Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau
AS the Dakar Rally continued yesterday in Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe’s top motor rally driver Conrad Rautenbach stayed on course, coming ninth at the end of stage eight in 5hours 12minutes 54seconds.
Rautenbach was one place up from his previous performance on Sunday when he completed stage seven in position 10.
Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela and his co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin claimed the top spot in 4hours 50minutes 48seconds, followed by the pair of Francisco Lopez Contardo and Vinagre on second place in 4hours 51minutes 10seconds.
In third place was the duo of the Austin Jones and Kellon Walch in 4hours 58minutes 9seconds.
The Zimbabwean driver Rautenbach and his Portuguese co-driver Pedro Bianchi Prata have so far had a good race completing the different stages.
And will be hoping they can last the distance in the race that ends this Friday. The Dakar Rally organisers cancelled yesterday’s stage of bikes and quads following the death of Portuguese motorbike rider Paulo Goncalves on Sunday.
Goncalves died after a crash during Sunday’s stage seven. The 40-year-old suffered the fatal accident after 276 kilometres of the day’s ride.
“The decease of Paulo Gonçalves during today’s (Sunday’s) stage 7 between Riyadh and Wadi Al-Dawasir has left the entire Dakar, especially the bikers, in shock. Paulo, a beloved figure of the rally, was immensely respected by both veterans and less experienced competitors who admired and were inspired by him. After meeting the riders and making a decision together with the entire motorbike family, the organisers have decided to cancel stage 8 for the motorbikes and quads category, which was supposed to take place on a loop course around Wadi Al-Dawasir, in order to give the riders time to mourn their friend.