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Dakar 2008: Team Dakar USA prepares for the 2008 Dakar Rally.

This year, the 15-stage epic off-road race starts in Lisbon, Portugal on January 5th and concludes on January 20th in Dakar, Senegal. The preparation for the 2008 Dakar Rally is in its final stages as the support vehicles, loaded with all the spare parts and equipment, begin their trip across the USA today to Savannah, GA where they will then travel by cargo vessel to Lisbon. It is much more of a challenge for the Anaheim, California based team than that of their European based counterparts. The majority of the top teams participating in the Dakar Rally are based in Europe, which allows them more time to prepare unlike Team Dakar USA. Logistic preparation for Team Dakar USA is a very important dynamic to the success of the overall program. Fortunately, the Hummer H3s are airlifted only days before the start, giving the team added time to test and perfect the race vehicles.

As Team Dakar USA enters its third Dakar Rally with the Monster Energy / Toyo Tire Hummer H3, Gordon has also added a second Hummer to his elite off-road team. He has enlisted the help of fellow American Dakar veteran, Ronn Bailey to pilot an identically prepared Hummer H3. Bailey, who is CEO of Vanguard Integrity Professionals, an enterprise security software company, will participate in the next three Dakar Rally events as an integral part of Team Dakar USA. The Vanguard Integrity Professional H3 Hummer entry will be very strategic to the teams overall objective of becoming the first American team to win the Dakar Rally.

With the added pressure of a second team, the team also has to prepare for the increased course length. The organizers of the Dakar Rally (the ASO) have lengthened the course by more than 1,000 km (621 miles) for a total of 9,273 km (or 5,762 miles). Therefore, the team needs to prepare for this added challenge by making sure that the parts will withstand the grueling desert terrain, that there is enough fuel ordered to make it to the end, and that support vehicles and team members get the rest needed.

For Gordon, the support of Ronn Bailey and the second entry easily outweighs the overall strain of the preparation for the additional team. "If you look at the results of our Dakar effort, you’ll see they parallel to our efforts in the NASCAR Cup Series. Every year our programs continue to get better. We fell out of the Rally the first year after not making a checkpoint. Last year, we managed to become the first American team and manufacturer to win a stage. We finished in eighth place overall. This year, aside from drastically improving the Hummer, the next best thing we could do is try to level the playing field to be more like the multi-car factory-supported teams. Now we have a teammate in Ronn Bailey, and he is every bit as passionate about winning this race as I am."

Bailey, who in the past had tackled Dakar with his own effort, clearly sees the wisdom in joining forces with Gordon. "Robby is building some of the most impressive off-road vehicles - it’s amazing just to watch the Hummer suspension work. For Robby and I to team up for Dakar makes sense on so many levels. It consolidates two strong American efforts in to one powerful team. For both of us the combined resources will provide advantages that will be undeniable."

2007/12/18 | 19:25 CET | Editor: MR/Robby Gordon/hs

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