Peterhansel wins Dakar Rally

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Stephane Peterhansel won the Dakar Rally on Sunday, claiming his third trophy in one of the world's most punishing and dangerous races.

Updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Dakar, Senegal:

Stephane Peterhansel won the Dakar Rally on Sunday, claiming his third trophy in one of the world's most punishing and dangerous races. Peterhansel, a rally veteran who also has six motorcycle victories in the tough transcontinental competition, ended the 8,708-kilometer race from Europe to Africa with a final Atlantic Ocean beach stretch. "A lot of emotion. A lot of happiness," said the Frenchman, climbing atop his red Mitsubishi with teammate Jean-Paul Cottret and opening champagne. Overall results on the race's official Web site put the Mitsubishi driver's final time at 45 hours, 53 minutes, 37 seconds. Defending champion Luc Alphand was second - seven minutes, 26 seconds behind. The 15-stage race began in Lisbon on January 6 and took competitors through deserts, rocky scrubland and open savannah in Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal. It ended Sunday with the race's shortest stretch, a 16-kilometer trek along the white sand beach that ends at the finish line at Lac Rose, a pink lake that takes its unique color from a type of algae. Senegalese spectators lined the routes, some beating drums. Danger and death The race has long been known for its danger and this year was no different. Two motorcyclists died en route: French rider Eric Aubijoux, 42, suffered a heart attack and fell from his bike on Saturday during an untimed section near Dakar, and South African motorcyclist Elmer Symons, 29, died January 9 in a crash during the fourth stage from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate in Morocco. After the death of two children last year, criticism of the race's impact on Africa intensified. Organisers now hand out cartoons to villagers explaining in pictures the dangers of attempting to approach speeding cars. Race organizers said about two dozen competitors have died in the rally's 29-year history. Two of the stages of the race in Mauritania had to be changed because of fears of an attack from an Algerian terrorist group. This year's rally brought in a record number of competitors, with 525 teams and 42 nationalities represented, including 250 motorcycles, 187 cars, and 88 trucks. In the motorcycle category, France's Cyril Despres claimed overall victory in 51 hours, 36 minutes, 53 seconds. The KTM rider was 34:19 ahead of David Casteu, also of France. The Netherlands' Hans Stacey won the truck competition in 54 hours, 3 minutes, 5 seconds. He was 3:10:52 ahead of his nearest competitor, Russia's Ilgizar Mardeev.

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