2012 Dakar Rally Brutal
This year’s running of the Dakar Rally was deemed particularly brutal by its competitors. Starting on New Year’s Day in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the rally consisted of 15 stages covering some 9,000 kilometers (about 5,600 miles). According to the folks at General Tire, who sponsored Darren Skilton’s Open Production 1-class buggy, “Bottomless silt beds and mile-high dunes” took their toll on the field, as just 72 of the 171 vehicles that started the Dakar made it to the finish line in Lima, Peru, two weeks later.
The overall winner was Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel, who drove his All4 Racing Mini to his 10th Dakar win. This also marks the 10th time the Dakar winner was riding on BFGoodrich tires.
Robby Gordon and his Toyo-shod Hummer (seen here) had a strong finish, coming in Fifth overall. Along the way he won three of the rally stages outright and came in Second or Third in four more. After the race he said he could have won the rally overall had he not made the decision to replace, rather than just regrease, a wheel hub in Stage 11. “This decision ultimately cost us the rally,” he said.
Skilton wasn’t so lucky. His Revolution VI buggy was plagued by fueling issues during the rally’s first half. Once mechanic Barrie Thompson fixed the problem, the team began to gain back ground until the final stage, when the buggy’s gearbox let go. Undaunted, Skilton, navigator Skyler Gambrell, the rest of his Baja Automotive team, and even some fellow competitors pushed the buggy across the finish line, netting the team a 62nd overall finish.
“Bottomless silt beds and mile-high dunes took their toll”
Mopar Celebrates 75th
Mopar, Chrysler’s performance division, is 75 years old in 2012 and has kicked off a yearlong celebration by creating a handful of customized vehicles. Representing the Jeep brand is the Jeep Compass True North, with matte-black exterior accents, 16-inch alloy wheels, BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, and a 2-inch lift from Rocky Road Suspensions. Inside, audio components from Kicker turn the Compass into a “rolling high-end sound studio,” says Mopar. While this special Jeep won’t be offered in turnkey form, its various components are available at dealerships or through the Mopar catalog.
Mopar, by the way, comes from motor parts and was trademarked in 1937.
Looking for a new truck but have little in the bank account? Here are the 10 cheapest ’12 4x4s based on their MSRPs (excluding destination charges and any special deals or incentives).
1. Chevy Colorado Work Truck (2LT crew cab model shown), $20,980
2. Jeep Wrangler Sport, $22,045
3. GMC Canyon Work Truck, $22,195
4. GMC Sierra 1500 WT, $24,630
5. Jeep Liberty Sport, $24,975
6. Ford Ranger (remaining ’11 models), $25,060
7. Nissan Frontier SV, $25,320
8. Ram 1500 ST, $25,490
9. Chevy Silverado 1500 WT, $25,635
10. Toyota Tacoma, $26,165
This Just In
• GM is working to strongly differentiate the styling of its next-gen Chevy and GMC pickups, to give each a unique identity. Speaking to Automotive News, Ken Parkinson, General Motors executive director for design, said, “The normal person is going to see two very distinct and very different vehicles. We want to make sure that we dial the differentiation just right so that it is really, really difficult to see what is common between the two.” Front-end styling, headlights, taillights, and wheel designs will separate the corporate twins, he said. Look for the new trucks in 2013.
• The North American Truck of the Year jurists may have been impressed with the Range Rover Evoque, but Consumer Reports? Not so much. The consumer watchdog scored the SUV among the lowest in the SUV category and said its high points—acceleration, a nicely appointed cabin, and decent fuel economy—“don’t make up for its many weaknesses. The Evoque’s ride is choppy, its cabin is cramped and noisy, and its rear view is poor. A potentially bigger concern is its emergency handling. When pushed to its handling limits at our track, the tail slid out and the vehicle repeatedly lifted a wheel during our avoidance maneuver.”
• The latest fallout from Toyota’s issues with unintended acceleration: A 162-page report by the National Research Council found the NHTSA is “ill-equipped to detect problems with high-tech electronics that are increasingly commonplace in today’s new cars,” said a story in the Los Angeles Times. Finding that the agency doesn’t have the “technical expertise to properly monitor safety in electronics that are rapidly taking control of nearly every automotive system,” the report recommended the NHTSA take several steps to improve its knowledge base, including the appointment of an advisory panel to help the agency keep up with advancing technology.