As there’s not much going on with the Beach Boy Bubbas, I’ve been trying to keep up with Team Hummer’s and Robby Gordon’s efforts. They didn’t seem to have any problems going through scrutineering, the Dakar Rally equivalent to NA$CAR’s tech inspection but much more involved as it includes safety equipment not found on Cup cars, lots of paperwork which must be carried, and a navigation system which is furnished by the sanctioning body, ASO. ASO’s scrutinizing is nothing like Frank Zappa’s Central Scrutinizer from the Joe’s Garage albums. Robby is well-known on the Dakar Rally circuit, around the globe, and had fans screaming out his name when he drove his Hummer out of the scrutineering area.
Eliseo Salazar is driving a second Hummer, the Speed Energy/Cristal CERO Hummer. As a native of Chile, he’ll have a big fan following on that part of the course and have the “home field” advantage over his competitors when they get to Chile.
This year, Team Hummer has 6 support vehicles: 2 6X6 Freightliners, 1 H1, 1 Chevy crew cab 4X4, 2 motorcycles. The plan is to have one Freightliner leading to the next bivouac and the other as the caboose with the two 4X4's in the middle. Each of the 6X6's will also have a motorcycle for quick response, something that would have been good to have last year. Last year, Team Hummer had what was basically a mobile motel. This year, the mobile motel was left home. Everybody gets to rough it in a tent, including Robby, Eliseo, and the other drivers and “co-pilots”.
The bike rider who won the Baja 1000 in 2010, Quinn Cody, will also be carrying the Speed Energy Drink sponsorship and colors on his #15 bike.
Unlike the same old, same old opening ceremonies we see week after week during the NA$CAR races, the Dakar Rally ceremonies seem to be a little more flexible and fluid to the moment. Some folks may have heard the term “jumping the shark”. Well, after the fans started screaming they wanted Robby to jump the podium in his Hummer during the opening ceremonies, ASO officials had a quick confab and gave Robby the “thumbs up” to go ahead and do it. Imagine how many weeks it would take NA$CAR to discuss whether or not a driver could jump the podium. You’ve got to give it to the ASO folks for giving the fans what they want, unlike NA$CAR.
It seems Stage 1 had it’s own set of unique problems that plagued everyone. Lots and lots of mud. Besides a communication problem between Robby and his navigator due to a failed microphone, they ran out of windshield washer fluid causing them to lose time, about 11 minutes, and go off road at one point. Robby’s teammate Eliseo Salazar finished Day 1 in 28th place, 34 minutes, 25 seconds behind first place.
Day 2 is a mixed bag with narrow mountain roads and some rough terrain. As the Hummers don’t run a turbo-charged engine, they’ll probably lose some ground til they get to the rough terrain.
You can follow the Dakar Rally and the progress of Team Hummer at http://www.dakar.com/ or catch the daily half hour recap on Versus at 3:30 PM and at either 7:00 PM or 7:30 PM, depending on the night, so check your schedule.