2016 Dakar contenders: Paulo Goncalves

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There are a lot of expectations for the 38th edition of the Dakar, which will take place on January 2-16 in Argentina and Bolivia. The route will lead the 354 race vehicles from the start in Buenos Aires to Uyuni in Bolivia and then on the return journey to Rosario over 14 race days, covering more than 9,000 kilometres, with approximately 4,500 km against the clock.

Universally recognized as the toughest rally in the world, the riders who enrol on the Dakar have the finishing line at the forefront of their minds. This goal is seen as an achievement in itself, but to triumph in Rosario, the winner will have to display special talent in navigation, stamina and mechanical skills.

After the Coma and Despres era, triumphant on the last 10 editions, the bike category is open to a renewal of generations. It didn’t happen since 1999, when Stephane Peterhansel switched to the car category after the record of six Dakar wins on a bike. The number one spot is up for grabs and this unexpected scenario offers veterans and newcomers the possibility to shine and to Honda and Yamaha the chance to interrupt KTM supremacy of 14 consecutive successes.

The battle is open and a victory from a different rider is expected everyday. Paolo Gonçalves, Toby Price, Helder Rodrigues, Jordi Viladoms, Olivier Pain or Ruben Faria have already climbed on the final podium, but the list of the pretenders to the title is much longer and you cannot rule out Joan Barreda, Matthias Walkner or Pablo Quintanilla. A real pity for the fast and talented KTM factory rider Sam Sunderland, out from the Dakar due to a leg injury suffered in the last Merzouga Rally.

Name: Paulo Goncalves (PRT)

Age:  36

Bike/team: Honda CRF 450 Rally – Team HRC

Dakars raced: 9

Dakar record: best result: 2nd (2015)

2015: 2nd (1 stage win)
2014: Withdrawn at Stage 5
2013: 10th
2012: 26th
2011: Withdrawn at Stage 8 (winner stage 5)
2010: Withdrawn at Stage 6
2009: 10th
2007: 23rd
2006: 25th

Stage wins or best stage result: 2 Stage wins (2015 – 2008)

Paulo ‘Speedy’ Goncalves is a veteran with a very long off-road honours list including victory in the 2013 Cross-Country Rallies World Championship and runner-up spot on the Dakar 2015 at just over 15-minutes to the winner Marc Coma. Experienced and a true team player, Goncalves is determined to give Honda the first Dakar win after their return in 2013. He can count on his experience and knowledge of his limits. 

Maria Guidotti

By Maria Guidotti