Dakar Rally overshadowed by third deathUpdated: 2013-01-14 09:20
French motorbike rider killed in collision with police car to the start of Friday's stage
Ten-time champion Stephane Peterhansel extended his Dakar Rally lead on Friday, but the world's most grueling endurance event was once again hit by tragedy when a French motorcyclist was killed.
As Peterhansel claimed the seventh stage which crossed the Andes between Calama in Chile and Salta in Argentina to build a lead of more than three minutes over 2011 champion Nasser al-Attiyah, the event was reeling from a third death in two days.
Competitor Thomas Bourgin, 25, was involved in a collision with a police car which was coming in the opposite direction on the link road to the start of Friday's stage in Calama.
"The rally's medical teams deployed on the ground were only able to certify the rider's death, probably instant," a statement on the race's official website reported.
Bourgin was in 68th place in the overall motorcycling rankings of his first Dakar.
On Thursday, two people were killed in a head-on collision between a rally support vehicle and a taxi near Peru's border with Chile.
Going into the 2013 event, 59 people, including 20 spectators, had lost their lives at the race.
On Friday, Peterhansel finished the 218km run with a 39 sec lead over compatriot Guerlain Chicherit, in an SMG, with American NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, in a Hummer, 1 min, 08 sec off the pace.
Al-Attiyah, who had won his third stage of this year's race on Thursday to slash Peterhansel's overall lead down to 1 min, 18 sec, was sixth on Friday in his Buggy, 1:56 behind.
He remains second overall, but is now 3:14 behind defending champion Peterhansel.
In the motorcycling stage, America's Kurt Caselli, on a KTM, took the honors, winning in 1:51:31, an advantage of 1:23 over Chile's Francisco Lopez and Olivier Pain of France.
Pain still leads the overall standings by 6:06 ahead of Lopez.
Defending champion Cyril Despres, who had been second overall, dropped to more than 14 minutes off the pace after mechanical problems left him without fifth gear for half the distance.
"Cyril's problems have given me a significant gap for the lead, and that's a good thing for me," said Pain.
"That's just part of racing, but I'm not forgetting that it could happen to me too, so I'm not getting cocky about it, especially since Cyril has the capacity to claw back the time he's lost."
Saturday's eighth stage is a 247km timed run between Salta and Tucuman.