Dakar Rally legend Hubert Auriol, who became the first person to win the famous race on a bike and in a car, has died at the age of 68.
Race organizers confirmed the news on Sunday and paid tribute to a man they said was “a guiding light throughout the history of the rally.”
“He inspired generations of riders and drivers and has been an integral part of the rally throughout its history,” read the statement from organizers, who later posted a video on Twitter in tribute to Auriol’s career.
Organizers said Auriol had been battling a long-term illness and said he will always be remembered as an iconic face of the race, having taken part in the very first Dakar Rally in 1979.
Auriol went on to win the race three times, first on a motorbike in 1981. He repeated his success on two wheels in 1983 before switching to a car and winning in 1992.
During the race in 1987, Auriol famously fell out of contention after breaking both of his ankles during a crash in the penultimate stage, a moment written into the race’s folklore.
After his racing career ended, Auriol worked as the race director for 10 years.
President of motorsport’s governing body FIA, Jean Todt, led the tributes on social media.
“Sad to learn of the passing of Hubert Auriol, legend of [Dakar Rally],” he wrote on Twitter.
“He was the first rider to win the race in both motorcycle (1981, 1983) and car (1992), before he led the event. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
This year’s Dakar Rally is currently ongoing and is being held in Saudi Arabia.
The event was held in Europe and Africa from 1979 to 2007 but, after the 2008 rally was canceled following security concerns, it moved to South America in 2009 and then to the Middle East in 2020.
There are traditionally five major vehicle categories in the legendary race – cars, motorbikes, trucks, UTVs and quad bikes.