Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves made his Dakar debut in 2006 and finished four times in the top 10 including a runner-up finish in 2015.
Riyadh: Tragedy struck Hero MotoSports Team on Sunday as its Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves met with a fatal accident during the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally. Paulo, aged 40, passed away from a fall sustained 276 kilometers into today’s special zone.
“The organisers received an alert at 10:08 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,” Hero Motosport said in a release.
Fondly known as ‘speedy Goncalves’, it was 13th Dakar for the Portuguese, one of the most experienced riders on the field.
He made his Dakar debut in 2006 and finished four times in the top 10 including a runner-up finish in 2015
He has had an illustrious journey in the rally-racing world, including a series of remarkable performances at the world’s most prestigious rallies. He was crowned 2013 FIM Cross Country Rally World Champion.
“Words cannot describe our shock and loss at this moment. It isn’t just a team, it is a family for us and we are devastated with the passing away of one of our members, Paulo Goncalves,” Wolfgang Fischer, Head of Hero MotoSports Team Rally said.
“He joined the Team in April last year and within no time became an integral part of the Hero MotoSports Team family. He will be dearly missed and always be fondly remembered by us.
“Paulo was a true champion, gentleman, reliable friend to everyone in the racing world and a role model as sportsman and personality. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” he said.
The Portuguese motorcycle rider Paulo Gonçalves died after a crash in the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, organisers said.
The 40-year-old Hero Motosports entrant, taking part in his 13th Dakar Rally since making his debut in 2006, fell after 276km of the special stage from the capital Riyadh to Wadi al-Dawasir.
“The organisers received an alert at 10:08 and dispatched a medical helicopter that reached the biker at 10:16 and found him unconscious after going into cardiac arrest,” organisers said in a statement.
“Following resuscitation efforts in situ, the competitor was taken by helicopter to Layla Hospital, where he was sadly pronounced dead. The entire Dakar caravan would like to extend its sincere condolences to his friends and family.”
Gonçalves was the first competitor to die in the gruelling endurance event since the Polish motorcycle rider Michal Hernik in Argentina in 2015.
The Portuguese finished in the top 10 at the Dakar Rally four times and was runner-up in 2015 to the Spaniard Marc Coma, who is competing this year as co-driver to the double Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.
Gonçalves suffered mechanical problems on Friday, having to change his bike’s engine to stay in the race, and dropped to 46th overall after the sixth stage.
“The target now is to do my best, because the result at the end … there is no way to get a good result. Instead I’ll try to do good stages every day possible and that’s what I’m looking for,” Gonçalves said then.
The experienced Portuguese had competed in the Dakar on three continents, from its origins in Africa to South America and this year’s debut in the Middle East.
The 2013 cross-country rallies world champion was representing the Indian Hero Motosports team, along with his brother-in-law Joaquim Rodrigues, after five years racing with Honda.
Gonçalves crashed out on the fifth stage in Peru last year. Rodrigues broke his back in a Dakar crash two years ago but returned after extensive surgery and was 27th after stage six.
Sunday’s 546km stage, the longest of the event, was won by the Spaniard Joan Barreda with the American Ricky Brabec extending his overall lead in the category.
The Australian Toby Price, the defending champion, finished an hour and 20 minutes behind Barreda but organisers said he stopped to try to help Gonçalves and will have his position recalculated.
The Spaniard Carlos Sainz, a two-times Dakar winner driving a Mini buggy, took his third stage win of the event in the cars category to extend his lead over Toyota’s reigning champion, Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar, to 10 minutes. Mini have now won six of the seven stages.