Raffo Racing Conquers Baja
Long time desert racer Chris Raffo and his California Tomatoes, FIG Partners, Hot Creek Capital, Phil's Inc., Powermaster, BFGoodrich Tires Chevrolet K5 Blazer came to Baja California to conquer the 39th edition of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. This year's event was a 1048 mile run from Ensenada to La Paz. The event was destined to be one of the longest and roughest editions of the historic event.
A hurricane had hit the southern half of the peninsula in October, causing the course to be rerouted just a few days before the event. That extreme weather created deep had created standing water in several washes, and mud pits in others, hazards desert racers rarely encounter. The excessive rains created long deep silt bed in other areas as well. On race day the weatherman cooperated with sunshine and temperatures in the 80's and nighttime temps in the 50's. The record setting 431 race teams had 43 hours to complete the journey down Baja.
Chris and his desert proven Class 3 Chevy Blazer were taking on four other competitors in his division. A group that is dominated by "old school" Ford Broncos. A statistic the California Tomato Chevy Blazer would like to change.
The first leg of the race, had Chris Raffo handling the driving duties with first time off-roader, David Harvey of Reno, Nevada riding shotgun. At mile 328 Chris handed the truck over to Jeff Dolan of Atwater, California with John Holtz of Appleton, Wisconsin, co-driving. The first portion of the race was uneventful, except for a quick stop to replace the shield on Chris's helmet, as the top three Class 3 competitors were within 40 minutes of each other.
The second leg of the event was rough and slow going. The rough mountain trails, at night, took its toll on the truck and a front axle broke. It took a few hours for the chase crew to locate the truck and replace the axle, but none the less, they were back on course.
At mile 512, Dennis Chencherick took over the driving duties, with Chris' seventeen year old son, Pete, navigating. This was Pete's first time in a race truck as well. Navigating was a loosely used term as the GPS unit had failed, and navigation of the course was purely by sight. As Dennis and Pete battled through the next twelve hours into the next morning, the right front spindle broke. The team radioed the chase crew and out came the Suburban with the needed tools and parts. Once again the team lost a few more hours, but they kept heading for LaPaz.
The last leg started at mile 850 with Chris Raffo taking the wheel and Jeff Dolan riding shotgun. Almost immediately, Chris realizes the truck's fuel pressure had become eratic. At certain times it practically dropped to zero. The lack of fuel pressure made it almost impossible for the BFGoodricjh shod Blazer to cross the incredibly deep silt beds. At one point, the team is stuck for over two hours. Undaunted, the Chris and Jeff methodically work themselves out of the silt.
After 38 hours and 17 minutes, the California Tomatoes, FIG Partners, Hot Creek Capital, Phil's Inc., Powermaster, BFGoodrich Tires Chevrolet K5 Blazer takes the checkered flag in second place in Class 3.
As the team celebrated their conquering of Baja, team leader Chris Raffo commented, "We got to the finish. We had some problems along the way, but we stayed focused and never gave up. The course was absolutely brutal. The last portion of the course, had vehicles broke or stuck all over the place. The combination of no wind, fog, and the dust just hanging in the air made the trail into LaPaz almost impossible. Even if we had good fuel pressure, I don't know how much faster we could have driven the truck in the last few hours. The BFGoodrich Tires were really put to the test, and came through without a single flat. Our Powermaster alternator kept the battery charged and our Hella HID lights going strong. Thanks to everyone, Dennis, David, Jeff, John, and my son, Pete for never quitting. Now let's get some rest."
Next Race - SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge - January 18-21, 2007