Dakar 2020: Buhler leads the way for Hero MotoSports as technical trouble hits Goncalves on Stage 3
The third stage of Dakar 2020 involved a tremendously challenging 404km long special that looped around the megacity of Neom, with participants having to deal with sand, canyons, and mountains. The route also involved the highest point that the 2020 Dakar reaches - an altitude of 1400m.
The day was incredibly hard for Hero MotoSports Team Rally since their star rider, Paulo Goncalves had a major setback. Merely 30km into the stage, Goncalves' motorcycle developed a technical issue. He needed to wait until another competitor - truck No. 536 of Antonio Cabini - demonstrated what the Dakar is all about, and brought him the spares he needed to fix his motorcycle. This meant that Goncalves had to wait for approximately five and a half hours, before he had the parts he needed to replace his engine. He then managed to work on his motorcycle, replacing the complete engine himself, before ultimately making it to the end of the stage. The fact that he managed to get to the end of the stage, riding a long way in the dark, is good news for the team, because it means he is still in contention for a position in the overall rankings. However, his hopes of a finish near the sharp end of the order have effectively been dashed.
Speaking of the arduous day that he had, Goncalves said, "It was a really difficult day for me today. At around 30 kms into the stage, my bike stopped and I could not get it started. I had to wait a long time before I got the replacement parts and fixed the bike to finally get moving again. I know I have lost a lot of time, my chances of fighting for a top position for my team are over. It is an unfortunate situation and all of us are sad after the good work the team had put in through the year. But this is the Dakar and anything can happen here. Now my goal is to try and make some good stage results for the team and help my teammates Santosh and Buhler to finish what we all started."
However, it was a good day for Sebastian Buhler, competing in his first rally for the team. The German rider might have been called in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Oriol Mena, but he's been making rapid progress through the ranks all through the rally. Buhler ended the stage 20th, which puts him 23rd overall after three stages of the 2020 Dakar.
"I enjoyed the today's stage a lot. It has very nice fast tracks and the bike was also running perfectly. At around 400km there was a waypoint that was very difficult to find. A lot of riders got confused there and lost time. Overall, I think I am riding good and hope to continue in the same way," said Buhler.
Meanwhile, Indian Dakar star, CS Santosh also had a tough day, but managed to hang on to finish 50th. This means that he currently moves up to 44th overall. Santosh admitted to making mistakes during the stage, but also said that he was happy to make it to the finish of the stage. "Today was a long stage full of dust. There were mini-canyons that were really dusty but after that the track really opened up and I got into a good rhythm and pace to catch up a few guys in front of me. Just before the refuelling point I lost my way a bit and lost some time in getting back on track. It's still a long way to the finish and I am hoping to find a good rhythm in the upcoming stages," said Santosh.
The team's fourth rider, Joaquim Rodrigues, managed to gain several positions over the course of Stage 3, and finished 31st. Although J-Rod isn't in contention for a position in the overall rankings, he still is competing in the Dakar in the Experience category.
Stage 4 takes competitors to Al-Ula, after 676km of hard riding that will include 453km of special.
Provisional Stage 3 Rankings
1. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Racing, 03h 29m 31s
2. Jose Ignacio Cornejo, Monster Energy Honda Racing, +05m 56s
3. Kevin Benavides, Monster Energy Honda Racing, +07m 22s
20. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +27m 41s
31. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSPorts Team Rally, +31m 03s
50. C S Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +01h 17m 02s
126. Paulo Goncalves, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, Not yet available
Provisional Overall Rankings after Stage 3
1. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Racing, 10h 39m 04s
2. Kevin Benavides, Monster Energy Honda Racing, +04m 43s
3. Matthias Walkner, RedBull KTM Racing, +06m 02s
23. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +01h 12m 07s
44. C S Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +03h 10m 43s
110. Paulo Goncalves, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, Not yet available