800,000 spectators give only U.S. entrant a warm reception.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – A massive announced crowd of 800,000 enthusiastic fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite drivers and riders stood outside Saturday’s mandatory race briefing and opening ceremony for the 37th Dakar Rally. Many of the drivers and riders were Argentinian and others were multi-time Dakar champions, but none came close to hearing the reception from the crowd that Robby Gordon did.
While all were properly recognized by the large crowd, it was the United States’ only entrant, a day after celebrating his birthday, that was surrounded by adoring fans as they let it be known who the Dakar Rally’s clear fan favorite is. After the feel-good exit from the race briefing where Gordon was surrounded by thousands, he and his team made their way to Saturday’s opening ceremonies outside Argentina’s presidential palace Casa Rosada, where thousands more waited to cheer on their favorites and wish all competitors good luck in the 14-day 9,111-kilometer race.
With the preliminaries complete, Gordon and his HST Gordini team are spending the final hours making preparations for Sunday’s race from Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos (Stage No. 1), where he will be one of 137 entries in the car division. Many teams will not make it back to Buenos Aires on Jan. 17 for the race finish. Last year’s winner of the car class took more than 50 hours of racing time to complete and only 62 of 147 cars finished the race.
The first stage will include 833 kilometers with 170 (105 miles) of those featuring hard racing before an overnight break at the first bivouac at Villa Carlos Paz. The circuit follows the heart of the Argentinean countryside with fast, sharp turns that should divide up the field on day one in a showcase of driver skill. All teams that complete the stage will work on their machines and line up again for Monday’s second stage in the order in which they finished the first leg of the Rally.
Villa Carlos Paz lies on the western slope of the Sierras Chicas and its population of 56,000 will be a stark contrast to the more than three million people that teams encountered in Buenos Aires. While the lakeside tourist town may be smaller, its crowds should be just as enthusiastic when the vehicles and their support teams begin arriving Monday afternoon. Many fans will come from the province of Córdoba’s capital of Córdoba City just 36 kilometers to the east.
While the 2015 Dakar Rally will not be won on Monday, it will become immediately clear who the contenders for the championship will be and will also likely eliminate some of this year’s top competitors.
Follow the Dakar Rally through live timing and scoring as well as live updates at planetrobby.com. NBCSN will provide daily highlights beginning Jan. 5 from 4:30 to 5 p.m. ET.
A daily update video from Team SPEED can be viewed at the following link:
A two-part documentary that aired earlier this month on NBCSN highlighting Gordon’s preparations for the 2015 Dakar Rally – “Robby Gordon Road to Dakar” – is available for viewing on planetrobby.com.