Symons, racing in first Dakar Rally, dies

OUARZAZATE, Morocco -- South African motorcyclist Elmer
Symons died Tuesday in a crash during the Dakar Rally, a grueling
race that has been marked for years by deaths in the African

The 29-year-old rider was killed during the fourth stage from Er
Rachidia to Ouarzazate in Morocco, when he crashed about 88 miles
into the 251-mile leg, race organizers said. A medical team rushed
to his aid by helicopter, but he was pronounced dead. No further
details were immediately given.

Symons was competing in his first Dakar Rally after assisting on
previous races and had been in 18th place overnight.

Jean-Louis Schlesser of France won the stage, and Carlos Sainz
of Spain retained the overall lead. Schlesser and his
Schles-Ford-Raid car finished in 3 hours, 59 minutes, 54 seconds
for his 14th career stage win.

Carlos Sousa of Portugal was second in 4:07:46 and Sainz
finished third in 4:07:52.

Sainz leads third-stage winner Giniel de Villiers of South
Africa by 1:55, and Sousa by 4:20 -- giving Volkswagen a 1-2-3.

This year's Dakar Rally covers 4,918 miles through Europe and
Africa. The race finishes in Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 20.

Last year, 41-year-old Australian motorcyclist Andy Caldecott
died, and two children were also killed _ in Guinea and Senegal --
after being hit by vehicles passing through packed desert villages.

Two years ago, 2001 and 2002 champion Fabrizio Meoni of Italy
and Juan Manuel Perez of Spain, both motorcyclists with KTM, were