Volkswagen driver Robby Gordon second heading to Africa
Excellent starting position for Volkswagen works driver Robby Gordon in Africa: On his 36th birthday, the American, second overall after the Dakar Rally's third stage, lies exactly one second behind ex-Rally World Champion Colin McRae, and leads the chasing pack in his Race-Touareg.
On the closing European special stage, a ten kilometre track on a proving ground in Granada, Gordon, the quickest Volkswagen driver, set fifth fastest time. Team colleague Bruno Saby, seventh a further second behind, starts the first African stage from fifth position. Jutta Kleinschmidt will enter the 666 kilometre stage in Morocco as ninth starter. Juha Kankkunen, who drives another Race-Touareg, was unable to climb above 13th place in the dust cloud of the competitor in front.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director)
"We are well within our schedule. I'm very satisfied with our drivers. Robby and Bruno have secured very good starting positions. Jutta and Juha were a little unlucky: Jutta drove on the limit, as we expected, and had a half-spin. It's not a problem after all, these things can happen. Unfortunately Juha caught up an opponent and couldn't overtake him. However, the rally will reveal its true character on Monday. The entire team is already working as if they've been together for years."
#317 -- Robby Gordon (USA), 5th place (leg) / 2nd position overall
"The track was great. We set the Race-Touareg up a little softer today and it handled perfectly. As first car on the stage we had a clear view and no traffic."
#307 -- Bruno Saby (F), 7th place (leg) / 5th position overall
"There was a sensational atmosphere amongst the crowds of spectators enjoying the sun around the vast proving ground. I'm very satisfied that we successfully completed the European stages am now looking forward to Africa."
#310 -- Jutta Kleinschmidt (D), 10th place (leg) / 9th position overall
"The organiser selected a fantastic special stage that was pleasure to drive. Unfortunately I made a small mistake and I half-spun the car, that's why I lost time. Things get serious in Morocco."
#313 -- Juha Kankkunen (FIN), 13th place (leg) / 13th position overall
"This was a fantastic rally stage, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately I caught the man in front Grégoire de Mevius and lost some time. What's the meaning of these few seconds over a distance of more than 9,000 kilometres?"
From the bivouac
- Happy Birthday: Robby Gordon was 36-years old on the 2nd January. "I won't have any time for a party, but I did ask my team colleagues whether or not they could give me the second stage victory", said the American jokingly.
- Major service: A routine service was made in the evening after the four Volkswagen Race-Touareg cars had completed the 920 kilometres between Barcelona and Granada on New Year's Day. After the thorough inspection one thing is certain: All the cars are running perfectly.
- Goodbye Europe: The organiser ASO reserved five ferries exclusively for the Dakar Rally participants, which ships the 'Rally Armada' from Algeciras to Tangiers on 2nd January. The ferries will set sail in the afternoon. For parts of the accompanying armada, which travelled earlier or travels later, berths on scheduled ferries to Africa were booked.
Three questions to Volkswagen driver Robby Gordon
How did your homeland react to the first 'Dakar' stage victory for an American?
"Everything was fairly low-key. The Dakar Rally is still relatively unknown in the USA. I know Lance Armstrong well: He explained to me that very few Americans were interested in cycling before he won the Tour de France."
You were the quickest from the word go. Are you taking a lot of risks?
"I'm not risking anything. We drove about 80 percent on the first stage; we had plenty in reserve. It was actually just a warm-up. The real rally starts in Africa. I work very closely with my co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz when I'm driving. His pace notes are a great help."
Does your experience from so many diverse racing series help?
"Yes, because I get used to a new car very quickly. In the same way it is a help that I regularly ride motorbikes. As a result you learn not to overestimate your abilities."