Monster Honda’s Ricky Brabec extended his overall lead on stage seven of the 2020 Dakar which was marred by the death of rally raid veteran Paulo Goncalves.
Brabec’s team-mate Kevin Benavides took the stage win over a very high number of kilometres 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’s 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 victory went to Benavides who headed out today firmly intent on moving on from Friday’s 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 1’23 surplus over brother-in-arms 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.
Brabec, winner of stage six, started out intent on minimizing the burden of having to open the track, a task which he carried out effectively, to post fifth on the day without conceding much time to his immediate pursuers on the leader board.
“Today was so fast! It was crazy. Unfortunately, I started first, so it’s a given to lose some time today. Joan caught me at km 170 and then from there we rode together all day,” said Brabec.
“It’s pretty nice to have a teammate to ride with every day and help navigate. I think Joan won the stage, but we’re another day closer to the finish, so I’m happy.
“I’m just gonna regroup for tomorrow. It’s hard to tell where your time is because we have a 15-minute neutralisation and Toby started really far back. The only riders I saw refuelling were, obviously, my teammate Joan and Matthias.”
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’t mean anything anymore. It’s secondary. Life goes way beyond sport.”
A statement from Dakar organisers reads:
Paulo Gonçalves, racing on motorbike no. 8, has passed away from a fall sustained 276 kilometres into today’s special. 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.
40-year-old Paulo Gonçalves was taking part in his 13th Dakar. He made his debut in 2006 and had finished four times in the top 10, including an impressive performance as runner-up to Marc Coma in 2015. Paulo Gonçalves, the 2013 cross-country rallies world champion, was sitting in 46th place overall after stage 6 of the 2020 Dakar.
The entire Dakar caravan would like to extend its sincere condolences to his friends and family.