The second day of the Dakar Rally got underway in sombre mood today after the confirmation that a spectator hit by one of the cars had died in hospital.
Reports say that Sonia Natalia Gallardo was one of a group of spectators standing outside of the designated spectator zones set up by race organisers when the Desert Warrior driven by German Mirco Schultis came off the route 75km into the opening stage.
While several others were injured Gallardo was airlifted to hospital, where the news of her death was confirmed yesterday evening.
Schultis and his Czech co-driver Ulrich Leardi have since decided to withdraw from the race, making them one of five teams to have bowed out before the second stage, another being Tatra truck driver Tomas Tomecek, who was involved in an accident on a blind bend yesterday.
And accidents were a major part of the day in the car class today. Stage One winner Nani Roma rolled his BMW into a gulch only two kilometres into the stage, costing the Spaniard 15 minutes.
Roma was not the only one to suffer a roll in the early kilometres. Orlando Terranova rolled his JMB Stradale run Mitsubishi 5km into the day, though was able to continue with relatively little time lost, while American Robert Baldwin rolled his Robby Gordon Motorsports Hummer at the same mark, the car being stranded on its roof and losing over three hours.
Baldwin's team leader was also having difficult time, enduring a stage that didn't suit the 2WD Hummer buggy, dropping time to the 4WD diesels of VW and BMW and then suffering a puncture as Gordon ended the stage 11 minutes adrift.
With Roma out the way it was left to (arguably) the unsung members of the two teams to fight for the stage win. Early on it was Mauricio Neves, the Brazilian brought into the VW works squad this year who led the way early on, before Guerlain Chicherit (who took part in Race of Champions last year) took the stage lead for BMW as he tried to make up some of the 57 minutes he lost yesterday to mechanical gremlins.
But in the last third of the stage it was Qutari VW driver Nasser Al-Attiyah who took the lead, pulling away from both Neves and Chicherit to win the stage win and the overall lead from VW teammate Carlos Sainz who finished fourth, ahead of American Mark Miller giving the VW squad four of the top five places.
On the bikes it was another Frenchman winning the stage, following on from David Casteu's surprise victory yesterday. Today it was another David, David Fretigne to take the win, and keep the previously dominant KTMs off the top step of the podium. Fretigne, riding a Yamaha, completed the 294km stage in just under four hours.
He lead home Casteu by 43 seconds, the Sherco rider maintaining his lead over Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, who finished the stage third and fourth respectively, though Coma was given a 22 minute penalty for as yet unknown reasons.
However, perhaps the story of the bikes was the man who finished fifth today.
Italian Luca Manca finished the opening stage twelfth, and so set off 20 minutes after leader Casteu, but despite this the KTM rider was among the fastest throughout the day, springing to an unlikely lead after 90km, and though he would fall to fifth at the hands of the more established names his performance saw him leap up the early overall leaderboard to fifth (fourth after Coma's penalty).
There was a similar surprise package in the quad race, when another Frenchman, Hubert Deltrieu, took the stage win. The Polaris rider started the stage 24th out of the 25 competitors after a disappointing first stage saw him finish 33 minutes behind the stage winner.
Whether lucky, or taking advantage of the riders ahead of him Deltrieu held the fastest stage time through all of the Iritrack timing loops on the stage, eventually winning the stage by a little over two minutes from Juan Manuel Gonzalez and jumping up to eleventh in the fledgling standings. Gonzalez was more that three-and-a-half minutes clear of Alejandro Patronelli in third place, and so the Spaniard takes the overall lead, partly thanks to misfortune for two other front runners.
Stage one winner Rafal Sonik was handed an eight minute penalty for speeding between the stage and the campsite, before losing another 1h42 on today's stage. Perhaps more bizarre was what happened to 2009 champion Josef Machacek, whose Iritrack beacon (how the mid-stage times are logged) stopped working early on in the stage, emerging at the end of the stage 44 minutes down on Deltrieu.
Stage Two Results
1. David Fretigne (Yamaha) 3h59:20
2. David Casteu (Sherco) +0h00:43
3. Marc Coma (KTM) +0h01:08
4. Cyril Despres (KTM) +0h02:50
5. Luca Manca (KTM) +0h04:49
1. Nasser AL-Attiyah (VW) 4h01:55
2. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +0h01:08
3. Mauricio Neves (VW) +0h02:01
4. Carlos Sainz (VW) +0h02:41
5. Mark Miller (VW) +0h02:44
1. Hubert Deltrieu (Polaris) 4h18:03
2. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +0h02:06
3. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h05:47
4. Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +0h05:57
5. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h09:19
Results not available at time of writing.
Overall Standings After Stage Two
1. David Casteu (Sherco) 5h50:45
2. Cyril Despres (KTM) +0h02:10
3. David Fretigne (Yamaha) +0h02:14
4. Luca Manca (KTM) +0h08:43
5. Jordi Viladoms (KTM) +0h08:48
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) 6h16:39
2. Carlos Sainz (VW) +0h01:19
3. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0h02:30
4. Mark Miller (VW) +0h05:28
5. Mauricio Neves (VW) +0h05:40
1. Juan Manual Gonzalez (Yamaha) 6h34:31
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h02:37
3. Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +0h02:49
4. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h03:35
5. Luis Henderson (Honda) +0h07:34
Trucks: (After Stage One)
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 2h35:47
2. Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0h00:27
3. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0h04:00
4. Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +0h09:50
5. Martin Macik (Liaz) +0h10:59