2012 Tecate SCORE Baja 500
Pre-running and Pit Support:
Trevor had the opportunity to pre-run the majority of the course the weekend prior to the race, so he had a good idea of the challenges ahead. On Friday afternoon, the day before the race, Trevor and Victor pre-ran the "start to Ojos Negros" section; the pre-runner did great until it was on the highway headed back to Ensenada where it broke a CV. Glad it was easy to recover, it could have been an all night event getting it home! As always, there were areas identified as potential problems for a limited class car such as ours and we made what plans we could to mitigate those problems. Huge thanks to Rick St. John and Vic Bruckman for allowing us to join them on their pre-runs! As always, Baja Pits handled all our pit/fuel logistics for us - what a great bunch of people.
Trevor and I awoke early to the sound of motorcycle racers heading off to staging, so much for being well rested for OUR race! Our chase crews (my wife, Victor Celis and George Walters in one truck and Victor's brother and a friend in the other) left early to get positioned before the traffic jams started, leaving Trevor and I alone for several hours before our start time. It's an interesting mix of excitement and near panic that we feel before a big race; it's really hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it for themselves! That coupled with the constant nagging worry that I've forgotten something vital makes for a fairly stressful wait...... Once we suit up and head out to staging the worries and fears seem to fall away and it's now "down to business". Once at staging, we always make a point to talk to the other guys in our class; they're all good guys and we're glad to be in their company. Soon enough, the line is moving forward and we strap in and await our signal to head towards the start line. It's amazing how quickly it all unfolds; for months and weeks it has seemed to be so far off in the future that we have all the time in the world but suddenly we're at the start line shaking hands with Sal Fish while he tells us to have fun and be safe!
In just a moment, the car in front of us leaves the start line and we roll down the small hill where Trevor and the Official SCORE Starter exchange a quick "hello" and handshake - they had communicated on the SAMBA forums just before the race and agreed to say hi to each other in person at the start. It's great to have a personal connection with some of the other personalities involved! In what seemed like both an eternity and the blink of an eye, the flag drops and we're racing the 2012 Baja 500!! We accelerate away from the start line towards the first turn just a few hundred feet away, trying to look good for the crowd but not wanting to blow that first corner. The engine is missing a little at full throttle for some reason, probably just fouled plugs from idling for so long waiting to start. We drop down into the wash and the engine clears up and starts singing it's normal beautiful song as we slog through the mud towards the jump. People are lining the course, getting thicker and thicker as we approach. A little more mud causes us to get sideways just before the jump; a quick correction straightens us out just in time and we're by the jump headed out of town! Out of the wash and on to the city streets headed North, the motor is running stronger than ever; we're going up hill faster than we expected. Once the pavement runs out on the North East corner of town, we're on a variety of terrain; graded roads, rough ranch roads, through a quarry, construction areas, etc.. The race is going well and the car is handling perfectly. We're rapidly catching up to a class 7 truck; that's good, except his dust trail is making it hard for us to see the path. We come around one corner and hit some ruts that threaten to cause us to roll but Trevor recovers quickly. Up and down hills, around corners and through construction zones until we get to the East edge of town and head off towards Ojos Negros - we're having fun and driving fast! We're still driving in dust that comes and goes, sometimes forcing us to slow and other times allowing us to go flat out - that truck is somewhere very close in front of us. Up a hill into a long sweeping left hand turn followed by a downhill run paralleling a tall block wall on the right side. We've run this section several times, nothing there to worry about so we're full speed headed down the hill in dust. Suddenly, not 20 feet in front of us is huge chunk of concrete on the course that has been invisible to us in the dust until that moment! Trevor throws the car to the left to try to avoid it, but we tag it hard with both right side tires. We had only .5 seconds from first seeing the object to contact, not much time to change direction at high speed. The force of the impact throws us airborne and rotates us 90 degrees to the direction of travel, all we can see is block wall out the front and we're going sideways fast! Watching the video, it looks like we're airborne for a good 50 feet or so before we come back down. When we hit the ground, the car begins rolling to the left, does two rolls (one while standing on the front bumper) and hits a concrete light pole. We came to rest right side up about 150 feet beyond the concrete "booby trap", having remained within the confines of the trail (fortunately!). Trevor quickly shuts the engine down and we exit the car as quickly as possible, concerned that fire is a distinct possibility. We quickly examine the car and note that both right side wheels and tires are completely shredded, and that the rear wheel is folded over so that we can't even get the lug nuts off to replace the wheel! That, and the crushed roof are the obvious results - maybe we can still race though? Now there are hundreds of spectators surrounding us, wanting to help, wanting pictures, souvenirs and autographs - distracting us from the business at hand. I try to call Weatherman to report our situation but am told to standby, they're working an emergency - Trevor and I are both fine, so I shift my focus to trying to contact our chase crew to let them know. Hopefully they can get to us with spares so we can press on..... While waiting for our chase crew we take a closer look at the car; there is more damage than we saw at first. The front suspension beam is bent back 45 degrees and the right side wheel is shoved back several inches making right hand turns impossible. The engine mounts have failed and the engine has been shoved up into the rear "shelf" area - sitting at an odd angle that makes it impossible for us to shift the transmission into any gear. The oil filter has punched a large hole in the intake manifold, the left rear trailing arm is twisted and the spring plate/trailing arm bolts have sheared off........ Nope, looking like the race is over for us! If we were 10 miles from the finish line, we would have done whatever it took to get there; the painful reality was that we were 440 miles from the finish line with some really challenging terrain in-between. It didn't make sense to us to continue. We're feeling bad for all the people who were there to help us, they made huge sacrifices to be there and we let them down...... Thanks Victor, Ivan and George - we owe you guys!
On the upside, we got it on video!
Huge Thanks to:
VW Paradise -
PowerBox - Rick St. John and Adam P.
Custom Aircraft Parts - Clinton and Mary Ann Anderson
U.S.Wheel Repair - Carlos Orozco