Gonçalves’ fall came 276 kilometers into the day’s stage, which took competitors from Riyadh to Wadi Al Dawasir in Saudi Arabia’s desert during the two-week race.
Race organizers got an alert at 10:08 a.m. and dispatched a medical helicopter that reached him eight minutes later, the Dakar Rally said. Emergency responders found him unconscious after he went into cardiac arrest, and he was taken by helicopter to Layla Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Gonçalves, 40, was racing in his 13th Dakar Rally. He made his debut in 2006 and had finished in the top 10 four times, the Dakar Rally said, including as a runner-up in 2015. This was the first Dakar Rally to take place in Saudi Arabia, which meant a new challenge for every racer.
“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 group said.
“After meeting the riders and making a decision together with the entire motorbike family, the organisers have decided to cancel stage 8 for the motorbikes and quads category, which was supposed to take place on a loop course around Wadi Al-Dawasir, in order to give the riders time to mourn their friend.”
Fellow bikers and motorcycle racers expressed sadness on Twitter.