Sakaka (Saudi Arabia) (AFP)
Stéphane Peterhansel led the tributes to Dakar legend Hubert Auriol following the death on Sunday of the first person to win the race by car and bicycle.
Peterhansel honored Auriol at the end of the seventh stage of this year’s rally, which the Frenchman leads in the automotive category as he pursues his 14th Dakar title.
News of the death of the 68-year-old man nicknamed “the African” after a long battle with heart disease leaked through Sunday’s stage.
“If I am here on this rally, it is thanks to what I saw, to what Hubert was doing”, declared Peterhansel, 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 ongoing in Africa.
He won the race, then known as Paris-Dakar, on a motorcycle in 1981 and 1983 before switching 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 his great rival and compatriot French Cyril Neveu after breaking both ankles on the penultimate stage.
He then led the rally between 1995 and 2004, when Peterhansel emulated his hero by securing the first of his seven wins in the automotive category after taking six honors in the motorcycle category.
“He was a great man, always smiling even in the most difficult times,” added Peterhansel. “It’s a really sad day for the rally raid world, it’s sad for the Dakar. ”
Current Dakar Rally director David Castera, a former competitor, said Auriol’s death “was a shock”.
“He was the one who showed me how it was done in the ’80s,” Castera said.
“I followed what he was doing – my dad was his mechanic – so I find it hard to express how I feel today. He inspired me. ”
© 2021 AFP