Hero MotoSports Team Rally has announced that it will withdraw from the 2020 Dakar Rally owing to the demise of its team rider Paulo Goncalves. The tragic death of Hero's most experienced rider has left the team and the entire Dakar fraternity in shock, and it out of respect for its departed teammate that Hero will not continue to pursue Dakar this year. Paulo was a Dakar veteran and passed away due to a cardiac arrest after a fall in Stage 7, 276 km into the special section.
An official statement released from the team read, "The entire Hero MotoSports Team is in deep mourning after the tragic demise of our rider Paulo Goncalves on Sunday. With immense respect for our departed teammate, Hero MotoSports will not continue its participation at the Dakar Rally 2020. The other riders, along with the team management and support staff, will join the grieving family of Paulo."
In a statement released by the Dakar Rally organisers, they were alerted about the crash at 10.08 am and paramedics reached the spot at 10.16 am to attend the Portuguese rider. He was found unconscious and was then airlifted to Layla Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The incident prompted the organisers to cancel Stage 8 for bikes and quads category, as a mark of respect for the Goncalves who rode the No. 8 Hero 450 motorcycle.
The loss is an even personal one for teammate Joaquim Rodrigues, who was also Goncalves' brother-in-law. Teammate CS Santosh also took to social media to express his shock over the rider's death.
Red Bull Factory Racing Team rider Toby Price had originally found Paulo unconscious and the rider took to social media to describe those eight "long" minutes before the paramedics arrived.
Paulo "Speedy" Goncalves was a veteran and this year was his 13th Dakar start since his debut in 2006. He finished in the top 10 four times before, having been a part of Honda, BMW-Husqvarna and Speedbrain in the past years, before joining Hero MotoSports in April 2019. With Hero, the 40-year-old went on to secure strong results in the 2019 Silk Way Rally and the Rally of Morocco last year. Goncalves was also the 2013 FIM Cross Country Rally World Champion, and was runner-up to Marc Coma in the 2015 Dakar Rally.
Paulo had a fantastic run this year finishing in the top 10 in several stages, while it was in Stage 3 that really showed his true Dakar-spirit when he managed to replace an engine all by himself after a long wait of six hours for the replacement parts and then continued till the end of the stage in complete darkness. While it meant he started at the back of the grid the next day, the rider made a spectacular comeback finishing fourth in Stage 4. He was ranked 46th in the general standings at the end of Stage 6.