The first really long and demanding stage in the 2005 Dakar cross-country rally took its toll as the competitors on the route from Smara to Zouerat across sand dunes with hidden rocks to the Mauritanian border where the special began.
The day did not start good for the Kamaz team piloted by Ilzigar Mardeev when two members of the crew did a test run after they made changes on the truck after the fifth stage. In the wee hours of the morning, the Kamaz crashed and landed on its side. Both team members were seriously injured and transported to a nearby hospital. Mardeev was forced to retire.
Robby Gordon is questionable as well, the two-stage winner in his Dakar debut had an accident and was still out in the African desert making repairs to the Volkswagen Touareg. The American appeared uninjured, the damage was confined to the car.
British rider John Griffiths is out of the event after he crashed his Honda and suffered a broken wrist.
This year's route may be shorter, however the early reports that it would be more intense with a higher degree of difficulty appear to be correct. With 10 stages left to run out of the 16 stages, the competition is falling by the wayside early.
...Watch for further details with a full report later today.