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Three-time Dakar Rally winner Hubert Auriol dies at 68

Dakar Hubert Auriol dies

French Hubert Auriol is pictured at the start of the 6th stage between Boulanouar and Guelb Agantour of the third edition of the Africa Eco Race on January 4, 2011. The Africa Eco Race started on December 29, 2010 in Nador, Morocco, and continued over 12 days and 6,000 kilometres through Mauritania to “lac Rose” in Senegal. AFP PHOTO / FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

PARIS -- Hubert Auriol, the first competitor to win the Dakar Rally on a motorbike and in a car, has died. He was 68.

The Dakar Rally announced that Auriol died Sunday. It did not specify a cause but the Frenchman had battled heart disease for many years.

The charismatic Auriol won the race, which was then called the Paris-Dakar Rally, on a motorbike in 1981 and ’83 and then in a car in 1992.

Auriol later became director of the race, a position he held for nearly a decade.

In recent years, he had worked as a Paris-based auto racing consultant.

“He inspired generations of riders and drivers and has been an integral part of the rally throughout its history,” the Dakar Rally said Sunday at the halfway mark of the 2021 race in Saudi Arabia.

“He was a real character,” said Stepane Peterhansel, who currently leads this year’s Dakar. “It was probably him and Cyril Neveu who made me want to do the Dakar. Hubert was class. I believe the world of rally-raid will cry for a long time. Many youngsters didn’t know him but I was really part of those who discovered the Dakar thanks to him.”