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Gordon Rebounds In Dakar Rally

| , RacinToday.com Friday, January 9 2015

Robby Gordon avoided the weird en route to a podium day in Chile.

Steering clear of the “weird issues” that have plagued his first week of the Dakar Rally, American Robby Gordon hammered out a third-place finish during Stage 5 of the 37th annual off-road marathon.

Gordon and navigator Johnny Campbell led through the early portion of Thursday’s 697-kilometer/433-mile sector from Copiapó to Antofagasta, Chile. But between the second and third timed waypoints the Americans lost 11 minutes, 41 seconds to eventual stage-winner Vladimir Vasilyev of Russia and fell back into 10th.

From that point forward, however, aggressive driving and spot-on navigation allowed Gordon and Campbell to gain 10 minutes, 6 seconds on the leader before the finish. Thursday’s rebound will vastly improve the starting position of the team’s Traxxas/Toyo Tires Gordini for Friday’s Sixth Stage.

Gordon’s podium result also made his HST Gordini only the third different constructor to finish among the top-three positions thus far, with Mini and Toyota representing the traditional factory manufacturers. Gordon’s car is the only entry among the leaders not affiliated with a major automotive manufacturer and was fully developed by the Californian’s company.

Gordon and Campbell already have encountered and overcome brake, tire, drive train and engine gremlins in the Atacama Desert this week.

“With stage wins in previous rally events and good runs like today, we prove that we can run with anyone,” said Gordon, who is attempting to become the first American to score an overall Dakar victory. “None of our issues this week were really avoidable and they were freak incidents. We’re hopeful that these weird issues are behind us and our plan is to win multiple stages before the end of this year’s Dakar to make our presence known.”

Russia’s Vasilyev was scored as the provisional stage-winner after posting a time of 4 hours, 19 minutes and 18 seconds, with Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Alrajhi 20 seconds behind. Gordon’s third-place run of 4 hours, 20 minutes and 43 seconds elevated him to 32nd in the overall standings _ up seven spots from Wednesday’s Car Class rankings.

Competing in his 11th Dakar, Gordon still trails overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah of Saudi Arabia by a daunting 5 hours, 45 minutes and 46 seconds.

Gordon has accumulated 11 Dakar stage victories, including his first attempt in 2005, becoming the first American to do so. In his previous 10 Dakar starts, Gordon has finished in the top-15 five times. Campbell, a veteran of the Baja 1000, is competing in his fourth Dakar.

This year’s event is testing competitors on a route covering 9,111-kilometers/5,661-miles of desert terrain in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile over 14 days.

Friday’s Sixth Stage will consist of 647-kilometers/402-miles, of which 255-kilometers/158-miles will be a timed section for cars. Its relatively short distance will climb up the Pacific Coast towards Iquique, where an unmistakable landscape created by the contrasts of desert and sea awaits participants. Regional produce grown along the coast, in the valleys and in the mountains includes quinoa, mangoes, Camiña garlic and Pica lemons.

Iquique’s history dates to pre-colonial times, when its inhabitants worked in agriculture and fishing. The Free-Trade Zone, in operation since 1975, transformed the city into a commercial center for Mercosur and Asian Pacific countries.

The rally’s halfway point will be marked on a podium in the center of Iquique, ironically where a powerful earthquake struck the region and triggered a tsunami last April.

Fans can follow the Dakar Rally via live timing and scoring as well as live updates at www.planetrobby.com. NBCSN is providing daily highlights from 4:30 to 5 p.m. (EST).

| , RacinToday.com Friday, January 9 2015
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