The Dakar Rally is often touted as one of the toughest and most dangerous motorsports events in the world. That’s not an understatement either. Since 1979, over 50 lives have been claimed by the event, whether its racers or spectators. Everybody who participates and attends the Dakar Rally know this inherent risk, which is why it doesn’t come as a shock when a particular staging of the Dakar Rally is known more for who died as much as it is who won.

Sadly, the 2015 Dakar Rally is only three stages old and we now have the unfortunate job to report that it has taken its first life.

39-year old Polish biker Michal Hernik died to causes that are still unknown at this point. What we do know based on numerous reports is that race organizers immediately dispatched an ambulance helicopter when Hernik, who was riding a 450 Rally Replica KTM, failed to show up at the end of the stage, well past the normal time anyone can complete the stage. Organizers were also concerned that his tracker stopped transmitting, making communication with the driver impossible.

The search took 40 minutes where Hernik’s body was eventually found at kilometer 306 of the stage, about 1,000 feet off the course’s path. When the body was discovered, organizers said that Hernik “did not show any external signs of an accident,” which has led to a lot of speculation as to the cause of his death.

It’s a sad state of affairs, especially for the family of Michal Henrik. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them, as well as to his friends, team, and fans.

Click past the jump to read more about Michal Henrik’s death.

Why it matters

It’s obviously a tough blow, especially for the family of Michal Hernik. We can’t even begin to imagine the kind of emotional anguish they’re going through right now.

After all, this was the 39-year-old’s very first participation in the Dakar Rally after participating in the 2013 Monaco Rally and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in 2014, both of which he managed to cross the finish line without any incident.

As unfortunate as this news is, it also puts into question why the Dakar Rally continues to pile up its fatality count. Shouldn’t there be an increase in awareness on how to avoid things like from happening again? Organizers have taken a lot of steps forward with driver trackers and state-of-the-art medical equipment, but it’s worth asking if there should be even more steps needed to keep the death toll count.

We know the Dakar Rally is dangerous and all, but that allure shouldn’t come at a price of someone, be it a rider or a spectator, losing their lives.

Press Release

The Polish bike rider Michal Hernik (no. 82) was found dead on the selective section of the third stage of the rally between San Juan and Chilecito at kilometre 206.

The circumstances surrounding his death have yet to be determined, as the competitor did not show any external signs of an accident.

When the race management detected the loss of his Irritrack signal and was informed that he had not completed the special stage at 15:16, it decided to start a search for the rider at 15:23. An ambulance helicopter found the rider 300 meters off the route at 16:03. Unfortunately, the on-board doctor could only confirm the rider’s death.

At 39 years of age, Michal was taking part in the Dakar for the first time and he was in 84th position in the general ranking. He had previously participated in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in 2014 and the Morocco Rally in 2013, both of which he completed.

The whole Dakar family offers its condolences to Michal’s family, close friends and team.

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