Robby Gordon: “This year could be our time” in Dakar Rally

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Since he first started taking part in the Dakar Rally in 2005, former NASCAR and IndyCar competitor Robby Gordon has netted nine stage victories but has yet to conquer the world’s most grueling race.

But Gordon, perhaps the most well-known American set to race in this year’s Dakar, could be set for a breakthrough with the help of what he’s calling the most technologically advanced machine that he’s ever built – a V-8 powered HST Gordini SUV that sits on 37-inch Toyo Tires.

And combined with the experience of his team, Gordon’s confident that he can better his career-best overall Dakar finish of third in 2009.

“I feel more prepared than in any of our previous trips to the Dakar Rally,” Gordon said in a release earlier this week. “Since our first race in 2005, where we accomplished our goal of becoming the first American to win a stage, our focus has been on winning the overall title.

“I believe with the experience we have, and the new car we have built, this year could be our time.”

Last year’s Dakar was a frustrating one for Gordon. Despite claiming two wins and 10 Top 5 finishes in 14 stages, issues such as a transmission problem in Stage 1 and a rollover in Stage 4 relegated him to a 14th-place overall finish – not bad in a field of 153 cars, but not what he was hoping for, either.

But Gordon has moved on and is looking ahead to another chance at Dakar glory.

“Racing is full of ‘what-ifs,'” Gordon said. “Like anything else in life, you learn from your mistakes and move on to the next challenge. We learned a lot about ourselves over the last 10 stages last year and it gives our team tremendous confidence returning to Argentina.”

The rally will begin Sunday in Rosario, Argentina and will run through Jan. 18. NBCSN will broadcast daily highlights of the 2014 Dakar starting this Monday, Jan. 6.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.