The 2010 Dakar Rally kicked off over the weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but the opening day of racing was marred by the first death of a fan in four years. Unfortunate 28-year-old Natalia Sonia Gallardo was hit by a 4X4 driven by Mirco Schultis and partner Ulrich Leardi, who veered off course. French motorcyclist Pascal Terry died in last year’s Dakar, which is one of motorsport’s most dangerous events.

A spokesman for Rio Cuarto Hospital said four other people were injured. Witnesses report that fans were standing outside the area reserved for spectators.

Back to the race, Juan “Nani” Roma won the first stage of the 9000 km race in a BMW. The ex-Mitsubishi driver, who conquered Dakar on a bike in 2004, raced from Colon to Cordoba 2 minutes, 7 seconds ahead of Spanish compatriot and ex-WRC champ Carlos Sainz in the lead Volkswagen, and 2:50 in front of BMW teammate Stephane Peterhansel. Last year’s winner Giniel De Villiers of South Africa was 4:31 off the lead in a Volkswagen Race Touareg.

With Dakar stalwarts Mitsubishi out of the picture, the stage is set for a diesel powered head-to-head battle between Team X-raid’s BMW and the factory Volkswagen team. The race will end on 16 January in the Argentine capital.