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Defending Champion Knocked Out of Dakar Motorcycle Rally


Defending champion Marc Coma of Spain has been knocked out of the Dakar Rally's motorcycle section after losing his way, hitting a tree and being knocked unconscious.

Coma had a commanding lead and looked set to win the event for the second straight year. However, he appeared to lose his way about 57 kilometers into the 13th stage from Kayes to Tambacounda in Senegal. He hit a tree stump and was thrown from his KTM and into a tree.

The Spanish rider was taken by helicopter to a medical facility and then flown to a hospital in Dakar, Senegal for examination.

French rider Cyril Despres, who trailed Coma by nearly one hour, now has the overall lead with only two stages to go. David Casteu of France is second with American Chris Blais third.

In the car section, Volkswagen driver Carlos Sainz of Spain won Friday's stage, with Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel second in a Mitsubishi. American Mark Miller, in another Volkswagen, was third.

Peterhansel remains the overall leader headed into Saturday's penultimate stage, a 576-kilometer ride from Tambacounda to Dakar. The stage includes a 225-kilometer timed section. The rally ends Sunday in Dakar.

In other racing news, French rally driver Sebastien Loeb has maintained his lead over Citroen teammate Daniel Sordo of Spain after the second day of the Monte Carlo Rally, the first event on the World Championship schedule.

Loeb and Sordo each won three stages Friday, but the Frenchman ended the day 25.2 seconds ahead of his teammate. Finland's Marcus Gronholm is third in a Ford, 1:15.7 seconds off the lead.

Subaru's Chris Atkinson of Australia is fourth, more than 2:30 behind Loeb. A total of six more stages are on the schedule Saturday.

Loeb hopes to join Finnish greats Juha Kankkunnen and Tommi Makinen as the only men to win four world rally titles. If he defends his crown, Loeb will be the only man to win the crown four years in a row.

The French driver edged Gronholm by just one point to take the 2006 title despite missing the last four events with a broken arm.

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