8 Jan 2015

Mystery death clouds Dakar Rally

8:54 am on 8 January 2015

The Dakar Rally organisers are investigating the death of motorbike rider Michal Hernik, which has plunged the race in Argentina into mourning after only three days.

A motorcyclist competes in the 2015 Dakar Rally in Argentina.

A motorcyclist competes in the 2015 Dakar Rally in Argentina. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

According to race director Etienne Lavigne, the 39-year-old Polish rider's body was found 300 metres from the desert track with no apparent injury and no damage to his motorbike that would indicate an accident.

Lavigne added that there was no helmet on Hernik when the body was found.

"The circumstances surrounding his death have yet to be determined, as the competitor did not show any external signs of an accident," said a rally statement.

Organisers sent a helicopter to look for Henrik after he failed to arrive at the finish line of Tuesday's stage between the Argentinean towns of Villa Carlos Paz and Chilecito. His satellite tracker had stopped sending signals.

The Pole was taking part in the Dakar Rally for the first time.

His was the fifth death since the rally was moved to South America in 2009 over security concerns in the Sahara region and the 24th since the race was created in 1979.

Orlando Terranova maintained the Mini team's winning streak by claiming his second stage win to move third overall in the auto standings led by teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Al-Attiyah, the 2011 champion and winner of Monday's stage, finished fifth in Wednesday's stage which included 284km of specials.

In the motorbike section, Austria's Matthias Walkner, was a surprise winner of his first Dakar stage, ahead of KTM teammate and reigning champion Marc Coma and overall race leader Joan Barreda Bort of Spain.

"It was really dangerous because we were on river beds with a lot of stones and broken up tracks all day," said Barreda Bort.

Some 34 vehicles failed to start on Tuesday after falling victim to Monday's longest stage, among them the 4x4 of French duo Catherine Houles and Sandrine Ridet, the only 100 per cent female team in the event.

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