Paulo Goncalves finished the fourth stage of the 2012 Dakar in fifth position and moved from seventh to sixth in the overall standings. The Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain rider gained valuable time against his closest rivals, as everyone endured a long and difficult test through the Rioja canyons. The stage totaled 435 miles with a 203-mile special test as it took riders from San Juan to Chilecito in Argentina.
Goncalves quickly found his rhythm and had race leader Cyril Despres in sight around the 50-mile mark. Goncalves, however, made a navigation error at a difficult waypoint when he momentarily lost concentration. This mistake cost him almost 10 minutes. Keeping up his front-runner speed, Goncalves afterwards rode together with Marc Coma, Helder Rodrigues and Frans Verhoeven until the end of the stage — the closing miles through a muddy river bed.
“More would have been possible today,” he said. “I’m mad at myself having made the mistake. It’s positive though that I found and kept a good rhythm. The bike worked flawlessly.”
Zé Hélio rode a determined stage, stayed out of trouble and used the day to improve to 16th overall. Meanwhile teammate Joan Barreda experienced a disappointing outcome. The Spaniard was lying fourth at the first checkpoint, but his rear wheel broke 40 miles from the finish. Together with Jose Manuel Pellicer he eventually made it to Chilecito but both fell further behind in the overall standings.
The fifth stage offers the white dunes of Fiambalá. Things are going to be very challenging. The riders will need a good eye and superb navigation in the 153-mile long special test. The connecting stage is rather short at 94 miles.
Dakar 2012, Stage 4 Results:
1. Marc Coma (SPA) KTM, 4:16:43 hrs
2. Cyril Despres (FRA) KTM, 2:02 min behind
3. Frans Verhoeven (NEL) Sherco, 8:26
4. Helder Rodrigues (POR) Yamaha, 9:01
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 11:18
21. Zé Hélio (BRA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 30:29
62. Jose Manuel Pellicer (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 1:25:17
70. Joan Barreda (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 1:35:58
Dakar 2012, Overall standings:
1. Despres, 11:50:27 hrs
2. Coma, 8:10 min behind
3. Rodrigues, 26:48
4. Francisco Lopez (CHI) Aprilia, 29:50
6. Paulo Goncalves (POR) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 35:16
16. Zé Hélio (BRA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 1:15:57
36. Jose Manuel Pellicer (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 2:30:09
45. Joan Barreda (SPA) Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain, 3:00:44