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Gordon says Dakar cancellation has cost him approximately $4.5M

1/7/2008 - NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Robby Gordon said Monday the
cancellation of the Dakar Rally cost him approximately $4.5
million, and he disagreed with the decision not to race at least a
portion of the event.

Gordon, who won stages of the race the past three years and led
the event in 2005, was in Portugal and preparing for the start when
organizers canceled it because of "direct" threats of terrorism
from al-Qaida-linked militants.

Gordon said his team had built two cars for the event and had
more than $1 million invested in each vehicle.

"I'm extremely disappointed," he said. "I can completely
understand their decision not to go to Mauritania or not want to
put competitors in an awkward or dangerous situation. That I
understand 100 percent, but for them -- with as many years as
they've been doing this rally -- not to have a backup plan. They
just had no Plan B."

About 550 competitors were scheduled to start Saturday the
16-day, 5,760-mile trek through remote and hostile dunes and scrub
from Europe to Senegal in west Africa.

Organizers of the rally cited warnings from the French
government about safety after the al-Qaida-linked Dec. 24 slaying
of a family of French tourists in Mauritania -- where eight of the
competition's 15 stages were to be held -- and "threats launched
directly against the race by terrorist organizations."

It was the first time that the 30-year-old rally, one of the
biggest competitions in automobile racing, has been called off.

Gordon said he believed the race course could have been altered,
perhaps running to Morocco or back, or staying on the course in
Portugal.

"All of the equipment was there," he said. "All of the teams
were there. Television was set up. All of the stuff was done, and
Portugal is not a dangerous area to race. It's a safe country, it's
a beautiful country, and we had the permits to run on those roads
and those trails. Some of it was military proving grounds, and we
had what we needed to do to race there.

"Why didn't we go to Morocco and run a few stages in Morocco?"

Gordon had planned to skip preseason testing at Daytona
International Speedway, and had tabbed Brendan Gaughan to test his
self-owned Ford for him. When the race was canceled, he was at the
track Monday to drive his own car in the three-day session.

He said the decision to cancel Dakar led to "severe financial
loss at Robby Gordon Motorsports."

"An entry for the Dakar is $12,000 per person, not counting the
vehicles," he said. "I think our entries were $360,000 and that's
just the entry fees. That's not shipping trucks. That's not flying
people there. That's not hotels in Lisbon. It's a big deal, and
it's got me completely messed up right now in the head.

"Obviously, I'll recover from it like I always do, but I'm just
extremely disappointed on how a sanctioning body could not be
better prepared."