ROBBY GORDON, NO. 7 MENARDS/MAPAI MONTE CARLO SS, PRESS CONFERENCE ON BAJA 500 RACE AND RETURNING TO DOVER: Q. What time did you get in today? "Six o'clock. I took a shower. We took our time, got something to eat. I got four hours (of sleep) on...
ROBBY GORDON, NO. 7 MENARDS/MAPAI MONTE CARLO SS, PRESS CONFERENCE ON BAJA 500 RACE AND RETURNING TO DOVER:
Q. What time did you get in today?
"Six o'clock. I took a shower. We took our time, got something to eat. I got four hours (of sleep) on the plane and got another four and half hours once I was here. I woke up just a few minutes before the drivers meeting. It was a good day and a bad day. It was a good day for a real long time, for about seven hours of the nine (hours). At about the 260-mile marker, the stub that holds the air filter on broke. It didn't come loose. It broke and the air filter fell off. It's got a foam outer wrap on it soaked in oil to collect the dust so it doesn't get into the elements. It fell over on top of the headers and caught fire. They got the fire out and got him a new air filter and did a little bit of wiring work to get the injectors to work and believe it or not, put an old tie-down over the top of it, two of them with a zip tie between them holding them. The crew strapped it down and they ran the next 200 miles pretty much trouble free. A one-dollar and twenty (cent) bolt cost us another Baja victory. We won the Baja 500 last year. We were the first car on the road well on our route to another win. When I got out of the car and handed it over to Andy (McMillin), we had about two, two and a half minutes on the next car."
Q. How did the HUMMER do?
"The HUMMER lost a brake fitting about mile marker 100 or 110. When I left, I don't know where the HUMMER was at to be honest with you. It doesn't mean it's not running. There is a whole group of people out there supporting it. It may have finished or it may not have. I haven't called to check yet."
Q. So you didn't get in the HUMMER?
"The plan was if the HUMMER was within 45 minutes of that car, I would climb in the HUMMER. The HUMMER wasn't within 45 minutes. It started 10 minutes behind it. It's under powered because of Dakar rules. I need to make sure I spell that out. Dakar rules don't allow us to have the horsepower the Trophy Truck has. The Trophy Truck makes about 850 horsepower. The HUMMER makes about 350 horsepower. So there's just a big difference of power. We knew we would give up a little bit of time but it was very technical and the HUMMER is a little smaller, a little more nimble for getting through some of those sections. I told the guys there was a rock that got lodged in between where the brake coupler was and the spindle and it looked like it broke the brake line, the hard line. That happens out there. That's why in off-road racing you have an attrition rate where half the cars fall out."
Q. Where's your next off-road race?
"My next off-road race will be the off weekend in July. There's a Terrible Cup race in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, more of a stadium style race where you can sit there and watch the whole race. And then I'll do the Baja 1000 as well. It's in November the Thursday before Homestead so we don't miss any Cup stuff again at Homestead."
Q. Will you do the Baja 1000 with the Dakar HUMMER?
"The Dakar HUMMER will not run the (Baja) 1000 in preparation to get ready for Dakar. It must ship around December 15. It has to leave to go to Portugal so the HUMMER will not run the 1000. We'll probably do some free running with it and then come back and R&R it and put her on the plane and send it over."
Q. What are your chances at Dakar?
"I think we've learned a lot. Last year we started the HUMMER four months before the race started. Now we've got a year of testing on it. I believe the HUMMER has about 10,000 miles on it today. That race is 6,000 miles. We keep learning more and more about the car every time we run it. Just like this brake line here. It's stuff that we'll address and figure out how to build some kind of protection around it so the if a rock does get in there it doesn't take us out in Africa."
Q. What about the Baja 1000? Is it the full 1000?
"It's the full 1000. It starts in Ensenada and ends in LaPaz. Andy will share the race with me again. I'll run the first half and he'll run the second half. It should be able to work real well."
Q. What time did you get to the track?
"I was asleep about one o'clock (am) east coast time. I woke up around six o'clock as we landed here. The back of the plane there is an area where I can make literally a full bed. It lays out flat. In the luggage compartment you can fold the back seat down and it lays out flat. Once I got back to the track here about six forty-five and I just woke up 20 minutes before the drivers meeting."
Q. Do you think you will do this again next year?
"It all depends. The races couldn't be any farther apart. Why couldn't this be a Phoenix weekend or even a Texas weekend? I'll take that. It's when this is the date that it falls on. It's been falling on this date for years for Baja and I'm sure just like NASCAR has, they have their Dover that falls on this date. It all depends on where we're running. I have to be honest with you. It all depends on where we're at with our NASCAR Nextel Cup car as far as points and what the Chase looks like and that will determine whether we do the Baja or not. My plan is to have a competitive enough team out there that I could put a guy like Andy McMillin in it and sponsors would be happy with him driving it. He's doing a great job for us and we're getting him some experience this year so hopefully we'll be able to sell that for next year as well."
Q. So with the car at the Dakar, were you an underdog last year?
"Underdog just because of the amount of cars that the factories bring. It's a factory sport a lot like maybe our Craftsman Truck is here where the factories are heavily, heavily involved in Dakar. I believe the Volkswagen team with the teams we race against, their budget for the car is 60 or 70 million dollars for the one race. It's a lot more like Formula One but we are competitive with them. We showed up there last year and ran inside the top 10. I'm confident with help GM is willing to do with wind tunnel and some of their engineering support, we'll go back and we'll be more competitive next year."
Q. Will GM have any marketing plans for the HUMMER at Dakar?
"They did last year. They did some stuff with OLN and also USA Today. They do a good job. Chevrolet does a good job with marketing. HUMMER is part of the GM brand. They're all in support of it because it is about endurance and that's what the HUMMER is. It's a vehicle you can drive on your highway or you can take it out into the desert and have some fun with it."
Q. On if Toyota has an off-road program:
"Obviously Toyota has raced off road for years. I started my career racing for Toyota off road. They are not involved in off road racing today. I believe their main focus is in the Craftsman Truck Series. They have had an off-road program before."
Q. Who provides factory support?
"Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, BMW and HUMMER.
Q. Are you going to have teammates?
"That's what we're working on, trying to have at least two cars. We stepped our race support. We're building a new support vehicle which is where basically you enter your semi-truck in the race as well and it runs on the race course. I entered two of them last year and I bought one-third one that entered on the race course. I don't know if that guy didn't see me but when I had that broken in radiator, he was from here to the Bauer sign away. He drove right by me. I see him drive right on by. They don't allow radio communications. It's really different. They put in the driver and navigator and send you off. It's survival to the finish. Now we'll have our own support vehicle for our one car with a fairly fast race semi."
Q. On racing for fun:
"Racing is what I do for fun. I've got to be honest, golf is a cool sport but if I'm going to go out and do something I'd rather go racing."