The 2020 Dakar Rally Race featured an unexpected loss this week. Motorcyclist Paulo Goncalves experienced cardiac arrest while racing the seventh stage of this 339-Mile Circuit. It prompted a substantial crash, where he was immediately knocked unconscious. Shortly after this incident, Kevin Benavides from Argentina and Toby Price from Australia stopped to aid their fellow motorcyclist. Medical helicopters arrived eight minutes after the accident, where Paulo Goncalves was flown to Layla Hospital. Unfortunately, he was pronounced dead after reaching the hospital.
Dakar Rally Officials provided their sentiments on the official website, noting that Paulo Goncalves is mourned by all those participating in this event. He was considered to be one of the most experienced riders in Dakar’s history and became a beloved champion amongst Rally enthusiasts. Toby Price and Kevin Benavides laid a blanket over Paulo after the deadly crash took place, indicating that they knew he’d passed before the medical helicopters arrived. This substantial event prompted for the eighth stage of the Dakar Rally to be cancelled, a first in the history of this event. Cancellations were provided to give fellow motorcyclist’s the time required to heal and mourn this loss.
Racers that drove with Paulo in this event noted that everyone had respected him and his presence at global events. Thousands have expressed their admiration and inspiration for this man, who will be remembered by the Dakar Rally on the Ninth Stage. Previous to this incident, Goncalves participated in twelve other rally events for Dakar and became the 2nd place winner for the 2015 series. That year marked the last time another motorcyclist passed away at the Dakar Rally, with Michael Henrik from Poland being killed in an unexpected event. Two additional deaths followed in 2016 but didn’t involve competitors. Subsequently, it’s been four years since the Dakar Rally experienced death.
When this deadly accident occurred, the race was postponed by an hour. Official times were deducted by six minutes, providing Kevin Benavides with the ability to compete for championship contention. Kevin was competing against Toby Price, who stood as the defending champion. However, Toby couldn’t compete at his average pace, knowing that he’d just lost his best friend less than two hours ago. It resulted in him losing multiple placements, with Formula One driver Carlos Sainz acquiring second place. This will be remembered as one of the most pivotal and unexpected Dakar Rallies in history.