Gordon loses Dakar exclusion appeal

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IOL pic mar27 Gordon Hummer AFP Robby Gordon in his Hummer before the start of Stage 11, the strain of chasing Stephane Peterhansel clearly visible in his face.

There's an old saying amongst motorsport enthusiasts that the only people who benefit from protests - especially at international level - are the lawyers.

Well, the lawyers must have had a field day on this one, as American Hummer driver Robbie Gordon appealed his exclusion from the 2012 Dakar Rally to the highest levels of the FIA - and lost.

Gordon's Qatari team mate, 2011 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, struggled with reliability problems that culminated in three breakdowns in quick succession on the 377km Stage 10 from Iquique to Arica, at which point he was forced to throw in the towel.

Gordon, however, was chasing Stephane Peterhansel for the lead, and was in with a shout at winning the rally outright. After stage 10, however, he was excluded from the rally on a technical infringement.

WHAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT

The Dakar Hummer has an onboard tyre inflation/deflation system, operated by engine vacuum drawn from the inlet manifold.

But, according to the stewards, the positioning of the vacuum connection between the Hummer's restrictor plate and its engine meant that it would, under certain conditions, admit extra air into the engine and thus circumvent the restrictor regulations.

Why now, asked Gordon. The system had been in place for three Dakars and had passed scrutineering every time, he said. He promptly protested his exclusion (wouldn't you?) and was allowed to continue under protest.

In the end, he finished fifth, but the resultant, long drawn-out legalities meant the results remained provisional until the Gordon's appeal was finally decided - in the stewards' favour - at a hearing in Paris last week.

ROOKIE CREW MOVE INTO TOP 10

So, three months after the rally ended, Gordon's Hummer has been removed from the official results - and among the beneficiaries were two of the three surviving works Toyota Hilux bakkies.

South African Dakar star Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and his German navigator needed no help from the lawyers to cement their remarkable third-place finish, but the sister Hilux of Argentine privateers Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue moved up from sixth to fifth and the second “works” Toyota of South Africans Duncan Vos and Rob Howie moved up from 11th to join the top 10 - a remarkable achievement for a rookie crew on the Dakar.

By the way, none of the South African-built Hiluxes actually broke down - the fourth one went out when its navigator had to withdraw.

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