The Monster Energy X-raid Team of five 315-bhp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo diesel-powered AWD Minis were clear favorites going into the when it started on January 1, 2012 in Argentina. For a while, though, Robby Gordon's Speed Energy Hummer team provided some tough competition despite only having rear-wheel drive. Gordon was in second place overall on the second and third stages but dropped to fifth after some problems during the fourth stage. Four days later he had worked his way back up to second behind eventual winner Stéphane Peterhansel, who captured his tenth overall Dakar victory.
Gordon took his first stage win this year on the ninth stage, but then in an attempt to overtake Peterhansel he hit a rock on a later stage and rolled on another. Despite two more stage wins he had to be content with fifth place at the finish yesterday in Lima, Peru.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, last year's Dakar champion in a Volkswagen Race Touareg, was the driver of the second Qatar-sponsored Hummer. However, he suffered from niggling mechanical problems and despite two stage wins withdrew from the event on the ninth stage, as he knew it would be impossible for him to win.
Many people describe the Dakar Rally as being akin to competing in a Baja off-road race each day for two weeks. If we look at podium finishes for each day Gordon took three stage victories, three second place finishes and one third spot. He only finished out of the top ten on two days. Peterhansel also got three wins, three second places and three third spots. However, he did not finish out of the top ten on any day. Nani Roma, who finished second overall in another Mini, also took three stage victories, one second and one third position. He only finished out of the top ten once.
It's so easy to lose minutes or hours because of a mechanical problem or getting stuck in sand dunes. Although competition at the top is intense, consistency pays dividends more than sheer speed. This was certainly true for Giniel De Villiers who finished third overall in a Toyota HiLux. De Villiers, who won in 2009 and finished second last year driving a Volkswagen Race Touareg, only started working with the Toyota South Africa team last October. He did not win any stages but took a second and three thirds and never finished out of the top ten.
Congratulations are also due to Darren Skilton – he was driving his own Baja Automotive Revolution IV buggy, and was the only other American to finish, in 61st position. In all 78 cars finished out of 156 that started. Anybody who competes in the world's toughest annual race will agree that it's an achievement just to finish.
|Top 5 Results|
|1||Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret (France)||Mini||38h 54m 46s|
|2||Nani Roma (Spain)/Michel Périn (France)||Mini||39h 36m 42s|
|3||Giniel De Villiers (South Africa)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (Germany)||Toyota||40h 08m 11s|
|4||Leonid Novitskiy (Russia)/Andreas Schulz (Germany)||Mini||41h 06m 40s|
|5||Robby Gordon/Johnny Campbell (USA)||Hummer||41h 11m 39s|