Tributes have been pouring in following the passing of Paulo Goncalves at the Dakar Rally, with Honda Racing Corporation President Yoshishige Nomura describing him as “a driving force for the team” with “tremendous achievements and immeasurable contribution as a Honda rider”.

Goncalves suffered a fall during Stage 7 of this year’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia and went into cardiac arrest. A medical helicopter was immediately dispatched which flew the Portuguese rider to Layla Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

As part of a tribute to Goncalves, all motorbike and quad racing was cancelled on today’s Stage 8 with action resuming tomorrow for the marathon 891km Stage 9.

Goncalves competed for Honda between 2013 and 2019, before moving to Hero MotoSports Rally Team this year, and won three Dakar Rally stages with Honda and finished runner-up in the 2015 edition. The Portuguese rider also became FIM Cross-Country Rallies world champion in 2013.

Having been considered a key member of HRC’s motorbike rallying efforts, Nomura has led the tributes to Goncalves.

“I am shocked, and deeply saddened at the news of Paulo Gonçalves passing away,” HRC President Nomura said. “Paulo joined the during 2013 season, the year that Honda returned to the Dakar, and played an invaluable role in enhancing the racing bike's competitiveness.

“His friendly, jolly personality made him a driving force for the team, and charmed motorsports fans worldwide. HRC appreciates Paulo's tremendous achievements and his immeasurable contribution as a Honda rider, and expresses its deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Hero MotoSports Team Rally chief Wolfgang Fischer has echoed the sentiments and said the team had lost someone it considered like family inside the squad. The Indian team has opted not to continue competing at the 2020 Dakar Rally to mourn the loss of its rider.

“Words cannot describe our shock and loss at this moment. It isn’t just a team, it is a family for us and we are devastated with the passing away of one of our members, Paulo Goncalves,” Fischer said.

“He joined the Team in April last year and within no time became an integral part of the Hero MotoSports Team family. He will be dearly missed and always be fondly remembered by us.

“Paulo was a true champion, gentleman, reliable friend to everyone in the racing world and a role model as sportsman and personality. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Tributes from across the motorsport globe have continued for Goncalves who had been a prominent figure at HRC before his move to Hero MotoSports.

“Sad for the death of Paulo at the Dakar,” Repsol Honda and MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez wrote on social media. “We’ll remember you for your passion and a great heart. Rest in peace my friend.”

“Very sad day. A huge hug for the family and friends of Paulo Goncalves. A champion. Rest in peace rider,” two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso added, who is making his Dakar Rally debut this year.