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Stage Victory Becomes Gordon’s Goal In Dakar Rally

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 12 2015

There was plenty of sand for Robby Gordon on Sunday but Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally was no day at the beach.

Their goal of an overall victory trashed after one week, Robby Gordon and Johnny Campbell logged a 43rd-place finish during Stage 8 of the 37th annual Dakar Rally Sunday after opting to adopt a conservative strategy that was compounded by an oil pressure issue.

Seventy-six competitors started the 805-kilometer return trip from Uyuni, Bolivia, to Iquique, Chile. Competing in his 11th Dakar, Gordon finished the trek 1 hour, 7 minutes and 26 seconds behind Yazeed Alrajhi of Saudi Arabia, a Dakar rookie who won his first stage in 4:34:15. Gordon and navigator Campbell slipped from 23rd to 24th in the overall standings, almost seven hours behind leader Nasser Al-Attiyah of Saudi Arabia.

The Americans will spend the event’s second week attempting to win at least one stage without overstressing their Traxxas/Toyo Tires Gordini. After detecting signs of an oil pressure issue in the 6.2-liter Chevrolet V8 powering the HST (Hummer Style Truck) Gordini Sunday, that strategy was magnified.

“Unfortunately, the engine decided to not give the oil pressure Robby was hoping for and with that it turned into a survival day rather than a race day,” said Campbell, who is competing in his fourth Dakar. “After the special (timed-section) there was a 250-kilometer ‘neutralization’ followed up by a 38-kilometer sand special, finishing at the bivouac at the bottom of the infamous 3,000-foot Iquique Dune. It was management of equipment that mattered today and Robby did a fantastic job at that, and we brought her home safe and sound.”

Gordon, who began the rally last Sunday with a second-place finish, was seeking to become the first American to win the international off-road marathon. This year’s rally is a 9,111-kilometer/5,661-mile journey through desert terrain in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile over 14 days.

Gordon has accumulated 11 Dakar stage victories, including his first attempt in a Volkswagen Race Touareg in 2005, becoming the first American to do so. In his previous 10 Dakar starts, Gordon has finished in the top-15 five times. But the native Californian failed to win a stage in 2014 en route to a dismal 44th-place overall result after being forced to retire from the race two days from the end.

Sunday’s 781-kilometer/485-mile timed section through salt flats, mountains and soft sand dunes contrasted wide-open racing with sections in which drivers were required to maintain a pace in compliance with local speed limits. The course ended with the aforementioned 38-kilometers of soft dunes for the descent from the mountains back into Iquique.

Stage-winner Alrajhi beat Orlando Terranova of Argentina by 1 minute, 12 seconds and Al-Attiyah by 2 minutes, 36 seconds. Al-Attiyah increased his overall lead by eight seconds over Giniel De Villiers of South Africa, who finished the stage fourth.

“Today was a good day,” Alrajhi told NBCSports.com. “We drove fast and we had fun. The most difficult part was organizing toilet stops; at such altitudes, just a sip makes you want to go.”

Alrajhi gave Toyota its first stage victory, breaking a streak of seven straight for Mini drivers. Alrajhi, who began the rally with a 20th-place finish, stands third in the overall standings, 18 minutes, 40 seconds behind the leader.

Car Class competitors will enjoy a rest day Monday before tackling the final five sections. The downtime will allow teams to recover physically and make repairs to their vehicles, which have traveled more than 5,775-kilometers/3,588-miles in Week 1. The rally will conclude Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Fans can follow the Dakar Rally via live timing and scoring as well as live updates at www.planetrobby.com. NBCSN’s coverage will continue with Stage 7A/8A/8B highlights on Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. (EST).

2015 Dakar Rally Overall Standings/Car Class (Through Stage 8)

1.(301) Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 26 hours, 41 minutes, 15 seconds; 2. (303) Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), plus-8 mins, 27 secs; 3. (325) Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), plus-18 mins, 40 secs; 4. (307) Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), plus-54 mins, 38 secs; 5. (315) Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), plus -1 hr, 22 mins, 52 secs; 6. (314) Erik Van Loon (Mini), plus-1 hr, 25 mins, 51 secs; 7. (309) Christian Lavielle (Toyota), plus-1 hr, 48 mins, 41 secs; 8. (302) Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot), plus-1 hr, 51 mins, 46 secs; 9. (306) Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), plus-2 hrs, 7 mins, 13 secs; 10. (320) Ronan Chabot (SMG), plus-2 hrs, 26 mins, 50 secs; 24. (308) Robby Gordon (Gordini), plus-6 hrs, 53 mins, 21 secs.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, January 12 2015
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