Dakar Rally: Belgian motorcycle rider Eric Palante has been found dead
Belgian motorcycle rider Eric Palante has been found dead at the Dakar Rally in Argentina, organisers have announced.
Last Updated: 14/01/14 6:35am
The 50-year-old Palante failed to finish the fifth stage, which most riders completed on Thursday, and his body was found at the 143km mark of the fifth stage between Chilecito and San Miguel de Tucuman in the north of the country.
The cause of death was being investigated, and officials offered few details.
A statement on the official Dakar Rally website read: "The circumstances of Eric's death are the subject of an analysis by the Judge Dr Massucco of Belen.
"No alert was received by the organisers, and Eric's water had been replenished in the afternoon.
"Fifty-year-old Eric Palante was taking part in his 11th Dakar and hoped to win the amateur trophy for motorbikes. He knew the race very well, and over the years his enthusiastic but serious approach had made him one of the pillars of the event.
"It is with great sadness that the organisers and the entire family of the Dakar offer their condolences to Eric's family and friends."
The Dakar Rally, raced over rugged terrain in difficult-to-control areas, runs through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile with the finish in Valparaiso on 18 January.
The annual endurance event is notorious for its fatal accidents, with more than 50 competitors and spectators having lost their lives since the rally's inception in 1979.
Nani Roma of Spain kept the overall lead in the cars section despite finishing sixth in the stage in his Mini. Stephane Peterhansel came out on top, meaning he sits in third place in the standings ahead of Saturday's rest day.
In the motorcycling class, Alain Duclos recorded his first success for eight years when it was still staged in Africa.
Duclos, riding a Sherco, beat Marc Coma by 75 seconds after a 400km timed run from Tucuman to Salta. However, three-time champion Coma retains his overall lead from Joan Barreda, with Duclos third in the standings.