Chasing the 43rd SCORE Baja 1000 – Part 2

March 4th, 2011 by admin

After a good night’s sleep, it was finally race day. The culmination of all our hard work and prep was finally upon us. All that remained was the racing and chasing.

Our team owner, Scott Hartman, was driving the first leg with Larry McRae of Poison Spyder navigating. We strapped them into the car, fastened the window nets, and we were off.

The crew wouldn’t see the car for three hundred miles. We knew we had help if we needed it from Laird Nelson’s crew at BFG Pit 1, our first scheduled stop. We had made last minute arrangements with some friends of Scott Parker that were going to be near San Felipe if we needed help further south.

We sent two chase trucks east to Ojos Negros. They would monitor the car for the first 50 miles or so until it was out of radio range. Then, they would double back and head south. The truck with me, Bob and Machelle Green, second leg driver Ralf Kuller, his brother Josef, and the Hartman’s truck with Scott Parker, the second leg navigator, and Tandi and Robby Hartman all headed south to Coco’s Corner where we would make our first driver change.

We knew we had a seven hour drive ahead of us. Along the way we heard on the radio that Mike Shaffer’s Pirate 4×4 entry had blown a transmission and was out of the race. The news was unfortunate for Shaffer’s crew, but it’s part of the Baja test. We had also heard that the Coan Racing entry was approximately five miles ahead of us early on.

Rolled Over Big RigHwy 1 down the Baja Peninsula can be a treacherous road. It is the only paved road down the peninsula – very narrow and desolate. Tractor trailers generally have 3-6 inches of lane left on their sides. There is no shoulder and usually a six-inch or better drop off from the edge of the road to the dirt. In addition, the Mexican plant concrete pylons on the edge of the road are maybe 6-12 inches off the road surface, so running off the road to escape oncoming traffic in your lane is not an option either. I swear the roads get six inches narrower as soon as the sun goes down. We saw evidence that catastrophe could be around the next corner soon enough. A recovered tractor trailer that had rolled was parked along the highway. Not long after that we saw a big rig upside down in a wash. The driver had missed a turn, crossed over the road, and ended up in the wash. We would see two more rolled big rigs before our adventure was complete. Needless to say, oncoming trucks were somewhat nerve wracking. I had two hands on the wheel with white knuckles and was prepared to take any evasive action that might be possible.

Finally, we got to the turn off for Coco’s Corner. We knew Coco’s Corner was roughly 20 miles down a dirt road. What we didn’t know was that the road was all cross grain. It’s essentially a 20-mile-long speed bump. Our trucks were loaded heavy; Hartman’s truck was pulling the car hauler trailer. There was no way we could go fast down the road. After an hour and fifteen minutes of pounding, we were finally there.

We got some good news almost immediately. The Coan Racing entry was broken at Race Mile 185. It seems they had lost their oil pump. With Shaffer’s car also out, we were the only remaining Jeepspeed car in the race. The bad news was that we still had 761 miles to go.

Check out my next post as I continue my journey on the Baja 1000.

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