It would be nice to detail every moment of this year’s Baja 1000 but that would take far too many words and still wouldn’t do it justice. Let’s start with the basics. At 1275 miles this is the longest Baja 1000 ever. At 36:30 we averaged just over 35 mph. We took 2nd in our class and gave a factory backed Toyota Tundra a decent run for their money finishing just 40 mins behind them. Oh and we ran the entire race without a radio. Yep. That’s right. No radio. Exactly how did that happen? No idea so how about we start there.
Less than 5 mins before the start of the race the truck was lined up, leading our class off the start line, Marc was behind the wheel and ready to go while Kurt was working the GPS and Comms. Then the radio died. Darren, Dave and Bryson scrambled to get it fixed but they couldn’t transmit out. No time to fix it, then a mistake made by SCORE officials with our tracking devices and Marc was late to the staging line. Instead of the normal 30 seconds to prepare for launch they had about 10 seconds. No time for a deep breath, no time to collect thoughts. Just a hurried frazzled start and they were off into the streets of Ensenada and the crowds gathered along the race course. The lack of comms and last second swap of our tracker meant the chase crew was pretty much blind to the progress of the truck for the first 30-45 mins. Perfect start to the race don’t you think?
About 70 miles down course a quick pit to check over the wiring resulted in nothing. No fix to the radio but a plan to communicate by clicks. The racers could hear the chase crew, and each other, but the only way to transmit out was keying the mic on the radio. Imagine something like this for the next 34 hours and 1200 miles.
“Canguro Race, you have a copy? Key once for yes”
“Canguro Race, if everything is okay key twice”
“Canguro Race, key the mic for the number miles you are out from the pit”
And so on and so on. Not the best way to handle any issues that might arise. Well unfortunately issues arose pretty quickly. About 100 miles into his 200 mile section Marc began to feel ill. This slowed his pace and made for an ad hoc pit at RM165. Kurt took the wheel 30 miles sooner than planned and quickly made up some of the time lost at the impromptu pit. A flawless fuel stop at RM200 and they were back into the desert.
Darkness had enveloped the peninsula by now and the uneven terrain made for some drastic swings in speed from 80mph straights to 10mph silt and whoops. Monica ran flawlessly, although slightly soft on the suspension, through the early hours of the race and Kurt and Marc turned the car over to Dave and Darren in perfect condition at RM398 around 230am.
After a very clean pit stop Dave took the wheel while Darren navigated what would be a very interesting morning. Instead of desert for the first 35 miles they followed a dark and twisty Mexico Hwy 1 in the cold and fog. The 60mph speed limit proved too quick at times with the limited visibility in the fog. They were forced to drive with visors up due to them fogging. Temps dropped into the 40s and they couldn’t wait to get back into the dirt and start working up a sweat.
The turnoff to Coco’s Corner provided no relief. Here the fog and dust in the air severely limited visibility and also speed. The Tundra having a windshield came up more than once during this stretch. After a few miles the road descended toward the coast and below the fog. The next few hours brought brutally slow whoops, another 35 miles of pavement, long fast sweeping turns, Hurricane Odile washouts, 5 miles of river crossings, an exquisite sunrise over the Sea of Cortez and speeds approaching 100mph.
They stopped for fuel a driver swap at RM655 and our ‘click’ communication strategy worked perfectly as they chase crew was ready and performed another efficient stop. Darren took over the reins, Dave hopped it the passenger seat and they were off into the silt. 30 miles of it. Deep silt, whoops of silt, fast silt, slow silt, rutted silt and just a little bit of silt. About an hour in they noticed a weird noise under full throttle. A quick stop revealed a clogged air filter. After smacking it with a wrench to clean it out, Dave constantly kicking it along the way (it’s in the passenger side footwell), Darren was able to make decent time to San Ignacio but had to work to keep Monica in the lower range of RPMs. Otherwise the truck would choke out and lose all power. They didn’t make great time but were quick enough that moving forward was better than pulling the filter on the side of the course. Then a thing of beauty happened.
Our crew was waiting in San Ignacio for a quick splash of fuel. As Monica rolled into the pit they were only expecting to do a 10 gallon dump of fuel but then Dave hopped out of the passenger seat. The chase team took only 12 mins to understand the problem, dig out, and install, the spare air filter in the truck. It was amazing how quickly they responded to the issue with no warning. Back on the road Darren had 35 miles of pavement before hitting the dirt including the awesome run through the streets of San Ignacio.
Once back in the desert they course wound its way through stagnant flood water, dunes, silt, boulder fields, river crossings and a beautiful 12 mile section of dry lakebeds and thousands of locals out cheering them on. After the 100mph stretch into San Juanico and a quick hop over the hills into La Purisma, the course left the Pacific Ocean and back into the mountains north of Loreto on the gulf side. Darren and Dave expected hurricane damage to the course similar to 2012 but it was much faster than anticipated and by 230 they were hopping out of the truck at RM 917.
The trailer with the fuel was late to this pit and we had to make do with what we had. We added 18 gallons to the truck and despite the error by the chase team the truck was back on the course in just a matter of minutes. Not an ideal stop and cost us some time but not a huge obstacle.
Only 360 miles of race course left and we were only 24 hours in. Those 360 miles would encompass steep mountain ascents, hundreds of washouts, hours of whoops, silt and forests of cactus. And of course the peculiar Baja sunset that seems to take only 2 mins. From gorgeous sunlight to pitch black in a matter of minutes. Will took the helm, Ryan took the comms and Monica took off into the mountains. After a long slow slog through the hills, they descended toward the Pacific Ocean and pushed Monica as fast as she could go into the darkness reaching speeds over 90mph. A quick waved to our chase team as they rolled through RM1060, and more high-speed desert, lined with plenty of excited locals, then the craziest pit of the entire race occurred.
At RM1080 Ryan would be taking over the driving duties. The crew set up on a corner where the race course joined the highway for a few miles. It felt like half of Ciudad Insurgentes had decided to join us. Our pit was surrounded by locals, some young, some old, some very drunk, all very excited. When the truck rolled in (radio clicking still intact) Ryan and Will turned into rockstars. Posing for pics, requests for autographs, yelling and screaming. Rumor has it Will even got groped by a cute, buxom senorita. All this taking place while the crew top off the tanks, swap cards in the cameras, check oil, tire pressures, lugs nuts etc.
After a few miles of pavement Ryan turned Monica south and 30 straight miles of whoops. It’s impossible to convey to those who haven’t raced how exhausting, physically and mentally, a long straight section of whoops can be. Monica is an amazing machine but her shorter wheelbase does nothing to make these sections easier or even tolerable. They are brutal. But they make those high speed sections, or the times you get to air her out, or drift her through a corner at 60mph that much sweeter. We’d slowly been reeling in the Tundra in front of us but time and Baja was not on our side. The last 100 miles is not the place to make up time. Not if you want to keep the car in one piece.
At just over 36 hours Ryan and Will crossed the finish line. Second place in class, 79th overall. After some penalties for speeding on the highways we finished in 36:30 as mentioned above. 6 hours quicker and 150 miles longer than our previous Baja 1000. We overcame some decent sized hurdles in the process. No radio, illness, fuel, filter and locals caused for an imperfect race but a perfect race would be boring. Oh and this is only our second race in Monica. Give us time to dial in the suspension and some more seat time and we’ll be on top of the podium.
Last and most importantly a HUGE thanks to all of our sponsors, families, and chase crew. Could NOT be done without you. Our gratitude is beyond words for what you do. We are fortunate to have such great families and friendships.