Sheldon Creed’s Firsthand Thoughts Following The 2016 Dakar Rally
Prior to the 2016 Dakar Rally, RDC had the opportunity to sit down with Robby Gordon and Sheldon Creed for an Ask Me Anything interview based on input from our forum users. After being disqualified from the race due to dubious circumstances in Stage 8, Creed completed the rally with Team Speed, driving his Gordini along the assistance route from bivouac to bivouac.
Creed’s route to Dakar reads like a science experiment, to the point that some were questioning Robby Gordon’s sanity when he announced Creed would drive the second Gordini. The 18 year old had zero rally raid experience, had never worked with his navigator Johan Street, and had basically zero seat time in the Gordini prior to the race. While this sounds like a recipe for disaster, Creed did an admirable job at the Dakar Rally. He is a natural wheelman with unlimited potential, which Gordon has recognized. Creed has been victorious in everything he has raced, winning championships in Trophy Karts, Super Lite, Pro Lites, and is the reigning Super Stadium Trucks series champion.
Race-Dezert.com– Do you want to come back?
Sheldon Creed– For sure.
RDC– What have you learned this year?
SC– Patience. You have to be fast but you also have to be careful. You have to be smart and keep the car together. Starting position is key.
RDC– You mentioned how hard it is to claw your way back after having problems.
SC– It just slows everything down. You start later, you are in the dust, you have to take more risks. Plus you get the car back to the team later so they have less time to wrench before the next day.
RDC– What did you think of the Gordini? Did it take you a while to get accustomed to? How similar is it to an SST truck?
SC– Well the Gordini has a manual transmission and a clutch, that took some getting used to. It drives very similar to an SST truck though. Just slower! Both have cutting brakes though and the suspension reacts very similarly.
RDC– Are there other forms of racing that you want to do?
SC– Cup racing, if I can get there. It takes a lot of money and the competition is really fierce. I’ve done a lot of late model stuff and been in a lot of different cars. That can bring some bad habits though because you drive a lot harder off road than on asphalt.
RDC– What would the January Sheldon tell December Sheldon if he could go back in time?
SC– I kind of came in as ready as I was going to get. You can only be so ready when you have never been here before. And I only found out I was coming two weeks before the race. We weren’t unprepared. I am more comfortable with the car now. On the first stage we were so overly cautious.
RDC– And what about navigation? Was that difficult to adapt to?
SC– That didn’t really bother me too much, I liked it. It wasn’t a distraction or anything. It did take Johan and I a day to get a feel for how far out to call the cautions before we reached them. If Jonah and I had time together we could have been 30 seconds faster on that first stage, which would have changed where we started and set our race in a different direction.
RDC– So what would you do differently next year?
SC– Maybe do some high altitude training prior to the race.
RDC– And what do you think about the competition now? Do you have more respect for these rally raid guys?
SC– Honestly I still don’t know most of them or what their backgrounds are. It seems like they do this year round though, where we do this once a year. They are super talented and work with the same people and get practice all year long, where we do four or five different kinds of racing. If they came and ran short course they would get murdered.
RDC– Did the race match your expectations coming down here?
SC– I didn’t really know how gnarly the people were, like 40 and 50 year old men jumping up and down when you drive by. The first few stages were a lot easier than I was expecting, they were just rally roads. I expected it to be more like the later stages were. It exceeded my expectations.
RDC– And what are your feelings about the fans in South America?
SC– They are nuts! We have to fuel at standard gas stations so you would go in to do your thing and there will be like 20 people at the gas station, but once you stop there are people running from every direction and before you know it there are hundreds of people. And once you take a photo with one person, you have to stop and take a photo with every person.
RDC– What about the liaisons? Did the road sections wear you down?
SC– Those sections are boring to me. The speed limit is tough, going 60 mph for hours. The car isn’t really built to be a commuter.
RDC– What was on your play list on the road?
SC– All kinds of country, some Eminem, some G-Eazy. Jonah and I would switch back and forth between our music.