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French driver Jean-Louis Lafosse and a French marshal died...

LE MANS, France -- French driver Jean-Louis Lafosse and a French marshal died in separate accidents during the Le Mans auto race Saturday.

Lafosse crashed his Rondeau car at the start of the Mulsanne straight. The vehicle burst into flames.

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Although the driver was snatched from the burning wreckage and taken to a hospital, track officials reported he was dead on arrival.

Lafosse's co-driver, a French Monte Carlo rally winner, Jean Ragnotti, was in seventh place when the accident occurred at about 16:45 gmt.

In an earlier accident, a marshal died when a WNP hit a guardrail in the first accident of the race.

The marshal, who was not immediately identified, was hit by the car driven by Belgian Thierry Boutsn, officials said.

Boutsen, second in the French Formula 2 race five days ago at Pau, climbed out unhurt.

Under safety rules in effect for the first time this year the remaining cars were not allowed to overtake each other as the wreckage was cleared from the track.

They had to follow organizers' cars while the crash vehicle was disengaged from the side of the track.

The racing re-started after 15 minutes.

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Track officials later said that two other marshals were injured in the accident, but officials said that neither was seriously hurt.

In a third accident, a Lancia driven by Italian Beppe Gabbiani collided with a WNP piloted by Frenchman Max Mamers. Officials said first reports indicated no one was seriously injured.

After four hours of the race, Belgian Ickx, bidding to win for a record fifth time, held a narrow lead in his Porsche 936.

Ickx, starting from pole position, led for most of the race together with co-driver Britain's Derek Bell.

Second was Britain's Gordon Spice in an Otis. Third were Americans Ted Field and the Whittington brothers, Don and Bill, in a Porsche 935.

Lafosse crashed his Rondeau car at the start of the Mulsanne straight. The vehicle burst into flames.

Although the driver was snatched from the burning wreckage and taken to a hospital, track officials reported he was dead on arrival.

Lafosse's co-driver, a French Monte Carlo rally winner, Jean Ragnotti, was in seventh place when the accident occurred at about 16:45 gmt.

In an earlier accident, a marshall died when a WNP hit a guardrail in the first accident of the race.

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