Raffo Racing Ends Day at the Lake - Laguna Salada
Arlington Heights, IL (November 30, 2008) - The 2008 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 saw Chris Raffo and his #304 Fig Partners DiMare Fresh Phil's Inc. BFGoodrich Tire Class 3 Chevy Blazer looking to conquer the forty first edition of this epic off-road race. The course was a six hundred thirty two mile (approximately 1000 kilometers) trek that would begin and end in Ensenada. Some of the trails used for this years event, had not been raced on in over ten years, and many considered this year's course to be among one of the toughest courses ever created by SCORE officials.
"We have been able, with the dedication and cooperation of many of our friends in Baja California, a race course for the 41st Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 that will seriously challenge the most seasoned of our great SCORE desert racers," commented Sal Fish, SCORE President/CEO since soon after it was founded in 1973. "This course presents the competitors with all of the variety of terrain and elevation changes you could possibly have along with the dramatic beauty of Baja. The La Rumorosa grade runs from about race-mile 111 to 127 and the infamous climb and descending grade, filled with switchbacks and large drop-offs, has only been used in the 1995 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 and the 1996 Tecate SCORE Baja 500. SCORE actually paid to have the dirt trail graded through the mountains."
The competitors in Class 3 were all seasoned veterans and each was capable of capturing the first place trophy. Every competitor left the start, one at a time in thirty second intervals. Raffo Racing left the starting line as the third Class 3 racer, with just Don Moss and Darrin Skelton in front of him.
Chris had most of his usual team back for this year's Baja, including Dennis Chencharick, Jeff Dolan, John Holtz, and Jody Nevling. A new member to the team was Tom Botz; he was Chris' co-driver for the first leg of the race. The all-volunteer support crew came from all over the United States looking to get the Blazer to finish line within the 31 hours time limit.
At the drop of the green flag, the Fig Partners Blazer took off. Almost immediately, a loud metal noise came from the back of the truck. The spare axle shaft broke loose and fell off the race truck. Quickly, a spectator ran up to the truck with the axle, quickly grabbed some tie wraps from Chris and remounted it to the truck. The delay was only slight, but now there were slower vehicles on the road ahead.
Chris charged through the wash heading out of town. The driveshafts on the Blazer were just replaced with newly designed units from High Angle Driveshaft, and they really made a difference with the truck. For the first time in competition, the #304 DiMare Fresh Phil's inc. Blazer was exceeding 95mph on the GPS. The next one hundred miles, Chris and Tom were making up time and eventually found themselves out front in the Class 3 race. Just before La Rumorosa, the #304 stopped to help Class 1 driver, Brendan Gaughan. Brendan was high centered just off the course on some rocks. Quickly Chris and Tom pulled the buggy off the rocks and both racers were back on track.
As Chris and Tom were beginning the long trek along the dry lake, Laguna Salada, disaster hit. At mile 161 the front axle housing broke, stopping the Blazer in its tracks. At the time it was almost dark, Chris radioed to his crew, about thirty miles down the course, to bring the spare front end as the housing was completely broken in two. Unfortunately things didn't go so well for the chase crew. It took some time to gather everyone and all the parts together. Then the chase crew got lost, then they were stopped by the Mexicali Police for speeding, somehow talked their way out of a ticket, and then missed the turn off to come down the course to where the Blazer sitting waiting for the front end.
Eventually, in the early morning hours, the chase truck arrived and everyone worked to get the front end back together. Unfortunately too much time had passed for the team to keep going, and finish before the thirty one hour time limit. At daybreak, after a spending a cold night out in the desert, Chris and Dennis Chencharick drive fifteen miles back up the course to the highway looking to put the Blazer on the trailer to head back to Ensenada.
"The Blazer was running the best it has ever run in Baja," commented Chris Raffo. "When we crossed the highway and headed down Laguna Salada, I really thought we would have a strong finish. The switchbacks at LaRumorosa Pass were unbelievable. You had to work with the other racers just to get through there. Then the dust out of Mexicali was incredible as racers and locals were using the same road - I realized while waiting for the chase crew, that there is probably over four thousand miles on that housing when it decided to give way. I guess we should have considered replacing it before this last race. If we could have reached the highway at mile 190 we probably could have replaced the front end in a reasonable amount of time and gone on to finish the race. But this is Baja, nothing ever seems easy."