American’s at Stage 3 of the Dakar Rally

A stunning, if treacherous penultimate day in Argentina saw a swathe of retirements today. Robby Gordon again suffered setbacks, but managed to bring his Hummer home 20th on the stage and peg back some positions. Sue Mead made it through, but the Predator buggies driven by Team Mexico did not. Up front, both Nassar Al-Attiyah in the cars, and Marc Coma on the bikes pegged back times to Carlos Sainz and Cyril Depres.

Coma recorded his 12th stage win to close the gap to Depres, while Al-Attiyah also took a stage win, albeit not as convincing as he’d hoped, the Qatari unable to overtake Sainz in the dust.

Robby Gordon is now realistically out of contention for the race win, and he explained that today’s setback was a direct result of yesterday’s incident. “Yesterday’s problems came back today. We lost transmission yesterday, and the team changed the gearbox overnight, but they didn’t change the transmission pump, and it was burnt up,” he explained. “With no transmission fluid it overheated the transmission and I was stuck on half throttle all day.”

Gordon was visibly irritated by the dramas, “I just keep putting myself behind the eight ball here and it’s not good. It’s starting to make me mad. It all stems from driving off the road yesterday, it keeps coming back to bite me today,” he said.

Fellow American, Sue Mead was a late arrival at the bivouac, her Ford Raptor coping well with the terrain, though not as well with the crowds on the liaison stages, again finding it difficult to make up the distance in the small amount of allotted time.

“Wow, today was crazy. There were a lot of big drop-offs, and a lot of people stuck. I saw some guys in a buggy who went down a ravine so hopefully they’re ok,” Mead explained, adding that the terrain was beautiful.

“We were in two stunning national parks. One of them had really tight canyon walls that we drove through which were just hundreds of metres tall. And a lot that reminded me of the painted desert out west in the ‘states. That was the beauty,” she said.

“And then there was the beast. It was a really long stage, with a really long liaison, 300kms of offroad was broken up by time in the middle out on pavement and mixed track but it was dangerous. We were up over 10,000 feet today, and there were some serious drops. A lot of places where the road goes away the pavement goes away or even the dirt isn’t there!”

“The fesh fesh at the start was really tough on the vehicle, we got a mechanical in 4wd and had to drive in 4-high and not in 4-low.”

“We also sadly went by our good friends the Mexicans, Joaquin and Pedro, they were stuck and needed a tow out. We did offer a tow to Joaquin because he has a broken front suspension but he said “no go ahead, go ahead” which was kind of great, and means now Troy and Dan can spend the evening checking everything out.”

After a gruelling third day on the Dakar Mead and co-driver Darren Stilton will start tomorrow at 8.30am, with Mead once again taking on the driving duties. Mead says she’lll be grateful for a short shower, meal and then a few short hours of sleep.

“I am so grateful to be back in camp, and we have to start again early tomorrow! It was a 13 hour day and we didn’t stop for anything, not even fuel.”

Tomorrow sees the Dakar caravan cross customs at the top of the Andes and enter Chile, on another gruelling stage.