Dakar 2012: Robby Gordon Finishes Fifth After a Dramatic Second Week


Peterhansel wins for the 10th time, the Mini for the first time.

Stephane Peterhansel has just achieved an expected but nonetheless a tough victory at the Dakar Rally that ended last Sunday in Lima, Peru. Peterhansel's Mini All4 Racing No. 302 was ahead of Nani Roma, in another Mini as Giniel De Villiers in a Toyota took the last podium spot. Fourth spot fell to Russian Leonid Novitskiy in a third Mini as the American Gordon Robby had to make do with fifth place. He was more than 2 hours behind the leader after he lost a huge chunk of time at Stage 10.

Until that stage, Gordon was the last non-Mini driver to resist what could have been the Mini superiority. His team mate, Qatari driver and last year's winner, Nasser Al-Attiya, who was actually out of contention for victory from day one of the Rally after an erratic performance, retired on day eight. Gordon finally won Stage 9 and reduced Peterhansel's lead to just over five minutes, so his Hummer became of interest to the scrutineers. They checked it thoroughly and found an illegal device, a discovery that lead to Gordon's disqualification.

However, an appeal was lodged so Gordon could continue his participation until the appeal's verdict will be decided in a few weeks' time. Even now his fifth place finish is not assured. Still reeling from the dramatic events from the day before, Gordon was the first to start Stage 10 with Peterhansel right behind him. The spectators were entertained to a great duel between the two rivals, as Gordon was on his way for a second successive stage victory. In another dramatic turn of events, for no apparent reason, the left wing of Gordon's Hummer broke, giving Peterhansel the initiative.

By the end of the day he lost over 14 minutes to Peterhansel and second place to Roma. Less than 20 minutes from the lead, however, Gordon still could harbor victory hopes. But even those have disappeared 24 hours later. The 11th Stage was marked by the breakdown of his Cardan suspension that stopped him for more than an hour and 50 minutes for repairs, leaving the road open to the Minis for the final showdown. In the inter-team duel, Peterhansel made another step towards his 10th title, in all categories, by winning his 25th Stage on the Dakar ahead of his Catalan teammate.

By the end of that day, with over a 22 minute advantage over his teammate, Peterhansel's victory was all but secured. The next day, Gordon gave a big performance to win his second stage of the event, while Peterhansel and Roma got a scare as they were stuck in sand dunes. Gordon's time margin over Peterhansel at the end of the stage was over 26 minutes. The frustration from the previous day's travails must have been painful. For Peterhansel that was the last effort as he guided his Mini in for the model's first win in only its second participation in the event.

Gordon also won Stage 14, his third in the rally, so he could have left the event with good taste and an appetite for a comeback next year and another shot at the glory of the Dakar.

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