Salta - Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel drove to victory on the sixth stage of the Dakar Rally on Friday, but the race was overshadowed by the deaths of a motorcyclist, who was a father of five, and two journalists.
Peterhansel, six times a champion in the motorcycle section and with five titles on four wheels, finished 2min 43sec ahead of Qatar's 2011 champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and 5min 20sec in front of Argentina's Orlando Terranova on the 400km timed run from Tucuman to Salta.
Spain's Nani Roma, in another Mini, was sixth on the day and retained the overall lead.
French rider Alain Duclos, on a Sherco, beat overall motorcycling leader Marc Coma by 75 seconds, but celebrations were muted after it was revealed that the 9,374km race, which crosses Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, had claimed three more lives.
Belgian motorcyclist Eric Palante, 50, riding for the Honda team, died on Thursday's fifth stage between Chilecito and Tucuman.
"We are very moved by his death, we can't hide our pain," said race director Etienne Lavigne. "Eric was a tough, hard rider and a great guy."
Dakar organisers ASO issued a statement reporting that a support truck had discovered Palante's body at 0830 local time Friday.
"No alert was received by the organisers. Eric had been replenished with water during the afternoon," the statement said.
Palante is the 23rd competitor in 36 editions to die in the Dakar Rally.
Meanwhile, two members of an Argentine news team also died on Thursday when the car they were driving in fell into a ravine, the Super Rally magazine said.
"The dead are journalism student Agustin Mina, 20, and Daniel Ambrosio, 51, who loved auto racing," magazine manager Francisco Delgado told AFP.
Peterhansel, meanwhile, racked up a record-equalling 63rd stage win on the Dakar.
"It was just a pleasure to drive and we tried to drive very fast today. We are third, I think and for me this is a bad result. The goal is only victory," said Peterhansel.
"We will try to push every day, but we know that when we take a risk we can have a crash or something like that. I think we will take the risk to win back time and to get back to first position."
Duclos's last win on the Dakar came in Bamako in Mali eight years ago when the event was still staged in Africa.
"Today, it was my type of terrain. We've got over the worst over the last few days and the rest day has arrived at the right time -- it couldn't be better timed," he said.
Duclos is third overall after six stages, over an hour behind former three-time champion Coma on a KTM.
Joan Barreda, on a Honda, was fourth Friday but is second in the overall standings, 42mn 17sec behind fellow Spaniard Coma.
Results in Friday's Dakar Rally sixth stage (465km/400km timed) between San Miguel de Tucuman and Salta, in Argentina:
Stephane Peterhansel/Jean Paul Cottret (FRA/FRA/Mini) 2 h 42:58, 2.
Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz (QAT/ESP/Mini) 2:43, 3. Orlando
Terranova/Paulo Fiuza (ARG/POR/Mini) 5:20, 4. Giniel De Villiers/Dirk
Von Zitzewitz (RSA/GER/Toyota) 6:06, 5. Carlos Sainz/Timo Gttschalk
(ESP/GER/Smg) 6:31, 6. Nani Roma/Michel Prin (ESP/FRA/Mini) 6:36, 7.
Vladimir Vasilyev/Vitaliy Yevtyekhov (RUS/UKR/Mini) 12:02, 8. Krzysztof
Holowczyc/Konstantin Zhiltsov (POL/RUS/Mini) 12:34, 9. Federico
Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc (ARG/ARG/Mini) 12:53, 10. Christian
Lavieille/Jean-Pierre Garcin (FRA/FRA/Haval) 13:01.
Overall (after six stages)
Nani Roma/Michel Prin (ESP/FRA/Mini) 22 h 11:28, 2. Orlando
Terranova/Paulo Fiuza (ARG/POR/Mini) 30:30, 3. Stphane Peterhansel/Jean
Paul Cottret (FRA/FRA/Mini) 33:23, 4. Giniel De Villiers/Dirk Von
Zitzewitz (RSA/GER/Toyota) 40:54, 5. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz
(QAT/ESP/Mini) 1 h 22:35, 6. Carlos Sainz/Timo Gttschalk (ESP/GER/Smg) 1
h 59:38, 7. Marek Dabrowski/Jacek Czachor (POL/POL/Toyota) 1 h 59:39,
8. Pascal Thomasse/Pascal Larroque (FRA/FRA/Buggy Md Rallye) 2 h 21:08,
9. Krzysztof Holowczyc/Konstantin Zhiltsov (POL/RUS/Mini) 2 h 28:57, 10.
Adam Malysz/Rafal Marton (POL/POL/Toyota) 2 h 43:13.
Alain Duclos (FRA/Sherco) 4 h 21:34, 2. Marc Coma (ESP/Ktm) 1:15, 3.
Michael Metge (FRA/Yamaha) 1:49, 4. Joan Barreda (ESP/Honda) 2:22, 5.
Cyril Despres (FRA/Yamaha) 2:55, 6. Helder Rodrigues (POR/Honda) 4:21,
7. Stefan Svitko (SVK/Ktm) 7:46, 8. Kuba Przygonski (POL/Ktm) 8:12, 9.
Jordi Viladoms (ESP/Ktm) 10:26, 10. Jeremias Israel Esquerre
Overall (after six stages)
Coma (ESP/Ktm) 23 h 08:00, 2. Joan Barreda (ESP/Honda) 42:17, 3. Alain
Duclos (FRA/Sherco) 1 h 00:58, 4. Jordi Viladoms (ESP/Ktm) 1 h 08:09, 5.
Jeremias Israel Esquerre (CHI/Speedbrain) 1 h 33:28, 6. Olivier Pain
(FRA/Yamaha) 1 h 43:08, 7. Kuba Przygonski (POL/Ktm) 1 h 49:59, 8.
Helder Rodrigues (POR/Honda) 2 h 01:24, 9. David Casteu (FRA/Ktm) 2 h
12:05, 10. Daniel Gouet (CHI/Honda) 2 h 17:26.