Team SPEED press release
Gordon & Al-Attiyah lose ground
Chilecito, Argentina (January 4, 2012) - Today was not what Team SPEED had expected; both Robby Gordon and Nasser Al-Attiyah would find trouble in different sections of the long 326km special stage. Gordon finished in 14th place, 18 minutes and 10 seconds behind with Al-Attiyah shortly behind him in 16th, over 26 minutes behind.
Today's stage took the drivers from San Juan to Chilecito across dried-up rivers and the canyons of Province of Rioja. By the first waypoint, Robby Gordon in his No. 303 SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires HUMMER would find himself 5 minutes behind. A slight navigational error on top of a puncture as well as replacing an alternator would cost him another 8 minutes before getting back on the road. As he pushed his vehicle to gain ground he was confiedent that they still could have won the special.
Nasser Al-Attiyah started strong in his No. 300 Qatar HUMMER, so strong that he had opened up a 2 minute lead over the eventual stage winner, Stephane Peterhansel. He would lead the stage till the last 40km when he got stuck deep into the muddy terrain.
By the time that Al-Attiyah got stuck in the mud, Gordon was already back on his way. When he stopped to offer assistance to the Qatar HUMMER, Gordon lost another 8 minutes by pulling him out. Both drivers hustled hard for the final km and only finishing minutes apart from one another.
"We are perfectly fine right now. We are a little behind where we want to be, but the HUMMERs are driving great. It's really going to be a great race down to the end. I believe without our small issues today - navigation and a flat - we could have beat these guys and picked a substantial amount of time. Nasser was doing great, but I wasn't going to leave him hanging in the mud, so we helped him get back on his way," Gordon commented headed into the Chilecito bivouac.
Navigator Johnny Campbell talked about No. 303's stage 4 results, “It was an eventful day for sure. We had our small issues in the beginning; we got into some big washes where water was everywhere, and I was having trouble finding our way. After all that, Robby pushed really really hard to not lose anymore time and I thought we were in areas that could possibly compromise our tires, but they worked just fine. Once we saw Nasser stuck, we jumped out and helped him which unfortunately made us lose even more time. I'm definitely a little sore from driving in the rocks, but I'll be ready to go after again tomorrow."
While it may have seemed like a terrible day for both HUMMERs, Team SPEED is confident that with 10 stages left to go that there is still a lot of time to be gained, especially heading into the new areas of Chile and the sand dunes. It is still anyone's race as Al-Attiyah proved in stage 2 where he started 38th and then drove to a victory.
With only one more stage left in Argentina, the teams head north to the white sand dunes of Fiambala where the course is different than years past. Gordon and Al-Attiyah look to bounce back and put themselves in a position to be closer to the leaders by rest day in Copiapo on January 8th.
In the overall standings, Gordon drops to fifth, 16 minutes back, and Al-Attiyah drops to seventh.