Dakar: Belgian rider Eric Palante confirmed dead; two others also dead after car falls into ravine (VIDEO)

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Earlier this morning, Dakar Rally organizers confirmed the death of Belgian competitor Eric Palante (pictured). Organizers report that they found Palante’s body at kilometer 143 along the fifth stage of the rally between Chilecito and Tucuman, Argentina.

The 50-year-old motorcycle rider was competing in his 11th Dakar. As of now, the organizers have said that the cause of his death is under investigation.

According to a release, no alert about Palante was received and his water supply had been replenished in the afternoon. Palante’s family has been notified.

“It is with great sadness that the organizers and the entire family of the Dakar offer their condolences to Eric’s family and friends,” the release ended.

Additionally, two people lost their lives on Thursday when the car they were driving in fell into a ravine. Super Rally magazine editor Francisco Delgado has told Agence France-Presse that the two dead are 20-year-old Agustin Mina and 51-year-old Daniel Ambrosio.

According to the Associated Press, police have said that Mina was covering the rally as a member of the press and they identified Ambrosio as a fan.

Two others, 31-year-old Martin Delgado (the editor’s son) and 36-year-old Rodrigo de Quesada, survived the accident and were taken to a hospital in Tucuman. Both of them are photographers for the magazine.

According to Francisco Delgado’s comments to AFP, the car “fell 100 meters [330 feet] over a cliff and those in the front seat were killed instantly. The others were saved.”

The Dakar’s grueling nature sadly has produced a notable number of fatalities over the years. Last year’s event saw the death of 25-year-old French rider Thomas Bourgin after he collided with a Chilean police car that was going in the opposite direction. A few days before that incident, two spectators died when their taxi collided with a team support vehicle.

Our thoughts are, at this time, with the families of those lost at the Dakar.

Danica Patrick to sign off driving career at 2018 Indy 500

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With her full-time career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now coming to an end, following the end of the 2017 season this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Danica Patrick is embarking on a new path in 2018 with the two biggest 500-mile races in North America.

Patrick confirmed plans to participate in North America’s most marquee 500-mile races, the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, during a press conference today in Miami. A team for the Indianapolis 500 has not been determined, and her options for the Daytona 500 are limited to NASCAR teams with three or fewer full-time cars, because a four-car full-time team cannot enter a fifth for the Daytona 500.

Patrick ended her full-time career in IndyCar after 2011 to head to NASCAR. She drove 10 races in 2012 before her first full Cup season in 2013, where she won the pole for that year’s Daytona 500 and ultimately finished eighth.

Her Cup career has seen her finish between 24th and 28th in points with seven career top-10 finishes, all between sixth and 10th place. She ranks 27th heading into this week’s finale too.

It was her IndyCar career though where she first entered the national conversation after a few years of apprenticeship driving for Bobby Rahal’s Barber Dodge and Formula Atlantic teams. A fourth place finish in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 with a number of laps led launched her into the racing stratosphere and helped produce the Indianapolis 500’s biggest rating in years.

Ultimately her best finish in the ‘500 in seven starts was third place in 2009, behind Helio Castroneves and the late Dan Wheldon.

She won at Motegi, 2008, for her first and only win in IndyCar.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Team GoDaddy Dallara Honda, makes a pit stop during the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

A visibly emotional Patrick announced this was the end of her full-time driving career to kick off the press conference, but switched to her future plans once she got through the opening remarks.

Patrick “never thought” she’d do the Indianapolis 500 again but when tossing around future ideas, the concept of running both Daytona and Indianapolis came up.

“I never thought I would do it. I always thought never, but I never said never. Here I am,” she said.

“Out of my mouth came, ‘What about Indy?’ That was really the first sort of idea that got me excited. Let’s do it. I called Haley (Moore, longtime PR rep). What did I just say I would do? She said, ‘Hell yes that’s a good idea.’

“I’m still surprised.”

Patrick will need to participate in the Indianapolis 500 refresher program for drivers that aren’t full-time drivers, so that will provide her a couple hours additional track time before practice opens to the full field in mid-May.

The new 2018 Dallara universal body kit comes into being this year too, and Patrick thinks she has improved as a driver over the last six seasons to be able to come back.

“(Going) 240… it’ll be no problem,” she deadpanned. “It’ll take a bit of adjusting. It’s different for sure. But I think I’m a better driver now. It’ll take a bit of acclimating. Yeah, I would like to get in a car before I get to Indy.”

Patrick said running the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 “could” occur with her same teams she last ran with full-time, Stewart-Haas Racing and Andretti Autosport, respectively. But her options remain open for both.