France's Luc Alphand wins 2006 Dakar Rally

French driver Luc Alphand was declared winner of the 2006 Dakar Rally on Sunday after finishing the final, untimed leg of the race in Senegal. Alphand had been poised to win the event after race organizers announced the final stage would not be timed to honor two young boys killed during the race.

Alphand, a former ski champion, was clocked at 53 hours, 47 minutes, 32 seconds at the end of Saturday's penultimate stage, 17 minutes, 53 seconds ahead of South Africa's Giniel de Villiers and 1:50:38 ahead of Spain's Nani Roma, the AP reported.

In the motorbike race, victory went to Spain's Marc Coma. On Saturday, he led overall at 55:27:17, a margin of 1:13:29 over France's Cyril Despres.

The punishing two-week rally wound up with a 31-kilometer (19-mile) stage along West Africa's Atlantic Ocean beaches to Lac Rose, a pink lake east of Dakar that takes its unique color from a type of algae. The race is known for its danger, and this year was no different.

In Guinea on Friday, one young boy who came to watch the rally with his family was killed by a competitor's car as he crossed the track. A second boy, aged 12, was killed Saturday when he was hit by a support truck in Senegal.

Australian motorcyclist Andy Caldecott, 41, died on Jan. 9 in a fatal crash during the ninth stage in Mauritania, becoming the 23rd competitor to die in the rally's 28 years. The rally's course and length changes slightly every year, the AP reports. This year's race was 9,043-kilometers (5,619-miles). It began New Year's Eve in Lisbon, Portugal, and took competitors through Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Senegal.

More than 1,400 people competed this year in cars, trucks, ATVs and on motorcycles. Last year's winner in the car category, French driver Stephane Peterhansel, had been the overall leader until he hit a tree on the 12th stage, losing crucial time.

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