Veteran Dakar Rally Goncalves was a fan favorite and equally popular with his competitors. After winning MX and enduro titles, the rider from Portugal made his Dakar debut in 2006, finishing 25th. He broke into the Dakar top 10 by 2009, when the Rally moved to South America.
Two years later, having swapped a Honda for a BMW, he ended a decade-long stage win drought for the Bavarian marque, but ended up dropping out of the marathon through injury. In 2012, he was now riding under the banner of the then-BMW owned Husqvarna, but his hopes a career-best Dakar finish were dashed by a six-hour penalty for receiving outside assistance, something the team ardently denied.
The year after, he repeated his best finish of 10th in the Dakar, but also clinched the FIM Cross-Country world championship for Speedbrain – the German organization that had operated Husqvarna’s program before the acquisition by KTM.
Ahead of the 2014 Dakar, Goncalves and his long-time teammate Joan Barreda joined Team Honda. Goncalves headed Honda’s efforts, finishing as runner-up to Dakar legend Marc Coma and staking a claim to one of the main threats to Austrian manufacturer KTM’s unbeaten streak in the legendary marathon.
He looked on the cusp of doing so in 2016, leading the event into the rest day, only for a combination of a crash, a mechanical issue and a hefty penalty to put paid to his aspirations. He only finished sixth the year after, and skipped the 2018 Dakar entirely after an ill-timed training accident left him with a shoulder injury.
Late in 2018, Goncalves crashed in national competition and suffered a fractured spleen that required surgery, but he recovered sufficiently in time for the 2019 Dakar. Yet his time with Honda in the legendary race would come to a low-key end as he crashed out just five days into the event.
By then Speedbrain was working with Indian manufacturer Hero, and for 2020 it pulled off a coup by reuniting with Goncalves, who joined the developing project to spearhead its roster alongside his brother-in-law Joaquim Rodriguez.