Dakar : Team Dakar USA - Leg 7
American racer Robby Gordon's effort to win the famed Dakar Rally may have come to an abrupt end in the vast sand dunes of the North African desert today. Gordon and Navigator Darren Skilton were making the fast and dangerous run from Zouerat
to Atar in their Hummer H3 on the seventh day of the two-week event when they crashed heavily on the face of a huge sand dune.
Both Gordon and Skilton emerged unscathed but the Hummer's radiator was destroyed and the clutch was shattered trying to extract the car from the grip of the huge dune. The rules of the event dictate that any race team receiving outside-assistance is automatically disqualified, so the chances are that even if Gordon can extract the car, the fact he had to rebuild the car on site with parts brought in by his crew may well eliminate him from the race.
Gordon was in touch with his chase crew and had given them GPS coordinates as to the Hummer's location, but maps do not show any roads leading to the area. There are faint tracks across the desert, but are not permanent so anyone trying to locate Gordon and Skilton is doing so under the most difficult circumstances.
The organizing body of the Lisbon-Dakar event has given the Gordon team special codes to allow their GPS system to function in the area and at least get them to Check Point 2, where Gordon was headed when he crashed. From there the crew would have to back track on the faintly marked course for some 14 kms to find the area of dunes where the Hummer is marooned.
It's night now and without local guides to help the crew backtrack from CP2, the chances of finding Gordon before daylight are slim. Gordon had been making remarkable time in the last two days of the rally, recovering from transmission failure on the third day of the event, which had dropped the Jim Beam and Toyo Tire sponsored Hummer from 14th to 124th. Gordon's crew worked round the clock to have him ready for the next day's dawn start and Gordon responded by moving up to 45th.
Another all-night thrash by Gordon's ace crew, to make even further repairs to the Hummer, finally gave Gordon one of the fastest cars in the race and he climbed to 11th in the standings, a position he'd used for this morning's start on the run from Zouerat to Atar. Gordon had roared through Check Point 1 (CP1) still in 11th but was expected to close on the Top-10 race leaders in the final portion of the day's run because the conditions of the course in that area were so favorable to the Hummer's chassis. The line through the dunes was expected to delay many race competitors and there were reports of many crashes in the area.
It was not a good day for American racers. Top KTM motorcycle team rider Andy Grider from California was airlifted out with a broken femur, as result of a crash in the dunes. California desert racer Mark Miller, driving for VW this year rolled his Touareg but still managed to finish 15th, down from third overall yesterday.
Earlier reports from Africa indicated that Robby Gordon and his Hummer H3 Dakar effort had "crashed heavily" while competing in the seventh stage of the famed Dakar Rally. There was no crash, and communication directly from Gordon and his navigator Darren Skilton indicate, that while the car is down for repairs, it is for a broken radiator and clutch problem. While night has arrived in Mauritania, and repairs are obviously difficult, every effort is being made to return the Hummer to competition when the race resumes Sunday.
Saturday is a day off for all competitors. An overall victory is clearly impossible, however, should Gordon and Skilton make the necessary and expected repairs to the vehicle, the tandem will have eight more race days in which to secure stage victories. More information will be provided regarding the status of the repairs as they are made available.
Press Release Team Dakar USA