The 2012 Dakar Rally got off to a tragic start when local Argentinean rider Jorge Mart?nez Boero died following an accident on the very first stage.

The 38-year-old fell while traveling through sand dunes and passed away while being moved by helicopter to hospital.

A statement on the official Dakar website said:

"The rider suffered a cardiac arrest following his fall and was attended five minutes after the accident by the medical staff, who reached the place of the incident by helicopter. Despite their best efforts, the doctors were unable to resuscitate the pilot, who died while he was being taken to hospital."

The 2012 Dakar Rally starts in Argentina, crosses Chile and finishes in Peru on January 15. The first motorcycle stage was won by Aprilia rider Francisco Lopez, who finished 14 seconds clear of reigning Dakar champion Marc Coma (KTM).

"I want to send my condolences to all the family and friends of Jorge Mart?nez Boero," said Coma. "When things like that happen it is not good for our sport, but, above all, no one should pay such a high price for a race."

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