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Gordon disqualified from Dakar Rally in Stage 4

January 07, 2011, , NASCAR.com

CALAMA, Chile -- Robby Gordon will be leaving Chile and the Dakar Rally much earlier than expected. Trying to recover from mechanical issues after Stage 2, Gordon's Hummer was hit with more problems during Wednesday's Stage 4 and he was disqualified, according to speedenergy.com. Speed Energy was Gordon's sponsor for the Dakar Rally.

Gordon began the day 17th but had right-front wheel bearing issues before the start of the timed special, costing him about five hours. He completed the stage, but because he was late to the special, he was disqualified from the rally. Gordon was one of six cars to withdraw Wednesday.

"Disappointed doesn't even begin to describe the way I'm feeling right now, not only for me but for everyone involved," Gordon said. "Knowing all the hard work and dedication that was put into this program is what makes our untimely exit from the Dakar Rally a hard pill to swallow.

"While it may not appear like it due to our performance thus far, countless hours went into this effort. To have a wheel bearing fail is just sickening ... a huge, huge disappointment. We run this same wheel bearing on the trophy truck and have put thousands of kilometers on HUMMERs, and we have never had this part fail."

STAGE 3

SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY, Argentina -- Attempting to overcome a poor finish in Stage 2 due to mechanical issues, the No. 303 HUMMER was back on unfamiliar terrain. In the 2010 edition of the Dakar Rally, Stage 3 took the competitors from La Rioja to Fiambala, however, this year the route has moved further east as they make their way to Chile. Beginning the day in San Miguel de Tucuman, this special stage was been split into two parts, totaling 165 miles.

Starting the day in 21st position overall, Robby Gordon and navigator, Kellon Walch finished the stage in 15th, putting the team 17th overall, 1 hour 32 minutes behind leader Carlos Sainz. Even as Gordon improved his position in the rally, he was not pleased with the performance of the HUMMER.

"We keep putting ourselves behind the eight ball. We passed a bunch of cars early in the special, but then realized we had lost a transmission pump", Gordon said. "[Tuesday's] special would have been good for the HUMMER had we not had a mechanical issue. The route had some very technical, rough stuff in the beginning, and it would have been good for us."

STAGE 2

SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMAN, Argentina -- Robby Gordon struggled in the second stage of the Dakar Rally on Monday, finishing 46th after an accident and dropping to 21st overall in the standings.

Carlos Sainz, the defending champion, won his second stage in as many days in his Volkswagen. His lead is 3:05 ahead of Stephane Peterhansel's BMW and 1:06:55 in front of Gordon in his Hummer.

Gordon's accident occurred after a solid start and cost him an hour's worth of repairs.

"We were actually pretty good through the first few check points," Gordon said. "One corner snuck up on me; I didn't see it and just drove off the road, hitting a large rock. This is very unfortunate for our team. Now that we are an hour behind heading into Chile versus only a few minutes, we definitely got our work cut out for us. I think we will be OK though; there is still plenty of racing left.

"The Hummer sustained some damage on today's stage as when we smashed the front of the race vehicle into the rock, and the transmission doesn't have reverse because it broke when I tried to reverse out of my mistake. I would say that we were broke down for maybe an hour today...a very costly hour."

Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires.

The race heads north on Tuesday to San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina and crosses into Chile on Wednesday, heading for the Atacama desert.

STAGE 1

CORDOBA, Argentina -- Robby Gordon and Team Hummer completed the first stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday in eighth place, covering the 138-mile course in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 36 seconds. Gordon and navigator Kellon Walch trail defending champion Carlos Sainz by 11:04.

Sainz's Volkswagen was 1:31 ahead of second-place Stephane Peterhansel in a BMW and 2:16 in front of Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al Attiyah. American driver Mark Miller was fourth, 4:17 behind in another Volkswagen.

Gordon started fourth but dropped to ninth by the first marker as heavy rain created a slippery disadvantage as participants suffered from skidding and sliding.

"We knew that the Hummer team would not be as strong as we would like in the Argentina portion of this race, but we struggled a little bit more [Sunday] than I would have liked due to the weather conditions and technical rally-style section," said Gordon, who offered a reason for the discrepancy in time in correlation to the leaders. "Sainz and Peterhansel ... started the race before the weather began and were virtually unaffected by it. That's why you see the gap in time from the rest of the competitors.

"We started out the special good, but we had a couple of challenges along the way. Kellon and I had to change helmets during the middle of the stage because his microphone quit working. I ran off the road at one point. We also ran out of windshield wiper fluid due to the mud. These mistakes probably cost us about 1 minute of total speed. I expected to give up 5 minutes in [Sunday's] stage, not 11 minutes, which disappoints me.

"It is still early in the race, but we have some ground to make up [Monday]. Some of the guys are already starting to have issues this early. Hopefully, we will recover quickly from [Sunday's] issues before we enter Chile because it is our best opportunity to make up time. By this point, I want to be less than 10 minutes behind."

Sunday's first stage from Victoria to Corboda in northern Argentina followed the ceremonial ride from Buenos Aires to Victoria a day earler. Officials said 407 contestants started the race Sunday, down from the 430 who were enrolled Saturday. Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires.

Monday's second stage from Cordoba to San Miguel de Tucuman is a 201-mile race through the mountains.

"[Monday's] stage is supposed to go through the mountains, which are not good for us for two reasons. First, the Hummers are not turbo-charged, then the course is a little narrow. They did say that we should encounter some bumps, which could be good for us," Gordon said.

Gordon's second team, with Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar and navigator Steve La Roza, is in 28th place after the opening stage, 34:25 off the pace.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.