Robby Gordon’s Hummer was notably faster than the competition through certain sections of this year’s Dakar Rally. On the surface this was attributed to the decreased restrictor size for diesel engines to even the playing field with gasoline engines. In the first week of the rally Gordon only lost stages to his main competition from the X-Raid Mini team when mechanical issues occurred or he stopped to assist teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah. At Stage 9 Gordon finally won his first stage in 2012, clocking speeds over 120 mph on the 35% descent into Iquique.
The Speed Energy team did not have much time to celebrate before FIA and ASO officials were in Gordon’s camp to inspect his car. While ASO is the event organizer, FIA oversees all of the technical and safety aspects, much like USAC did for TORC (before they purchased the series). RDC was there when three FIA marshalls paid Robby a visit at the end of Stage 9 and captured these photos. When the FIA marshal was checking the size of the restrictor on Robby’s LS7 engine, he felt air movement around his hand even though the engine was not running.
Further inspection revealed that the air was coming from the tire inflation system, located near the air intake. Gordon maintains that the air source was just bleeding off from the tire inflation and not associated with the engine, but the officials had a different opinion on the matter and disqualified Gordon. “This is the same system that I have run for the past two years and went through scrutineering with,” Gordon commented.
The scene was reminiscent of 2009 when Robby won his first stage and Volkswagen protested his restrictor. Was the big budget Mini juggernaut behind the current visit to Gordon’s camp? Monster Energy Central and Eastern European Marketing Director Joe Parsons stated that the Monster Mini X-Raid team had nothing to do with the controversy. “The officials are in our camp every night looking over the cars,” Parsons commented. Some speculated whether disgruntled Gordon teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah made a call to the ASO after hastily leaving the Dakar Rally on Tuesday.
The next night he demonstrated to RDC on Al-Attiyah’s Hummer how the tire deflation system does not provide enough air to keep the engine running. First Robby covered the restrictor with the engine running and the system in place and the engine promptly died. Next he deflated all four tires and when he covered the restrictor the engine still died, demonstrating that it did not provide enough air to keep the engine running. With the hose disconnected the idle dropped, but the engine would still run with the restrictor covered. On Stage 10 to Arica Gordon removed the hose in question…but had a navigation error in that stage and settled for 4th place. His chances were looking good for victory until he stopped to change a CV joint on Stage 11 and it cost him over an hour. The next day, on sage 12 to Nasca, Gordon ripped the field to shreds and score a convincing win over Peterhansel by more than 23 minutes.
When RDC asked Robby if this controversy would keep him from coming back to Dakar he replied “Absolutely not. I am not going to give up that easy.” While the race is over, Gordon’s fifth place overall finish is still in question. An official protest has been filed by Gordon’s team with the ASO in France, but don’t expect a resolution any time soon. Just keep an eye out in 2013 for the placement of Robby Gordon’s tire deflation system in the intake tract.
Gordon and Campbell’s 2012 DAKAR Rally Results for each stage