Dakar Stage 7 Highlights: Sainz extends overall lead, racers mourn death of one of their own
Sunday’s stage 7 of the Dakar Rally was marred by the death of motorbike rider Paulo Gonçalves, who fell and suffered cardiac arrest roughly halfway through the stage.
Riders Kevin Benavides and Toby Price stopped to assist Gonçalves, and a medical helicopter arrived at the scene within eight minutes, according to the event organizer’s website. Gonçalves was then airlifted to a hospital and subsequently pronounced dead.
Gonçalves was competing in his 13th Dakar. He was runner-up in 2015.
After a meeting with riders, Dakar officials made the decision to cancel Monday’s stage 8 for the motorbikes and quad classes in order to allow competitors to mourn the loss of their competitor and friend.
Here are some of Sunday’s highlights:
In the cars class, Carlos Sainz collected his third win to extend his advantage over Nasser Al-Attiyah in the overall standings.
Al-Attiyah and local driver Yasir Seaidan set the pace early on in the stage, but Sainz jumped ahead roughly halfway through and ended up beating Al-Attiyah by 2:12. Stephane Peterhansel finished third, 2:53 behind.
Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso finished sixth, finishing 7:49 behind Sainz. Alonso is now ranked 15th overall.
Overall: Carlos Sainz holds an advantage of 10:00 over Nasser Al-Attiyah.
In bikes, Kevin Benavides was awarded the victory after stopping to assist Paulo Gonçalves following the rider’s fatal crash.
Joining Benavides were several other riders, including Toby Price and Stefan Svitko, all of whom were awarded time by race organizers for their efforts.
Following the time adjustments, Benavides won by 1:23 over Joan Barreda Bort. Matthias Walkner finished third, 4:17 behind.
Overall: Ricky Brabec holds an advantage of 24:48 over Pablo Quintanilla.
In side by sides, Blade Hildebrand, who was competing under the ‘Dakar Experience’ rule due to a retirement in stage 2, defeated fellow American Casey Currie by a comfortable margin of 11:15. Stage 1 winner Aron Domzala finished third, 13:16 back.
Overall: Casey Currie holds an advantage of 32:03 over Francisco Lopez Contardo.
In quads, Simon Viste picked up his second consecutive victory, beating Giovanni Enrico by a 0:11. Overall leader Ignacio Casale was third-fastest, finishing 1:31 behind.
Overall: Ignacio Casale holds an advantage of 36:43 over Simon Viste.
In trucks, Andrey Karginov continued to dominate, narrowly edging out teammate Dmitry Sotnikov by 0:03 to claim his second consecutive stage victory and third overall. Anton Shibalov finished third, 2:05 back.
Overall: Andrey Karginov holds an advantage of 21:12 over Anton Shibalov.
Cars:  Carlos Sainz (Stage 3, 5, and 7),  Stephane Peterhansel (Stage 4 and 6),  Vaidotas Zala (Stage 1) and  Giniel De Villiers (Stage 2)
Bikes:  Toby Price (Stage 1 and 5),  Ricky Brabec (Stage 3 and 6),  Ross Branch (Stage 2),  Jose Ingacio Cornejo (Stage 4) and  Kevin Benavides (Stage 7)
Side-by-sides:  Gerard Farres Guell (Stage 3 and 6),  Aron Domzala (Stage 1),  Francisco Lopez Contardo (Stage 2),  Mitchell Guthrie (Stage 4),  Cyril Despres (Stage 5) and  Blade Hildebrand (Stage 7)
Quads:  Ignacio Casale (Stage 1, 2, and 4),  Simon Viste (Stage 6 and 7),  Giovanni Enrico (Stage 3) and  Romain Dutu (Stage 5)
Trucks:  Andrey Karginov (Stage 3, 6, and 7),  Anton Shibalov (Stage 1 and 4),  Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 2) and  Dmitry Sotnikov (Stage 5)
Highlights of Stage 7 will air on NBCSN tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET. The rally runs through Jan. 17.