Meoni dies Tuesday after crashing bike

Updated: January 11, 2005, 3:14 PM ET

MILAN, Italy -- Italian motorcyclist Fabrizio Meoni died of a heart attack on Tuesday after a crash during stage 11 of the Dakar rally, a day after Spanish rival Jose Manuel Perez died from his injuries.

Meoni, who was married with two children, won the Dakar rally in 2001 and 2002 and had said this race would be his last. He was second in the motorcycle standings after the 10th stage.

Race director Etienne Lavigne said the 47-year-old, known by Italians as "The African," was tended by paramedics for 45 minutes at the scene of the crash, a third of the way through the 685-km stage between Atar in Mauritania and Mali's Kiffa.

However, they were unable to revive him.

On Monday Spanish biker Jose Manuel Perez, who fell during a stage in Mauritania last week, died in a Spanish hospital.

"This shows the ugly side of the race. The Dakar rally is fascinating, it's part of our passion, but there are certain things you wish would never happen," Italian newspaper La Repubblica quoted Meoni as saying after Perez' death.

More than a dozen competitors have died in the event, in which drivers speed over Sahara dunes, since it was first held 26 years ago as the Paris-Dakar rally. The race no longer starts from the French capital.

Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt won the 400-km special section during the 11th stage from Atar to Kiffa on Tuesday.

Kleinschmidt finished the stage one minute and four seconds ahead of Mitsubishi's French driver Luc Alphand.

Rally leader Stephane Peterhansel of France was third, 2:42 behind Volkswagen's Kleinschmidt. He heads the overall standings by almost 20 minutes from Alphand.

Kleinschmidt's victory ensured she held on to third overall, more than an hour behind Peterhansel.

Spain's Marc Coma won the motorcycle section, 1:12 ahead of France's Cyril Despres, who retained the overall lead. Coma moved into second place, 14:50 behind the Spaniard.

The race moves from Mauritania into Mali on Wednesday with a 819-km stage from Kiffa to Bamako.