Paulo Goncalves has passed away while competing at the Dakar Rally.

The 40-year-old, competing for Hero MotoSports Team Rally in the motorcycle class, suffered a fall during Stage 7 heading from Riyadh to Wadi Al Dawasir and went into cardiac arrest.

A medical helicopter was immediately dispatched to Goncalves which flew him to Layla Hospital where the Portuguese rider was pronounced dead.

Goncalves was competing in his 13th Dakar Rally with a best career result of runner-up in 2015 and was FIM Cross-Country Rallies world champion in 2013. The Portuguese rider had also collected three stage wins at the Dakar.

Before starting Stage 7, Goncalves was 46th overall in the motorcycle class having gained 13 places on the previous stage.

Fellow Dakar Rally competitors Kevin Benavides and Toby Price stopped to assist medical crews at the scene of accident and both were given adjusted times for the stage due to their efforts. Benavides, former teammate to Goncalves, now leads the overall classification by 1m 23s from Monster Energy Honda teammate Joan Barreda Bort, with Price moving up to seventh overall 7m 57s off Benavides.

“On arriving we heard the news about Paulo,” Ricky Brabec, another former teammate to Goncalves who is currently in fifth place in the overall classification, said. “We all know that motorcycling is a dangerous sport, but today is a really sad day for the people of Cross-Country Rallies. Our thoughts are with the family. The race standings don’t mean anything anymore. It’s secondary. Life goes way beyond sport.”

Full statement from Dakar Rally organisers:

“Paulo Gonçalves, racing on motorbike no. 8, has passed away from a fall sustained 276 kilometres into today's special. The organisers received an alert at 10:08 and dispatched a medical helicopter that reached the biker at 10:16 and found him unconscious after going into cardiac arrest. Following resuscitation efforts in situ, the competitor was taken by helicopter to Layla Hospital, where he was sadly pronounced dead.

“40-year-old Paulo Gonçalves was taking part in his 13th Dakar. He made his debut in 2006 and had finished four times in the top 10, including an impressive performance as runner-up to Marc Coma in 2015. Paulo Gonçalves, the 2013 cross-country rallies world champion, was sitting in 46th place overall after stage 6 of the 2020 Dakar.

“The entire Dakar caravan would like to extend its sincere condolences to his friends and family.”