Rallying: Meoni death adds to Dakar grief

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The Independent Online

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

The Italian motorcyclist Fabrizio Meoni died of a heart attack yesterday after a crash during stage 11 of the Dakar rally, a day after his 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.

The 47-year-old was the 11th motorcyclist to die in the Dakar rally and the 45th competitor overall. Etienne Lavigne, the race director, said that Meoni, 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 stage between Atar and Kiffa in Mauritania. However, they were unable to revive him.

On Monday, Perez died in a Spanish hospital after a fall from his motorcycle during a stage in Mauritania last week.

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

The race was first held 26 years ago as the Paris-Dakar rally. The race no longer starts from the French capital.

In the car category yesterday, the German driver Jutta Kleinschmidt, driving a Volkswagen, won the 11th stage. He finished the 250-mile leg between Atar and Kiffa in 5hr 29min 37sec. The Frenchman Luc Alphand was 1min 4sec behind, with overall leader Stéphane Peterhansel 2:42 further back.

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