Chasing the 43rd SCORE Baja 1000 – Part 3March 10th, 2011 by admin
We set up our pit at Coco’s and waited to hear from the race car. At one point, through the magic of radio waves bouncing around, we heard Larry call out Race Mile 240 – the car was 60 miles out. An hour or so later, things started looking not so good for us. When Larry knew they were getting close to the pit, he started calling out the repairs needed over the radio. We had lost the rear sway bar, the u-joint retaining tab of the rear pinion yoke was broken, and we had lost something in the front differential. It still worked but it made bad noises if we left the front hubs engaged.
The crews that had gone to Ojos at the beginning were just getting to Coco’s when the car arrived. We checked the rear sway bar, discovering that the arms wouldn’t tighten up and the splines were stripped. The tab on the pinion yoke was indeed broken, but the u-joint had not moved and was still secure. Scott Hartman thought we had spider gears going out in the front differential. After considering welding the sway bar, we decided to just take it off the car. We left the rear yoke as it was. Nothing could be done about the front differential. We dumped five gallons of fuel in the car, Ralf and Scott Parker climbed in, and the car was off again.
The pit crews collected our tools and parts, loaded up, and headed out. Soon enough, we heard Scott Parker call out that the car had been stuck in a muddy wash but they were moving again. The radio in the race car seemed to be transmitting OK, but they could not hear responses from the chase crews unless it was within a few miles. We later found out that in addition to the muddy wash, the race car encountered dense fog. Ralf and Scott both wear glasses, so not only were their helmet face shields fogging up but their glasses were as well.
All four chase rigs took the pounding down the dirt road from Coco’s back out to the highway. I never thought I would be so glad to see the pot holed asphalt of Baja Hwy 1. My shoulders were aching from white knuckling the steering wheel .
The chase crews freight trained to the point where the race course came near the highway, just north of San Ignacio. We split up again at that point. Two trucks headed into BFG Pit 4 where we were scheduled for our next driver change, while the other two trucks waited for the car to splash 10 gallons of fuel and look the car over to determine if any repairs would be needed at the BFG pit.
Soon enough, the crews that had stayed back to splash fuel were at the BFG pit. LJ, our crew chief, reported that the car was in good shape. The only real complaint was that the steering was very loose and the rear end was very loose since there was no sway bar. The steering issue wasn’t so bad in the dirt, but the paved sections of the course were treacherous. Death wobble and over a half turn of slop in the steering made the car steer as if the driver was herding cats down the asphalt sections of the course. Keep in mind, the asphalt sections were on the same highway that the chase crews white knuckled when oncoming traffic appeared.
The car rolled into the BFG pit just as dawn was approaching. We were way ahead of schedule and our competition was out of the race, so we took our time and did a complete look over of the car. We strapped Jeff Lessley into the driver’s seat and Clem Grieco into the navigator’s seat and sent the car.
Check out my next post as we move past the halfway point of the Baja 1000.