UYUNI, Bolivia (January 7, 2016) – Backing up his first top-ten finish during Stage 4, Robby Gordon claimed the eighth position on Thursday as Stage 5 brought competitors into the scenic country of Bolivia for the first time.
Starting the day in the 10th position, Gordon raced out to a blistering pace catching ninth place starter Argentina’s Orlando Terranova, and eighth place starter Nani Roma right out of the gate. Gordon would buzz Terranova 15-20 times for him to move over and allow them go by, but Terranova did not obey.
Being stuck in his dust would slow down the pace for Gordon and navigator Kellon Walch as they would make sure to hit each checkpoint and speed zone. The HST Gordini would get stuck for about 3 minutes towards the end of the special allowing the leaders to get away, forcing Gordon to finish Stage 5 in a time of 3 hours, 41 minutes, 54 seconds. Just 9 minutes, 20 seconds behind France’s Sebastien Loeb.
Sheldon Creed driving the second HST Gordini started the fifth stage in the 26th position, and experienced a day to remember for the young Dakar rookie. Starting off the stage in a conservative manor Creed passed three cars right away thru a large wash section, but would experience his first flat of the rally shortly after forcing him and navigator Jonah Street to stop and change it loosing valuable time.
Problems however did not stop there, as rain would visit the competitors once again. Normally that would not be an issue, but Creed’s windshield wipers stopped working during Stage 4. Being the first portion of a marathon stage mechanics were not allowed to work on the vehicles overnight. As the windshield began to fog up and visibility became very difficult Creed and Street opted to kick a hole in the glass to free up an area to see clearly. Creed would finish go on to finish the fifth stage in a time of 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 21 seconds in the 33 position, 46 minutes and 47 seconds behind the winner.
Loeb would go on to win Stage 5 in a time of 3 hours, 32 minutes, 34 seconds, followed closely by Spain’s Carlos Sainz at 3 hours, 32 minutes, 56 seconds. Stage 4 winner Stephan Peterhansel completed the stage in 3 hours, 35 minutes, and 34 seconds to finish third. Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar finished fourth with a time of 3 hours, 35 minutes, 41 seconds, while South Africa’s Leeroy Poulter would round out the top five in 3 hours, 38 minutes, and 41 seconds.
After five stages Loeb has increased his overall lead over Peterhansel by 7 minutes, and 48 seconds, followed by Carlos Sainz whom jumped back into the third position after Stage 5 with a time of 13 minutes, and 26 seconds back. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah moves back to the fourth position trailing 14 minutes, 16 seconds, while South Africa’s Leeroy Poulter drops back to the fifth position 18 minutes, 38 seconds behind. After being assessed a 1 hour, 3 minute penalty during Stage 2, Robby Gordon currently sits in the twenty-fourth position 1 hour, 48 minutes, 52 second behind. Sheldon Creed’s holds claim to the twenty-eighth position 1 hour, 15 minutes, 51 seconds behind the leader Loeb after his minor visibility issues during Stage 5.
Friday’s sixth stage (723 km/ 449 mi) will take drivers on the longest special of the 2016 Rally, going 542 km (337 mi) deep into the Andes Mountains North of Uyuni, Bolvia, making a loop and heading back south to Uyuni for the evening. The competitors will once again hit the extreme altitudes between 3,500 m (11,483 ft) to 4,200 m (13,780 ft), which will fatigue the drivers and race machines as the pace and surfaces are ever altering throughout the stage between rock and sand. If weather becomes an issue again as it has since the start of the rally, this stage will see more competitors rally come to an end early.
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Stage 6: Uyuni – Uyuni
Special Sections: 542 km (337 mi)
Total: 723 km (449 mi)
The longest special section of the Dakar takes place on the 6 day of consecutive racing. And that is not the only difficulty of this operation, which will take place between 3,500 and 4,200 m in altitude. The pace and surfaces change constantly, alternating between sand and rock, which may be disconcerting, especially if it rains. Glimpses of the Salar d’Uyuni are one of the visual delights on the agenda. Meanwhile, the truck category, which will race separately on this 6 stage, will visit the hometown of Bolivia President Evo Morales.