The Dakar Rally is one of, if not the single most challenging rally in the world. Winning the desert riad has given some of the racers the status of legends while for some other riders, completing the rally alone has been their victory. For all the glory the event brings there is also a dark side. In over four decades, the Dakar has sadly claimed several lives and the 2020 edition will be added to the somber list.
A shockwave hit the 2020 Dakar when the organizers announced the death of Portuguese rider and seasoned Dakar competitor Paulo Goncalves on January 12. Goncalves crashed halfway through the 340-mile Riyadh-Wadi Al Dawasir test, at around 10 am. He was found unconscious, in cardiac arrest. Fellow riders Kevin Benavides and Toby Price were on the scene assisting until the medical crew intervened. He was airlifted by helicopter and evacuated to the closest hospital in Layla, Saudi Arabia where he was pronounced dead.
The 40-year-old rider was a veteran of the Dakar with 12 raids under his belt and no less than 23 titles in motocross and enduro, including the 2013 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship’s top honors. 2020 was Goncalves's 13th participation in the Dakar. Through the years, he sported the colors of several manufacturers including Honda, KTM, and Husqvarna. For 2020, Goncalves was part of the Hero crew.
The tragedy understandably shocked his fellow competitors. "Paulo, a beloved figure of the rally, was immensely respected by both veterans and less experienced competitors who admired and were inspired by him," the organizers said. Following the incident, they met with the riders and decided to cancel the bikes and quads 8th stage, scheduled to take place on January 13, 2020.
The RideApart team offers its sincerest condolences to Paulo’s friends and family. Race on, Speedy.
Photography by Dakar/DPPI Media