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Dakar 2009: Team Dakar USA Stage 5 Neuguen to San Rafael.

Yesterday's 506-km special from Neuguen to San Rafael was one of the most difficult thus far in the Dakar Rally. The competitors were confronted with sand dunes, long off-road sections and very technical segments. Luckily for Team Dakar USA, it was one of the most complex stages, allowing Robby Gordon's driving abilities and Andy Grider's navigational skills to shine. The duo ended today's special in third place, only 4:12 minutes behind.

Team Dakar USA started yesterday's stage with a renewed sense of optimism; they knew that Hummers would perform well on the hyper-technical route. Up to this point in the Rally, the stages have been had very fast sections, which is not ideal for the Hummers. In 2007, the A.S.O. changed a rule that affected the Team Dakar USA race vehicles, forcing the team to run a smaller restrictor and gear ratio. This ultimately took about 15 mph away from the race vehicle's top speed. Therefore, the Hummers are better on the curvy, technical segments than on the fast straightaway sections.

"Yesterday, the course was very challenging. The No. 309 Monster Energy Toyo Tires Hummer drove through the sand dunes with ease, and Andy did an excellent job of navigating us. Honestly, I think that this is where we made up the most time throughout the day. We were having a great run until we lost another power steering belt. The ratchet strap that secures the spare tire to the race vehicle came loose, causing the belt to fail. Without the belt, the race car cannot perform as it runs the alternator, water pump, and the power steering pump. We quickly replaced the belt and got back on the track. All in all, I am happy with today's performance. We were able to close the gap on the new leader, Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah. We moved up to seventh overall and are just trailing by 41:48 minutes," commented Gordon on today's special. "In my opinion, the race has just started. There is more than enough opportunity to make up the 41 minutes."

"Given the fact that this is Eric Vigouroux' first time in one of the Hummers, he is doing a great job piloting the No. 324 Vanguard Hummer. If he had not encountered the problem with the power steering bracket, I would estimate that he would be in the top-20. It is just unfortunate that the part broke. He started today's special from 62nd. He is still making his way to the finish, but he is currently 33rd. There is still time for him to make up the lost ground," commented Gordon, owner of the No. 324 Hummer.

2009/01/08 | 15:15 CET | Editor: MR/HS/RG

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