Dakar : Team Dakar USA - before the start
More than 100,000 enthusiastic motorsports fans are expected to jam the beautiful waterfront starting venue and line the roads leading out of Lisbon, Portugal tomorrow morning for the first stage of the famed Dakar Rally. Some 500
teams of motorcycles, cars and trucks will be flagged off the starting ramp at precise intervals, starting at 6:30 am to begin what most international class racers consider the toughest long distance event in the world. American racing star Robby Gordon will be at the wheel of his self designed and built “Dakar” Hummer H3 for the grueling, two week navigational nightmare that will cover more than 5000 miles of desolate mountains and trackless desert once the contestants cross the Mediterranean Sea, two days after the start, and begin the main portion of the event across North Africa.
Rain is expected for tomorrow's first speed-controlled liaison segment of the Dakar, which will run south out of Lisbon on conventional paved roads for 114 miles before restarting on a timed Special Stage that will run for 51.5 miles through some very narrow and sinuous unpaved country roads so typical of this part of Portugal.
Gordon, starting 35th, with veteran navigator Darren Skilton, has a tough assignment making time on the highly favored Mitsubishi and Volkswagen teams, which will start ahead of the Hummer team due to a complicated seeding system that favors proven cars and teams' starting positions for the first stage. After that, each day's starting slot will be determined on the best previous day's combined times on the special stages.
Gordon's Hummer, running for the first time in the Dakar, is a completely unknown quantity to the French organizers of the Dakar Rally so it was seeded farther back in the starting order. Gordon's talent, however, was well proven last year in Morocco, when he became the first American driver in the event's history to win a special stage, while driving for the powerful Volkswagen team. This year Gordon turned down an offer from Volkswagen to organize his own team with backing from Toyo Tires and Jim Beam. “This opportunity to run my own team and use some ideas developed from years of racing in Baja,” says Gordon “is like a dream come true. I have a great crew that built this car in 90 days… I think we have good chance to demonstrate some American ingenuity in a race that, so far, has been controlled by the European teams.”
Once Gordon completes the timed, middle Special Stage he will continue south for another 63 miles, in another speed-controlled Liaison segment to the city of Portimao on the south coast of Portugal. There the Hummer will be impounded for the night, with the rest of the contestants, before starting the next morning heading east through southern Spain, where he and Skilton will encounter another difficult Special Stage before reaching the port of Malaga. All the teams will then be ferried across the Mediterranean Sea, a seven hour trip, to the North African port of Nador, where the most difficult part of the rally will begin.
Press Release Team Dakar USA