2009 Dakar Rally, Argentina-Chile
Stage 7: Mendoza to Valparaiso
NASCAR star Robby Gordon, above, earned his best result of the 2009 Dakar Rally with a third-place finish in his Hummer on Friday, only 4 minutes, 13 seconds behind stage winner Carlos Sainz (Volkswagen). American Mark Miller finished second in his Volkswagen as event organizers shortened the stage from 260 miles to 151 miles after the drivers struggled with the sand dunes the day before. The competitors will rest Saturday as the rally arrived in Chile and marked its midpoint.
With his third stage win of this rally, Sainz regained the overall lead in the car class, but by only 9 seconds over Volkswagen teammate Giniel De Villiers of South Africa. Miller is third overall, 13:35 behind Sainz. Gordon moved up to fifth overall -- 1 hour, 8 minutes, 21 seconds behind -- thanks in part to defending champion Stephane Peterhansel's mechanical problems. The Frenchman, who was fifth after Stage 6, had to put out a fire in the engine of his Mitsubishi early in Friday's stage. He briefly resumed the pursuit before his engine broke down again and he had to be towed home. The engine problems forced the nine-time Dakar champion to withdraw from the race.
“For us, it was a pretty good special," Gordon said in a release at dakar.com. "There was a little bit of mud at the end. I have to say for the first section we were right in the fight for the lead, but the last section where there was mud, since we have a two-wheel drive I was very conservative and cautious. We gave up probably 5 or 6 minutes to Sainz just in the last 70 kilometers. My Hummer is still hanging in there. ... I’m happy to be half way there. We’ve come here for the win and we won’t stop until the finishing line, we’re pushing as hard as we can, but you’ve got to be smart: a lot of cars are starting to drop out of the rally."
In bikes, Chile's Francisco Lopez edged overall leader Marc Coma by almost four minutes. Coma's event lead grew to more than 51 minutes over American Jonah Street, who finished eighth Friday, 14:50 back of Lopez.
Go here for more news, complete standings and results.
-- Michele Vincze
Photo: The Associated Press