Paulo makes impressive comeback, day of gains for Hero MotoSports

Amit Anand

Al Ula (Saudi Arabia), Jan 8 (PTI) Leaving behind the stage-three setback, Paulo Goncalves showed his class by finishing fourth in the fourth stage of the Dakar Rally for Hero MotoSports Rally Team, here Wednesday.

The stage 4 of the rally today moved from Neom towards the next bivouac of Al Ula, covering a total distance of 672 kms including the special stage of 453 kms.

The stage offered a mix of sandy stretches, canyons, wadi crossings and gravel sections, made even more complicated due to tricky navigation at many places with multiple tracks.

Being a top 12 rider in the previous stage, he exercised his right to choose his starting position and opted to start the stage at the 26th position. If there was any doubt about him carrying the baggage of the previous stage, it was quickly dispelled by the sheer intent and class he put on the display today to finish the stage in the top 5.

With his fantastic performance today, he clawed back several places from his overnight position of 110th to jump to 61st place in the overall rankings.

'It was better than yesterday. I started well but in the beginning there was a lot of dust and I decided to stay behind the riders in front of me to avoid any unnecessary risks,' said Goncalves.

'After refueling, though I started to gain more speed and started pushing harder as the road opened to a wider desert. I had a little crash in the end which woke me up. This was a long stage with a lot of navigation but I am happy to arrive with a good stage position.' Sebastian Buhler continued to impress with his composure and consistency as he tackled another fast and tricky stage with a 21st place finish. With this, he continues his upward climb in the overall rankings for the fourth straight day to break into the top 20 at 20th place at the end of 4 stages.

The German rider said,' It was a very tough day- a long stage and confusing way with a lot of stones- but in all it was very good. Towards the finish the navigation was difficult and I had to go very slow to not make a mistake and to find all the way points.' C S Santosh too had a better day in the office today and rode with a good rhythm as he brought the stage home in 44th place. He also climbed a few notches in the overall rankings to climb up to 42nd place.

'For me the stage was pretty good. In the beginning there was a lot of dust but the desert soon started opening up and I had a chance to pass some people. The stage was really difficult and had a lot of rocks with high peak sections as well,' said the Indian.

'But I made considerable time. I made one mistake which cost me a little but overall, my hand is feeling much better. I am looking forward to next couple of days in the Dakar and it's only going to get much tougher, so let's see what happens.' While all his team mates are fighting for an overall position, Joaquim Rodrigues seems to be on a race to better his own performance with every stage. He put on a strong show and bettered his last stage ranking of 31, with a 23rd place finish on Wednesday. PTI AT AT