Rallye

Dakar Stage 7: Dakar mourns the loss of Paulo Goncalves

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Paulo Goncalves heading for the sun before tragedy struck at the 276 kilometre mark. Photo: DPPI
The record books will show that Kevin Benavides won stage seven of the 2020 Dakar Rally but it will be remembered for the loss of experienced rally racer Paulo Goncalves who lost his life 276 kilometres into stage seven.

Casting a dark shadow over the 741-kilometre stage, the experienced Portuguese racer was competing in his 13th Dakar.

Goncalves was discovered unconscious by Toby Price and medical support was quickly on the scene but Goncalves had gone into cardiac arrest, he was airlifted to Layla Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The 40-year-old had recovered from surgery on his spleen in order to make the rally, saying: ‰ÛÏIt‰Ûªs a victory for me to be here at the start.‰Û
Paulo Goncalves made a heroic effort just to keep going after an engine failure earlier on stage 2. See video.
The very high number of kilometres on the stage seven agenda meant, for many, a day of open throttle. The second week of racing got underway this morning with riders set to tackle the longest special stage of the entire rally (546 kilometres against the clock), from the country‰Ûªs great metropolis Riyadh, southbound with destination Wadi Al-Dawasir.

The route took in varied terrain types, going from multiple tracks in off-piste plains, requiring maximum concentration, to lengthy stretches of dunes, making up a quarter of the special.


The stage victory went to Kevin Benavides who headed out today firmly intent on moving on from Friday‰Ûªs bitter pill. The Argentinean rider was in attack mode from the outset in a bid to clinch the stage, a goal which he achieved, coming home with a 1‰Ûª23 surplus over team-mate Joan Barreda who also rode a storming stage to confirm how his performance continues to improve. The Spaniard has reduced the gap from the adversaries ahead.
Matthias Walkner and Luciano Benavides finished 4th and 5th respectively. Overall leader Ricky Brabec extended his lead by four minutes by virtue of fifth place.

"On arriving we heard the news about Paulo. We all know that motorcycling is a dangerous sport, but today is a really sad day for the people of Cross-Country Rallies. Our thoughts are with the family. The race standings don‰Ûªt mean anything anymore. It‰Ûªs secondary. Life goes way beyond sport." Brabec said.

Despite the traumatic experience of finding Paulo Goncalves, Australian Toby Price still completed the stage in 7th place after his time was re-calculated for assisting Goncalves but he now drops to fourth in the overall, almost 29 minutes off the lead.

"Worst day for the rally sport, Rest and ride in peace Pablo Goncalves you will be missed by many! Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends! This one hurts and is tough to swallow." Price wrote on his social media.

As a mark or respect event organisers ASO have cancelled tomorrow's motorcycle stage eight.


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