Mission accomplished for ALDO Racing at the NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally.
Montreal - The Canadian rally-raid ALDO Racing Team of driver David Bensadoun and Patrick Beaulé can finally say "Mission Accomplished" after crossing the finish line in fourth place overall at the conclusion of the 2014 NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally. The four-day event held in the Mexican peninsula of Baja California started May 11 and concluded this Wednesday in San Jose del Cabo.
In the final day of the rally, David Bensadoun pushed the right buttons as he registered the fastest time overall in the first Special Section stage, finishing 2 minutes, 48 seconds ahead American legend Bob Gordon, who eventually finished the rally in third place overall with his Chenowth DR2 unlimited Vintage Buggy. Top honours went to Rich Voss with his unlimited Evolution class Protruck Ford, followed by Jerry Herbst, who crossed the finish line five minutes later with his unlimited Vintage Chevrolet 1500.
During the off-season following the 2014 Dakar Rally, the ALDO Racing team traded their Desert Warrior 3 prototype for an FIA approved rally-raid Toyota Tacoma Overdrive, a decision that was still haunting ALDO team principals on the eve of their first competition.
"When we planned to enter in the Mexican 1000, we really didn't know what to expect," said David Bensadoun. "We had never raced the Baja and the vehicles they use are scary! They're like machines from the apocalypse! Three feet of suspensions, 800 hp coming out of 8-litre engines, 42-inch tires - They're very impressive and certainly the classic American approach."
"We showed up with our "small" Toyota. Nine inches of suspension, 400 hp and 31" tires and felt a bit outclassed," continued Bensadoun. "But the fact is that on these twisty, technical roads, our vehicle was just amazing - tight, very quick, with great braking and turning abilities. The result is that in our first outing with the car we were able to win one stage and finish second in another one against some real Baja legends, as well as fourth place overall and first in our class."
Baja-type rallies are well known for attracting off-normed unlimited and open class desert warriors, trucks and buggies coming straight from the movie Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome featuring Mel Gibson. With this picture in mind, it is no wonder that few Dakar-type vehicle dare to entered the field.
"While we were registering our entry in Ensenada on the eve of the start, I could distinctly hear several old timers betting how far we would go with our truck and betting we would never cross the finish line," remembers Patrick Beaulé. "Well, guess what! We made it and we even beat some these legends to the finish line, especially one of the sceptics that was quite vocal by four spots."
At the end of the third day on Tuesday, the Toyota was hampered with a serious electronic problem. "When I went to bed, I thought that we probably wouldn't be able to race on Day 4," continued Bensadoun. "Yvan (Turcotte) and Patrick (Beaulé) stayed up until 4 AM and finally fixed the problem which eventually enabled us to grab our first-ever Top-5 finish. What an amazing team we have!"
The NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally The 2014 NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally is a 2,110-kilometre rally-raid event of the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA). The ALDO Racing Toyota Tacoma Overdrive was entered in the Rally All Wheel Drive class (RAWD) for the four-day event with nightly bivouac stops.
Ranked to start 122nd on the grid by the organizers of the NORRA, the Montreal residents took matters into their own hands and quickly began their ascension up the field, finishing 10th overall at the end of the first day. The ALDO team followed through and upped the ante to move up into the Top-5, They kept up with the leaders to finish one step away from the podium.
"As usual, we had a great time in the car," mentions Bensadoun, "but we definitely felt the pressure to perform once we realized that we were actually running up front!"
During the last day of the rally, the team blew a right rear tire, which took three minutes to change, but David (Bensadoun) quickly made up for lost time before we reached the checkpoint.
"We are quite pleased to have finished fourth," concluded Beaulé. "The last stretch threw a few curves at us. We went off course in a curve, damaging the left side of the Toyota. What we found out later while running is that we had ruptured an oil line that kept the hydraulic jacks up. As the pressure fell, the jack stand slowly began to descend, and was dragging along the road. Luckily, we had a grinder on board and promptly began to saw off the shaft. We were then able to continue."
Following their best-ever rally finish, the team is now travelling back to Montreal and will reach its destination in a fortnight. The ALDO team has more events in store, including the 2015 South American Dakar Rally, January 4-17.