Popular South African off-road bike racer Elmer Symons has been killed in a crash during stage four of the of the Dakar Rally in Morocco.
Race organisers said Symons, 29, was about 140km into the stage on his KTM 660 when satellite monitoring showed he had stopped suddenly. A medical team was sent in by helicopter but the rider was declared dead at the scene.
Symons is the 24th competitor to have died during the race since 1979.
“We don’t know the exact details of what caused the accident or how the motorcyclist died,” rally director Etienne Lavigne said.
“The accident occurred on a sector that had been labelled dangerous, with rippling sand formations. The rally’s nerve centre in Paris received an automatic satellite alert which indicated that the motorbike had come to an abrupt halt. The pilot (Symons) was no doubt killed outright,” he said.
Symons’s body was taken to a morgue in Er Rachidia, Morocco.
His brother, Kingsley, was assisting him in the race.
This was Symons’s first Dakar race and he in 18th position heading into the 405km stage from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate in the rugged Moroccan desert. He had twice completed the race as a back-up rider to other motorcyclists and racing in the rally himself was to have been a highlight of his career.
On his website, www.elmee.com, he said he was aiming to be competitive throughout the gruelling race that will finish in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
“This being my first Dakar on a bike, my goal will be to complete each day and learn as much as possible.
“I will be a tough contender – I have a ‘never give up’ attitude and will always do my best.”
Symons was born in Ladysmith and matriculated at Ladysmith High School in 1994. He had since been racing in the US where he picked up several race titles, including the Best in the Desert Series – held over seven stages in Nevada – in 2006. He was to have returned to South Africa in 2008 to race for the KTM South Africa team.
Wayne O’Neale, Symons’s friend and the technical head at the KTM branch in Pinetown, said Symons loved racing and had always been 100 percent dedicated to everything he did.
“He was such a nice guy. He was a really chilled kind of guy, but was also so dedicated and down to earth. This is such a tragic thing to have happened. It’s a great loss to racing in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.
A decision had yet to be taken by Lavigne on whether today’s racing stage would be cancelled to hold a memorial service for Symons.