Symons, racing in first Dakar Rally, dies

Updated: January 9, 2007, 1:10 PM ET
Associated Press

OUARZAZATE, Morocco -- South African motorcyclist Elmer Symons died Tuesday in a crash during the Dakar Rally, a grueling race that has been marked for years by deaths in the African desert.

Elmer Symons
AP Photo/Paulo DuarteElmer Symons was killed when he crashed about 88 miles into the 251-mile fourth leg.

The 29-year-old rider was killed during the fourth stage from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate in Morocco, when he crashed about 88 miles into the 251-mile leg, race organizers said. A medical team rushed to his aid by helicopter, but he was pronounced dead. No further details were immediately given.

Symons was competing in his first Dakar Rally after assisting on previous races and had been in 18th place overnight.

Jean-Louis Schlesser of France won the stage, and Carlos Sainz of Spain retained the overall lead. Schlesser and his Schles-Ford-Raid car finished in 3 hours, 59 minutes, 54 seconds for his 14th career stage win.

Carlos Sousa of Portugal was second in 4:07:46 and Sainz finished third in 4:07:52.

Sainz leads third-stage winner Giniel de Villiers of South Africa by 1:55, and Sousa by 4:20 -- giving Volkswagen a 1-2-3.

This year's Dakar Rally covers 4,918 miles through Europe and Africa. The race finishes in Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 20.

Last year, 41-year-old Australian motorcyclist Andy Caldecott died, and two children were also killed _ in Guinea and Senegal -- after being hit by vehicles passing through packed desert villages.

Two years ago, 2001 and 2002 champion Fabrizio Meoni of Italy and Juan Manuel Perez of Spain, both motorcyclists with KTM, were killed.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press