SANTIAGO Italian rider Luca Manca is in intensive care after falling off his motorbike in northern Chile on Thursday during the sixth stage of the Dakar Rally being run in South America, a hospital spokesman said.
Manca was in ninth position in the general classification when he came off his KTM bike during the Antofagasta to Iquique leg in the far north.
The Italian had been admitted to the intensive care unit, said a spokesman at the Hospital de Cobre in the northern town of Calama, near Chile's giant Chuquicamata copper complex.
Local media said Manca had suffered a skull fracture and would be flown to a hospital in the capital, Santiago.
On Wednesday, Manca generously surrendered his rear wheel to defending champion Marc Coma when his fellow KTM rider's tyre burst.
Frenchman David Casteau had to abandon the race on Wednesday after he fractured his leg in falling off his motorbike.
The Dakar Rally is being held in Chile and Argentina for the second year running after the race in Africa was canceled in 2008 because of security fears in Mauritania.
(Reporting by Claudio Cerda; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Clare Fallon)