2014 SCORE Baja 1000 Notes:
Mark (Chase 1):
I spent the last several months at the shop nearly every free moment getting the car repaired and prepped for this race. It's amazing how it always seems that race day is a long way off until the last month or so, then it seems to rush up in the blink of an eye.....
The weekend before the race, we delivered our spares and fuel bottles to Baja Pits in Ensenada and stopped by a favorite restaurant for lunch. While eating, our truck was broken into and my laptop computer and backpack was stolen...... Not a great start to the adventure. I admit to a moment of stupidity; I left them in plain view on the back seat - I got complacent and it bit me in the ass..... Lesson learned. Back to San Diego that afternoon and the glass shop the next day! I had to re-create all the stuff lost with my backpack, time I hadn't planned on spending just before we left for the race!
Home for just one day, then time to load up for the race - we left home Tuesday morning and picked up our newest team member, Dennis, along the way. We arrived in Ensenada about noon, picked up our "contingency" fuel from Sunoco, checked in to the hotel, got our race wristbands, went to Telcel to replace our stolen internet adapter, had dinner then tried to relax.....
Wednesday morning Trevor drove the car to the "contingency" line up for the day's festivities. We expected to be all day waiting in line, and we were not surprised that we ended up doing exactly that...... Contingency was at one time a fun event for us; an opportunity to mix with excited fans while going through the tech. inspection line - and completing the process in just a couple of hours. With the change in ownership of SCORE, it's now a painful and time consuming process imposed on us...... I guess the "big money" teams just assign a couple of their employees to deal with it but us "little guys" don't have that luxury.
Wednesday evening we attended the driver's meeting to make sure we didn't miss out on any last minute course changes. This is another event that was at one time enjoyable, but is now painful to the point of people walking out in the middle of it (and being berated by the incredibly boring speaker for doing so). Get a clue, SCORE. We are your customers, not servants.....
Following the driver's meeting, we discussed the race/chase plan and to make sure everyone was "on the same page".
We all awoke earlier than we hoped; we wanted to pack in as much sleep as possible before heading out to race! We knew that we would be at least 36 hours getting to the finish line, longer if we had problems.....
We down to the business of racing; last minute car prep., packing the chase trucks, re-confirming our chase plans with everyone, etc. Trevor and Ruben began the drive to the staging area at about 11:45 am and we began the drive to El Rosario, our first co-driver change point. Chase 3, George and Bill were waiting at Ojos Negros to cover the first 130 miles of the race for us, and Chase 2, Victor, Ivan, Bobby, Marcus and Marcos waited in the Ensenada area until the car left the start line. Once Trevor and Ruben were off the line, Chase 2 began the drive to the first contact point - RM 160 (San Vicente) to await the passage of the car.
We arrived at Baja Pits #7, El Rosario (RM 312), just before sunset and settled in to wait for the car. We were able to watch as all the trophy trucks and class 1 cars passed by, knowing that our car would be along a couple of hours later. I had a bit of a scare while off in a field taking care of nature's call after dark - a class 1 car turned 90 degrees off the course and came straight for me, missing me by just a few feet. My chase crew witnessed the whole event and thought I was toast.......
Trevor and Ruben arrived at the pit in second place (5/1600) at about 11:00 pm and we did a thorough inspection, fueled, replaced the air filter, added oil and changed the co-driver. Trevor and I talked a little about how things were going - he said he didn't want to jinx it by saying anything but the motor was stronger than ever before and was running awesome and the car was handling perfectly. The car looked perfect, we added a little bit of rear suspension pre-load to increase the ride-height and sent them on their way. Next stop: Laguna Chapala.
We raced ahead to Baja Pit # 9, Laguna Chapala (RM431), and waited for them to arrive. I was a little worried; there was lots of fog along our drive and the temperature had dropped to the low '40's (Trevor didn't have a jacket on). Again, the car arrived on schedule, in 2nd place; Trevor reported that the intercom had stopped working but otherwise everything was fine. We fueled them, sent them on their way and drove to our next contact point, Baja Pit # 10, El Crucero (RM 472). Trevor passed through El Crucero in 3rd place at sunrise but looked to be in excellent shape. We departed El Crucero for Viscaino (RM 655), our next contact point, while Chase 2 raced ahead to Baja Pit # 15, San Ignacio (RM 735) to be ready for the next co-driver change. Trevor came through Viscaino on schedule and looking strong in 3rd place still and we left to join chase 2 at San Ignacio in the wait for the car to show up again. Up to this point, the car has been perfect, except for the intercom.
Trevor arrived at San Ignacio in the late afternoon and we did another thorough inspection and co-driver change. While there, we discovered a torn CV boot so we replaced that axle assembly. We also changed one of the rear tires for one with better tread remaining. While doing that, we started hearing Victor asking Trevor to "turn the power on"...... What? The power IS on..... I look inside and see that sure enough, none of the electrical stuff is showing any signs of life! I tried turning the battery disconnect off and on several times, they've a history of failing on occasion. No luck there, check the battery - it's dead. We pulled the dead battery and replaced it with another, now things are showing signs of life, let's get them on the road! Off they go and we start the drive to RM 915, San Isidro Rd., to catch them before Loreto. About half way there, the satphone starts ringing....... What the heck is that? Oh crap, the satphone, that can't be good...... It's Trevor saying that they are at race mile 850 stuck in the mud up to the pan, the car won't start and there is no one around to help..... We are about as far away as we can be, so we can't really be of any help. We agree that Trevor will have to await the arrival of help, that we can't get to him in a timely fashion. A few minutes later, he calls again to say that they're no longer alone, there were now several more stuck cars in the vicinity. I called SCORE to tell them of the stuck cars and they began trying to get help. Knowing that help was on the way, or at least that Trevor and Ivan were not alone, we continued our drive to San Isidro Road, hoping that they would work with the other stuck crews together to get everyone un-stuck. About 30 minutes later, he called to say they were un-stuck, the engine was running and they were pressing on. Excellent news! Only a couple of hours lost! While passing through Santa Rosalia on the way to San Isidro Road, we stopped at an auto parts store and bought another battery to strap to the floor on the co-driver's side in Loreto as insurance - I wanted them to be able to start the car when they needed without getting a bump start......
We arrived at San Isidro Road and settled in to have some dinner and await the arrival of the car. Chase 2 arrived a little while later, we all had dinner and enjoyed the evening for a couple of hours then realized that I needed to press on to Loreto to prepare for their arrival. We drove ahead to Baja Pit # 19, Lorteo (RM 967), and waited for them to arrive. Trevor arrived at about Midnight with some minor structural and steering problems that we welded up. Otherwise, the car looked good so we did our final co-driver change, strapped the new battery in and sent them on the way - expecting to see them again in a few hours at RM 1086, San Carlos. They made good time to San Carlos and we met them there just before they left the pavement; everything seemed fine and the intercom was working again! We started the drive to La Paz, expecting the car to get there not long after we did, it's only 189 race miles....... We arrived in La Paz a little after sunrise and began our wait, expecting to hear them call on the radio telling us they were a "few miles out" a couple of hours after we arrived....... Around 10am, the dreaded satphone ringer was heard once again - Trevor calling to say they were broke at race mile 1185. They couldn't start the engine, one of the front torsion adjusters was broken, the power steering unit bracket was broken and they had no front suspension at all. While talking, he said, "wait, someone is coming" and hung up. He called back a few minutes later to say the car was running again and they were going to try to limp to the next Baja Pit at Punta Conejo, race mile 1200, where they would make repairs. We didn't hear from him again for a couple of hours; when he did call again, they had been to the pit but decided against making any repairs due to the short distance remaining. Unfortunately, the broken front suspension led to failure of the front cage assembly that then led to further electrical problems causing a dead short and the engine to die 10 miles after leaving the pit (RM 1210)....... Only 65 miles to go, but it looks like that might be as far as we can get..... We start heading towards him, expecting to have to tow him out off the course. Amazingly, we get another call before we get there and Trevor says they've found and fixed the electrical problems, got the engine running again, and they are going to try to get to the finish line. Trevor wanted to know how much time they had left; by then, they were down to 3 hours to go 65 miles...... Do-able but barely so with the condition of the car at that point. We turned around and headed back to La Paz to await either the car or another satphone call.... At about 3:10 pm, we started hearing Trevor trying to call us on the radio saying they were on the last highway section, just a few minutes from the finish line Awesome, we're going to get a finish after all that! A few minutes later, we hear, then see them approaching the finish line; moments later, they're receiving the checkered flag and their "finisher's medals"! Total race elapsed time: 49:00:45.837 - unfortunately, the allowable time was 49:00:00....... We missed getting an "official" finish by 45.837 seconds, but what an epic battle to the very end!
Oh yeah, as always, Trevor "solo drove" the entire race!
Custom Aircraft Parts
Ruben de la Fuente
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