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Crash Slows Gordon In Dakar Rally

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 16 2015

Damage to Robby Gordon's truck was minimal and neither Gordon nor his navigator were injured during a crash in the Dakar Rally on Thursday.

Robby Gordon’s determination to complete the 37th annual Dakar Rally never was more evident than during Stage 11 on Thursday, when the Californian and navigator Johnny Campbell rode-out a high-speed crash en route to a 13th-place finish.

While the impact stopped the No. 308 HST Gordini in its tracks, neither Gordon nor Campbell was injured.

“You OK, bud?” Campbell asked Gordon on a helmet cam video posted on planetrobby.com.

“Yeah, I’m OK. I think the car’s OK, too,” said Gordon, who immediately re-fired the vehicle’s Chevrolet V8. Thursday’s schedule saw the teams race from Salta to Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina. After a long 326-kilometer/203-mile liaison, drivers and navigators tackled a 194-kilometer/121-mile special featuring tree-lined roads.

“We crashed into an embankment and spun the car completely around in the air,” said Campbell, recounting the hit that damaged the left front fender of the Traxxas/Toyo Tires Gordini. “Fortunately, we landed backward on all four tires. Robby restarted the car and took off. It could have been bad crashing at about 100 mph and still scrubbing speed when we hit.”

Gordon’s desire to press-on-regardless stems from his failure to win a stage in 2014 en route to a dismal 44th-place overall result. Gordon was forced to retire from the race two days from the end.

Back on Thursday’s route, Gordon had to deal with windshield wipers that had stopped working. With mud and other debris hitting the windshield, visibility was compromised. Still, Gordon’s stage time of 1 hour, 56 minutes and 21 seconds was only 3 minutes, 11 seconds behind stage-winner and overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar.

The 2011 Dakar champion, Al-Attiyah posted a slim, 27-second stage win over fellow-Mini driver Orlando Terranova of Argentina. Giniel De Villiers of South Africa crossed the line 39 seconds behind the leader in his Toyota.

“We’re just trying to keep it like this,” Al-Attiyah told NBCSports.com after nailing his fifth stage win. “It’s very hard, the Dakar, because when we started on the second day, it was not easy until today. Now we’ll try to bring everything back to Buenos Aires and to win this Dakar because it will be very important for me, for my sponsor Red Bull, for Qatar, for everybody who supports me.”

Gordon and Campbell, who began the day in 20th overall, moved into 19th with just two stages remaining in the world’s most difficult off-road race. Gordon is 7 hours, 44 minutes and 36 seconds behind the leader.

Competing in his 11th Dakar, Gordon is aiming to record at least one stage victory before the event concludes 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.

Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc is third overall, 1 hour, 28 minutes and 49 seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Meanwhile, one of Al-Attiyah’s closest pursuers _ Dakar-rookie Yazeed Alrajhi of Saudi Arabia _ withdrew from the event just as the stage began due to exhaust system issues with his Toyota. Alrajhi had entered Stage 11 third overall.

Also withdrawing was 2014 Dakar champion and Spaniard Nani Roma, who was not allowed to start by officials after an all-night thrash by his crew following a crash in Stage 10 on Wednesday.

On Friday the cars will race from Termas de Rio Hondo to Rosario in central Argentina, 33-kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires. With more than 1.2-million residents, Rosario is one of the country’s largest cities. Its neoclassical architecture, including houses and public buildings, is one of the city’s main attractions. Rosario is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Paraná River, which makes the city a major shipping center through the Port of Rosario.

The stage will start with an exceptionally long liaison, which despite slower speeds, will still put additional stress on already-strained race engines and drivers. The 726-kilometer/451-mile stretch will be followed by another short, 298-kilometer/185-mile timed race. Like Thursday’s stage, the course will be lined with trees and vegetation; despite Al-Attiyah’s comfortable lead, anything can happen en route to Buenos Aires.

Saturday’s final stage will be the shortest of the 13 comprising the 9,111-kilometer/5,661-mile journey through desert terrain in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile over 14 days. It clocks-in at just 393-kilometers, of which only 174 will be timed, and brings every competitor still running back to a massive celebration in Argentina’s capital city.

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 11)

1. (301) Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 37 hours, 12 minutes, 47 seconds; 2. (303) Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), plus-29 mins, 1 secs; 3. (307) Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), plus- 1 hr, 28 mins, 49 secs; 4. (314)-Erik Van Loon (Mini), plus-2 hrs, 54 mins, 9 secs; 5. (309) Christian Lavieille (Toyota), plus-3 hrs, 4 mins, 21 secs;

6. (310) Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), plus-3 hrs, 13 mins, 26 secs; 7. (315) Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), plus-3 hrs, 41 mins, 40 secs; 8. (306) Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), plus-3 hrs, 44 mins, 20 secs; 9. (329) Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), plus-4 hrs, 3 mins, 9 secs; 10. (320) Ronan Chabot (SMG), plus-4 hrs, 26 mins, 29 secs; 19. (308) Robby Gordon (HST Gordini), plus-7 hrs, 44 mins, 36 secs.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 16 2015
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