Dakar: After challenging for Stage 6 win, Robby Gordon settles for fourth (VIDEO)

0 Comments

As alluded to yesterday, if Robby Gordon’s bright-orange Gordini can hold up against the rigors of the Dakar Rally, its pace can put it amongst the leaders.

For a second consecutive stage, that was what happened. Starting third after their second podium of the 2015 Dakar on Thursday, Gordon and co-driver Johnny Campbell took the lead with less than 50 kilometers remaining in Friday’s run from Antofagasta to Iquique, Chile.

But Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has been the major player in the opening week of the event, would not be denied. Down 32 seconds to Gordon at the sixth waypoint, the Qatari flipped that to a one-second lead for himself at the seventh and final waypoint.

Gordon then lost more time in the final kilometers, falling to fourth at the finish behind winner Al-Attiyah (who claimed his third stage win of the event), runner-up Giniel de Villiers (+ :37), and third-place Nani Roma (+ 1:24). Gordon ended up an additional 21 ticks behind Roma, the 2014 Dakar champion.

The near-miss didn’t keep Gordon from putting on a bit of a show afterwards for fans in Iquique:

source: Getty Images
“Flight 308, you are now cleared for takeoff…” Photo: Getty Images.

But despite his valiant efforts, Mini remains perfect with six wins in six stages thanks to Al-Attiyah’s latest triumph.

“We did a good job and I’m quite happy to win the stage,” Al-Attiyah said. “It’s a good day for us again. We pushed a little bit in the dunes but we were really careful from the beginning because it was really not easy. The route today was just only really for buggies. Our time was really good and I’m quite happy.”

In the overall, Al-Attiyah has now pushed his lead over de Villiers to 11 minutes, 12 seconds. The South African remains searching for his first stage win but remains well within striking distance.

“For sure, we have to do our best every day,” de Villiers said. “We know Nasser is very, very quick, so it’s not easy to catch him, but we try our best and we try every day and there are still a few days to come. It’s OK.

“It would be better if we could take some time from him, but I’m quite happy. Obviously, he was going quite fast so it was not too bad to only lose 37 seconds.”

The battle for supremacy will hit new heights – literally – on Saturday in Stage 7 from Iquique to Uyuni, Bolivia, a route that will see competitors climbing well north of 3,500 meters high. Sunday’s Stage 8 will have the cars head back down to Iquique for the start of the second week.

Adding to the difficulty is that the next two days will comprise a “marathon” stage where drivers cannot call upon their assistance teams for help. The Dakar’s website explains further details:

“Split over two days, a marathon stage involves some of the competitors spending the night in an isolated bivouac. The vehicles are taken into a closed area, where only help between competitors is authorized. Despite the technical challenge which this constraint represents, the drivers also enjoy a different, highly convivial atmosphere. In Uyuni, it will be the car teams which will spend a night apart, followed by the motorcyclists and quad bikers the next day (Jan. 12). The truck category will have its own dedicated bivouac in the middle of the Atacama Desert.”

The cars and trucks have not done a marathon stage in the Dakar since 2005. Roma expects that it will provide a severe test.

“The marathon stage is a big, big challenge,” he said. It’s a new country. I think everybody in the rally will like to drive in a new country. It’s quite hard, but I’m more worried about the high altitude of 4,000 meters. It’s quite nice, but it makes my head so painful.

“It’s true, it’s a long time since I last did a marathon stage, without tires, without the team, without mechanics. It’s a big challenge and we’ll see tomorrow night, and in two days’ time in Iquique again.”

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 6 highlights on Saturday morning at 6 a.m. ET.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 6 – Antofagasta to Iquique)

1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 19hrs, 30mins, 44secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 11mins, 12 secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 28mins, 44secs
4. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 1hr, 0mins, 53secs
5. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 1hr, 4mins, 23secs
6. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 1hr, 6mins, 43secs
7. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 1hr, 27mins, 22 secs
8. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 1hr, 42mins, 45secs
9. 320-Ronan Chabot (SMG), + 1hr, 49mins, 27secs
10. 302-Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot), + 1hr, 49mins, 41secs

25. 308-Robby Gordon (Gordini), + 5hrs, 47mins, 31secs

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
1 Comment

With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”