Peterhansel, who had led the overall standings after Monday's stage, suffered twice from punctures.

In the bike category, Cyril Despres won the stage and overtook Marc Coma in the overall standings.

Another French rider, Sebastien Coue, was admitted to intensive care in San Rafael hospital after he suffered a broken shoulder and then lost consciousness, slipping into a coma in the extreme heat.

He was given an ice bath at the scene to bring his body temperature down and will now need time in hospital in Argentina before flying back to France.

Martinez Boero, meanwhile, suffered a heart attack after being badly injured in a fall from his Beta bike 2km from the end of the stage between Mar del Plata and Santa Rosa de la Pampa in the west of Argentina on Sunday.

He received medical attention within minutes, but died while being airlifted to hospital.

Martinez Boero was the son of a former Argentine racing champion of the same name who died in 2004.

In its 33rd year, the Dakar Rally is considered one of the most dangerous rallies in the world.

The event has suffered four fatalities in as many years.

Last year, a man died when his truck collided with a car competing in the rally while in 2010 a female spectator was killed by a vehicle taking part in the race.

In 2009, French motorcyclist Pascal Terry was found dead after he had been missing for three days following the second stage of the race.

The 2012 route has changed considerably with drivers and riders tasked with a daunting 5,500-mile route starting from Mar del Plata, south of Buenos Aires.

The 465-strong field navigate their way through Argentina and into Chile and Peru before reaching the finish in Lima, the Peruvian capital, on January 15.

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