Salta, Argentina: Stephane Peterhansel in a Mini won the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally on Friday to increase his overall lead in the cars competition, while a French motorcyclist became the third person killed in connection with this year’s race.
Peterhansel now leads by 3 minutes, 14 seconds ahead of Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar as the car category shapes up to be a two-man race. Third-place Giniel de Villier is 44 minutes behind the leader.
In bikes, Kurt Caselli of the US won the high-altitude stage across the Andes with Olivier Pain of France keeping the overall lead.
The stage was overshadowed by the death of French motorcyclist Thomas Bourgin, who collided with a Chilean police car. The accident comes after two people died when their taxi collided with a Dakar Rally support vehicle late Wednesday in Peru near the border with Chile.
Race officials say the incident occurred as 25-year-old Bourgin was travelling from Calama on the Chilean side of the Andes to the start of the seventh stage in Argentina. They say the police car was going in the opposite direction.
The victory was Peterhansel’s 61st stage victory in the famous rally, which he has won 10 times.
Caselli, meanwhile, picked up his first stage victory by finishing the high-altitude trek 1:23 ahead of both Francisco Lopez of Chile and Olivier Pain of France.
Pain kept the overall lead in bikes. He is 6:06 ahead of Lopez and 6:37 in front of fellow Frenchman David Casteu.
Defending champion Cyril Despres of France finished 13:18 off the pace and slipped into fifth place in the overall bike standings.
“It’s good, I mean, today was easy,” Caselli said. “It was just roads, there was no off-track or anything - pretty easy to follow. ... Everything for me was fine. I’m learning the navigation better and I can understand it. This is my first Dakar so I’m just learning a lot. I didn’t have any idea what to expect when I first came here. It’s fun and I’m enjoying it. The race is great and the people are too. I’m having a good time.”