Gordon, the sole Hummer entrant remaining, was sitting in third overall at the start of Stage 11, from Arica, Chile to Arequipa, Peru. Despite being almost 20 minutes in arrears of Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) in the overall standings before the start of the stage, victory was still possible for the American, but now seems unlikely, after Gordon lost more than an hour with mechanical problems - the classic "one dollar part" failure - on his Hummer H3.
"We lost a CV joint boot and when we finished the first special we tried to change it," Gordon explained. "It took us too long to change and we missed the transfer section. At the end it was very bad and the silt is all inside the clutch, so we've lost the clutch and a wheel fell off… We've just had a bad day - we had a horrible day. But we'll just keep fighting until the end. We won't give up."
The absence of Gordon from the front of the field paved the way for a Mini 1-2-3 finish on Stage 11, with Peterhansel leading the way from Roma and Leal Dos Santos, who's finally showing some good pace and consistency on the Dakar. It was something of a banner stage for the Minis, filling five of the top six places on the stage. Peterhansel finished the stage 3'44" ahead of Roma. In the general standings, "Peter" now boasts a lead of 22'49" over his Spanish team mate.
"We didn't drive at a really fast pace, but we didn't have any technical or navigation problems," Paterhansel admitted afterward. "So it was a good special, but not very pleasant to drive because of the fesh-fesh. There wasn't much visibility, even opening the road, because the wind blew the dust up making it difficult to see."
Benefitting from Gordon's problems, South African Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) has climbed on to the third step of the provisional podium, admittedly 1 hour 11 minutes behind the leader, but still has a good chance of keeping this position until Lima. Along with the Minis, the Toyota Hilux-based prototypes performed well on the rough rocks, fine "fesh fesh" sand and dirt sections that made up the bulk of Stage 11.
With three stages remaining, Peterhansel leads the overall standings from Roma and de Villiers. Gordon is fourth overall, but more than two hours behind the leading Mini. Novitskiy (Mini) completes the top five, followed by Alvarez (Toyota), Sousa (Great Wall), Ten Brinke (Mitsubishi), Leal Dos Santos (Mini) and Vos (Toyota). After his power steering problems on the preceeding stage, Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini) was back in action but has dropped to eleventh overall. With the Polish driver more than an hour in arrears of Vos, any chance of all the X-Raid prepared All4 Racing Minis finishing inside the top ten now seems unlikely.
Geoff Olholm finished Stage 11 in 46th, taking more than twice as long as the leading Minis to complete the stage. Punctures and a clutch problem limited Olholm on Stage 10, with further mechanical woes making Stage 11 even tougher for the Aussie behind the wheel of the Rabe X1 Desert Warrior. The Aussie sits in 45th overall.
For full results and further details, go to www.dakar.com