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Gordon Closes Out Dakar Rally With Victory In Final Stage

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 18 2015

American Robby Gordon won Saturday's 13th and final stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally.

Robby Gordon reinforced his standing as the most accomplished American driver in Dakar Rally history Saturday, closing the event’s 37th annual edition with a victory in Stage 13.

Gordon posted his 10th career stage win during a trek from Rosario to Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. A steady rain shortened the stage from its scheduled 174-kilometer special to a 34-kilometer sprint, which Gordon and navigator Johnny Campbell covered in 13 minutes, 16 seconds.

Gordon and Campbell finished 25 seconds ahead of Leeroy Poulter of South Africa while Emiliano Spataro of Argentina finished third, 29 seconds behind the Californian.

Meanwhile, the overall Dakar victory was secured by Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar, now a two-time champion following his sixth-place finish Saturday.

Gordon’s rally nearly ended Thursday, when hard contact with a dirt embankment temporarily stopped the team’s orange No. 308 HST Gordini in its tracks. While neither Gordon nor Campbell was injured, the Gordini suffered damage to its left front fender. Gordon was able to re-fire the vehicle’s Chevrolet V8 and the pair went on to complete the stage in a respectable 13th.

“Some of the things that bit us early in the race really put the mentality of the team behind, but one thing about our team is they don’t stop,” said Gordon, who was competing in his 11th Dakar. “They worked all night long every night and kept rebuilding the car.

“We learned to not give up and the most important thing is that we know our car is capable. We won the last stage of the rally and ended the 2015 event on a positive note.”

Gordon’s overall Dakar time of 48 hours, 20 minutes and 5 seconds was good for 19th-place overall. Only 67 of the original 137 cars that started on Jan. 4 went the distance. Gordon and Campbell, who was competing in his fourth Dakar, completed the 2015 rally with one win, three podiums, four top-fives and seven top-10s during the 13-stage test, including a second-place result in the opening stage and a third-place finish in Stage 5.

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

Mechanical issues during this year’s second and fourth stages placed the team more than five and a-half hours down to leader Al-Attiyah, dooming Gordon’s quest to become the first American to win the international off-road marathon.

Gordon’s win Saturday was his first in the Traxxas/Toyo Tires HST (Hummer Style Truck) Gordini, the custom off-road racer he developed and manufactured in 2013 specifically for the Dakar Rally. “You look back and say the Gordini is not as good as the Hummer, but in reality it is,” said Gordon, who was mobbed by fans after his stage victory. “The speed, we go it. We’ve got to work on our reliability and quality control. We want to win the Dakar. We didn’t win the rally, but in reality we won the fans.”

Gordon’s initial career Dakar stage win in 2005 in a Volkswagen Race Touareg was the first by an American driver in the world’s most challenging rally.

The 2011 Dakar champion with Volkswagen, Al-Attiyah prevailed this year with a combined time of 40 hours, 32 minutes and 25 seconds over the more than 9,000-kilometer/13-day route. A five-time Olympic skeet-shooting champion, Al-Attiyah finished 35 minutes, 34 seconds ahead of Giniel de Villiers of South Africa in a Toyota.

“I’m delighted I’ve won the Dakar,” said Al-Attiyah, driver of the No. 301 Red Bull Mini. “It’s fantastic because we’ve dominated the race from the beginning and were able to control the rally throughout.

“I’ve got lots of people to thank for this. I came to the Dakar in top-notch form, both physically and mentally. Then, we managed to do our job day after day. It’s fantastic. Now I want to win even more.”

De Villiers’ pursuit of Al-Attiyah for much of the Dakar was scuttled in Stage 9 on Tuesday, when an unforced navigational error cost de Villiers 15 critical minutes. Al-Attiyah responded with back-to-back wins in the next two stages to distance himself from the ever-shrinking field as it traversed the Atacama Desert through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

Krzysztof Holowczyc of Poland completed the overall podium finishers in third, more than one and a-half hours behind Al-Attiyah. Holowczyc failed to earn a top-three finish in his Mini during any of the stages but racked-up four top-fives and 10 top-10s wrapped around a worst finish of 18th during Stage 11.

Gordon next will return to the States to finalize preparations for his Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks inaugural international competition in Adelaide, Australia, Feb. 27-March 1 at the Clipsal 500. Additional information, including a fan forum, can be viewed at www.planetrobby.com.

Final 2015 Dakar Rally Overall Standings/Car Class (Through Stage 13)

1.( 301) Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 40 hours, 32 minutes, 25 seconds; 2. (303) Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), plus-35 mins, 34 secs; 3. (307) Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), plus-1 hr, 32 mins, 01 secs; 4. (314) Erik Van Loon (Mini), plus-3 hrs, 01 mins, 52 secs; 5. (310) Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), plus-3 hrs, 12 mins, 41 secs; 6. (309) Christian Lavieille (Toyota), plus-3 hrs, 15 mins, 58 secs; 7. (315) Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), plus-3 hrs, 42 mins, 02 secs; 8. (306) Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), plus-3 hrs, 44 mins, 59 secs; 9. (329) Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), plus- 4 hrs, 08 mins, 44 secs; 10.(320) Ronan Chabot (SMG), plus-4 hrs, 42 mins, 36 secs; 19. (308) Robby Gordon (HST Gordini), plus-7 hrs, 47 mins, 40 secs.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 18 2015
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