(Reuters) – Sam Sunderland’s Dakar Rally title defense ended on Tuesday after the British motorcycle rider crashed in Peru’s Ica desert while leading the race.
Organizers said Sunderland, who had won two of the first three stages on his KTM, had been ruled out of further participation after hurting his back in the fall.
The Dubai-based 28-year-old was evacuated back to the bivouac, the rally’s traveling support center, by helicopter.
Sunderland had led by more than four-and-a-half minutes going into the 330km fourth stage in the dunes around the Pacific port of San Juan de Marcona.
His exit meant that Yamaha’s French rider Adrian van Beveren took over the lead, one minute and 55 seconds clear of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla, after winning the stage.
Sunderland last year became the first Briton to win the Dakar, a grueling endurance rally that moved to South America from Africa in 2009 for security reasons, in any category.
The rally ends in Argentina on Jan. 20 after also traveling through Bolivia.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)