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Stephane Peterhansel wins Dakar Rally

Associated Press
French driver Stephane Peterhansel holds up his trophy after finishing first in the car division of the 2007 Dakar Rally in Lac Rose, Senegal Sunday, Jan 21, 2007.

DAKAR, Senegal - French driver Stephane Peterhansel won the 2007 Dakar Rally on Sunday, claiming his third trophy in one of the world's most punishing and dangerous races.

 

Peterhansel, who also has six motorcycle victories in the tough transcontinental competition, secured the win after finishing a final Atlantic Ocean beach stretch of the 5,411-mile race from Europe to Africa.

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 - 7 minutes, 26 seconds behind.

The 15-stage race began in Lisbon on Jan. 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 beach that ended at the finish line at Lac Rose, a pink lake that takes its unique color from a type of algae.

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 Saturday during an untimed section near Dakar, and South African motorcyclist Elmer Symons, 29, died Jan. 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. Organizers 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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