Motorcyclists wait for the start of stage three of the 2012 Dakar Rally from San Rafael to San Juan.MENDOZA, Argentina – Joan Roma of Spain won the third stage of the Dakar Rally while Krzysztof Holowczyc of Poland led overall yesterday.
Frenchman Cyril Despres won the motorcycle stage to claim first place overall.
Compatriot Sebastien Coue was in critical condition after crashing during the second stage.
Coue was found in sand dunes in western Argentina, and hospital officials said that it was not clear how long he had been unconscious.
Officials at Teodoro J. Schestakow Hospital said that Sebastien Coue apparently crashed during the second stage of the rally and was exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees before he was found.
It is unclear how long he had been exposed to the extreme heat.
“He entered in critical condition,” hospital director Armando Dauverne said.
“We don’t know how long he was exposed to the sun. Right now he is in intensive care.”
The Dakar Rally, considered one of the most dangerous races in motor sports, has already claimed three lives this year.
Argentine bike rider Jorge Martinez Boero died in a crash in Sunday’s first stage.
On the same day, the pilot of an ultralight plane and his son died when the aircraft went down while following the race.
This is the fourth consecutive year the event is being held in South America.
The rally was held in Europe and Africa until the 2008 race was cancelled because of fears of terrorism.
It was moved to South America the next year.
The route this year is different to the first three, which were loop courses from Buenos Aires to Chile, and then back to Buenos Aires.
This year the race begins in Argentina, passes through Chile, and finishes in Lima, Peru, on January 15.
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