2014 SCORE San Felipe 250 Notes:
Mark (Chase 1):
This was our first race since winning our class at the 2012 Baja 1000; we took a little over a year off in order to rebuild the racing finances (also, I was a bit burned out from working on the car all the time). It was good to take a break but more than a year is probably a little too long..... Taking such a long break left us feeling like we were starting over again; I know that I felt more stressed out by this race than usual, it was no longer "routine". We deferred entering this race until very late in the game - there was only a single entry in the class for several weeks and we didn't feel it would be worth our effort. In the end, a few more cars entered and our desire to race overcame our reluctance to enter; we submitted our entry just two weeks before the race. Then, it became a tornado of activity arranging all the logistics needed to support a race. So many problems to solve in a short period of time, so many other people needing to arrange time and transportation to help us.
As the race approached, we eagerly anticipated the release of the course map - expecting the usual washes and dry lakes to be in the mix again. We were very surprised when we began hearing rumors of a course that transited "Mike's Sky Ranch", the "Summit" and Cohabuso Junction! That makes this race a "mini Baja 500" in terms of difficulty. Ultimately, that was in fact how the course was designed and it forced us to re-think our entire race logistics plan. Supporting this race became a major undertaking, requiring three chase vehicles at a minimum! Normally, we can support a San Felipe 250 with one or two chase vehicles; at least three would be required for this race, and even at that, we were scrambling to cover all the possibilities.......
As race weekend approached, we began to monitor the weather forecasts for Northern Baja. A week out, the possibility of rain showers in the mountains was mentioned; every following day, the forecast worsened. By the day before the race, the forecast was for a major storm with high winds and heavy rain. Awesome, that helped my stress level...... Well, we've got jackets and rain gear stowed in the car in addition to the survival supplies should they get stuck/cut-off somewhere.
On Friday morning, we loaded up the car and made the drive into town to register, pick up our fuel, drop off our spare tires with Baja Pits and go through contingency/tech. We expected to have this all done by about 2pm and were planning to have a few hours back at the house to attend to some last minute details (final inspection, mount cameras, load some rain gear and jackets in the car, etc.). That plan went out the window when we entered the contingency line up at about 10:30 am to find that it wasn't moving...... In the past, contingency/tech took not more than 3 hours from start to finish; this time it took us over 6 hours to travel the same distance...... I don't know why that was but it was essentially a waste of an entire day that we needed for final preparations. We had just enough time to drop the car back at the house before heading back into town for the mandatory driver's meeting where we were to meet with Victor and Ruben to talk about how the race was to go for us (they hadn't arrived in San Felipe until that afternoon and we hadn't seen them yet). We arrived at the driver's meeting at 7pm and listened to them thank all the local dignitaries but heard no real race related information that would have made the meeting "mandatory" for drivers; there was little mention of the impending weather, other than to say that they had people out doing "reconnaissance" and to check the website throughout the evening for possible changes - that was reassuring...... We met with Victor and Ruben, covered all the race details then headed home for the evening, expecting to see changes posted on the SCORE website in the morning.
We awoke on race morning and immediately checked the SCORE website for any notices/changes - nothing to be found (at least I didn't find anything). We loaded up the car and started the drive into town, monitoring the Weatherman channel as always. About half way to town, Weatherman made a statement about major changes to the course being made at that moment, the race was currently on hold and that the motorcycles were being held in the middle of the race to allow course workers to re-mark the course! The 4-wheel vehicle start times were pushed back 2 hours, so we had plenty of time to figure out what was going on. We learned that large portions of the original course had become impassable with the heavy rains, so SCORE had cut those sections out. Unfortunately, those sections were where ALL our fuel was being held...... Obviously, we needed to rethink our fuel strategy; not only did we not know where our fuel would end up, we also didn't know the new length of the course. We always carry spare fuel in our chase trucks, so we collected it all and sent it with one chase trucks to an impromptu pit location that we agreed upon. We believed that, if the rest of our fuel didn't show up, at least that one fuel stop would get the car to Baja Pit #6 at El Chinero and Highway 3. There, we could re-evaluate our ability to make it to the finish line. Ultimately, Baja Pits came through and moved all our fuel to Borrego and the pit at El Chinero and we had plenty of fuel to make the finish line. All this last minute re-arranging of logistics took place just minutes before Trevor was to leave the start line! Another consequence of the last minute course change was that our on-board navigation system no longer had the correct information loaded...... Trevor would be back the old-fashioned method of desert racing; follow the signs and hope nobody has moved them......
Trevor and Victor left the start line at 2pm and headed South to the "Chanate Wash"; Teryl and I got in our truck and headed North to "Morelia Junction", hoping to get there before Trevor did..... We missed getting there before him by 20 minutes; he passed through at 3:18 and we got there at 3:40 with all the spectator traffic...... It took us 2 hours to get back out to Highway 5 so we could head North to hopefully catch him as he came South through El Chinero and Baja Pit 6 headed for the finish line. We made it to pit 6 and joined up with the other chase crews just 5 minutes before Trevor came through; this is where/when I learned that they had rolled the car at Mike's Sky Ranch..... It was a shock to see how bad the roof looked but the car was running great and sounded strong. I stuck my head in the window as they re-fueled and asked if they were okay; they both said they were fine and looked good so we sent them on their way to the finish, hoping we'd get there before they did!
As soon as the car left the pit, we all jumped in our chase trucks and headed to town. The guys at the military checkpoint saw that we were chase crews for the race and basically just waved us through, no hold up there. It's about 35 miles from that point to the finish line on the highway, so we hustled towards town knowing that we didn't have any time to spare. We arrived at the finish line just moments before the first 5/1600 car came through; we knew that Trevor shouldn't be far behind! It was only a matter of a few minutes before the second 5/1600 came through and we knew that Trevor was very close to that car at the last pit stop so he should be there any moment. Sure enough, Trevor crossed the finish line just 2 minutes later - disappointed to finish in 3rd place after such a great first half of the race. Teryl and I were just happy to have them back, safe and healthy - we can repair the car to race another day.
Custom Aircraft Parts
Ruben de la Fuente
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