Armin Schwarz Newsletter 30 November
Baja1000 - The toughest drive of my life. 16 hours, 600hp, and a bit of dust
It can take an awfully long time to cover 500 kilometres - even in a 640 hp race car. At this year's Baja 1000 it took me almost exactly 16 hours. That was approximately twice the time that the All German Motorsports team had planned for my stint. And it was more than twice as hard than anything I'd ever experienced inside a cockpit of a race or rally car.
The start on the Pacific port of Ensenada: Every 30 seconds a competitor sets off. The engines roar, we are all totally pumped, soon the dust flies metres high. Right from the take off we don't muck around. At 20 miles I I am already involved in lively in-fights. We have already caught up some Trophy Trucks which had started way before us. It's a chaos a high speed: zero viz, hefty hits in the suspension, screaming engines. The only calm and regular thing right now is my navigator's voice in the intercom. My concentrationist almost painful.
Then comes this narrow section with really deep dust, on one side a deep rut. In we slip with a grinding sound and we're stuck. After half an hour of digging we're out again, but not for long. In front a mini-truck is stuck. We slow down and sink deep. This time it's serious. Jump out of the car, two hours of digging, sweating. After two and a half hours a truck pulls us out. We drive on but now we are in the middle of heavy traffic. This is just totally, completely crazy: Motorbikes, quads, buggies, cars, all roaring through the desert as if they've been bitten by a scorpion. From race mile 40 to 130, SCORE boss Sal Fish has concocted a very special section for man and machine: 90 miles of first and second gear. The Buggies take some terrible knocks but we handle it. If you are weak here you can only stop your car, get out, sit down and cry.< div>
BLACK NIGHT, 170 KPH, ZERO VIZ
Dusk, around 5.15pm it gets dark. Soon it'll be pitch black. We had calculated to reach the pits before dusk. We are way too late. So we have no nightface on the car. So we've hardly got any light. Funny feeling, that, to roar through the desert at 170, 180 kph and have a 30 metre viz. The GPS shows us the way but can't warn us of deep holes or tree trunks in the way. I have been known to be more relaxed at the wheel than right now ... and again deep sand. One metre deep, like flour, choking. Third gear, fourth, five thousand revs. We sink and sink and sink ... and here we stand again. Ten cars keep us company. For the next five miles we take one hour. The right-rear shock is slowly dying - with every rumble from the wheel and axle we know we have to go even slower. Nine o'clock in the evening: The pits at Race Mile 190! Fresh water for a parched throat! A new shock absorber! Fuel! The boys have waited long for us. Still, only shoulder slapping and words of encouragement. We're still racing for the Class 1 championship. We're in second and the leader seems to be experiencing problems as well. Give up? I don't even know how to spell it!
THE DESERT IS KNOCKING US SENSELESS
Out of the pits and onward. We make good progress. Our 8-cylinder roars, we have lights, the mood improves ... And it has to. SCORE boss Sal Fish, who chooses all the routes himself, has put together another doozy for us. The desert is now an incredibly gigantic rock garden. The Buggy begins to roll and buck like a boat in a hurricane. We're going 60, 80 kph over huge rocks. The desert is knocking us senseless - even though the two of us took up the race fit and strong. I try to increase the pace ten, twenty kph and pay the price: It's as if the Buggy wants to kill us. Stitch in my side - I'm not sure how I'm going to keep breathing.
And then again: Highspeed into the dust of a competitor. No visibility. It's punishing mile after mile. After 500 kilometres we finally reach the pits. Sixteen hours, fourteen of which I couldn't see. It's time to change drivers. Martin Christensen takes over.
Awaiting Martin is a drive he's never experienced in his long Baja 1000 career. Finally, our toughest rival BJ Richardson finishes eighth in the class, we're ninth. BJ is the champion and I congratulate him on his super performance and great season.
As vice-champions and with two wins under our belt in 2008, we at All German Motorsports have experienced our best year yet together. My most sincere thanks to everyone of our team members and particularly to Martin Christensen!
And of course I can't forget to congratulate Volkswagen Motorsport on their excellent result. At their first outing they brought the two brand-new Baja Race Touareg TDI over the distance in the top Trophy Truck class and achieved a good result. I take my hat off to them. I'm very much looking forward to 2009 when Volkswagen contests the whole SCORE Off-road series with the Touareg bear.
But now it's full steam ahead to Christmas. Somehow I like the thought of sitting in the lounge, it doesn't shake, there's no dust and we have plenty of light...