Rallyraid Info Service Network
Robby: The problems we had came down to two items; one being the brake master cylinders, and the second one would be the flywheel. Both of these are items that would of passed the quality control area of any top race team. The master cylinders is not something when you get new parts, we normally don’t take them apart measure them, and make sure they are accurate from the manufacture then install them in your racecar. Normally you just take them out of the box inspect them from a visual outside, bolt them on the racecar, and go racing. This year we had some bum parts from a manufacture, I don’t know how we would of caught it, if you take those master cylinder parts and the flywheel it would be about five and half hours of the total down time of the rally, the rest we were either stuck or down on oil pressure due to a filtering situation. We learned a lot here in the rally that we have never experienced before either. There are three items that cost us most of the time in the 2015 Dakar.
The Gordini is for sure one of the fastest, if not the fastest car in the Dakar field. Based on this year’s experience, do you think that if you can solve the reliability issues you could win the race in 2016?
Robby: I appreciate the positive note there, and I feel it’s the fastest car as well, and it’s pretty cool that we can be a fairly small organization here competing against; Peugeot, Mini, and Toyota and have the fastest car of the rally. I believe we have the fastest car in the rally, and I think we have the fastest car in the rally when we went there, and we should of won the first special but I was very conservative on special one and finished second. That was an easy victory we let slip away and obviously coming to Tecayy I had a driver error where I deflated the rear tires and had to wait about five minutes to air back up. That was a driver error as well, and those are two more victories that slipped away as far as special victories. With regards to speed we never showed our speed until the last day, the reason why was I always knew If the engine blew up because of the oil pressure we would be out. Once you start that last special, I can get towed home from that time. Basically we let it run, like it likes too.
Robby: I think you hit it right there, speed I know we are there on speed, we can work a little bit on aerodynamics, and find a little bit more speed. I think we will focus on the three big items; the flywheels, the master cylinders, and the oil filter leading into the dry sump tank. That issue is a new issue this is the first time we raced at 15,000 feet of altitude and that turned it into some sort of vacuum at that type of altitude. The engine was just trying to suck any kind of air it can get into the oil tank, which was very odd.
We know the Dakar is a very expensive race, but once again you raced alone against a “horde” of Minis and Toyotas. Couldn’t be usefull to have a second car as a fast assistance or support team?
Robby: We did have a support team with Boucou, so we did have a semi support team but they would be so far behind it wouldn’t matter anyways. You look at the Mini’s and what was there nine Mini’s, and one ran trouble free. I believe there was eleven Toyotas. We either over drove Toyota’s or haul speed Toyotas and out of their Toyota’s only one ran trouble free too. Obviously running more cars gives you better odds or the car running trouble free and that’s something we need to do, but I think after last year 2013 everyone questioned the decision of the Gordini. Now with the speed we showed in 2014, hopefully we will be a viable option for multiple cars in the future.
The major teams at the Dakar spend the year running and testing at the FIA races or in their national championships. Back in the US you can’t do it, because the regulations are different. Have you ever come across the idea of entering some of the FIA races to test and develop the car towards the Dakar?
Robby: Yeah, well you can look at that side of it and say should you be racing FIA races. The reality of it what we are doing testing wise here in America we still have the fastest cars. We really do not need to go do the FIA races, we just need to have a better quality control system in place for the future. There is nothing wrong with the car design we have had zero suspension failures, had no real mechanical failures. These are manufactured part failures that slipped through our quality control department.
Robby: I believe that is one of the positive sides. They seem to like the vehicles that I build, the sound of the vehicles. If you look at should be build a diesel? Will that fan base stay with us? Motorsports has always been built on sound, style, and design. With the vehicles that we produce at RGM we are the class of the field with regards sound, style, and design. Obviously with top speed we are there too. I feel good where we are at, I think are testing program obviously you are going to say you did not win, but our testing program is good enough. We really need to focus on our quality control and preparation. I felt 2015 we were as prepared as we were ever been. If you look at the list we talk about. I am sure you have scene some of the ‘Road to Dakar’ shows we do. We have checklists, for the checklists, for the checklists, and we still had at the end of the day had about a page and 5 lines of items can approve on for the 2016 Dakar. On top of everything we are already doing from 2007-2015. We have been doing this for a long time, we have gained a lot of experience over the years and I think for a small team, with a small budget, we are more efficient than some of the top teams. If you look at the Peugoet’s they had reliability with all three cars, yeah we had reliability with one, but we beat two of the three and we had better performance in every stage than their cars.
You are one of the “most fun” drivers in the group. We see you many times doing something to please the crowds: the famous jumps, spinning the car and so on. Is this a way of “sharing some of the fun” with the public?
Robby: I think its away of sharing some of the fun with the down days. Once the race is over is when we really started having fun and entertaining. That was the fun side of it, and obviously coming off a win, but the fans they expect entertainment from us they have scene it for awhile, obviously we give it to them with our Stadium SUPER Trucks series, and they want to see it at the Dakar as well.
Do you think the European teams entering the Dakar are taking it too seriously, and forget a little bit about the show and fun that motorsport can be?
Robby: The top three teams in Dakar besides ours, defiantly take it too seriously. We have fun with the white shirts, but at the end of the day its about entertainment, its about racing, its about winning. For a small team, we are very competitive. I promise you no one will work harder from the time the 2015 Dakar finishes to the time the 2016 Dakar starts we will work as hard as the rest of them, and I hope they are prepared to work.
The Dakar is eventually the event of motorsport that gets the most attention from the public from all over the world, still it looks like in the US people don’t care so much about it, and even having some very strong teams there, most of them don’t enter this race. What do you think is needed to change this?
Robby: There is a lot of things, the initial entry cost to come and compete at a Dakar is very high. A Dakar vehicle is much more expensive than a Baja vehicle. A properly built Dakar vehicle is double of any proper built Baja 1000 vehicle, just because you have to refine the car so much from the restrictor size that we have to run, the fuel you have to run, the endurance of the rally you have to do it’s a different package than what we have to do in Baja. Not only the package, but for a team to come and race from the United States we have to assume our own shipping costs, which puts us at a disadvantage to the other top teams that get to put their race vehicles and support equipment on the ASO boat. Their entry into the rally gets them shipment to South America, unfortunately that is an additional $100,000 for a single car team like ours, if we were a double car team it would not be a double cost, but I would bet would be in the $175,000 range just in shipping to get the vehicles there, then you need to look at flights, hotel rooms, accommodations before you even have a vehicle you are looking at over $350,000 of expenses just to enter the rally. That’s very expensive, and I believe that is a large turnoff for American opportunities, but as we continue to grow awareness, and NBC Sports does a better job with their TV coverage and social media allows more fans to be involved either through PlanetRobby.com or Race-Dezert.com or whatever the sites may be that are shown in America. It will bring more opportunity for raising the funds to compete at the highest level. The Dakar Rally is the most watched televised motorsports event in the world, over the Indy 500, 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of LaMans. The most viewed race, and I believe it will be the most attended race as well, because the Argentina fans are fanatic about motorsports.
This could be a “strange” comparison, but what do you prefer as a driver based on the challenge that a race can be: Baja 1000 or the Dakar?
Robby: The Baja 1000 is one day of the Dakar. The Baja 1000 is an awesome race, I love the unlimited horsepower, non-restricted, 1000 horsepower 160 mile per hour race truck. But the Dakar Rally is an adventure, it’s the gnarliest, craziest mental adventure you can put on any team. You will see the highs and lows come from every individual on that team. I think this year 2015 Dakar team for SPEED Energy was our best prepared Dakar team we have ever had.
Robby: For me that is a no brainier, the South America Dakar is a tough challenge, but it is a no brainier in regards to marketing and business that Africa can never deliver. It just does not have the audience; it does not have the following and the capabilities. It is just a different game and I would much rather race in South America than race in Africa.
Supposed that we are potential buyers of your car, but do not forget that we are “full of 4×4” here in Europe. Can you describe us your car in few words to the point of convince us to get one?
Robby: I believe the current Spec Gordini is the closest thing to a two-wheel drive WRC vehicle you can have. I think it is very good on the gravel roads, it is very efficient in aerodynamics, it’s as narrow as a Mini, shorter than a Mini, allows to press a smaller hole through the air, and it obviously has more suspension. We have really tuned the Gordini to be a competitive car. The reason for the name Gordini is I believe it is the ultimate opportunity for an off-road super car. Something you can drive to the grocery store or you can drive it to the race track. As you have scene from the videos it makes an awesome street cruiser, with the air conditioning inside the vehicle it is as good as any vehicle in the Dakar and I believe it has the most style of any as well.
What are your plans for the 2015 racing season?
Robby: Well we stared the season at the 2015 Dakar Rally which was 13 specials, then from there we go to the Parker 425 with the Trophy Truck to Adelaide, Australia for the Stadium SUPER Trucks opening event, then back to the states for the Mint 400 in the trophy truck, then to St. Petersubrg, Fla for SST, San Diego, Long Beach Grand Prix, Phoenix, Detroit, Baja 500, X Games Austin, Toronto, Southern California Off-Road World Championships, Las Vegas, Nevada for the SST Final during SEMA and the Baja 1000. In the midst of all this we will test our Dakar Rally cars to be prepared for the 2016 Dakar.
Robby: The awareness for SST grows on a daily basis. SST is a high paced modern form of motorsport that is a very good fan entertainment side of racing. It reaches an audience from a young child to 70-year-old grandfather or grandmother. It is the gnarliest form of motorsport four wheels could ever see.
Sponsors: With regards to our sponsors I can not say enough about Toyo Tires, we have run the last three Dakar Rally’s without a flat tire. In some of the videos you will see us change a tire, actually a whip line came loose and it broke the whip line had nothing to do with regards to a tire. I can’t say enough about there products, do I think we need a little more grip on the gravel roads? Yes. Do I think they will deliver this for me? I truly believe they will build us whatever we need to be the most competitive tire because it is in there nature they want to be the best in the business. Traxxas, also can not say enough about these guys. Traxxas is the number one radio control vehicle company in the world, and a Gordini or a SST is a radio control vehicle an actual human being can drive. It’s an honor to have Traxxas on board as a partner. SPEED Energy you can never have enough energy