|Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge||Interview Paulo Goncalves||03/04/2014|
As reigning champion in the World FIM of Cross-Country Rallies, Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves will have the number one displayed across the fairings of his Honda CRF450 RALLY as he starts out in Abu Dhabi.
Paulo Gonçalves barely had time to enjoy his world championship title which he picked up after a win in the Moroccan Rally last October. No sooner had he finished the rounds with the world’s press, he was straight off to train with the team for the Rally Dakar 2014, a race which he exited prematurely in the fifth stage.
- In October you were crowned World Champion. How have been the six months between then and now, as the first test of the new World Championship begins?
Paulo - In these six months we have given a lot of continuity to the job done over the course of last season. After taking the title in the championship we set about preparing for the Dakar. Unfortunately for me, the race was quite short. On coming back from South America I was able to rest for two weeks before going back to work again. The championship gets underway shortly and I’ve got a huge responsibility ahead of me. We want to make a good impression by doing things well to be in ready to defend the number one.
- Exactly. You’ll have the number 1 on the Honda CRF450 RALLY. Will this put you under more pressure?
Paulo- I think that the pressure is on when you are about to win the championship, and you could throw it all away by making a few wrong decisions. Now it’s all done and it’s time to get down to business this week and try and win it once again. But anyway, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it’s a long championship; it’s not just a week, it’s six more months and you have to be very competitive and consistent. You’ve got to be quick in the race without making any mistakes, or having problems to stand any chance of winning again.
- How do plan the race?
Paulo- It’s the first race so it’s a good chance to check out how the rivals are doing. The aim is to finish as high up as possible. To see how everything is shaping up and try and keep improving from here on.
- What are the characteristics of Abu Dhabi and Qatar, the two first tests of the championship, one straight after the other?
Paulo- Abu Dhabi is a very different race to the rest in the World Championship calendar. 90% of the race is on sand, with loads of dunes; giant dunes, enormous. Sometimes you can go along the top of one for kilometres without even knowing you are on a dune. It’s a really special test. On the other hand, the Qatar Sealine is like a mixture of Abu Dhabi and the rest of the other championship dates.
- You’ll have Joan Barreda and Hélder Rodrigues as team-mates in the race. A great team!
Paulo- Yeah. I think that we will be in the running for the first spot with the Honda CRF450 RALLY. We’ll all be fighting for it. The aim is to finish as high as possible and get a good result for the number one.
- The Dakar saw the end of last season. Now you will face the new year forgetting what happened in January.
Paulo- Yes. You’ve got to stay positive. The Dakar is over and behind us. Sometimes strange things happen and you just have to pick yourself up and get on with it. You’ve got to look ahead and forget about what didn’t turn our right, but always working hard to improve.
- Last but not least: You were for first time in the FIM prize giving Gala ceremony last December in Montecarlo with all the World Champions. How it was?
Paulo - It was a great experience for me. I had the opportunity to meet same of my hero like Cyril Neveu that won with Honda in 1982, 1986 and 1987, and, of course, the MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez that is an incredible talent.