To Friends and Family,
Team Darkcyd is excited to announce its participation is the Baja 1000. Well at least one third of the team since Tara and Lexie will be holding down the fort this time. I was invited by my rally instructor Raf (who is an ex professional rally driver) early this year and I eagerly accepted. I then put together a team from our other rally adventures and will consist of a cool guy named Kalbas that I met when his Enzo Ferrarii blew a tire in the middle of Morroco on the Gumball 3000 and has raced in the Paris to Dakar rally, and Peter Kolb my crazy German friend that I met on the Players Run, that looks like a rock star from a 80's metal band and talks like Arnold Scwartzeneggar, and last but not least Jason Kable who was a co driver to another friend I met on the Players Run when Tara drove his teams Ferrari Stradale on a leg of the Players Run, and he co-piloted a leg with me in the Lotus.
For those that are not familiar here is how the Race organizer described it to racers before the start. a couple years ago.
You're about to experience a most incredible adventure. You must expect at all times to encounter oncoming traffic. You must be alert that there are many cows, calves, bulls, horses, and goats roaming freely on and around the course. All competitors are reminded that off-road racing is an inherently dangerous activity that can result in serious injury or even death. Due to weather, animals, and people, [we] do not guarantee that all [course] markings will still be up on race day. Be advised that spectators on or near the racecourse may engage in malicious activities by building ramps, digging ditches, and/or placing objects onto the course. Once the race starts, it's outta my hands--you're on your own, or, in other words, the lunatics will, indeed, be running the asylum. Good luck and have fun!"
There is also a great article about a writer from Motor Trend that was on it and describes his experience very well. That article can be seen here.
I am flying out on Sunday to San Diego to meet up with the team, and we are then driving to Encinatas to met with Raf our Team leader, and do three days of Pre running. Thursday will by contingency day, which is tech inspection and set up, and Friday morning early we start the Race. It is the longest off road race in the world non stop. It is expected that most competitors will take up to 30 hours to complete it over the rugged Baja Terrain, and just finishing is considered a victory.
We are racing in a half class Buggy ( A picture attached), and our racer number is #1402. you can track our status to a degree through these links
The BFG/RLH Communications web-site has 2 links for the race status.
(1) BFG pit-to-pit status .... have we gotten there!?http://www.rlhcomm.com/05BJ1koverall.htm
(2) final race results, by class; <<http://www.rlhcomm.com/05bj1k_class.htm>>
Click on these links to get you there. Look for our car number which is #1402 and you can also track things through the main Baja 1000 site
The race will which expects to have about 300k spectators watching 350 crazy teams race across the desert will also be televised but will not be live.
Because there is not Internet access in the middle of the desert, I will not be able to directly post daily updates keeping you abreast of the action, but I got two satellite phones, and plan on calling Tara to update her, and she will post the status of things as they unfold. I am getting quite excited and look forward to keeping everyone updated.
Baja Pre Race Part1
This is one of the few times I will be able to do an update so I thought I would take advantage of the chance. Please excuse the grammar and spelling as I have no time to really go over this carefully. As you all know it took a bit to finally get to Ensinatas due to several small factors. Peter and I arrived to San Diego about 12:00 on Sunday. Kalbas was to arrive from Paris at 10:00PM so we just had time to kill. We took a shuttle close to the border where I had arranged for the only company that would rent us an Excusion and allow us to take it to Mexico. Apparently everyone else thought this was not a good idea for their rental vehicle. The flip side is the company knew I had no other alternatives and charged me almost 2k for a car when we got there had over 100k miles, with half of the electronics not working. No time to argue and Peter laughs at the lady when she says make sure you bring it back, because he comments we will but they not going to want it after we get done with it; so we took the vehicle, and while it is not a total piece of garbage, it's very much an abused vehicle that has seen better days but the best we can get. I also think it was the owners personal car at some point since it has custom liscence plates that say cabaja 1 and has tinted windows. Anyway, we meet Jason at PF Changs for lunch and then go to Target and buy sleeping bags. I had no idea you could get a sleeping bag for 50 bucks that is actually very comfortable and rated for 30 degree weather. So all is going well and eventually we head back to the airport to pick up Kalbas and the arrival sign says his plane has landed but nobody shows up at all. We then told because of the fog the sign is wrong and we are told to wait an hour for it to clear. This passes and no word from Delta and no Kalbas. Its now 12:00AM and we are expected by the crew in Mexico in one hour and there is no phone to reach them directly since they at a beach RV park with no phone, but I try and get a message hand delivered by reception to let them know. I then get a text from Kalbas that the plane was diverted to Ontario, and they not even circling San Diego like we were told. I later learn Ontario is a place in California not Canada, which makes more sense. So much for communication from the airline directly and thank god for international text messaging. So we tell him we will grab a hotel and when he knows something to let us know. We then go to Hampton Inn near the airport and they want$250 bucks a night. Crazy! We say no way since we need it for like 6 hours, and end up at a place called Marina Inn which is $99 a night, and we later learn why. It's pretty trashed and actually has a little back room with bunk beds off the main room with a deadbolt. It guess its for drug addicts who want to lock their children up while they go on a binge. I don't know! So we all try to get some sleep, and then we also learn why its so cheap. Its next to some railroad tracks and a train comes about every hour and blares its horn at the crossing. Jason later hears gunshots and at best we get 4-5 hours sleep. At about 5 in the morning I try and text Kalbas who was stuck at the airport in Ontario all night, saying they will arrive in Sandiego at 8:15. I respond "great", and that we will see him there. We then check out of the crack motel after we all try to shower in a place that literally has no water coming out of the shower head, just a drizzle. The plane dosn't show and finally by 10:Kalbas finally arrives. We are ecstatic to finally see him and just glad to finally be able to head to Mexico. I call ahead hoping Raf our team leader will get the message from the Reception desk of the park that promises me they will hand deliver a message, but I wonder if Raf has any idea why we never showed up.
So we pack the car and quickly head off. Prior to reaching the border we learn Jason the only other American on our team has no passport or birth certificate. I flip out saying no way he can get in with nothing and that we are screwed. We head for the border and not only is it not an issue they don't even stop the car. Its just crazy. He may have problem getting back in but that's another issue. We initially make a wrong turn after the border and end up in Tiajuana.We then get things going with some direction from the local policia, and confirmation from the portable navigation we set up that I brought. We get to Encinata after about an hour and we get to the Resort park and RV center and it is surprisingly nice. Raf our team leader immediately sees us (4 gringos in a 40k excursion) and drives up on a dirt bike, and shows us the way to the camp. We see the race car right in front that was just completed for us for this event which is shiny and blue. We then meet the crew which includes Neil, Mike, and Tom. Neil and Tom have prepped all the previous cars for Raf and Mike is also a Rally instructor at the same school I met Raf in January. They are all very nice and the camp is well set up, with a Tent that is our kitchen with a Grill, chairs around a fire pit,several tents for the crew to sleep, and a race trailer for us which has a full refrigerator, and four cots. Peter was adament that he was not going to sleep in a race trailer on a cot if he could easily grab a hotel room in town. I convinced him to at least try one night since they worked very hard to set things up for us, and if it was terrible , we go to plan B, since we were supposed to have an RV at least. We then got changed to start testing the buggy on a enclosed 1 mile dirt track which has all kinds of jumps and things for us to get an idea about the real 709 mile course. Raf takes Peter for a test ride to show the track and then we all take turns getting used to the buggy jumping sliding etc. I say I want to go last because I want the others to get some seat time. When its my turn I do couple laps and after trying to pick up the pace only I slide around a turn, and wheel comes completely off. We obviously stop, and realize I snapped the axle tip completely off. I know Raf must be pissed after all the preperation but he acts very cool about it. As we look for the broken piece and retrieve the wheel, I learn we have no other axle tip since it is off a 930 Porche and its not a common part we can just get in Mexico. wonder why? So not only do a feel bad their is a concern briefly we may not even be able to race. All this work for nothing. By luck, a sister race team we bought the car from, had a spare which they would need but they give to us on the condition we order another one and it can get delivered for the race. We get the company on the phone order the part in California, and we end up being in good shape.
Then since it is too dark to work on the car we all decide to take a break , and go into town, Tom decides to go with us and as we drive along they decide they want to stop at a strip club we passed. Now personally the last place I want to go is a dirty strip bar in Mexico since I don't drink and I'm not interested in the local entertainment, Anyways, I don't want to be a party pooper and we go in. To make things worse, its only 7PM and we are the only ones in the place. I hate the feeling, but they are aggressive about keeping us there as they want our dollars, so the guys order some drinks and I get a water. After Tom gets some private entertainment while Peter and I talk about business, we convince them fun is over and to go back home. When we leave and almost get home, we learn from Jason that the car was broken into with a screw driver and they stole a camera, all our CDs and Jason's bag of personal effects which he thinks carries his wallet. He flips out and we go back where Peter basically threatens the manager and I talk to the security guard looking for information. The lucky thing is the thieves were so quick, they don't realize my laptop is in the back and the navigation is untouched along with two other cameras. So while Peter and Jason our furious I consider ourselves lucky with a cheap lesson in being stupid. So we go back home and try out the first night in sleeping bags on the cots. Honesty it is so dark in the trailer and the weather is cool the sleeping bags are very comfortable,and its the best night sleep I have had in months. I walk up at 5 refreshed only to realize its too early to do anything, and doze back off until 7AM.
By then we all get up and Mike has cooked us a heart breakfast, and even Peter admits he slept well and a hotel is not necessary. We then wait while they work on fixing the buggy which takes about two hours, hook it up to the trailer, and head out to the real Baja for some pre-running. Now pre-running is very important for safety and is done soimetimes for several months in advance, or at least a solid week prior to the event. Remember its 709 miles. We do not have this luxury to really pre-run though. Peter and I are first, and Neil is in front on a 400cc bike leading the trail. Peter who always want to drive fast is right on his ass and at we start driving up through some cliffs which if we slide off, we are certainly going to have a big issue. I get worried and hate being a codriver.The chase vehicle is to meet us about 20 miles off a section of the beach that is near an access road, and we do our best to make some good time. We stop and I take the wheel, and while we have GPS, it lags quite a bit and seems to conflict with a sign that says wrong way. So we circle around for what seems like an hour to learn then sign was backwards and we need to head north on that trail. The chase vehicle is wondering what happened to us, and while we have a radio to communicate we cant exactly figure out if they are ahead or behind us and must turn off the car to use the radio because of the noise. The course is not marked at all and after about 20 minutes I finally see a race marker for 590 mile point, and confirm we only have another 5 miles to find the chase. While it seems it should be easy to meet someone with GPS, if you do not knows exactly where they are, it is still difficult. We eventually find them and switch with Kalbas and Jason, who find their section fast and smooth compared to ours and fly though their test portion in an hour. We then run out of daylight for the most part and trailer the car back to the camp.
We go over the map of the segments and discuss strategy. We only got to test some short pieces of the easy segments, and segment 2 which will be driven mostly at night has cliffs and drop offs that are very dangerous and almost impossible to navigate through. Because we need to tech the car and cannot risk breaking it again, we have no ability to test this section. It is told by others who have raced here many times, that the beginning section near what is called Mikes Ranch is so steep and rough, it seems impossible to travel through it. There is also silt dunes that for 100% get the car stuck, and the only way out will by to jack up the car and roll it off, jack the car again, and repeat the process over and over. We then discuss who should drive what based on skill set.
It is determined that I will Start and do the first 180 miles with Tom as my co-driver who is a Rally instructor. My section is expected to take about 6 hours and the main fear is making it to the next pit to switch drivers. Another fear is getting hit from behind by some of the trophy trucks like Robbie Gordon will drive, that will start ahead of us but break down and then need to pass us. Since there is no room on each side beyond the width of a vehicle they just hit you from behind with a tap to let you know they want to pass, since you cannot se them coming from behind, and if you don't try and move out of the way which usually is not possible they will hit you again full throttle until you are forced out of the way. Many buggys wreck this way but that is racing. Hopefully few trucks will break down, and need to do this, and the converse is also true. It is expected since we are starting at the end of the field we will also be bumping people out of the way, and the same rules apply. Keep in mind that only 40% of participants finish the race. Just finishing the whole thing is a huge victory. Also, if is very important to do everything possible to get the car to the next leg so your tea mates can drive. There has been about 35-40k invested in our entrance for this race, and if you crash the buggy trying to be the next Robbie Gordon or Ryan Aciero, your team mates have a right to murder you, since you ruined their opportunity to race. So I fell very obligated to get through my section with the car intact. The one thing I also learned today is there are only 7 cars in total in the sportsman class, so if we finish the race, we have a very good chance for a podium position. Would be a dream to be able to make the podium on our first entry to the most famous non stop offshore race in the world.
So after I finish my section, I will pass the car over to Peter and Raf the toughest section, who will then pass it over to Kalbas ad Neil who will take the second night shift, who will then pass it on to Jason and Tom who have flat track experience, and we bring the car home to the finish. We have to coordinate the two chase vehicles to be at the appropriate pits for driver switch off, which is going to be a challenge since some parts are not easily access able. So both chase vehicle with have Sat phones and we were figuring out best routes to take to meet the car in time.Also, we have to give BF GoodRich the spares we need so they can make appropriate changes and patches to the car at the driver pit stops. All the pro drivers arrived today and it is scary to see what we will be racing against. All I can think about is being run over by a 700HP trophy truck that wants to squash me like a bug. These guys have no fear and will let nothing get in their way for a victory.
Today we took the Excusion to the second part of the second section which is not really the off road part and drove a 40 mile segment in it. We literally drove the doors off the thing it rattled so bad. Once again major mountains with cliffs in this segment and it will be driven at night so it was good to at least see a section of it. It took us two hours to drive the 40 mile section. That segment alone is 180 miles. Tomorrow is called contingency day, and is where we pass tech with the car, and officially cleared to race. Car just finished getting prepped for tech, and we ready to go.
That's about all for now and you probably will not get an email from me until after the race. I will have no ability to access the internet after tomorrow, since once the race starts we will be running from one side of Baja to another over the next 30 hours.
I am quite excited and there is expected to be over 300k fans. The start will be crazy as the whole town shuts down for the race and treat it like a Mexican block party.
I hope we make it all the way through and thanks for all the emails of support.
Baja Pre Race Part 2
Today was contingency which is basically the tech day before the race. Actually it is a lot more than that because the whole town shuts down for it and it really is more like a Mexican block party. Actually, it more like a Mexican 2 square mile party because that's how much room the place takes. Its like a fair, concert, tech inspection, flea market rolled into one, The way it works is all the cars line up and snake around several streets that are lined with vendors and fans. There was probably 10-15 thousand people there to see all the racers. The schools close and there are young kids everywhere asking for stickers, and people asking for autographs as all the cars are pushed by the team through the streets snaking their way around until we finally reach tech. There are girls dancing, people singing, music blaring, and its just chaos everywhere. We had to check in everyone at the main Score office to sign waivers and check the other drivers and co drivers in. This was done two at a time, while the rest of the team pushed the car through the crowds. There are tee shirts sold with our names on it as official entrants, and you are treated very much like what you are doing is a big deal. Perhaps that is because it is, and you must be insane to really do this. I'm not sure at this point. After checking in, Tom my co driver who is also a rally instructor, and I went shopping for some last minute items. We got some catheter bags so we can urinate during the 6 hours stint we are doing, and tear offs for the helmet so your screen is visible because of the dust. All the pro guys with their entourages in tow are treated like gods here, and you could see their helicopters overhead doing pre race prep. the press is everywhere and it really feels like this is a big deal. The amount of money poured into this is tens of millions.
Once you get to Tech you enter a gate that only the main driver of record which was me and Raf the team leader were allowed in .It is very serious at that point They did a through inspection of the Buggy, our fire resistant suits, and our our helmets with air pumps to ensure we complied with all SCORE regulations which is about an 80 page book. We only failed one small part relating to how our window nets were secured which needed to be fastened with metal fastners vs. tie straps. They let us pass on the condition this was fixed by the morning. We then went back to camp after procuring ethanol race fuel which needs to be delivered to the various points through the course with us along with tires and spare parts. we then had to modify the hemets installing the communications equipment so we could talk to each other once in the car and the case vehciles because the noise is too loud to not have such equipment.
There is still lots of small prep to do and on top of a drivers meeting with Score, we have our own meeting where we will coordinate where the 2 chase vehicles will be for driver switch offs, and also how we will communicate with our BF Goodrich pits, as well as each other. One mistake is I ordered two satellite phones but only one is working which will be in the race car in the events the radio will not work due to our position within the mountain range. So we have nextel phones for chase car to chase car but the coverage is spotty and the chase vehicles will essentially be racing themselves to get the drivers where they need to be as the race car is also heading to a checkpoint. Remember its a 700 mile course and the drivers out spaced out each 200 miles about.
We now have very detailed maps outlining turns and conditions like the WRC rally drivers. It really can be information overload and the key will be coordinating everyone during the race.
It is estimated I will start the race at about 12:00 west coast time, as each car is staggered by one minute and we are towards the end of the line based on our class. This means our stage will be the most important for passing since, we will pass the slower cars within the first 200 miles.It is estimated our portion to travel 200 miles will be 6 hours without a breakdown or accident. Tom and I will then pass off the car to Raf and Kalbas to take the most difficult stage. If they make it through, they will pass of the car to Peter and Neil at about midnight, and we have a real good shot at making the podium if we get that far without incident, and Jason and Mike will take us the car to the finish where there will be a huge party, and I am told will be pandemonium. Everybody is excited and a little nervous, although only because we don't know what to expect.
You should be able to track our progress at the links I previously sent out to see how we are doing. for those that asked it will be on TV but not live so the links are the best way to track things.
Raf and the crew have really done an amazing job to allow us to have a good chance at not only being safe, but to really having a chance for the team to do well. the amount of work they did so we could just fly in like race car stars seems unfair, but that's what we pay for and they wouldn't do it if they didn't love it. they really deserve lots of thanks.
I plan on going to sleep early and drinking lots of fluids for hydration tonight. Goal is to fin since only 40% do, and do so with no accidents, and if we do get lucky and make podium that will be a bonus.Its slow and steady that wins this race, not speed. Will probably not do another write up till Sunday, depending on how things go.
Cheers and thanks for the support,
Race Day-Long and Detailed
Well there is so much to say and so many stories. The good news is we finished. The bad news is, we timed out at checkpoint 3 due to equipment issues but I'll get to that in a bit. Before I do, I should start with the beginning of that day. We all woke up at about 6:45 because there was no need to get up earlier since we were one of the last groups to start.
It was chilly, and if you remember we were sleeping in a race trailer on cots with sleeping bags and a portable heater, so once you stepped outside it was quite a shock to the body. Surprisingly though as far as accommodations I can honestly say I had some of the best nights sleep in that trailer in my 35 dollar sleeping bag, zipped up in a cocoon, with a cave like environment due to no windows. It was great actually. Walking over into the cold to the public showers was not as exciting, and the trick was to get the right shower stall with good pressure (hint;the one to the far side closest to the water pipe access). Anyway, its also quite funny that all shower heads were the height of about 5 feet 6 inches. This may have been made by short Mexicans, but everybody at the site was American. As a side note, we stayed at the same place as Robbie Gordon, so I view that as a personal endorsement although he was in the hotel section.
We had our race meeting at 8AM where we went over the various places Chase vehicle 1, and Chase 2 would be, driver switches, and frequencies for our BF Goodrich pit crew and the "weatherman" for radio relay in case someone could not be located. I personally was quite nervous since I was starting the race and I was given somewhat contrary information just the night before about the level of difficulty for my stage,and the fact that I only learned through the drivers meeting that I would be climbing a mountain I believe was termed mount Diablo, which Sal Fish the organizer specifically mentioned as a dangerous and problem area. So during the meeting I keep studying my course notes provided by the BFG pit crew providing turn by turn remarks such as "turn hard right at garbage dump and climb steep grade on right side through cattle crossing" or more disconcerting to me at race mile 100 "VERY IMPORTANTCAUTION!!!-MAKE HARD RIGHT AT DAM -Climb right side of dam-drop into WASH." Whenever they had comments in bold it was a bid deal and failing to heed such warnings could seriously have you fall off a mountain which happened to at least one trophy truck that dropped 150 feet off the side. I had not had the opportunity to pre run any of my segment which was to be relatively easy, and then I get the impression they didn't want to spook me. We pre ran part of stage 3 in the excursion which was so dangerous at night I wondered what kind of idiot would not pre run his segment before the sace. well me I guess because we couldn't. When I asked about this repeatedly, the comment was "Relax- You will do fine", which to me was only more cause for concern because if it was no big deal why wouldn't anyone answer my most basic questions about it. This only frustrated me more since everyone who knows me, is aware I like to get as much information as possible so I can be as prepared as possible. I am not the type to just not worry about it. Anyway, I studied my notes over and over and made particular note at race mile 100 to remember the DAM warning and a couple others that had big bold warnings about heading very specific advice from them. At about 10:30 I got in the race buggy with Tom my co- driver who was trying to figure out the navigation (not the best time to start familiarizing yourself in my opinion and the crew got into both chase vehicles. .The first bad omen was when Peter backed the Excusion into a rental car as we were leaving , but who had time to worry about that. They then told us to go ahead of them and they would find us,. This was not the best idea in my opinion as I like to keep people together, but we went ahead. As were were driving into town, I asked Tom where we were for confirmation and where to turn for the main downtown part of Encinatas, and quickly learned he was not sure. I made a left we drove down some blocked off roads and quickly learned he did not know where to go,and that because of the streets being blocked off we could not get to where we believe we needed to be. If this was my co drivers navigation skills we were seriously phucked. I am thinking, we cant even find the start and we expect to successfully navigate our section 200 miles through the dessert, where locals intentionally try to throw you off course. We eventually drive the wrong way through a street where we see cars lining up and although people are looking at us like we are morons going the wrong way, we eventually get to where we need to be. We are in a class 14 buggy which has 7 entrants. We line up based on entry and since we are 1402 -we are the second on the grid. We get out of the car and after trying out my catheter device which works very well and snakes down my pants leg on the inside, I find it hysterical that I can casually have a conversation with somebody on the grid while simultaneously urinate with it exiting my pant leg on the ground next to them (I don't not do this but knowing I could amused me). While we are waiting, I meet the 1401 car that was missing from the line up and gridded incorrectly on a side road. I am pleased to know I am not the first clueless one and enlighten her with my newfound knowledge. I am shocked there is a female driver and a quite attractive one, sponsored by a local Vegas casino. As stereotypes go I succumb and conclude she cant possibly drive well, and her team must be destroyed at all costs to uphold the stereotype that motor sports are not a female sport, despite that Danika Indy chick. Sidenote,. after the 30 second head start she got, I never saw her car again (so much for maintaining a healthy ego-lol)
As we are all waiting by the car people are everywhere, with mostly young teenagers who speak no English coming up with a marker and asking you to autograph their shirt. I comply that this is silly since I'm no pro, and they really should be getting autographs from the cars that finish not just those teams that lay out bi big money to grid up at the start. Anyhoo-their is electricity in the air and loads of excitement. I drink some Gatoraide to hydrate my body and take a salt pill to retain the hydration. As we are about to get in the car to go from the staging grid to the true line up, I realize they left my helmet in Chase 2, which is probably something I expect to need to actually start. While it is my responsibility, they knew I had intentionally gave it to them to bring for me since there is no room in the race car without wearing it. No worries through as Jason, quickly ran off to get it several blocks away. As we line up and do the radio checks, I have the realization that "what the phuck am I doing behind the wheel of this class 14 buggy entered into the worlds toughest continuous offroad race in the world, with no off road experience other than going to rally school twice in my life.. The other big race which is the Paris Dakar, has stages every day, and while it is much tougher because it is over 18 days, this is non stop. As we get ready to start lining up in single file, Sal Fish the organizer comes up and shakes my hand to wish us luck with the race. If only he had a clue-ha! With that, we are the next car to launch as I get the signal from the staging official about to drop the flag for me 4-3-2-1-GOOOOOOO!!!!!! I launch the car and we are off. Crowds as far as you can see on both sides envelope us with just enough room to see just in front off us and I try not take out 100 Mexicans in one fell swoop. Tom take shots from a disposable camera as we blow through the crowds. I am focusing very intently, on toms navigation instructions as we snake through the city streets to get to the dirt turnoff. Just before we launch I am told look out for the large fire about 4 miles in as I am a bout to climb the fist big hill. If the huge fire is just to my right as I climb I have successfully made it to the course. Fire? What kind of race are these people running??? The adrenalin is pumping hard as I try my best not to kill us as we launch the car off the first jump and get slightly airborne as 1000's of Mexicans are screaming and cheering. I quickly learn that Tom does not have his navigation skills down yet, as he screams left when I clearly see everyone pointing right, and slide the car towards them which is a correct decision. We were warned that the crowds will often point you in the wrong direction to throw you off, but in this case my instincts are correct. He quickly concedes this was correct and after a few more incorrect calls, I grab his left hand and tell him that this his left hand and get it straight. He obviously was nervous to a degree as well and things are going so quickly, it is very easy to call out the turn incorrectly and make a decision too late, which I do when I overshoot a corner and have to quickly back up before the car behind me smashes into me that started 30 seconds behind. In this type of racing the way you are strapped into your 5 point racing harness, constricts mobility significantly which is the objective, with the by product of making viability difficult other then main line of vision in front. Because of the noise it is impossible to hear if a car is behind you, and they let you know this be hitting you from behind slightly, and give you a few seconds to move. If you do not, they hit you again this time with force and push you out of the way. My mistake of overshooting the turn does not come with this penalty, and we seem to be making good speed. I soon miss another turn driving too fast and because the course is poorly marked and run along another dirt road up a hill which is incorrect. Instead of turning around, we plow through it and by luck end up back on the course actually in a better position. I learn I like short cuts. I slowly get into a rhythm as Tom learns his left from his right as has starts calling out turns correctly. It is at this point, the most miraculous thing happens. We catch our first car or, in racing turns first victim. Tom lays on the horn as we get ready to smack them. He moves off as much as he can to the side which is about 5 feet, and I scream past on the left. WOW! this is what racing is about!! We congratulate each other and keep pushing. We already see cars starting to liter the sides as people either crashed, ran off course, or have mechanical breakdown. My heart beat must be at like 160 per minute at this point, as we jump, slide and climb various obstacles. I hit a hard right and see this huge fire! HOLY SHEET I think, and then remember this is a good sign and we are still on track. We climb and drop off into what is termed a wash. I soon see the dust from the car ahead and lay on the gas to get him. Tom's telling me to slow down as my adrenaline may be exceeding my skill, as I go after my next victim. No matter- I catch him and TOM lays on the horn. The truck moves to the side and we pass. I start chanting the band Queens Another One Bites The Dust and we celebrate. I then hit a jump and keep the gas on while doing so which is a mistake. Not only does it launch the car more than you want, it can break your axle because the wheels are spinning too fast when you land torqueing the axle. He screams at me, which I only partially deserve because its easy to do by mistake when the car gets airborne.
Over time we see more cars littering the track and I am feeling pretty good. I'm getting a rhythm and nobody has passed us. As soon as I think about this, I get the horn from behind from our sister team that is pitting with us Becker Brothers. We have done almost 30 miles and they have done Baja at least 10 times and are pros at this. So to be passed by them after all this time makes me feel good still. As soon as he passes, I chase them, I'm keeping up with little problem but he does slowly pull ahead after some time. They then blow a tire just ahead of us, and we zoom pass. Tom then yells at me for not stopping since it was our sister team and that they need our spare. I had no problem with pulling over, but its too late and I wasn't aware of the racing etiquette. I feel bad but plug on. We then come up on a truck which we pass and a few more slower cars. I am ecstatic we are passing so any cars and doing well. We then come up on a Hummer and we blare the horn to no avail, and I'm on his ass. He wont move and I'm pissed. The dust he is kicking up is significant, and I cant see well. Tom tells me to back off and I don't immediately and we soon pay the price. We hit a huge rock which Tom yells about but it's too late. We plug on and we eventually get passed the hummer which simply cant keep our pace. I then seem to notice the car has significant over steer as I try to cut around a corner something is not right but I am not sure what.we drive on but I also notice I cant maintain the same pace. Believe it or not it takes several miles before we realize I blew a tire and that's the cause for the loss of control. Phuck, I'm so mad, but we are close to the pit and I think we can make it , about another 15 miles. We decide to drive on as fast as possible while maintaining control . It's maybe 10 miles slower than our previous pace but I cant risk crashing the car. Soon enough, we get back on highway 3 which we have crossed I think for the second time and on the right is the Becker Brothers pit, the guys I did not stop for by mistake and feel horrible. We pull in and 5 guys swoop on the car. They jack it up change the tire, I pour water through my Hemet visor to maintain hydration. they tell me I snapped a CV joint, and they repair it as best they can but I need it replaced. We zoom off for the BF Goodrich pit which is about 5 miles ahead. I overshoot the entrance and have to drive around. I inform the team that was already made aware of the damage, and a truck is racing to bring one for us to the pit. This is race mile 80 and it will take about 20 minutes to repair. We jump out of the car to rest and wait. I eat a quick granola bar, use my catheter device in the bush, and re hydrate. I then borrow Peters phone to call Tara and tell her I'm still alive. She informs me that she is listening to the "weatherman" on the Internet who is the epicenter for information as the race unfolds and there is a booby trap but she doesn't know where and cars have crashed as a result. 1 Protruck rolled in addition and several cars are already out. Damn these crazy Mexicans I think. I then inform my team mates this info that my wife 3k miles away seems to know more than we do and we need to find out where the trap is. Mike the cop who part of support crew, keeps telling me not to worry about it and doesn't seem to be interested in finding out where this is occurring. I'm thinking he is a moron, and wondering what is wrong with him, when such info can not only save us from getting knocked out of the race, but prevent injury as well. There was a biker who broke his collar bone and didn't even make it 5 miles without a booby trap, and this guys is in his own world saying don't worry about it. I go to BFG support direct and give them the info and ask for help. They are very professional and within 30 seconds give me feedback that this is at race mile 220 just beyond our driver switch. We pop in the car, spin around to the front for a quick gas top off and we are off again after about 25 minutes. The CV joint cost us, but not too badly. As we snake up towards the mountain range, I Mike points out a helicopter filming us as we just pass some wild hoses running in front of us who quickly try and move off the side. I make a hard right and slide through some ranch gates, and we begin our ascent up the mountain. It's already starting to get dark and since I wear prescription glasses am glad that at the pit I swapped out my prescription sunglasses for normal ones since I will clearly be racing in the dark up this mountain. We are making good speed as we start to climb jumping and sliding around turns advancing our ascent. Cars are littered everywhere and this is just emblematic of how tough this race is. We pass trucks and cars that cost upwards of 100k in our quick little 30k buggy. Soon the rock trail gives way to no trail at all, and it's simply a mountain climb over a variety of large rocks. I slow down significantly and am not sure how we can even pass or if we are still on track. I cannot believe this is part of the course because its nothing but rock, and not distinct trail. It's chaos and I feel the underbelly take a huge beating as I simply cannot maneuver out of the way of every large rock since they are everywhere. I am told however large the rock is I cant get around, drove over it dead center since our engine is in the rear and the skid plate is the best chance of taking the pain. If we hit any of these rocks with a wheel we are toast, and stuck in the dessert for at least a night. As I get to the summit averaging at some points 10 miles an hour, we slowly descend. Its not 100% dark and the 8 Hella lights on the two light bars, light up our direct field of vision like a UFO. The car keeps wanting to stall as we descend, and I have to try and rev it up and at the same time hit the brake while my left works the clutch. It's tiring work. We then are soon off the mountain and on more trail. I then realize I didn't even remember the Dam at race mile 100, nor the danger spot but somehow I did pass through it safely. Your focus is so intense you do not even realize what is going around you, because not having full concentration will get you seriously injured or killed. There is a huge lake there too but I cant even remember seeing it. When we get to race mile 120 I decide to pull over and switch with Tom. It's really dark and I don't want to let the guys down. Tom is a rally instructor and with the dark descended on us, it is a smarter bet to give him the wheel. After 2 minutes to unbuckle,we jump out of the hatch, and strap in again and speed off. It's in his hands now and I have done my best. Now I need to focus on Navigation to get us safely through this minefield of rocks, cactus, desert thorn bushes, and Silt. We pass more cars only now because they are broken down on the side of the road. Tom really is trying to keep a good pace and normally I am a poor passenger, since I am a control freak and do not trust others driving in this manner. Despite the speed and constant maneuvering around dangerous obstacles, I can tell he is very skilled, and although it is scary, I settle into a position of trust. We get up to 66 miles an hour which sounds like nothing, but through this mind field of obstacles is blazing fast. To give you an idea, the trophy trucks that cost 750k a piece average about 60 miles an hour over the whole course. As we push on, he says the car is over steering like I complained about, and he thinks we have a flat. We soon decide to pull over and realize we have punctured the left rear for the second time. We pop the hatch -climb out an quickly get to the task of changing the spare. We get the tire up and the wheel off in 2 minutes, and then as we re jack the car to get the car high enough to put the wheel on -the jack breaks and we are SOL. Tom tries to rig it, to fix it, but there is a pin which has snapped due to rusting out, and is useless. I silly 50 dollar jack may have killed the race for us. I decide to flag down some cars as they pass every 5-10 minutes. Now most will not stop for you unless you cross your arms together meaning there is someone injured. I see some alien lights snaking through towards us, and I flag him down. The guy stops and I plead for his help, and he stalls the car and has trouble getting it started. He clearly dosn't want to help but do not say no since if he does, we will not stop for him when he breaks down. He pulls to the side and then all of a sudden when I think he is going to help he takes off kicking sand and debris all over. I scream and turn around, and low and behold another car without being flagged has stopped behind us. It turns out these are two crazy gringos not in the race but huge fans, and are in the middle of the dessert helping people anywhere I can. They not only have a jack, they help change the tire so we can move quickly.
I am shocked that in the middle of the Baja dessert there are 2 crazy gringos who intentionally drove out here somehow in order to help people like us. This is a moment of Karma for me because I flash back to when we were on the Gumball 3000 and we pulled over un flagged to help 2 guys who got a flat with no spare in a brand new Enzo Ferrari in the middle of Morroco;at night. Pulling over and helping them had led me to meeting Kalbas, who flew from Paris a year and a half later to join me on this team . The circle of fortune cannot escape my mind. We get back in the car. They even help strap us in and plug in our oxygen supply, and radio gear and we are off. We soon are making good time and reach speeds of up to 68 mph. Tom can really drive and while I trust him, the viability is just in front of you and you have to react in fractions of a second. I am scared and excited at the same time. It is at this point that the GPS is giving us problems. It tells us we are off track, but we occasionally see signs that we are on track, so we have conflicting data. We are running parallel to the course according to GPS, but as long as the signs say we are on track we stay put. Is this another trick by the Crazy Mexicans? I don't even have time to ponder.
We start to enter what is termed the silt beds. The only way I can describe silt beds is like an endless supply of talcum powder that is super fine in granular quality, yet envelopes cars like a monster devouring its prey. There is only one way to survive a silt bed. Drive as fast as possible and don't stop. If you do, you will sink and you must dig the car out which is almost impossible. Now not stopping sounds like an easy strategy except with no viability its is scary and dangerous to drive fast into what you cannot see. We soon seen several lights ahead and realize several cars are stuck. GPS still shows us off track and I believe it. We stop before them to avoiding getting stuck and realize it's too late. We pop out of the car and then try to communicate with two Mexicans who speak little English who are running in a Sportsman class Bronco, and also two Americans running into a BC class buggy, which are 100k vehicles with Porsche engines and designed specifically for this race. As we try to dig out we realize it is futile, and needs to be pulled out. So we decide to help dig the others out, and have them pull us out. We also try to raise chase one on the radio but no such luck. I know we are running behind schedule because of the flat and need to let them know our status. I pull out the Sat Phone and try to get them on mobiles. The Irridium phone which should has a fully charged battery, is almost dead, and I cannot get them on mobiles since they like us are well outside cell range. So I decide to call Tara, and the call goes through. It's already almost 9 o clock, and we underestimated the time needed for this segment significantly . We are 2 hours later then planned. She answers the phones and shocked to hear my voice. I tell her I am ok but am stuck in the silt beds and to please try and tell the team, since my battery is about to die. I communicate to her to tell them we are at race mile 162 and if they don't hear from us, that is our status. I tell her I love her, and pop off to conserve battery. We get the BC buggy unstuck, and they soon help get us out. When you need to get out of a silt bed you cannot just pull out and move over 15 feet. You will just get stuck again. So while the driver hammers the gas, you push from behind with all your strength as you get sprayed and turn into a white ghost until you collapse on the ground after the buggy takes off. The buggy may have to drive a quarter mile to get to safety and you then have to catch him on foot. So while I chase out vehicle, the other co-driver is doing the same and asking me "what the hell made me decide to do this?" the question clearly perplexes me, although he is obviously very upset to be stuck in the middle of the desert and has regretted his decision to do this. He assumes I feel the same. "He then says I must obviously have better things to do on a Friday night vs. being out in the middle of nowhere, in a place nobody can help us. He just wants out. I am not at that stage of frustration yet, but get close to this point a little later on and understand everybody's breaking point is much different. Just as we are about to get in the car they learn they have killed their battery running the lights while digging, and they now need a jump. We have to turn back in order to help them and risking getting stuck again. Another car needs to be dug out and our patience is wearing thin. tom decides we have to ghelp and turns the car around and we jump them quickly. Then another buggy asks help as they need transmission fluid. Its non stop people needing help , but you just cant say no, as this could very easily be you. After another 20 minutes, we are off and running again but the silt is getting worse. There are car tracks in every direction clearly indicating nobody knows where to go. I insist we follow the GPS and we plug forward. Out of nowhere we hit a mountain of silt and boom; we cannot see a thing as the silt explodes enveloping us like a cloud. I think the car is on fire for a split second, as there is orange bright light everywhere, only to realize it is the light bars illuminating the silt bomb we just drove through in a bright orange fiery glow. This slows us down to almost a complete stop and as tom hammers the gas, and misses a gear and we get stuck. We have traveled less then a mile from where we started from the first bed. I cannot believe our luck, and this time we have nobody around to help us and no jack to help get us out. We cannot get our team on the radio but we get chase for #1404 our sister team and while he cannot hear me well, he explains to me how to jack up the car and push it off to get out of the silt. He is only trying to help but doesn't realize I would love to do that if the crappy jack that came from a car he sold the team didn't break. He thinks I don't know what to do and the problem is we are lacking the tools. The importance of the jack is critical because the way you get out of a silt bed if you cannot push your way out, is jack up the rear of the car and then push the car off the jack while the driver hammers the gas hoping to gain traction. So while Tom curses that he doesn't know what else to do, after several failed attempts to push out, I say I am going to back track the half mile and try and borrow a jack. While he looks at me like this is futile, he has no better solution. I see lights which are like beacons with trapped vehicles. I aim for them and start walking,. I reach a class 10 truck and plead for help. He reluctantly complies, because his vehicle is such a monster he does not give me a little normal jack to change a tire that are in 99% of vehicles, but an 80 pound floor jack that I must carry back. I heave it over my shoulder and head back. I then realize I have a problem after about 2 minutes of walking. I have lost the car. Tom killed the lights to save the battery and Its nowhere to be found. I know the general direction but can easily walk past it, if I travel too far. I scream out as I walk and realize after no response that its possible I will be stuck alone in the desert lost, and more importantly nobody can see me since I do not even have a mag lite to illuminate my position. This is quite helpful in order to avoid getting run over by some monster truck that cannot see me until its too late, like the one I just borrowed the floor jack from.The potential ironies are pervasive for me. "Man get run over by BAJA race truck after borrowing floor jack-news at 11" This is the only brief time I get scared. About a minute later, I hear TOM shout back and wondering why I'm screaming. I explain what happened and he looks at me like, how could I possibly get lost. We jack up the car but since this is a floor jack it does not help us like a normal jack which gives us the height to push the car off the jack and out of the rut. After several failed attempts, I decide to let him try and drive it out while I push it off the floor jack which just doesn't give the height. With all the strength I can muster, I push as he sprays me with SILT. Despite this, I push enough to give him traction and he zooms off. I cannot believe we did it. Now I just have to trek back and give this guy his jack. I'm personally convinced based on the situation, most people would never have lugged that thing on their back and give it back to them - they would have dropped it there and moved on . Its too much effort. But I could not do that, and started back. Tom joined me while the car laid waiting with lights on and running. He tried to grab the jack, but I was in stubborn mode and wouldn't let him share the burden I brought it and I will get it back. We reach the guy and I'm tired and he is profusely thanking me as he got a flat tire right after he gave me the jack, and was convinced I would not return. Once again the circle of karma at work.
We finally are back in the car and at race speed. I radio that we are back in the car and 35 miles out. I get no response but it is the best I can do. It's scary and we plow through anything that gets in our way. Will will not stop for anything unless it stops us. His reaction time is amazing, and he can make decisions faster than I can in the dark. I am amazed at his skill, and am thankful for my decision to pass the baton when I did. We finally get to 10 miles from our BFG pit and I cannot believe the lack of track we are on . The only reason I know we are on track is occasion we see a race marker but it's just insanity. GPS confirms we are correct now, but its unbelievable what we are expected to drive through. We hit a hill to climb and just when I think we are about to crash into a tree, TOM moves the car out of the way and stays on course according to GPS. I cannot believe his ability to discern when the road is technically the race course when to me it all looks the same. Obviously you look for previous tracks but often they are wrong. People often have sheep mentality and follow tracks just to later confirm they copied a mistake. At 5 miles out we call BFG pits and say we are almost there and need a tire, gas and a jack. They respond back they are waiting for us and ready. The last obstacle we have is unexpected. It's a huge incline about 40 degrees and there are cars ahead stuck that did not make it. We stop where about 7 cars and trucks are waiting to see someone get through. We gather info and learn it's probably better to run along side,and then go up around the cars that are stuck. We witness one car that successfully does this but almost doesn't make it all the way up. We decide to go for it, and I steer him right up the side but where there is another car stuck I did not see. We can't go further. He then backs the car off the incline and we drop off the incline and attack full throttle all the way up the side. The car struggles and we hit a big rock but than gain some traction and get enough momentum to make the summit, with that done I know we are going to make it , contrary to just an hour prior we were in serious doubt. We pick up the pace and I feel we just won the race when I see the illuminated BFG 18 wheeler parked in the middle of nowhere and our team awaiting us.
At this point, we pop out of the car and the faces are somber since it took so long to get there. I am not mad but they have no clue what we went through, and when someone does not understand they make incorrect assumptions. I grab the SAT phone and call Tara to tell her I made my leg so she doesn't need to worry about my wondering the desert based on my last call, while Tom debriefs them on a small problem with brakes and what needs to be repaired. The car is in good shape overall. We learn that the crew is tired, and raced both chase vehicles about an hour back and forth when they heard we were stuck and thought we could not get out in an attempt to help us. I have no idea how they could have helped us since there is no way from my perspective they could have reached us in the desert without a major offroad vehicle itself, and just when they reached the access road, they got word we got out and were gonna make it to the pit.
It is from this point on the story losses many details. Kalbas and Raf entered the car, and took off for the second stage which was 175 miles. I was very tired and it was hard to articulate what we had been through. I knew better then Kalbas and Raf what was in store from them, but it is one of the situations where you just cant understand until you are in it. I said in a manner that was not to be somber but truthful that if their stage was harder then our stage, there is no way we would complete the race, I said I was so confidant of this statement I would bet 10k dollars to anyone willing to take the other side. I did this to try and express how hard it was since it appeared the team was disappointed it took so long to get to them. Beyond getting them the car pretty much in one piece, it was all we could do,since we had no jack. The jack issue would be a lynch pin for the entire race when unbeknownst to me they did not replace the jack when Tom and I got out of the car. How they could not do this, I cannot comprehend since I even radioed ahead they needed a jack. We easily could have pulled one from the chase vehicle and strapped it in, but under the pressures to get out of the pits , it was not done. We then split up the chase vehicles. Tom, Neil, and Peter went to the third stage which by normal roads was only 50 miles or so away even though by buggy was 170miles. Jason, Mike, and I got in the Excursion for the long jaunt to the forth stage which was a 4 hours drive in total. 3 hours back to Encintas on Hwy 1, and 1 hour.on Hwy 3, to the BF Goodrich pit #4, just off the highway. Mike the cop was driving, and I was exhausted but wired at the same time reflecting on what seemed like many near death experiences. Upon reflection, it was not probably as dangerous as it seemed at the time, but in the moment it just seemed crazy.
When we made it to BFG pit 4 at about an hour later then expected at about 4AM, we learned from the pit crew only 6 of there cars had made it out of an expected 30 for their pit, and it was estimated half the entrants were out of the race. This has been the worst Baja they have ever seen, and they were all very disappointed to just sit their and wait. We tried to check the status of our car and were told it had not made it to BFG3 yet, which was not so alarming at that point. It was not expected for them to reach BFG for till about 10 or 11 AM, and main concern was them making it to switch with Peter and Neil. I tried to snooze in the back and got a couple house of sleep -drifting in and out as I would hear a race car go by and hoping it was us. We could not get the other chase vehicle on any radio so we did not know any status since we had left everyone 5 hours earlier. By 6:30 I started to get worried with no update since they update the boards with status on their cars as that made other BFG pits. I went into the radio room with Mike and asked them to confirm if they made it to BFG pit 3. They radioed back that , they just made it, but the deadline was 6AM and they timed out at the checkpoint right after BFG3 by 29 minutes. This was a huge disappointment and unfair from my perspective because the time limit was 30 hours for the total race and the last 2 stages were the fastest where we could make up serious time. As long as we did not time out of the race official or unofficial it should not matter. We then tried and get status if they were going to continue, which I assumed they would but since we did not know the condition of the car it would not make sense to limp along and get stuck further if we were DQ'ed. If the car is in ok shape, we should continue regardless, They still has another 50 miles to go before meeting Peter and Neil. We got word from BFG that the weatherman relayed we were out of the race, and the car was heading now on the highway back to Eninatas. I was upset, but since I did not know the condition of the car could not make judgement. So we grabbed our spares from the pit and raced back to Encinatas to base camp since it was the most logical place for them to go. We were discussing whether the car was too damaged or if Raf the team leader threw in the towel, because officially we were out, and from his perspective it was over. Both Jason and I sided with the notion the car must be damaged, while Mike who knew RAF well, said we were wrong and he just quit. Since I did not know Raf well, I did not want to believe that. The goal for us was always to just finish the race. Officially under or over 30 hours didn't matter. Just get it done. It looked like over 50% of the cars would not finish, so just completing it was a win. While we were waiting Jason and I decided to head to the baseball stadium to see the pros finish, since it was about 8AM. We got there and nobody was there. They had about 5 or 6 cars parked that had completed it but that's it. There was a modest crowd, but not much going on. Nothing like the start. Jason and I literally waited one hour to see just one Race car show up, and decided to leave thinking our team would reach us soon. We went back to base camp, put the sleeping bags on the grass outside, and soaked up the sun which was now warming up the grass. I dozed off and it wasn't until about noon that we see Chase 2 pull up.with the buggy in tow. Nobody spoke a word as they got out and not really even would look at us. I thought this was strange, since we had not said anything negative yet because I did not want to make any assumptions. It was at this point Jason starting drilling them for answers. Where were you, what happened?, is the car not running? I asked Mike the same and he very somberly looked at me and said "its not my decision". I asked if the car was drivable while Raf was in the tent. The answer was the buggy was fine but BFG would not give them gas since they were DQ'd. I actually found this hard to believe. They are supporting us and its our gas; what do they care. Jason started screaming and while Peter was so upset he simply disappeared obviously in disgust. Jason was screaming things I do not want to even repeat, and I knew this was not productive, so I tried a more diplomatic approach. If the car was running, can we get race gas? The answer was no, not locally. Will BFG give us gas if we reach them before time out. We don't know was the answer. Ok I responded get everyone together and lets get the car to BFG 4 and will run the last stage and complete the race. That was the objective and we can still do it. They agreed and starting jumping in the car., although I knew Raf was mentally toast and just complying to accommodate us. One problem though. We were missing Peter and he needed to drive the 4th stage with Jason. I found him in the showers in a state I have never seen. He was so furious yelling and disappointed about the decision Raf made , that he already booked a bus to get him out of there and take the first flight to Miami. I tried so hard to convince him not to do that and to please get in the car, the team was waiting, and we can finish this thing. Germans are stubborn and he is no exception, and would not listen, After 20 minutes I convinced him to at least go with the team then I promised to take him wherever he wanted. He kept repeating he was not getting in that "Facking hillbilly Race CAR-chasing dirt and dust", but we go with us to send it off. I said ok and we left. We got to BFG about 3PM and they were all packed up and leaving. They said if we could stop the fuel truck we could have the gas but it just left. We chased it down and convinced the Mexican driver we needed our race gas and after 10 minutes he complied. Now I needed to get a driver for Jason which was initially supposed to be Mike but since they did not get along he did not even get in the car to drive to BFG pit 4. The most logical person was Peter but I knew there was no convincing him.The next most logical person was Neil who was a mechanic and a super nice guy. Very soft spoken and knowledgeable and not trying to impress anyone, yet had many skills. He was so nice always, and I only learned later he was the one that built the Race car with RAF. Since the tension between drivers and support staff was super high, we had Peter ask Neil if he would complete the last leg with Jason, who was just happy he was getting to drive. As a true professional, he immediately agreed. so we fueled up, strapped them in and set them off. We were going to meet them half way at a mid check point right on highway 3, which was expected to take them 2 and a half hours. We all then went to the check point and grabbed dinner at a little whole in the wall Mexican restaurant that had existed for over 50 years. The food was superb as we ordered all kinds of food while we waited. After a quick bite, we decided to head to the checkpoint for them and we see the dust cloud racing down the mountain they showed up about 45 minutes faster then we expected. with the top front of the race car smashed in but the car still running. Based on the time and his speed down the mountain, I wondered if he was on a mission to either kill the car or himself,. They said they crashed and blew a tire but a women gave them a jack to use and they still were 45 minutes early, Once again the jack problem resurfaces. We quickly adjust the lightbar and assess the damage. The spare rim is bent badly and they do not have another one on the car. We have one in the truck but a decision is not made fast enough even though Peter points out it should be changed. The odds are we will have no radio contact with them in the mountain range.and if they break down it, they will mostly be on there own. They know this and take off. So we then head to the baseball stadium which we reach about 6PM to see cars still coming in under the 7 PM deadline. It is possible but improbable Jason can make the last 75 miles in that time, but at his previous speeds it is still possible. 7PM comes and goes and no Jason and no radio contact. By 8 PM I am wondering but not worried, by 9 PM I'm worried, since it is obvious something happened, we know there is no spare, everybody has left, there is no weatherman to relay anything, and we have no idea where they are or how to access them. We call over and over on the radio, with no reply. We even hear back from our sister team on the radio at base camp, that what are we doing? the race is over and do we realize this? Ummmm DUH!!! but if they can hear us 10 miles away and Jason and Neil are not responding , we feel there are many miles away somewhere stuck with no support. I talk to Raf who is asleep in the Ford Duelly with Mike in Chase 2 and state we have to go find them somehow, regardless of how difficult. He agrees but I know he is dreading the challenge like I am. We try one more time on the radio and boom, we hear him . They are ok but they have a girl in the race car with a broken arm and needing medical attention. He says the radio connection in the helmet broke so he could hear us but not respond, he is 5 minutes from the stadium. he shows up with a girl from Colorado that was riding the Baja with 3-4 other motorcycle guys, some associated with the famous KTM team of now with now famous Kelln Walsh and another guy that placed well in Paris Dakar this year. She fell into a crater about 8 feet wide and 8 feet deep and broke her arm. They were still 40 miles away from the finish, and obviously she could not ride a motorcycle now because of her condition. They took a tire iron to use as a splint and duct tape to wrap it. She was a tough girl and not bitching about anything. Neil who is a good motorcycle rider was riding her bike back. If we had not made the decision to finish the race regardless of the DQ, they would have been in a difficult spot. Once again, good Karma rewarding us. We took her to the hotel when her guys arrived and left for the camp.
So we finish the race in about 33 hours, and were the last one to cross that we know of. Had it not been for a 10 cent pin in a 50 dollar jack that broke, I am 90% sure not only would we have finished under the time limit but would have made the podium. That jack cost us a minimum of five hours, plus the energy and time lost in order to drive faster. We all were glad to be done and to have done it right rather than give up. Raf was exhausted, and as I promised Peter we would not stay the night and drive to San Diego immediately so he could catch a early flight out. He was still pissed he came all this way, spent a week in the desert and didn't race the car. I certainly understood, but both Kalbas and me agreed even though there was no changing his mind he would eventually regret that decision not to finish with Jason. We quickly pack up our stuff, cleaned the trailer we slept in and wanted to say goodbye to everyone. Nobody was still awake, except for Neil who was with us from the trip back in. I wanted to thank everyone in person for all their work despite the problems and miscommunication but I felt it inappropriate to wake them when it was sleep they wanted most.They fulfilled their obligation and wanted to rest. So I thanked Neil asked him to thank the guys for us and exchanged email. One last thing I needed Neil to do was to retrieve the licence plate from the Excursion which was now destroyed. I had forgot to mention the car had two more accidents during the race. One when they clipped a truck and broke the mirror when Jason was driving trying to reach Tom and I when they thought we were stuck in the silt, and another when Mike the cop backed into a car at a gas station.. Mike then cop thought the licence plate was so cool, he decided he wanted a souvenir and removed it since it read CABAJA1.Can you believe a cop would do this??. We all hoped in the car and headed to San Diego, and were already reflecting on all our stories. 40 hours with little or no sleep, and all the adventures, including me reflecting to the begging of the race thinking about the girl ahead of me who I never saw again. I don't see the final standings but bet she won our class. When we reached the border we had two problems to address still. The first was Jason only had a drivers licence and we felt he might not be able to get back in. Second, I had been drinking these special 2 liter bottles of Coca Cola Lite and I had to peeeee. The line was over 45 minutes long and I couldn't wait. So I hopped out of the car and ran across the highway which was just stand still traffic even at 3AM in the morning, trying to find a place to relieve myself, Tiajuana is nuts, and this is after we see huge wildfires on the way in illuminating the sky near the border. At this hour many stores are still open and tons of young drunk people everywhere. Every store I go in will not let me use the bathroom. I try many place and its just no no no. After about 20 minutes I give up and try to find a bush or something. Because the was the border is constricted its like a wall of stores with no way to go around them. I do find a small alley where there are several Mexicans just sleeping on the floor of the street and its is just a decrepit site with refuse everywhere. I go on the other side of the street away from the homeless people and pick a trash can. After doing my business, I turn around and see what looks like a security guard waving me over. I do not comply immediately until I realize its is a cop. He comes over trying to detain me and demands ID. Thinking this cant be a problem, I comply and then he ask me my occupation, which he does not understand in Spanish while his associate comes up. He then tell me I need to go to jail for 72 hours for urinating in the street. He is saying this 10 feet from about 10-12 Mexicans sleeping on the sidewalk in behind us, with garbage strewn everywhere! Yet he is concerned about my urination. I feel I am in a bad situation and now I have been gone for maybe 30 minutes and the guys surely are almost at the border with no idea what happened to me. His friend say this can perhaps be solved though. He wants my Tag Heur watch. Now this watch which is probably only worth a couple hundred bucks means a lot to me because it was a gift from my mother that passed away over 13 years ago. I'm not giving it up but at the same time not wanting to go to jail. I consider running for the car but he has my ID which I need. I say "No Puerde" and then he says ok -30 dollars. I feel relieved and turn around to open my wallet which has almost 1000 dollars in it. If he thinks he can get more he will. I release I only have 100 dollar bills, but this guy is not going to give me change so I ask him for "cambio" and instead of laughing at me, he points to the store that would not let me use the bathroom . Time is really important now, as I have to solve this issue in time not to lose the car. I run into the same store that got me into this problem in the first place, and once again the guy couldn't care less about my problem. He will not help me. I plead and plead and its no no no. In the back of a store is a pharmacy. I figure its worth a shot and I plead my case. He informs me that he overheard my conversation and the guy thinks I am trying to scam him for giving him with counterfeit money. I open my wallet to him and say take any bill you please. He then opens up his wallet to even see if he has that much change and he counts 95 dollars. I say great, he deserves the fee. He looks at me cautiously, and makes me promise I'm not scamming him, while his associate in the front of the store laughs and thinks he is a sucker. I promise, he complies, and I run out the door to pay off the cop. I give him the money, he gives me my licence, and I run for the car hoping I didn't miss them. They look at me strange but have their own drama. People are driving all the way to the front and trying to force there way in the line. This is not one car but like 10 cars and people are screaming and yelling and getting out of their cars while the border guards just act like this is just another Saturday night in Tijuana. Peter wont let a guy in,who is about to hit the Excursion. I know this car is already been through a war and another dent will make any difference. so Peter sticks to his guns and the guy back off. At the border, the guy checks our passports with weird places on it like Maritania, and Morrocco, Senegal etc. and Peters passport has a line at the bottom saying he had to get an FBI check to extend his visa, and instead of giving us a hard time one guard tests Peter in German and laughs at 4 loonie guys coming back from some silly desert race at 3 in the morning. He waves us on , and we are all ecstatic to be back in the US. We arrive at the hotel so late I convince Peter it makes no sense to try and catch a 9 o'clock flight with no sleep and he concedes. we get to rooms for all of us and sleep in on Sunday.. I wake up at about 11 the next day with Kalbas at the door. He wants to thank me before he leaves to visit his step son who happens to be in San Diego. He gives hands me a bag with a the team shirt from his Paris Dakar Race his was in for 2004. There are only 3 shirts like this with all the sponsors from the event including Telefonica,Total, CFAO, Toyota etc. You cannot buy a shirt like this for any price and the people who have them are the most hard core racers in the world. The button white down shirt with all the sponsors on the front and back represents a challenge few can comprehend. It's the nicest shirt anyone has ever given me and I am personally touched. He leaves and we then ask him to please meet us for dinner at least, if possible as we are having friends from San Diego from the players run event meet us for dinner at PF Changs. After breakfast, I then go down to the lodge and start working on this write up while it's still fresh in my mind. Peter and Jason then leave to go try and repair the car a bit, and return the rental car which is moderately damaged. They arrive back 4 hours later saying they fixed almost all the issues including the bumper, the dent, paint, and the only thing I may be charged for is the mirror. I cannot believe how this is possible. He just smiles the way he does we he knows a secret and says "don't worry- Ha Ha Ha Ha".
At 7PM Sunday we are joined by old friends from the Players Run which include Raymond who drove a Yellow Diablo, and Kevin and Jeff who ran in a VIPER truck and own some Harley Davidson dealerships. We recount all the stories as we all laugh and eat. The waitress serving us, thinks were nuts. which of course we are. Peters mood about the BAJA has changed again, and to my surprise admits he made a mistake and should have driven. The guys say they want to do it with us, and ask about putting together another team.As we all race each other back to the hotel like high school children in an Raymonds E55, and Jeff''s Viper truck, and an STI that Kevin is prepping for one Lap of America, the thoughts of next year begin to unfold. While they talk about it Kalbas and I take the VIPER Truck for a spin. We are in front of the valet and the 20 year old kid is in awe of the 3 vehicles. Kevin says to me make sure I do a good burn out, rather than what every normal person would say , which is take it easy with thier car. I try to comply by burning rubber outside the valet for about 10 feet. These are good guys. Peter of all people is the most excited about this Baja thing now with 180 degree turn from just 12 hours earlier. I am shocked. We laugh about the fact we have enough people to put together 2 teams and Raymond even volunteers to help as support crew. The gears are turning once again in our heads as we go over the mistakes and how to improve. The one thing I know is, if I ever do this again, I will bring my own jack!!!