Paulo Gonçalves Dies At Dakar Rally

Portuguese rider was found unconscious after crashing in seventh stage.

Paulo Gonçalves
Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves sustained a fatal crash in the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.DPPI Media

According to reports from Reuters and other sources, Portuguese motorcycle rider Paulo Gonçalves has died at the Dakar Rally after a fatal crash sustained in the seventh stage. The 40-year-old was riding for the Hero Motosports team when he fell after 276 km of the stage from Riyadh to Wadi al-Dawasir in Saudi Arabia, said organizers.

Hero Motorsports Rally Team
Gonçalves, making his 13th rally appearance, was riding for the Hero Motorsports Rally Team when he crashed on Sunday.DPPI Media

The organizers also said in a statement that they received an alert and dispatched a medical helicopter, which found the rider unconscious. “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.”

The experienced Gonçalves made his debut at Dakar in 2006, making this his 13th Dakar Rally. He had competed in the Dakar on three continents, from its beginning years in Africa to South America and in this year's debut in the Middle East. The savvy rider had finished in the top 10 at the Dakar Rally four times and was runner-up in 2015 to Spaniard Marc Coma, though he crashed out on the fifth stage in Peru last year.

Gonçalves unfortunately was hampered by mechanical problems on Friday and was forced to change his bike’s engine just to remain in the race, which caused him to drop to 46th overall in the standings 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.

Riyadh to Wadi al-Dawasir
Sunday’s stage from Riyadh to Wadi al-Dawasir was the longest of the Dakar

Sunday’s 546 km stage, the longest of the event, was ultimately won by Argentina’s KTM rider Kevin Benavides, who stopped to help Gonçalves and had the lost time reinstated. Defending motorcycle champion, Australian Toby Price, also stopped to assist Gonçalves and also had lost time reinstated. Price ended the day in fourth position, 28 minutes off the lead. American Ricky Brabec extended his overall lead in the category.

Participants and rally staff pay their respects
Participants and rally staff gathered to pay their respects to the passing of Gonçalves. Stage 8 was canceled in his memory.Francois Flamand/DPPI Media

Gonçalves was the first competitor to die in the grueling endurance event since Polish motorcycle rider Michal Hernik in Argentina in 2015.