Bad day? Make mine a double...

2012-01-12 13:03

ARICA, Chile - American Robby Gordon's hopes of winning the 2012 Dakar Rally took a double hit on Wednesday when stewards ruled that he should be thrown out of the event because his Hummer's engine didn't conform to regulations.

Then he blew two tyres.

The 43-year-old, who is pressing overall leader Stephane Peterhansel of France hard for the car title, has appealed against the decision so was allowed to continue racing in the 377km Stage 10 from from Iquique to Arica.


However, though that didn't go well for the American, he probably saw his hopes of winning in any case dashed by coming in well behind not only stage winner Spanish Mini-driving Nani Roma but also Peterhansel.

Gordon was in tremendous form through the Monday and Tuesday stages and seemed to be the danger man for Mini-driver Peterhansel but he lost nearly 15 minutes on Wednesday and even slipped to third behind Roma, who was winning his third stage of this year's renewal.

However the combative American - a veteran of Nascar in the US - made no commentary about his run-in with the stewards and instead blamed Peterhansel for not giving him enough room during an overtake.

"I hit a rock with both right-side tyres and, as you can see, this wheel is way out, so we've got some broken parts," Gordon said. "Do I think I can win again? Of course! I was passing Peterhansel, he didn't move over and I clobbered a rock and got two flat tyres. So, we've got our work cut out for us.

"We've got a damaged race car that we're going to have to work on and there's a lot of damage from what I can see. Now we'll push, push, push even harder."

'IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?' Frenchman Cyril Despres could be a flea on a chihuahua's back as he bounces across the Chilean desert on Stage 10 of the 2012 Dakar rally.

Gordon's version of events differs with that of Peterhansel. Here's what the Frenchman had to say...

"We overtook him when he made a navigation mistake but at the end he overtook me again He was really fast on a very short corner to the left, very tight, and he went straight on and jumped off a small cliff.

"I was sure he'd rolled but when I saw him again through the dust he was on his wheels. I think something happened with his car, I don't know exactly why or what - maybe the tyre? I don't know."

it could, of course, all be academic because the ultimate decision over Gordon's fate rests with the French Automobile Sport Federation which must deliver its verdict within two months. That verdict, though, could go to a second appeal from the losing party and that appeal would have to be heard by the International Automobile Federation.

Which, if it all came to pass, could put the result of the 2012 Dakar rally on hold for months.

Gordon - whose best finish so far in seven Dakar participations was third in the 2009 edition won by SA's Giniel de Villiers - won Stage 9 on Tuesday and cut Peterhansel's overall lead to just over five minutes.


It's believed the stewards noticed the problem with his engine while checking it over after the stage - which saw his Hummer team mate and defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah forced to retire with, it's understood, alternator problems.

The stewards say Gordon's modification of the ventilation system linked to his engine improved its performance; he denies it.

Earlier, Spain's defending motorcycle champion Marc Coma reduced bitter rival Cyril Despres overall lead to only 21 seconds but neither won the stage - it went to Coma's compatriot Joan Barreda Bort. Coma came in second to make significant headway in his bid to deprive Despres of a fourth Dakar win.

Despres - whose relations with KTM team mate Coma deteriorated after stewards' halved the Frenchman's huge deficit on Monday's stage - came in fourth.


Coma said that it was no surprise they were both still snapping at each other's heels: "It's the tone that's been set for the rally and I think we'll keep on battling until the end. We keep trying to make the difference all the time and the entry into Peru will be decisive.

"The race will hinge on the smallest of margins."

When the performance level is equivalent with the same team and the same bike, it's very difficult, both for him and for me, but when it comes to the crunch it will be entirely to do with one rider or the other."