SALTA, Argentina (AP) — Three deaths overshadowed Friday's sixth leg of the Dakar Rally, as the race claimed the life of Belgian motorcyclist Eric Palante and two spectators who were following the event.
Palante's body was found after he failed to finish Thursday's fifth stage.
Nani Roma of Spain kept the overall lead in cars despite finishing sixth in the stage, and fellow Spaniard Marc Coma stayed on top in bikes after taking second on the stage from Tucuman to Salta in northern Argentina.
Roma, driving a Mini, has a large lead of 30 minutes, 30 seconds over Orlando Terranova of Argentina, and 40:54 ahead of 11-time winner Stephane Peterhansel.
Coma leads fellow Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort by 42:17 and is an hour ahead of Alain Duclos of France.
Organizers said they went out looking for the 50-year-old Palante after he failed to finish the fifth stage, which most riders completed on Thursday, and found his body along the route.
The cause of death was being investigated, and officials offered few details.
This was Palante's 11th Dakar Rally, according to an event biography, which said he would have turned 51 on Jan. 21. It said his goal was to win the amateur trophy for motorbikes.