The Dakar Rally is a long, grueling race covering two weeks’ time and thousands of kilometers. In each of those kilometers, there are opportunities and risks and the potential for your entire race to come to an end. For Fastball Racing, that end came on Stage 6. Just four kilometers into the day’s 478-kilometer Special Stage, Bobby Patton caught a rut in the sand while making a wide sweeping left-hand turn. Momentum sent the truck into a barrel roll that did not end until the truck had been upside down three times, completely destroying it in the process.
ASO officials and professional medical staff were on hand nearly immediately to attend to Bobby Patton and Robbie Pierce, the latter of whom had to be cut out of the mangled remains of the truck’s roll cage. “They asked if I really owned a baseball team… I told them I sponsored a little league team once.” Robbie Pierce recalled about the rescue staff, joking about Patton’s ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “On a serious note though, I am really impressed by how well organized this rally is run.” Both Patton and Pierce suffered bruising and mild concussions, but no broken bones or more serious injuries. Unfortunately, it ended the team’s entry in the 2020 Dakar Rally.
Up until the point that disaster struck, things were going exceptionally well for Fastball Racing. They finished Stage 5 in the 38th position for the day, their best finish of the rally and evidence that Patton and Pierce were quickly learning the intricacies of rally raid. “The dunes were unlike anything I have ever seen before,” Patton explained. “We went 85 miles through huge dunes, and just when you think you are in the clear you are on the edge of a 200 foot drop straight down!” Stage 5 consisted of a 210-kilometer liaison and a 353-kilometer Special Stage, starting in Al-`Ula and finishing in Ha'il. “The most difficult part about navigating on Stage Five was the traffic as we entered Ha’il!” Patton quipped.
The Fastball Racing team has officially withdrew from the Dakar Rally and will now return to the United States. Jimco Racing has a long history of success in the Dakar Rally from Jean Louis Schlesser to Martillo Racing. While 4WD vehicles were dominant on the rally roads of South America, the endless dunes of Saudi’s Empty Quarter favor the lightweight and long travel allowed by ASO in 2WD vehicles. “I am going to miss the sense of accomplishment you feel when you finish a stage and come into the bivouac,” Bobby Patton confessed. “And Saudi Arabia and all of its citizens have been such outstanding hosts.”
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