Man dies in collision with Dakar Rally competitor

Posted Jan. 13, 2011, at 4:39 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 13, 2011, at 9:22 p.m.

SAN JUAN, Argentina — A man died at the Dakar Rally on Thursday when the small truck he was driving collided with a car in the race.

Argentine driver Eduardo Amor reportedly was driving on a road when he struck the other vehicle. He was still completing the 10th stage, which the leading competitors finished on Wednesday.

Police said the accident took place at 6 a.m. about 6 miles from Tinogasta in the northern part of the country. The dead man was identified as 42-year-old Marcelo Reales by the Argentine news agency Diario y Noticias.

Fatalities are not uncommon at the Dakar Rally. Last year a woman watching the race was struck and killed by a vehicle.

Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar won Thursday’s 11th stage, closing in on victory when the two-week race ends Saturday. Defending champion Carlos Sainz of Spain, who trailed Volkswagen teammate Al-Attiyah by 18 minutes entering the stage, broke his right front suspension and lost more than an hour — and almost surely lost any chance of winning.

Al-Attiyah finished the stage 1 minute, 13 seconds ahead of Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel and 4:52 in front of Giniel de Villiers of South Africa. Sainz finished 10th, 1:14:50 behind. Al-Attiyah leads De Villiers by 51:49 overall and Sainz by 1:27.27.

In bikes, Cyril Despres of France won the stage, 2:11 ahead of overall leader Marc Coma of Spain. Coma leads Despres by 15:59 overall and is in strong position to win.

Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar Rally nine times, was ready to hand the trophy to Al-Attiyah.

“Carlos’ problems will allow Nasser to have a much more comfortable last two days,” Peterhansel said. “Carlos already lost the Dakar two days from the finish two years ago. We know that it is always complicated to win the Dakar and he’s seen just how much this time.”

Coma, the winner in 2009 and 2006, faces a difficult stage Friday and a relatively easy one in Saturday’s finale.

“Tomorrow evening we’ll obviously be closer to the finish, but I have to make sure I get through the day OK,” Coma said. “A calm approach is best. … I repeat: tomorrow is another long day. We’ll see what happens afterward.”

The rally had been held in Europe and Africa until the 2008 race was canceled because of fears of terrorism. It was moved to South America the next year.

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