Peterhansel leads tributes after death of Dakar legend Hubert Auriol

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Stephane Peterhansel (AFP)
Stephane Peterhansel (AFP)

Stephane Peterhansel led the tributes to Dakar Rally legend Hubert Auriol after the death on Sunday of the first person to win the race in car and on bike.

Peterhansel honoured Auriol after the seventh stage of this year's rally, which the Frenchman leads in the car category as he chases his 14th Dakar title.

News of the death of the man nicknamed 'The African', aged 68 and after a long battle with heart disease, filtered through during Sunday's stage.

"If I am here on this rally it is thanks to what I saw, to what Hubert was doing," said Peterhansel, who is nicknamed 'Mr Dakar'.

"For me he has always been a model of class and intelligence."

Born in Addis Ababa, Auriol was one of the iconic faces of the Dakar Rally when the race was in its infancy and still being raced in Africa.

He won the race, then known as Paris-Dakar, on a motorbike in 1981 and 1983 before making the switch to cars and winning it in 1992 to become the first to win in both categories.

One of his most memorable races however came in 1987, when he lost to great rival and fellow Frenchman Cyril Neveu after breaking both ankles on the penultimate stage.

He went on to manage the rally between 1995 and 2004, when Peterhansel emulated his hero by claiming the first of his seven wins in the car category after having taken the honours six times in the motorcycle class.

"He was a great man, always smiling even in the toughest moments," added Peterhansel. "It's a really sad day for the world of rally raid, it's sad for the Dakar race."

Current Dakar Rally director David Castera, a former competitor, said that Auriol's death "has come as a bit of a shock".

"He was the one who showed me how it's done in the 80s," said Castera.

"I followed what he was doing -- my father was his mechanic -- so I'm having trouble expressing how I feel today. He inspired me."

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