The Dakar Rally is the ultimate off-road race challenge. The Dakar 2013 Edition is no exception. This year’s rally is once again being held in South America, however the route is different from previous years. The adventure starts in Lima, Peru on January 5th and winds over a total of 8,000 km (or 4,970 mi) on its way east and south to the finish line in Santiago, Chile on January 19th. Not all 8,000 km are run at race speeds, but this 15 day event is challenging enough to break down both man and machine. Only the teams with strong will, great skill, and deep pockets can succeed in this rally.
Robby Gordon is back again this year in his Speed Energy Hummer. He has several years of Dakar experience under his belt and his racing Hummer is mostly the same vehicle he used in years prior. Robby came close to challenge the mighty Volkswagen factory team in 2011 and the MINI factory racers in 2012. This year he can draw from all that experience as he goes for the elusive Dakar win in the “car” division.
Where in previous years he had a second Hummer racer in the running, this is not the case in 2013. His 2012 teammate, Nasser Al-Attiyah, has brought a pair of his own designed Buggy racers and will be competing against Robby. Robby’s Hummer is all alone this year. This can be a serious disadvantage, considering the huge race teams from MINI and Toyota he is competing against. Defending champion, MINI is back with four X-raid ALL4 racing MINIs. Toyota has entered three Hilux racing pickups. All these bigger teams have the luxury of teammates helping each other with repairs, spare parts, strategic maneuvers, or navigation. Robby has none of these luxuries, and this will be his greatest challenge. Will his Hummer be reliable enough? Will he get stuck? Will he get lost? I am sure his many years of off-road racing experience will be put to the ultimate test.
Robby’s racing Hummer is a unique beast. First, it’s powered by a big gasoline V8 engine and it’s output dwarfs those of the main competitors who use smaller turbo diesel motors. Robby’s power plant allows him to reach very high speeds in the flats, but the Hummer does have its drawbacks. First, it’s rear wheel drive only, while the MINIs and Toyotas are 4WD. Also, the Dakar crosses very high elevations and Robby’s normally aspirated V8 looses a lot of power up there. Of course, not having 4WD in an off-road race that throws mud, sand dunes, and rocky trails in the mix is a huge challenge. A challenge that Robby has learned to minimize in previous years.
Robby is the only driver from the USA in the car division. He joins two other Americans: Johnny Campbell and Kevin Muggleton, who are competing on motorcycles. I wish best of luck to all competitors, but it would be very special to see Robby on top of the podium in Santiago. I also hope that Johnny and Kevin are able to crack into the top 10 in the bike division.
We plan to follow the rally and provide you with updates.
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Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, software engineer, writer, and reporter. He has been writing and reporting at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.