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After a day of rest, the grueling 741km long stage was not one where racing was of prime importance, with the tragic passing of Paulo Goncalves
We are now in the second half of the Dakar and things are only getting tougher from here. The 741km seventh stage comprised of sand and dunes as well as some sections of gritty soil. Carlos Sainz holds the lead in the cars category while Ricky Brabec leads the bikes. Today the Dakar reminded us once again that it is no ordinary race as it shockingly claimed the life of Hero Motorsports rider Paulo ‘Speedy’ Goncalves, who suffered a cardiac arrest after an accident 276km into the stage. With the passing of Paulo, the drivers and riders were visibly shaken but they had to lift their heads up and continue racing.
The seventh stage was won by Carlos Sainz of the Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team with a time of 4 hours 16 minutes and 11 seconds thanks to the faster top speed of the Mini. He has now extended his overall lead to 10 minutes. Nasser Al-Attiyah of Toyota Gazoo Racing was placed second, coming in 2 minutes and 12 seconds behind. Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team’s Stephen Peterhansel sticks to third overall as well as in the stage rankings with a time of 4 hours 19 minutes and 4 seconds. Bernhard Ten Brinke of Toyota Gazoo Racing was just 5 seconds behind Peterhansel with a time of 4 hours 19 minutes 9 seconds, now placed seventh overall. Yazeed Al Rajhi of Overdrive Toyota finished fifth behind Brinke, and his overall fourth place advantage is 12 minutes and 32 seconds over Orlando Terranova who finished the stage in ninth place.
Kevin Benavides of the Monster Energy Honda Team 2020 pulled out a win with a time of 4 hours 36 minutes 22 seconds. He stopped to help at the site of Goncalves’ crash and his time was re-calculated at the end of the stage. Toby Price too was at the site for almost an hour and a half along with Stefan Svitko to provide assistance to Goncalves. Their timings too were re-calculated for their bespoke display of comradery and sportsman’s spirit. Nevertheless, Joan Barreda Bort of Monster Energy Honda Team 2020 came in second place, 1 minute and 23 seconds behind Kevin, with a time of 4 hours 37 minutes 45 seconds. Matthias Walkner of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team placed third, just 4 minutes and 17 seconds behind the leader with a time of 4 hours 40 minutes and 39 seconds. His teammate Luciano Benavides, came in 31 seconds behind. Monster Energy Honda Team rider Ricky Brabec was hunting down Luciano and crossed the line a mere four seconds away in fifth, with a time of 4 hours 41 minutes and 14 seconds.
It was a dramatic day for the Japanese crew from the Hino Sugawara team. Their five-tonne rally spec behemoth capsized mid-stage while tackling a harsh patch of dunes. Their female mechanic Mayumi Kezuka spent over one hour in the hot sun trying the fix the issues in the truck. Meanwhile, the Belarusian team Maz-Sportauto with pilot Siarhei Viazovich dropped another nine minutes to the leader yesterday. The crew looked solid in the first few stages as they even topped stage two triumphing over the mighty Kamaz-Master trucks. However, Anton Karginov’s team came on top of the leadboard in stage seven followed closely by teammates Dmitry Sotkinov and Anton Shibalov in the second and third positions respectively.
In the quads, Frenchman Simon Vitse had another solid outing. He won his second consecutive stage improving his chances for a podium finish by tighenting grip on the second overall position. Ignacio Casale was only behind by a couple of minutes and he comfortably leads the overall rankings by about 36 minutes.
The racing surely took second stage at the Dakar yesterday with the passing of Paulo Goncalves. He had been with Hero MotoSports Team Rally for over a year and was one of the most experienced and integral parts of the team. He was respected in the entire motorsports’ fraternity. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. We’ll miss you Speedy.