Paulo Goncalves lived up to his promise and attacked at stage three of the Dakar 2012. The Portuguese member of the Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain finished third during an extremely difficult Andes stage from San Rafael to San Juan (350 miles total with 168-mile special test). Goncalves improved dramatically to seventh place overall in the standings.
It was a race day like hardly ever before in Dakar history. Some at the bivouac even called it “Erzberg”-like after the notoriously rocky Erzberg Rodeo held on Austria’s Iron Mountain. The course offered extreme stone passages and navigation was tricky also. Coming from 21st position, Paulo Goncalves’ error-free ride was rewarded with a podium result and a leap into the top 10.
Joan Barreda also wanted to fire a warning. The Spaniard followed race leader Marc Coma in the opening minutes, but crashed after 12 miles and had to fight back with a damaged navigation device. Nevertheless he managed to re-join the title holder. But bad luck happened again a couple miles from the finish. Barreda’s chain jumped off and jammed the drivetrain. It took him a while to fix the problem, the team newcomer eventually lost 41 minutes.
Zé Hélio meanwhile rode a solid race and ended the day near the Top 20. “I never experienced a day like this,” the Brazilian said. “It was the most extreme and technical stuff I’ve ever ridden.” While Jose Manuel Pellicer came home inside the Top 30, Ike Klaumann crashed and injured himself. The race is over for the likeable Brazilian.
Stage 4 is expected to be difficult and long again. The total distance from San Juan to Chilecito is over 435 miles, 203 of them being a special test. The scenic Rioja canyons will demand good navigational skills.
Dakar 2012 Stage 3 Results:
1. Cyril Despres (FRA) KTM, 3:48:38 Std
2. Frans Verhoeven (NEL) Sherco, 8:37 min behind
3. Paulo Goncalves (POR) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 8:39
4. Helder Rodrigues (POR) Yamaha, 10:03
5. Alain Duclos (FRA) Aprilia, 11:12
22. Zé Hélio (BRA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 29:15
30. Jose Manuel Pellicer (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 33:15
34. Joan Barreda (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 41:24
Dakar 2012 Overall standings:
1. Despres 7:31:42 hrs
2. Marc Coma (SPA) KTM, 10:12 min behind
3. David Casteu (FRA) Yamaha, 17:16
4. Francisco Lopez (CHI) Aprilia, 17:37
7. Paulo Goncalves (POR) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 26:00
20. Joan Barreda (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 46:48
22. Zé Hélio (BRA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 47:30
33. Jose Manuel Pellicer (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 1:06:54