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.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.