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Roma Rolls, Gordon Posts Top-10 In Stage 9

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 14 2015

Stage 9 of the Dakar Rally saw American Robby Gordon finish ninth.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Reigning Dakar Rally champion Nani Roma returned to his title-winning form of a year ago Tuesday with an impressive victory over the driver who would be his successor in Stage 9 of the 37th annual off-road marathon.

Roma and navigator Michel Perin distanced their Mini from overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah during the latter stages of the 450-kilometer trek from Iquique to Calama, Chile, en route to a victory by 6 minutes, 27 seconds.

“This win is for my guys and the team. They did a great job,” the Spaniard said in a Mini release after notching his first stage win of the 2015 rally. “Today, we finally experienced a trouble-free day and didn’t encounter the slightest problem. And Michel once again delivered in sensational style.”

Despite the stage loss Al-Attiyah saw primary rival Giniel de Villiers fall victim to an unforced navigational error that cost him a massive 15 minutes. Al-Attiyah, also in a Mini, increased his lead over de Villiers and his Toyota to 23 minutes, 58 seconds and 39 minutes, 29 seconds over Yazeed Alrajhi. All remaining competitors in the Car Class are more than one-hour behind Al-Attiyah, of Qatar.

Barring an error by Al-Attiyah, de Villiers conceded the rally outcome was decided by their desert roundabout. “Obviously, that’s cost us the race, so we’re sure now that we can only try to consolidate something on the podium,” the South African told NBCSports.com. “But the race is over for us, so, you know, sometimes it goes like this in the Dakar and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“There was one place where we were really struggling to find the way-point. I mean, obviously it was an off-road area, the wind was from behind and there was so much fesh-fesh and dust. We just kept turning around. We spent I don’t know how long there, but it felt like forever to find the way-point.”

Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev, upset winner of Stage 5, finished third Tuesday. De Villiers placed fourth while Stage 8 champion and Dakar rookie Alrajhi, of Saudi Arabia, finished fifth.

American teammates Robby Gordon and Johnny Campbell posted a ninth-place finish, their fourth top- 10 of the event. Gordon started among the top-20 of 76 Car Class competitors Tuesday after low oil pressure in the Chevrolet V8 of his HST Gordini relegated him to a 17th-place finish during Sunday’s Eighth Stage.

Gordon and navigator Campbell successfully raced through the timed section to finish 35 minutes, 59 seconds behind winner Roma. Competing in his 11th Dakar, Gordon now is scored 20th overall, 7 hours, 22 minutes and 53 seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Four stages remain in the world’s most challenging endurance race and Gordon _ America’s only Dakar competitor – remains committed to securing at least one stage victory before the rally is completed on Saturday.

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.

This year’s rally is a 9,111-kilometer/5,661-mile journey through desert terrain in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile over 14 days.

Teams will return to Argentina Wednesday on a long, 501-kilometer/311-mile liaison, followed by a 369-kilometer/229-mile timed special at high altitude on the route to Salta. With a population of more than 619,000, Salta is the second-most populated city in the northwest sector of the country. Its colonial architecture features buildings dating to the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, including a number of cathedrals.

Along the Chile/Argentina border, competitors will start the race at 3,600-meters/11,800-feet and finish on a liaison at more than 4,970-meters/16,300-feet. More than one driver became physically ill when the cars last drove at such high altitudes on Saturday.

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).

2015 Dakar Rally Overall Standings/Car Class (Through Stage 9)

1. (301) Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 31 hours, 29 minutes, 38 seconds; 2. (303) Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), plus-23 mins, 58 secs; 3. (325) Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), plus-39 mins, 29 secs; 4. (307) Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), plus-1 hr, 17 mins, 41 secs; 5. (314) Erik Van Loon (Mini), plus-2 hrs, 41 mins, 46 secs (40 mins penalty in Stage 9); 6. (309) Christian Lavieille (Toyota), plus-2 hrs, 51 mins, 39 secs; 7. (310) Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), plus-3 hrs, 2 mins, 41 secs; 8. (306) Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), plus-3 hrs, 33 mins, 35 secs (40 mins penalty in Stage 9); 9. (315) Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), plus-3 hrs, 34 mins, 7 secs; 10. (329) Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), plus-3 hrs, 41 mins, 24 secs; 20. (308) Robby Gordon (HST Gordini), plus-7 hrs, 22 mins, 53 secs.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 14 2015
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