Robby Gordon wins first stage of Dakar Rally

DAKAR RALLY WIN

Robby Gordon wins first stage of Dakar Rally
Posted: Friday December 31, 2004 6:01PM; Updated: Friday December 31, 2004 6:01PM





BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- NASCAR driver Robby Gordon won the opening leg of the Dakar Rally on Friday, the first American to capture a stage in the car division of the world's most grueling road race.

Gordon, driving a Volkswagen in his first Dakar Rally, covered a 4-mile sprint along a beach outside Barcelona in 4 minutes, 20 seconds. He was two seconds ahead of Hiroshi Masuoka of Japan, and Giniel De Villiers of South Africa was third, another second behind. Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel of France was ninth.

Gordon often competes in various racing events outside NASCAR, from the Indianapolis 500 to the annual Baja 1,000 off-road race in Mexico. He was fired from Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season and will field his own car next year.

The 5,553-mile road race begins in earnest Saturday with a 570-mile leg from Barcelona to Granada. It ends Jan. 16 in Dakar, Senegal, completing a course that also runs through Morocco, Mauritania and Mali. A record total of 696 vehicles -- cars, motorbikes and trucks -- took part Friday and 39 nations were represented.

David Fretigne of France won the motorbike stage in 4:11 and Hans Bekx of the Netherlands took the truck category in 5:20.

Three-time motorcycle winner Richard Sainct, last year's runner-up, died after an accident during a rally in Egypt in September. The No. 1 jersey for this race will not be issued in the Frenchman's honor.

Two stages of the 2004 race were canceled when a plot by Islamic extremists to attack was uncovered. In December, authorities in Mauritania said they had arrested a man suspected of posing a threat during this rally.

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