The Dakar Rally was hit by tragedy today, as veteran competitor Paulo Goncalves died after crashing in the special. One of the most-respected Dakar riders of the last decade, Goncalves will go down into history as one of the greatest competitors the rally has ever seen, and one of the best to never take the top spot on the podium.
It was the first Dakar rider death since 2015.
Goncalves’ death cast a pall on the day’s riding; photos of the stage showed a visibly shaken Toby Price (KTM) standing by the crash scene. The rest of the Hero team has withdrawn, which is no wonder when you consider Joaquim Rodruiges was not only Goncalves’ teammate, but also his brother-in-law. Truly a sad situation for everyone, and once again, we want to express CMG’s sympathies.
As a result of Goncalves’ death, the organizers have cancelled Stage 8 for the motorcycle and ATV classes. Stage 8 was a simple loop, so they’ll still be able to complete reach the final destination by Stage 12.
Red Bull, instead of putting together their usual flashy stage summary, made an excellent video tribute to their former rider here.
The stage win went to Kevin Benavides (Honda), who bounced continues to prove he’s a front-runner despite his bike’s technical difficulties, which have ruled him out of overall victory. Fellow Honda rider Joan Barreda Bort was just behind him. Matthias Walkner (KTM) was third.
If Price wanted to make time up on Honda’s Ricky Brabec, who’s still leading the standings, today would have been a good day to do so, but that didn’t happen. No word yet on whether Price is going to get any time back for stopping at Goncalves’ crash scene, but as the day’s results read right now, Brabec finished fifth, ahead of seventh-place Price, meaning Brabec retains his lead. Although a fifth on the stage might sound like a bit of underachievement for Brabec, it now means his teammates can open the track for him tomorrow, making his navigation easier. These are the little pieces of racecraft that can make or break a Dakar race.
Here’s an update on Xavier de Soultrait: The Yamaha rider had a nasty gash on his forearm after a low-speed crash, resulting in a Stage 4 withdrawal. Now, he’s updated fans with more details. Turns out his forearm also had some nerve damage as a result of the deep cut, and he’s being treated for that now.
Further back in the standings, Laia Sanz has clawed up to 18th on her new-to-her Gas Gas 450 (which is really just a rebadged KTM). Sanz will likely nab a top-15 again this year, showing once again that “ride like a girl” can be the best compliment in the world.
Ross Branch, the “Kalahari Ferrari” who surprised so many with his speed in the early stages, has faded to 27th, due to an unfortunate combination of crashes and injuries. He’s still in, though, on the satellite KTM for team BAS Dakar, and with his grit shown so far, no doubt he’ll be a fan favourite for years to come, should he continue participating.
2020 Dakar Stage 7 results
1. Kevin Benavides, Honda
2. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda, + 00:01:23
3. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:04:17
4. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:04:48
5. Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:04:52
6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:06:12
7. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:0757
8. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:08:44
9. Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:09:02
10. Franco Caimi, Yamaha, + 00:09:59
1. Ricky Brabec, Honda
2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:24:48
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:27:01 (00:01:00 penalty)
4. Toby Price, KTM, + 0028:44 (00:02:00 penalty)
5. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda, + 00:29:29
6. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:33:04
7. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:38:58
8. Skyler Howes, Klymciw, + 01:15:02
9. Franco Caimi, Yamaha, + 01:15:31 (00:05:00 penalty)
10. Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 01:19:41