When Loeb raced Pike's Peak a few years ago, I remember reading about how he has an uncanny ability to visualize roads in his head. His WRC success had a lot to do with his ability to remember every nuance of a stage. He spent a lot of time studying film of Pike's Peak but didn't have much actual practice on it before he broke the record there.
I suspect he is working with some map men and applying his skill set to familiarize himself with the stages before he gets in the car for the day. Obviously he can't drill down to the specific track details like in WRC, but I'm sure he picked out certain lines he wants to use and remembers when they get to them.
Considering how little off road experience Loeb has, he is doing amazingly well to be in 2nd/3rd in this technically difficult edition of Dakar. We expected him to do well in the Argentine WRC style stages, but I didn't think he would have a chance in this kind of race.
Robby is selling performance and race car parts. There's the Wildcat XX, and the SpeedCat 77.
Factery is probably right, Textron probably paid out a lot to get Roby and a team of three to Dakar.
Textron is playing it right. Textron wants to run with the fastest racers, but it's good to do it through a branch such as Robby/SpeedCat. Its a gamble. If Robby builds the brands (wins races, fast, reliable, etc) then both sides win (and hopefully make some money). If Robby fails, then the whole Textron name is not dragged through the mud, and Textron can drop back and continue to make reliable, more conservative machines.
Who knows, maybe Textron paid very little to get Robby to Dakar. Robby seems like a go for broke kind of guy. He gets excited about doing something, and he just does it. But I also think that Robby has people he works with that know how to negotiate with "the corporations." In this case Textron is the fat rat corporation that I'm sure thinks Robby should spend all his money to build the SpeedCat brand.
I hope for the best for Robby in this relationship and in building up this line of race car products.
And in the end, who cares who paid for what, to get Robby, the team, and three SpeedCats to Dakar? I know investment, profit, ROI, etc, is serious, and we all like to make a buck, but racing is a gamblers world. If you think you can calculate a precise ROI for every racing related dollar you spend, you are going to be one frustrated accountant or CFO.
I'm sure both Robby and Textron see the value in racing Dakar. Robby is racing SpeedCats to promote SpeedCat parts. This one is business. But for Robby it's also the thrill of racing.
So who pays to go? Both Textron and RG can probably afford to pay the bill, so that's not the issue. Ahhh... the art of negotiating a deal. Seems like the SpeedCat brand is more important to Robby than it is to Textron. Therefore I think Robby paid to go to Dakar.