Dakar Day 7: Portuguese rider killed as rally resumes

The 2020 Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia has been rocked by the tragic news that Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves (pictured above) succumbed to injuries sustained in a fall sustained 276 kilometres into today’s special stage.

The Dakar officials reported: “The organisers received an alert at 10:08 (0708 GMT) and dispatched a medical helicopter that reached the biker at 10:16 and found him unconscious after going into cardiac arrest.

“Following resuscitation efforts in situ, the competitor was taken by helicopter to Layla Hospital, where he was sadly pronounced dead,” it added.

2013 cross-country rallies world champion and 2015 runner-up and a 4-time top-ten finisher, 40-year-old Gonçalves was racing his 13th Dakar. Motorsport Media joins the entire Dakar caravan and world motorsport community extend its sincere condolences to Paulo’s friends, family, team and racing rivals.

The motorcycle race of Sunday’s longest 546km stage of Dakar 2020 started in chilly Riyadh on a varied route to Wadi Al Dawasir and was provisionally won by Spanish Honda rider Joan Barreda Bort from KTM duo, Austrian Matthias Walkner and Luciano Benavides, Californian Ricky Brabec and Chilean Jose Ignacio Conrejo Flormino on two other Hondas and Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna). Botswana’s Ross Branch ended 14th, SA riders, lady duo Taye Perry was 50th and Kirsten Landman 66th, Stuart Gregory 72nd and Zimbabwe’s Graeme Sharp 88th.

The day’s however changed once several riders who stopped to assist the fallen Gonçalves will regain their time lost there, with third man overall on Friday and defending champion Toby Price re-classified seventh and Stefan Svitko 14th after running over an hour late. The revised overall results see Brabec leading Quintanilla, Flormino now ahead of Price, Barreda, Walkner and Benavides, while Branch was ranked 26th. Taye Perry meanwhile moved up to a stunning 57th, Landman 62nd, Gregory 70th and Sharp 80th.

Sainz continues to lead, Alonso strong again

In the car race, Spain’s double world rally and Dakar champion Carlos Sainz continued to stamp authority on the Saudi Arabian race with his third stage victory out of seven aboard his Mini buggy, to consolidate his overall lead.

Sainz told reporters afterwards, “It was quite a fast. We spent a lot of time going flat out, crossing some dunes. I caught Stéphane, but it was very dusty and I couldn’t get close, so I decided to stay behind.”

Nasser Al Attiyah was second for the proudly South African Gazoo Toyota team with Mr Dakar, Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel third in another Mini ahead of Toyota Hilux quartet, Dutch driver Bernhard Ten Brinke, Saudi local hero Yazeed Al Rajhi, top rookie, Spain’s double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso and South African Giniel de Villiers.

Alonso might have won the stage but had to settle for sixth

Sixth-placed Alonso, with veteran Dakar legend Marc Coma in the co-driver seat, was 7.49 minutes down on his fellow countryman Sainz at the end of the day. He is now 15th overall, 3.26 hours down on top spot.

At one point the Spaniard felt good for a first stage win of his off-road career, “It was a great stage for us but a puncture at the end meant that after two seconds the when the wheel disintegrated. which made us lose three or four minutes in the end.

“Without that, we would have been close to the top three which is a good sign but satisfied with the progress, being among the best over 540 km, ogives me hope for the last five stages. Tomorrow I can give it a squeeze more.”

Overall, Sainz leads Al Attiyah by precisely ten minutes, with Peterhansel third from Al Rajhi, Argentine Orlando Terranova (Mini), Ten Brinke and Serradori, while de Klerk moved four places up to 32nd and Bell to 38th.

The Side by Side vehicles saw US lads Blade Hillebrand and Casey Currie take the top two places on the day, while SA navigator guided French multiple bike winner Cyril Despres home fourth and Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach ended 11th to see Currie extend his overall lead, while Rautenbach moved up to fourth.

In the quads, Chilean Giovanni Enrico beat Frenchman Simon Vitse and overall leader, Chilean Ignacio Casale to move into second overall, while Russians overall leader Andrey Karginov, Dimitry Sotnikov and Anton Shibalov made it a Kamaz-1-2-3 in the trucks.

Monday sees Dakar Day taking on a 477km loop around Wadi Al Dawasir. This daily Dakar Report is brought to you by Motorsport Media courtesy of TreasuryOne Motorsport and Red-Lined Motoring Adventures.