Baja 1000 Redux
Team Darkcyd is happy
to announce its participation in the 2007 40th anniversary of the
Baja 1000. This special event is a top to bottom dash starting in Encenada
While this year is exciting because of the special anniversary and the fact that we have a specially built truck by the guys from the Baja Experience, it appears we already have some challenges from some competing factions. It appears the Wide Open Baja guys who run the Baja Challenge class has some bad blood and are quite influential on in the racing scene and that has resorted in us entering a class that is realistically beyond our capabilities. Because of the specifications of the truck we will enter the pinnacle trophy truck class which is the same class stars like Robbie Gordon and the Baldwin Brothers race in . If you saw the movie Dust to Glory these were the main vehicles chronicled. This class is reserved for the best most and powerful vehicles, and due to political issues it was forced upon us to enter this class.
So the team arrived
Saturday from all over the world including
Yesterday was called Contingency day and is basically a huge Mexican party with about 100 thousand people in a mix of all the entrants and the cars form a huge line that snakes through pass tech. We also had some small issues at tech which took about 7 hours to finally get through because all 450 entries had to pass through. This was also excaserbated for us because the truck had to be approved by the head tech which is a person in the rival faction whom has already requested some unnecessary modifications in order to get the official score tech approval. It is also because of him that we were required to run in tropy truck class which really is way beyond us in both horsepower and skill.
While tha truck was passing tech we took the backup race truck we had and pre ran the part of the first section which alreadt had signs changed be gets looking for carnage. While we made it through without too many problems and only a few close calls, we passed the truck to Fern and Remy who were not so lucky. While running the course the hit a peak that had about a 30 foot drop and launched the vehicle at the urging of some kids who changed the signs. Really this was a danger zone. Needless to say they got major air clipped a huge boulder on the way down and rolled the vehicle a couple times. I was at contingency when I got word and was shocked that a one of our trucks was destroyed after they pre ran it only 10 miles. This year is 1300 miles so if this is any indication of what is to come its going to be a long next couple days. Most importantly they were not hurt and they we were able to retrieve the vehicle after several hours.
I am writing this now at before the start. So if you can try to track us on the score site, and hopefully I will be able to do another writeup upon our arrival in Cabo.
Race Part 1
Well the day of the race was filled with excitement as well as also some real complications, and mix in a little fear because of out trophy truck start on top. Our class was to launch at 10:30PST AM and as we lined up ahead of much of the class as hundreds of fans swarmed the truck as we parked at our designated start in front of the pack. While the rest of the team was handling last minute details I was alone and could not leave the truck. As this occurred I was consistently asked for my autograph, which I thought was funny, but used to since the same thing happened to me in the 05 race, so I semi expected it. The difference is because this was the big dog class it seemed everybody wanted an autograph, kids, girls, even grown men. They wanted me to sign shirts, posters, take pictures with their wives,girlfriends etc. While it was kinda cool to experience stardom I am so glad I am not a star like Robby Gordon who cannot go back to a normal life after the race is over.
Finally Remy came over and I asked him to relieve me of my duties, while I could relieve myself in other ways before the race started. I had a catheter devie installed but I had different business to take care of and this was my last shot, and I had only about 10 minutes to even find a hotel in which to transact such important pre race matters. Upon my return and with about 15 minutes to go, I learned the GPS which has all the critical danger areas marked from pre running such as immovable boulders, cliffs, washes, etc was not loaded properly and we had no navigation. Frantically half the team ran around trying to get a map chip to load on the Lowrance of the race course for us and with moments to spare thanks to Eric one of the owners of the company that put this together for us, we got it reloaded properly. By that time we did that we were third in line to launch and drove up to the start ramp. Sal fish the organizer, who shakes everyones hand came up looked over the truck, then me, and with a puzzled look saying how come I dont know the name Rill since you are in the pro class and I know everybody in the pro class , I just smiled from behind my helmet since the noise was so loud, and shook his hand. And then 5-4-3-2-1 GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
When that flagged dropped everything changes and the adrenaline kicks in and you are in slow motion with literally tens of thousands of fans lining both sides screaming , waving ,and jumping up and down. We made the first left and I hit the gas more motivated by doing my best to not get caught by the McMillin brothers class one car which is starting 30 seconds behind me, thats going to smack me as hard as he can to get me out of his way as soon as possible. We approach the first big jump which is specially designed to be a crowd pleaser and I hold the gas steady and Jimmy screams to punch it. While I am already approaching this jump at about 50 MPH I accelerate to maybe 60 and as we approach I realize what a monster this jump is and we launch. While I was expecting to land in the next town 15 miles away, we probably get 10 feet in the air at the most, and land perfectly. The suspension is so good , I curse myself for not hitting it at 70MPH, and really start getting pumped. We then approach the first left which runs in a neighborhood and then a right a couple blocks down for the final straight before the real course starts. Its at this point about a mile in, I get caught by the first car and since there is enough room the McMillin team passes me without a bump. But the experience spooks me for what is about to come so I hammer the gas. I get asking for speed check as Jimmy shouts ever higher number reaching about 84MPH before the first right turn that if I overseer into will send us off the mountain and if I understeer will crash us right into it. Jimmy audibly seems a little worried but I downshift and make the turn without an issue. Now once we cleared this point, we were supposed to make a strategic pull over and wait for all the class one cars and pro trucks to pass, but were racing and I cant get myself to do it just yet, so I keep us sliding, steering, and downshifting, through the meandering turns up and down the hills which are still literally lined up on either side with thousands of Mexicans often pointing in the wrong direction of as turn to see us crash.
As I am eying a place to pull off, I am a reminded that my time has run out. SMACK!! We are hot from behind, I pull to the right and see the class one monster take me like standing still, this I realize is a message from Allah, Jesus, Budda, or whomever that if I dont find a spot quick to pull over, I might have a meeting with one off them sooner then expected. I see a spot with several Mexicans and while I try to aim for it SMACK!! Again this time perhaps even harder. I curse this guy since I was trying to get out of his way and we safely pull over without incident, or so I thought. All the Mexicans swarm the car as soon as we stop and Jimmy announces over the radio to Chase 34 that we are safely on the side of the road waiting for the big guns to get by. We expect to have to wait about 20 minutes for both the Class one guys and Protrucks to get by, and since another hard hit could send us crashing into who knows what, it makes no sense to risk it. As Jimmy and I just sit there waiting, the Mexicans are perplexed. The truck seems ok to them so they keep coming up to us trying to peer in the truck. Kids are now trying to talk to me asking for stickers which all trophy truck teams have except for us, and some are crawling under the car, around the car and possibly over the car. Its at this point since we are strapped in and I cant really see what is going on behind me and Im concerned these Mexicans are carting off our tools or something in the back of the truck so I ask Jimmy to get out and check things out, after they start bouncing on the rear of the truck testing the suspension. About 30 seconds later I hear the O-shit we have no spare or bracket. Friggin Mexcians I think- they stole our spare. He comes back to Clarify, we have no mounting bracket either and the rear quarter is damaged. This wasnt the Mexicans it was the Class one car that smacked us so hard the spare went to the big wheel house in the sky.We ask the Mexicans to see if they can find it but they laugh because with several thousand Mexicans around when this happened and the fact that 20 minutes had elapsed already, that $700 dollar race tire is probably already back in encenada on someones Ford escort. We get on the radio to call ahead to our pit crew at race mile 30 to find a way to mount a spare on the truck and know we are coming. It is at this point I check my watch and we have been here for almost 30 minutes and still the pro trucks are going by. Im getting impatient and we got a race to run, so we wait maybe 10 more minutes and after yelling at the Mexicans to clear the way, and hope there are no kids still under the truck-we go. Despite getting behind a bit- we now have some time to make up, and I want to do it. So off we are and back in the race. It takes a while during the next 25 miles for anyone to catch us and we actually pass a couple cars ourselves either broken down on the side or the road or legit passes, where they get out of our way. When we first cross highway 1 which we have to run on for a bout 5 miles to the next section, Jimmy panics because we lose GPS. This would be the third time this has happened and luckily enough it appears to be only momentarily just while we are on the highway. Based on the rules we cant go over 60 and I forgot about this living in the moment and then back off when reminded. By the time we get to race mile 30 we see a guy flaggin us down that must be our tire guy. He says nobody called him on the radio and he never heard a peep from us on the radio. Hmmmm-somethings wrong but no time to figure it out. They inspect the damage and then he tells me he has a tire to give me but cant because there is no place to mount it. I insist he figures out a way to McGyver it because Im not leaving without a spare. He then asks if I have a tow rope because he has limited tools. I do and after about 10 minutes more, they rig it up and we are off. He also removes a light from the light bar that is damaged which soon will be much needed. We start making pretty good speed and despite this I get smacked from the rear by the first BC class car which is our rivals that were instructed not even to piss on our car if it was on fire. Im pissed (no pun intended) because he had plenty of room to pass and obviously they identified our truck and did this on purpose. I wonder if it is against the SCORE rules to install a rocket launcher on the front so next time I can just take him out. My anger is soon avenged as we see him on the side of the road. This is a theme we see throughout. People fly by but are driving too fast for conditions fogeting this is a 1300 mile super rugged race considered the second toughest in the world and over enough time eventually will hit a boulder or tree, or man made obstacle that breaks the car. We instilled the Mantra that slower is faster and if we dont break the car we will place much better than the others that fly by and have to spend hours stuck in the middle of nowhere trying to fix their truck or car. The rest of the driving is pretty smooth except the occasional sabotage by the locals. They will often place a large boulder in the middle of the road which a smaller car can avoid but our trophy truck is 9 inches wider than a Hummer. Sometimes I make it over Sometimes I almost make it around. At one point we see the entire road covered by a tree trunk which must have been placed just minutes before. Since there is no where to go I just accelerate a smack it as we launch the truck and continue on. It was the same type of sabotage that caused Fern to wreck and roll the back up truck twice in the pre run due to some over excited kids who wanted to see some action at watch a $140k dollar truck get destroyed in the process
At about race mile 120 we stop at the pits, check tires and oil and do a driver swap. Im really enjoying this but Jimmy who has been a fantastic co drives calling out of the turns and danger spots with perfection deserves his shot. There is a big variety in codriver skill and effort and calling out just about every turn for 120 miles is a little tiring. I actually got tired of hearing it sometimes and said I know, but that one time your codriver calls out a turn and you dont listen is the time you get in trouble which is exactly what happened later on in our little adventure. We swap out and its already getting dark and we quickly learn that that the lights of which not all are still operational are pointed in all different directions either from the bumping or because they were not tested properly. Regardless, we soon are off just after learning about a helicopter crash that kills several people as they watch the race.
Jimmy is soon in his rhythm and we are making good time. The darkness envelopes us quickly and we get Eric on the radio who is the only person who can hear us and tell him all is good and that we have no intention of stopping at race mile 173 which is an optional tire swap, and going straight on to race mile 203 for the handoff. He says ok and as we head up these huge mountains, the terrain is all rocky and we slow to sometimes 15 miles an hour as car are now litering the highway and we know we dont want to get stuck here. Because we are climbing a mountain Jimmy laughs as I indicate he needs to be extra careful since my side is a cliff and I can see straight down, he laughs because 30 minutes prior he was complaining of the same thing when I was driving. It was in part because of his concern I clipped and scrapped the inside left side off the truck on a narrow pass on the inside of the mountain which really just had no room to spare. Im sure Jimmy was happy that I was a little further to the left of the mountinan vs the right which would have changed this adventure to paragliding.
Now its pitch black except for the occasional fires up and down the mountain marking the course. Now the rule is simple whenever there are Mexicans in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, and with a fire, its for a reason so we slow for each of these to avoid the wrath of their traps. Its at this point where I really focus on the skull and cross bones markings that are marked on the GPS indicating where we would clearly break the car at speed or us or both. I am codriving 100% via GPs and dont even look up since I cant see anything. Its about this time we reach race mile 175 and all of a sudden crash!!!!The truck comes to a stop and Jimmy asks if I saw that barbed wire fence we just ran into at 40MPH. I say no since I was focused exclusively on the GPS and since the fence was on the left of the course never called it, and compound that with the fact I havt even looked up in the last 30 minutes focusing so hard on codriving. We try to back up and are all tangled up when Jimmy yells DUCK. I drop my head and the barbed wire snaps and severs the fiberglass on both A pillers but clearly cant cut through the metal behind it. Our heads on the other hand are not quite as tough and Im just glad we both did not get decapitated. We are able to continue on and it is at this point I impress upon him we are only 25 miles from our handover and lets not fuck this up. We then pass the pit stop we didnt need to stop for which Unbeknownst to us our whole chase team is freaking out about because they see us zoom by and want to do a driver switch. They are running after us but we are gone in no time flat end literally Ed runs a quarter of a mile trying to get our attention. They think we completely forgot about them but little do they know they themselves are not at the correct handover point which is race mile 203, they cant get us on the radio, because the radio is programmed to the wrong frequency which is why we can only get in touch with Eric. They realize this and ensue the chase to catch us. The truth is we both had made a mistake because we were to stop for fuel, but since we probably had enough we decided to go on, we never even saw them flagging us down.
When we get to Race mile 203 we have trouble finding the pits and then Eric who is the only person we can get on the radio says to stay put and the gang is on the way. We think we have passed the pits but nobody shows up so after 10 minutes continue on and see the Baja pits on the right and pull in. To our amazement none of our team is there and we dont know why. The crew starts working on the truck, try and fix the lights, aid oil, and general maintenance. But after 30 minutes we still have none of our chase crew and no word on there whereabouts and never saw them at the previous pit stop because we were so focused on racing. Its a troubling situation as I try to raise anyone on the Sat phone with no luck. Only 1100 miles to go.
The Handoff-part 2
The Hand Off-Part 2
It is at this point my perspective changes entirely and I go
from Race Driver to Chase crew which has a myriad of adventures all by itself.
Being part of the chase crew is actually quite a lot of fun except for the part
about no sleep, constant waiting, and worrying. After about 24 hours with no
sleep, even the silliest things seem funny, and the slightest things can amuse
you. But before I can even start with our chase adventures I have a car to hand
off and nobody to hand it off too. Our hand off was in
Now I have to digress a bit about Fern. In high school he was
one of my best friends and since he is Brazillian not the best about returning
calls, keeping time, or other commitments etc. considering he is a banker I am
surprised he can even perform his job. Because this is a real Race only for people
with some type of racing experience, when he told me he wanted to do it I said
sure- thinking he would never follow through. I didnt even think about it a
bit bit till Rob Ward the organizer said he got Ferns payment for his share and
that is when I got worried. With no experience not only was he unlikely to
complete this thing, he could easily get hurt, which he already almost did the
day before pre running. So thats when I knew I had to get a driver with
experience to handle things in a hairy situation which was bound to happen.
That man had to be Kalbas my friend from Gumball from Paris who did the 05 Baja
with me and has done the Paris Dakar which is the toughest rally in the world..
With barely any notice I got him to commit to helping out and with Kalbas
starting this leg I knew Fern was in good hands. So after the handoff we went
to grab some dinner since we knew we would not see these guys for at minimum
7-8 hours which is how long it took Jimmy and I to complete our leg at cautious but decent pace averaging 35 miles
an hour. No before you read that average and start laughing you need to
understand that that fastest guys complete the whole race with an average in
the 50s, so 35 is not slow but not smoking either. Its reasonable for the
conditions which change very quickly and there is few areas where you can
safely go more than 60-70 MPH for more than a minute. So we stopped at a famous
racer restaurant called Mammas in the city of
After dinner we realize we still have several hundred miles
to make it to Bahia de
Its at this point Fern is looking green and feeling faint.
Its quite an ordeal not being used to this, and
So we then ate breakfast the local hotel on the water which is the opposite coast of where we handed them the car, and had some great fish tacos, while we watched one of the helicopters take off south to chase the pack.
By the time we reached San Ignacio the next checkpoint some 6 hours later we learned the truck beat us by 10 minutes and were almost to the next handoff. This was at race mile 800 and we knew Brooke and Ed must have been flying. We learned later they averaged in the high 40s on their section which was known as a relatively fast section but regardless an amazing average. We would only learn this later because we would not see them for another 24 hours although we did not know that at the time.
The plan was to take a shower at the hotel in San Ignacio and head to Loreto to pick up Rubin Sanchez whom I have not mentioned till this point. He apparently is a successful real estate marketer whom was invited by Rob Wards to help us finish the race and because he was a good client. He was to do the last 100 miles and that would be easy to do. He was to get the Truck from 2 guys that Brooke was going to pass the car to named Doug Anderson and John Murphy. These were also two drivers with experience invited by our organizers to help out with the race. I only saw them once at the drivers meeting and felt bad when some miscommunication probably appeared to be a blow off when they asked for a ride back to the hotel and I said no because we were going to dinner first. I certainly wanted them to join us for dinner but we couldnt find them and Im sure from their perspective we blew them off, and did not even see them at the start because they were flying that night to their handoff point, a terrible misunderstanding.
Well back to Ruben. We had dinner with him the night of the start and while he seemed to be an affable fellow, he was clearly an alpha male and had quite a bit of machismo. This was evidenced at contingency where I was told he really enjoyed signing the autographs even though since he was not the driver of record, nobody would connect the car with the name. He could sign fu man chu for all I cared but it was emblematic to me after I saw him sign a womens breast that he clearly was enjoying the hero role and this worried me because the last thing we wanted to do was hand him all our hard work to only have him crash being a hot shoe at the end. So at dinner while we are chatting pre race he tells me just get him the car and Hell bring it home. It tried to put the comment out of my mind but it was difficult. How could I judge somebody so quickly without any information. Rob Ward told me not to worry because he was putting Ed in the car with him and if he got out of hand Ed would just kill the ignition, so I tried to put it behind me since it was not in my control.
By the time Brooke Handed the Car off to Doug and John we
were doing so well that we thought we would have trouble making it to the
finish line to greet them, which could be as early as 1AM. It was now about but we need to get to Loretto by 7
which was several hundred miles away. It was at this time Fern communicated to
We had just ordered dinner and Fern sits down and informs us
that he just spoke to his doctor who was a high school friend of ours Pete
Norton, and informed that he needs to go to a hospital immediately because Pete
thinks he has a bleeding ulcer from the previous days crash and the stress his
body is not used to. So while I wrap up the bill while he is phoning for a
doctor , we Race for a pharmacy while trying to coordinate medivacing him out
of there. We quickly learn that the local hospital does
not have a lab to do a simple CBC test for blood count and the doctor says
dont even bother stopping by because he cant help him. Now Fern who is about
the fifth person I know to have the renowned
Black American Express Centurion card is arguing with the lady who basically
says she cant help us unless a local doctor says that they cant help him. We
both try to explain there is no hospital here and his personal physician is
insisting on this and we are glad to put them on the phone with him. But
because he is not in
By the time we get back to the hotel, to pick up everyone else, and Fern Takes his Proton Pump Inhibitor which ironically Tara had on her person which was better medicine then we could locate at the pharmacy and exactly what Dr Norton had wanted to him to take., and with that we were off to Cabo.
The only problem now is Cabo was at least a 6 hours from Loretto
and I was the only one who was in a condition to drive and I had been up minus
some 3 hours sleep for almost 40 hours. So while everyone was asleep, including
Kalbas who literally dug a whole for himself in the luggage in the back of the
suburban and was burriend like a hermit crab, I started the almost 400 mile
treck to Cabo. Now these roads are windy and dark and full of roaming cows etc.
We had already almost hit a cow racing to Loretto that just sat there in the
road like she owned the place. So with everyone asleep the windy roads with a
cliff on one side was a tough challenge by myself. I got to mile 150 when Jimmy
woke up and said he thought I was done. I agreed and let him take over. I fell
asleep and woke up to some very aggressive swinging of the car and popped my
head up , and instead of seeing Jimmy , I saw
After trying for an hour I finally got Dave Snotti part of the support crew on the Sat phone who informed me Doug and John had problems with the ECU which they spent a couple hours to swap out and they were on the way to make the handoff to Ruben who had been waiting almost 6 hours. They also apparently got stuck in the infamous Santa Rita Silt beds for almost 4 hours but persevered and would have the Truck to Rubin by about 9AM. So it was at that point we all headed to the hotel where we were informed our sister protruck which had already finished the race had checked in all the rooms and they had no keys to give us. So I did the only thing I could which was to wake Kerry Johnson the pro truck drivers wife and ask for some keys. She was startled we had made it so quickly and informed us she gave some rooms away and only had two for the 5 of us. I was happy to get anything and said well take them. After spending 30 minutes just trying to just find the room which was on the fourth floor with no elevator we dropped the bags off and ironically instead of going to sleep, the restaurant had just opened at 6am and we went to breakfast. With the confusion trying to get Orange Juice and getting pineapple juice even though I speak enough Spanish to say Juego de Naranja, I guess there orange juice is yellow whereas as the rest of the world is truly Orange. No matter we scarfed up some waffles and were off to bed. At about 12 I woke up in a panic when I though we might miss our truck and was able to get Eric on the phone to say that Rubin got in the car and although was having some issues , was on the way to do the last 100 miles despite some problems. Apparently the truck caught fire twice primarily because of excess oil getting on the plug wire which burnt them so the car would not run on four cylinders. Apparently between Eds Mcgyver abilities and a farmers generosity they were able to splice new one from the farmers truck and get the truck running again. Then they got stuck in silt Beds, which you could have avoided had you paid the another farmer some dinero that would let you in his gate sparing hours of time and aggravation but Eric assured my the car was less then two hours away. With that being the case we deicided to go to Ruth Chris steak house and order everything on the menu basically since we were still famished from the previous days of no sleep and little food.
It was in this great place with fantastic stuffed mushrooms, huge Filet Minions ,and some of the best salmon I have ever tasted Fern, Jimmy, Kalbas, Tara and I got the call from Brooke we were not expecting. Rubin had crashed the truck 90 miles from the finish and it was destroyed. I was so shocked to hear the news after all the warnings, I didnt even ask if he was alright. I alluded to earlier that one needs to listen to his codriver. They are studying the GPS with all the markings. Even when it seems obvious caution is in order when your codriver tells you something that does not make sense to you. Apparently although the initial speed differs greatly from the final version I was told, Rubin was running about 60MPh on what appeared to be a straight shot when Ed who was there to protect the teams interests but he himself and been through the most trouble and with codriving 2 legs, shouted that he had a sharp 90 degree right. Rubin did not listen because it appeared to go straight, and Ed started shouting Right Right RIGHT! Until it was too late. By the time Rubin realized Ed was telling him this for a reason, he could not make the turn and crashed destroying the rear end, sending a control rod through the aluminum transmission case breaking that into 20 pieces, and that was that. All of that hard work over a 48 hour period shattered in an instant.
We didnt even see any of those guys till about 8pm and we didnt see Sanchez at dinner except for a brief interlude where he stopped by more to explain his side vs actually apologize. While he technically did apologize it seemed hollow, and more of his was upset that there was a design flaw in the truck causing the bolt on the control arm to break too easily and subsequently go through the transmission.
So it was another lesson to chalk up to experience. In the 05 race we learned the smallest item a 15 cent jack pin could ruin the race for us causing a time out. This year was a different lesson. Although he payed the price and will have to write a pretty large check to fix a destroyed $140k dollar race truck. If you are going to allow a crazy Mexican to Race in your on your team make sure he will listen to his codriver before you hand him the keys so to speak! Because if you dont you will might be a victim of the curse of the Dirty Sanchez!
To sum it up it was another great experience I will not
forget. I need to thank
Pictures are now uploaded and can be viewed at there are several hundred so I hope you have some time.
for more info about Team Darkcyds 2007 Baja Race or any of the other Rallys we have done please visit www.darkcydracing.com