Dakar : Team Dakar USA - Leg 4
Stage four of the Dakar Rally from Er Rachidia to Quarzazate, in the North African desert kingdom of Morocco, should have been Robby Gordon's day to move his “Dakar” Hummer H3 from eighth overall into the top five, but unexpected transmission
problems have drastically slowed the American team, dropping them some 3 hours and 51 minutes to the race's new overall leader, the Spaniard, Carlos Sainz.
Gordon had placed a brilliant fifth overall on the previous day's Third Stage, a difficult dust filled run, from the North African port of Nador deep into the Moroccan desert to the finishing point at the town of Er Rachidia. Gordon's run had raised his position in the overall scoring from 14th to eighth overall.
That very advantageous starting position for this morning's stage from Er Rachidia to Quarzazate had given Gordon and navigator Darren Skilton great confidence that they'd soon be challenging the race leaders for the overall position, even though they were eight minutes down on total time. “Yesterday we had the chance to run head to head with Jean-Louis Schlesser (the eventual winner of Stage 3) in his specially built V8 powered desert racer,” said Gordon, “and our Hummer H3 performed flawlessly.”
The Frenchman, a long-time competitor in the Saharan classic finished some 12 minutes ahead of Gordon on total accumulated time but Gordon was unfazed by the seeming deficit. “We proved yesterday that we had the combination of power and handling to beat Schlesser, so today we simply have to make up the time,” said Gordon before the start.
Once this morning's race had begun, on the timed “Special” middle stage of the Er Rachidia-Quarzaate trail, Gordon's Hummer quickly began to demolish Schlesser's time advantage for the race. “He had a solid 12 minutes on us at the start and we were seven cars back with two minutes spacing between us, so he had disappeared by the time we took to the course. Our Hummer was doing really well and we'd gained almost everything we'd lost when we began to realize that we had a serious transmission problem. A drive flange finally failed, which killed any chance of us taking the overall win.”
Fortunately Gordon was able to signal another competitor, who relayed the information of the problem to Gordon's crew, which was awaiting his arrival in Quarzazate. Gordon and Skilton managed to keep the transmission working sufficiently to limp along at a frustratingly slow pace, but their tenacity paid off in that the two were able to cross the finish line, even though it took them 7 hours and 44 minutes to get there.
The official finish for the stage will keep Gordon in the race, provided he and his crew can get the Hummer back to Quarzazate and cross the finish line of the Liasion stage in time to make the cut-off time to be an official finisher, and be qualified to start tomorrow's Fifth Stage from Quarzazate to Tan Tan on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco. “There's little chance now for an overall win,” said Gordon when questioned about his chances, “but if we can repair the transmission in time to start tomorrow, we can, and certainly will continue. This race has just begun and there will be several more chances to win one of the remaining Special Stages."
Press Release Team Dakar USA