Fri, Jan 14, 2005 - Page 24 News List

De Villiers' stage success marred by biker's death

AFP , BAMAKO

France's Stephane Peterhansel drives his Mitsubishi yesterday during the twelfth stage of the 27th Dakar Rally between Kifa and Bamako, Mali. South African Giniel De Villiers won the stage ahead of Peterhansel and Luc Alphand.

PHOTO: AFP

The Dakar Rally went about its business on Wednesday in sombre mood 24 hours after the death of two-time winner Fabrizio Meoni with success in the 12th stage going to South Africa's Giniel De Villiers.

While the motorbike stage was cancelled as a mark of respect to Meoni, the cars set off sporting black scarves tied to their rearview mirrors as a mark of respect to their dead Italian colleague.

And at the end of the 586km run between Kiffa in Mauritania and the Mali capital, De Villiers got the better of defending champion Stephane Peterhansel to capture his first ever special stage.

The Nissan driver posted a time of seven hours 20 minutes 58 seconds with Peterhansel finishing over 3min adrift in second to retain the overall lead.

One of the day's biggest losers was American Robby Gordon, a dual-stage winner in the first week who plummeted down the overall standings after losing two and a half hours when his Volkswagen's shock absorbers packed up.

With four days to go before the finish in Dakar, Peterhansel holds a lead of 23min 16sec over teammate and former world ski champion Luc Alphand in the car standings, with Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt 1hr 18:47 adrift in third.

"Today was a very long stage, really tiring between the trees," Peterhansel said.

"It was not very easy. There was too much dust and the navigation was tricky. We lost the correct track a few times and it was hard to maintain the concentration for all the stage," he said.

This year's Dakar has proved an ill-fated affair, with Meoni's fatal heart attack in Tuesday's 11th stage coming just one day after the death of Spanish motorbike rider Jose Manuel Perez.

The annual desert dash was already jolted by the demise in September of three-time champion Richard Sainct, the 34-year-old French rider killed in an accident during the Rally of the Pharaohs.

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