Baja 1000 review: Cautious start, dramatic finish
Before the start at Ensenada: the entire city celebrates the Baja 1000
Dear Friends, Partners and Sponsors,
Here, at last, is my personal summary of this year's Baja 1000. Have fun!
... From the start to Race Mile 30 I'm going to take things very easy. That's my rock solid rule at this year's Baja 1000. Because in 2008 I got stuck right after the start whilst trying to get past a stranded competitor in thick dust and poor visibility. So I keep the reins tight on my 640 horsepowers, even when the fat Trophy Trucks running in front of us look like I can catch them. Dust like a yellow wall in front of our car. Race Miles 23 to 30 are totally unfamiliar -- no one had the chance to practice here. We catch up to a Trophy Truck. I wait. Hurly Letner roars past. Hurley narrowly leads the championship ahead of us. So I'd better catch him again. Patience Armin, patience.
Right from the start the heat is on ...
After the first 30 miles viz gets better. I put down the throttle, here we go! At Race Mile 65 I catch Hurley Letner, and pass him. Everything is running perfectly, our rhythm is good, the AGM Buggy is in excellent form thanks to the immaculate preparation work of our teammates. We are cranking along big time now. In fact we are so fast that we storm into the overall lead. Our team puts in a perfect pit stop at Race Mile 160.
Race Mile 180: San Felipe. This name gives Baja old-hands a shiver. Huge bumps over many, many miles are horrific for everyone. Almost everyone. Because while we are all struggeling to stay in the race, the massive Trophy Trucks with their endless wheel travel and mammoth torque are making a meal of it. No matter, we are still in the leading group.
And the Baja 1000 is the ultimate endurance test for man and machine Suddenly, at Race Mile 260, a smell wafts into the cockpit. Gearbox oil. Strange, because we weren't driving at great speed or through twisty terrain. Everthing seems fine for ten, twelve miles, then we smell imminent calamity again. My navigator Bryan and I have only one choice: Slow down.
We reach the Matomi Wash, a dry, deep river bed. Very, very big rocks lie scattered everywhere. It resembles rock crawling, slow, torturous and tough as nails. The oil smell is strong. The stones are so sharp-edged that many suffer punctures.
250,000 fans saw the race from the trackside
Race Mile 295, the wash opens up. We glimpse the ocean, now we pick up the pace.
After a highway passage we dive into one of the toughest sections of the Baja 1000 for 35 miles. It looks like a stormy sea has turned into rocks. This stretch almost wrecks the car and brings us to the absolute limit of what we can take. But we hold it together, the car takes the punishments and the BF Goodrich tyres last -- like always.
Finally: our pit stop and driver change! Dusk fell ten minutes ago. We lead the class by more than 20 minutes over Armin Kremer. The mechanics look for the cause for the oil smell and find a crack in the gearbox housing. They refill with oil. Waiting for this requires good nerves. Transmission oil has the viscosity of cool honey
Martin takes off. After every 80 miles he stops and carefully refills with oil. At some point in the night an obstacle hits the front left side and rips the brake line. Still, Martin is unstoppable. He brings our Buggy home safe and sound.
It's 1.40am in Ensenada when Martin finally crosses the finish line after almost 16 hours. Despite the constant refills and cautiousness, we finish second in the Class 1 Unlimited category and claim vice-championship honours behind Ronnie Wilson -- beaten by three points! For a fleeting second we all think, "what if...?", which is quickly replaced by jubilation at our success after just our second full SCORE season. One thing's for sure: now we party!
Andreas Aigner, our teammate in the second AGM Buggy has other things on his mind at this point. Andy is stuck up near Mike's Sky Ranch and the temperatures have plummeted to nearly freezing point. It'll be another good ten hours before he reaches Ensenada. Then he'll have a story to tell. You will hear this here in two weeks' time.