Dakar Rally 2016- The Odyssey
We had the opportunity to sit down with Team Speed’s Robby Gordon, Sheldon Creed, Kellon Walsh, and Jonah Street in Buenos Aires prior to the start of the 2016 Dakar Rally. The questions we asked were based on user input in the Rally Raid subforum, where you can get all of the latest information on the 2016 Dakar Rally.
Yumaoffroad: Will there be Road to Dakar episode for 2016?
Robby Gordon– Unfortunately not. Between my travel schedule, SST, two Gordinis, and the prototype work I am doing with Artic Cat, there just wasn’t time to fit in a full scale production this year.
Bricoop: How much seat time have you (Sheldon) had in the Gordini? What have you been doing to prep for the race?
Sheldon Creed– I’ve only spent half an hour behind the wheel of the Gordini, from the airport to the hotel. I’ve prepared by studying past videos of the rally with feedback from Robby, Kellon, and Jonah.
tacosupreme: How difficult is navigation compared to Baja?
Kellon Walsh– They are totally different. In Baja you get to prerun and take notes, and of course you have GPS. Here you just get the road book with tulip charts the night before the stage and you have to study it for dangers and challenges. It is more like a Baja prerun where you just drive what you can see and read the terrain.
biffnar: Was Sheldon the first choice or the back up choice?
Robby Gordon– Winning the SST championship made it an easy choice. I have no concerns about Sheldon’s ability as a driver, he just needs to stay focused. Laps in SST are 1 1/2 miles and there are spare parts hanging in the trailer. Even in Baja we are never more than 50 miles from support. But Sheldon isn’t hard on equipment. He has awesome car control, he rev matches his SST truck on every jump.
Short Bus: What, if any, changes were made to the Gordini since last January? Obviously I don’t expect RG to provide exact details of changes, but were there any significant hardware changes made to improve performance or were changes mostly made for durability reasons?
Robby Gordon– Everything gets evaluated. I mean every nut and bolt. We made hundreds of little changes to make the cars faster, more reliable, easier to service. There are also rule changes for 2016 that we had to match. For instance ASO changed the tire inflation rule to mandate a VG5 connector after the support cars were already on the water. So we had to retrofit them to 100 KMC wheels down here in Argentina.
Short Bus: Are there different shock/spring settings in each car based on driver preferences? Does RG set them up based on his experience or did Sheldon get some input based on his driving style?
Do they change suspension settings daily during the race depending upon the expected terrain? Are there “WRC” settings vs. off-piste stage settings?
Robby Gordon– Both cars are set up the same based on my Dakar experience, although the ride height is slightly different. We do change the valving in the bypass shocks to suit particular stages, but the spring rates stay the same from day to day.
MALABANAN: I have heard that Sheldon Creed will be the youngest DOR at a Dakar event. Does the added attention to the team bring more pressure to do well?
Robby Gordon– Not really. We operate under maximum pressure already. What is one more drip of water when you are drowning?
Chris Tobin: After mentoring Sheldon over these past few years what made you feel that this is the year to put him in a Gordini for Dakar?
Robby Gordon– Well this is a dictatorship, and I am the dictator. Sheldon’s lack of exposure to this form of racing means that he isn’t arriving here with any bad habits or preconceived notions.
Chris Tobin: Were you tired of seeing his taillights in the SST series?
Robby Gordon– Well, there are no tail lights in SST but I do have a front row seat every week. I was able to really study him.
Chris Tobin: What are your expectations for Sheldon? (follow-up) Do you expect him to finish in the top-20, or challenge for a top-10 finish with some podium stage finishes?
Chris Tobin: What will you consider a successful 2016 Dakar campaign?
Chris Tobin: Would you be happier with both Gordinis finishing in the top-10 overall or with one on the podium and one 15th or worse?
Robby Gordon– There are probably 35 cars that have a legitimate chance to run up front. It is hard to scale though because everyone runs their own program. Different creativities are on display. Our goal is a top 12 finish for both cars. We have other goals as well though and the priorities change as the race plays out.
Chris Tobin: Is the fact that you (Sheldon) are the youngest competitor in Dakar intimidating?
Sheldon Creed– I have been racing since I was three years old. First in BMX, and in trucks since I was nine years old. I’m not intimidated.
Chris Tobin: What training/practice regimen have you been working on to ensure the best possible outcome for Dakar?
Sheldon Creed – I didn’t train specifically for this race but I ride dirtbikes and BMX bikes throughout the week frequently. I am ready for this.
Chris Tobin: What are your hopes/expectations for yourself in your first Rally Raid event ever? Would you rather get a stage win in your first Dakar or finish the race in the top-20?
Sheldon Creed – I’d say my hopes are to be inside the top 10-15 so we will have a good start for tomorrow and not have to much dust or slower vehicles in front of us.
Chris Tobin: Do you feel that your success in the SST series and trucks will translate well to the Gordini and the Dakar race?
Sheldon Creed – Absolutely. The Gordini is based on the SST platform and so far I felt right at home in my limited driving. No worries.
Chris Tobin: How much time have you had driving with a navigator in your ear?
Sheldon Creed – This will be the first time I work with Jonah Street, or any navigator as a matter of fact.
Low Groove: Will Sheldon be allowed to physically pass Robby during a stage?
Robby Gordon– It will be hard to pass since there is a time split and everyone runs as a very similar pace. Initial starting positions are based on past performance, but you are really racing the clock.
Low Groove: Will RG stop if second car will have troubles (I wish it will never happen) and he will have chances to fight for the victory?
Robby Gordon– We won’t pass each other. If one of us is stopped the other will stop to evaluate the specific situation. We are a team and will make decisions that best benefit the team.
Low Groove: Will he quit if he will win?
Robby Gordon– I have too much invested for that! (laughs) I am way too deep into Dakar to just walk away when I win. I am still working on my Gordini super car idea too. All the super cars end with an “I” you know, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Gordini.
sb4pro: Who do you consider your biggest competition this year?
Robby Gordon– Winners. Past winners like Nasser, Nani Roma, Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, De Villiers. Plus Yazeed and Sebastian Loeb.
GoPoly: Is the transmission a variant of an Albins sequential shift, is there a torque converter and clutch?
Robby Gordon– I’d rather not get into those details.
John_Bitting: Are the 2wd Gordinis at a disadvantage this year now that its being considered more of a rally style course?
Robby Gordon– Don’t think of the Gordini like a Trophy Truck. It has more in common with a 2WD WRC car.
E.Ariaza: When is SST coming to Argentina?
Robby Gordon– With the new government chances are good. I would love to bring SST to my fans in Argentina.
Jimmy8: Robby, how much has the Gordini evolved as a platform the past few years? On the outside it looks almost the same, but underneath I know there have been countless refinements.
Robby Gordon – Every test session. Baja races we have done and racing here gives us tremendous feedback. We log and analyze every single issue and constantly improve our vehicles. The Gordini is now the best it has ever been.
Bryan J: Is Sheldon going down to be the B team player for Robby? Similar strategy as the larger factory teams?
Robby Gordon – We are team first and foremost, but we will start the Dakar 2016 of for Sheldon to stay behind me. Incase Sheldon has a better chance of winning or is ahead on time our strategy will obviously change.
Dirty Harry: Why the changes between Kellon and Johnny as navigator in the past few years?
Robby Gordon– There are various reasons, a lot of it just depends on availability. Johnny was just busy this year.
01_el_tiburon: What do you like more, Baja Tacos or Argentinian asado ?
Robby Gordon– I have too many fans in Mexico and Argentina to choose sides!
geronimo5: How much has the support crew grown to support prepping two cars? Is there a Freightliner to support each car?
Robby Gordon– Yazeed got two of the Freightliners, so we only have one left. We have other additional support vehicles down here though and our team has over 289 years of combined experience.
bajafox: Will Max drive a Trophy Truck as soon as he gets his driver’s license?
Robby Gordon– He could drive it today! At age seven he just had his Artic Cat out in Glamis and drove me everywhere, without paddle tires.
SunsetCliffsMocos: Can we hear a brief description of Team Structure, some unsung heroes of the team and what role do Baja Bob and Max play on the team this year?
Robby Gordon– Unfortunately my dad and Max are not here this year. We have an Indy 500 crew chief, a WRC crew chief, a KOH expert, a GRC veteran. There is tons of fabrication and mechanical experience, this is a really solid crew.
SunsetCliffsMocos: How many more years do they expect to run the current platform? Will AWD and the Rally type courses force a change to the current approach?
Robby Gordon– I don’t have any plans to change our platform. Look a Peugeot, they started their program from scratch last year and chose a 2WD platform.
SunsetCliffsMocos: If $$$ allowed, would the Team consider a 3 or 4 car effort and how much more $$ and dedication would that require? Is that something they have considered or is it not of interest?
Robby Gordon– Always!
Robby Gordon– Speed, of course.
SunsetCliffsMocos: Any plans on running the Sonoran Rally? Are you guys hyping up the event to other competitors in hopes of building up the event of support in the US?
Robby Gordon– No plans to run the Sonoran Rally this year, but I have run NORRA in the past.
NIKAL: Prior to you signing up Sheldon to race the second Gordini in this years Dakar, have other North American off road race teams reached out to RGM as a potential customer or teammates to drive a 2nd or even 3rd Gordini under the RGM banner? If so how close do you think we are before we see another North American off road driver, driving a Gordini or some other competitive race vehicle in Dakar?
Robby Gordon– I’ve had conversations with people but they have a hard time understanding exactly what Dakar is, what it takes, and what it costs. I would have no problem running a program like Hallspeed or X-Raid where people come with their own sponsors.
NIKAL: You must feel Sheldon Creed is ready and the right fit for RGM’s 2016 Dakar campaign. From the outside looking in, and knowing Sheldon has almost Zero desert racing or marathon type off road racing under his belt? How does Sheldon & RGM prepare him for hours of non stop racing. Sheldon’s resume shows he is clearly a sprint style racer and not a marathon style racer.
Robby Gordon– When Jim Venable hired me for the ’66 truck who would have thought that an 18 year old kid would win the Baja 500 and the Baja 1000? I knew that Sheldon needed a strong navigator, and starting with Jonah has been good. They have good chemistry. How do you become a marathon type driver? You log miles. Sheldon needs to bring the car back clean and not make mistakes. Then at the midpoint we can decide what our plan of attack is.
NIKAL: Even though the Dakar rally is still not very recognized in the U.S vs other forms of racing. It does seem like over the past several years with Planet Robby, RDC, NBC Sports, “The road to Dakar” special last year, that we are finding and seeing better coverage of the Dakar Rally in the USA. Do you see in the near future the North American auto manufactures attempting to partner or build a factory effort with a North American team, such as RGM?
Robby Gordon– If you look at the Corvette program at GM such as Pratt and Miller, it is not that out of the question. As a team RGM has been doing this for 10 years, and that has to count for something. Toyota has one special stage win in the last ten years, we have 14.
NIKAL: Roger Penski is known as a Global race team owner. He owns teams in multiple forms of Motorsports around the world. Have you and him ever discussed the Dakar? Do you ever see a day when other high profile team owners like a Roger Penski, Rick Hendrick or Chip Gannasi might look to build a Marathon Rally or Dakar team?
Robby Gordon– I don’t know. This isn’t really their forte. Bringing road race guys to off-road isn’t always an easy transition.
ZequeArgentina: Robby: after you question if I was even going to drive the Gordini last year in Tecnopolis, will you effectively let me gas it???
Robby Gordon– ???
Bajabro1: Questions For Robby:
Bajabro1: The off-road community wants to know: What made you determine that Sheldon Creed was the right fit for Gordini #2? Driving style? Success in SST?
Robby Gordon– I answered that previously. Sheldon has all of the attributes that make a great teammate.
Bajabro1: Does Sheldon remind you of a younger you?
Robby Gordon– There are a lot of similarities.
Bajabro1: Is there a possibility of running a second SPEED Energy Trophy Truck driven by Sheldon for the 49th Baja Mil?
Robby Gordon– Realistically with everything on our plate with SST and Artic Cat we probably wouldn’t add a second Trophy Truck, but who knows?
Bajabro1: What are your expectations for you and Sheldon at this Dakar Rally?
Robby Gordon– We came here to win. Having two cars makes our team that much stronger and our changes that much better.
Bajabro1: What are your thoughts on Sebastien Loeb’s Dakar Rally debut? Do you think his unmatched off-road driving experience and factory support by Peugeot bring a threat to your chances of winning this year’s Dakar Rally?
Robby Gordon– Obviously Sebastian Loeb is a great driver, and he has a huge team supporting him. There is no reason that he is not going to be a legitimate threat to win the rally.
Bajabro1: Questions for Sheldon:
Bajabro1: What was your reaction when Robby asked you to drive Gordini #2 in this year’s Dakar Rally?
Sheldon Creed– All year we talked about it. A week before Christmas I got the official call, and it felt unreal. I still don’t entirely believe it, but it is settling in.
Bajabro1: How does it feel to be teamed up with one of the world’s most iconic and loved off-road drivers?
Sheldon Creed– I definitely feel privileged. I’m no stranger to being around Robby, he has been a mentor to me for years.
Bajabro1: What is your favorite Robby Gordon-built vehicle: Gordini, SST or Trophy Truck?
Sheldon Creed– Well right now it is the SST for sure. Ask me after Dakar though, my answer might change.
Bajabro1: Walk us through a typical day in Sheldon Creed’s life?
Sheldon Creed– I wake up, eat some waffles, and then go to work. I have my own car detailing business in San Diego, Wash Werx. When I’m not working or doing homework I like to hang out with friends, ride dirt bikes, BMX.
Bajabro1: What are your expectations for your first debut at Dakar?
Sheldon Creed– Realistically I’d like to stay in the top ten each day and finish in the top ten overall. A stage win or two would sure be nice though.
Bajabro1: What is your ultimate goal for this year’s Dakar Rally?
Sheldon Creed– My goal is to finish with every body panel I start with.
randy1123: This rally can wear you down mentally, how do you prepare mentally for the Rally?
Robby Gordon– We aren’t worried about it.
ltr450rider: Would a 4WD Gordini ever be considered?
Robby Gordon– Nothing is off the table. Unfortunately this years course is not ideal for a 2WD, but we will see how the rally plays out and evaluate what to bring next year. We don’t just go to sleep for a year when we get home. Originally we built the Gordini to do what it does and it has proven to be a very fast and capable platform.
randy s: Is Creed bringing in any sponsors of his own?
Sheldon Creed– Robby signed me, so they are all his sponsors.
SteveRacer: I am curious about the Toyos he is running. Can he discuss any of the changes from last year?
Robby Gordon– It is a normal 37-inch Toyo Open Country M/T that you can buy anywhere.
SteveRacer: Also, what was wrong with the master cylinder last year?
Robby Gordon– There was a machining issue from the manufacturer.
SteveRacer:Does it bother him at all to not see the Hummer competing anymore?
Robby Gordon– Yazeed still races the Hummer. He just won a race in it a couple of weeks ago.
firedog: How many Mini’s will you and Sheldon nerf at this years Dakar?
Robby Gordon– Is that a real question?
blue dog: Does Creed/street, have the capability to diagnose and repair mechanical and or electrical issues.
Sheldon Creed– I have basic mechanical skills. I am going over the car now with the crew and they are showing me all of the details.
Jonah Street– A bike isn’t as complicated as a car, but when you are on a bike you don’t have a crew with you. I already know how to turn a wrench, I’m just learning the details of the Gordini.
BoothPacific Films: Knowing each team is different, specifically how does the 2nd entry help THIS team? Could a 2nd car ever be a burden or distraction to a team? What is the decision making on how a 2nd car is brought in and what role it plays on the race course?
Robby Gordon– The second car is not a distraction, we already had so much on our plate before so this is not different.
Hendricus: Sheldon If Robby offered you a two (or more) year deal, where you had to race in Euro/Middle East Marathon Rallies several times a year, would you be interested?
Hendricus: Of course we all know you’d answer “Yes,” If the paycheck was large enough, but I’m asking from the side of,how interested are YOU, in winning the Dakar?
Sheldon Creed– Yeah it would be great to win the Dakar Rally.
Hendricus: Yes, yes, I know that you and Robby are finishing one two this year, but cheerleader talk aside, are you willing to invest yourself in a multi-year plan to actually be as good as Nasser and Peterhansel?
Sheldon Creed– I guess we will have to see as the race unfolds.
Hendricus: Would you be willing to give up the US stuff to be a Marathon Rally Champ?
Sheldon Creed– Yes, this is super fun. I don’t think that I am done with SST racing yet though.
Brian1: Besides the Gordini, if you had to choose one other vehicle from the entry list this year to race in what would it be and why?
Sheldon Creed– I would say the Mini just because of their success.
Brian1: It has been several years since you built the Freightliner support trucks. Is Freightliner still involved with your program at all? Would you build them any differently today? What kind of prep work do you do to the Freightliner trucks each year between the Dakar races. Will we ever see a Gordini-liner entered in the T4 class?
Robby Gordon– There is still a relationship. Freightliner make great products, they have been in volved with RGM for a long time. The shop where they assemble the trucks is only 20 miles from our race shop.
parnelli: -As everybody know,Tavo (Vildosola) is now a Toyo member…Is there a posibility that he can race the 2017 rally with you? I mean in another Gordini!
Robby Gordon– Having Toyo with another driver in the fold is a good thing, so it is certainly a possibility.
About Toyo Tires®
Established in 1966, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. represents the innovation, quality, performance, and excellent service that Toyo Tires has delivered worldwide for 70 years.
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