Armin Schwarz newsletter 2008-10-15

Newsletter 15 October: Good Starting Position at Baja, Greg as new Navigator, David well shaken Dear friends, dear partners, Please read in today's newsletter about the upcoming Baja 1000 - and about the strange experiences that one of the ...

Newsletter 15 October: Good Starting Position at Baja, Greg as new Navigator, David well shaken

Dear friends, dear partners,

Please read in today's newsletter about the upcoming Baja 1000 - and about the strange experiences that one of the world's most experienced rally journalists made on board our Buggy.

Have fun, best wishes,

The starting position at the Baja 1000 can be a serious handicap - if you stand far behind - or it can be an advantage. We had good luck at the draw of this year's (19 to 22 Nov) Baja. We'll have starting number 107 on our AGM Buggy. That means we are the seventh Buggy on the road. That's the good news. The bad news is: There are around 30 of the 800+ hp Trophy Trucks ahead of them. Well, it's much better than last year, when we had starting number 167 ...

At this year's Baja 1000 we'll have starting number 107. Let's hope it is a lucky number!

There's good news from All German Motorsports, too. Our team member Greg Grassmann will be Martin Christensen's navigator for the upcoming Baja 1000. His predecessor Chris Ames moved to the East Coast for professional reasons, and we wish this great guy all the best.

Greg Grassmann: the new navigator in Martin's cockpit

Greg has been with AGM for 18 months now. The 41-year-old from California comes from an extensive automotive background, and at AGM he preps up the race cars, or gets support vehicles ready. Prepping the race ca rs includes comprehensive tear down, including engine, transmission and suspension removal. Moreover Greg does chase support during the races. That means he belongs to a chase crew which basically brings fast help to a race car, should it run into a problem somewhere in the desert. And for this you've got to be an excellent navigator.

Greg, who has been married for 13 years and is the proud father of a daughter, says: "This year's Baja 1000 will be my first race as a navigator. Right now I'm very excited about navigating and being in the car with Martin. I'm sure as the car gets to the pit for the drivers change on race day I will be nervous."

David Evans, autosport magazine, Great Britain: "They're all mad."

Having covered rallying on a world and domestic level for more years than I care to remember, I thought I'd seen pretty much everything that could be done with a competition car on a loose surface. I hadn't. Not even close. That fact was hammered home on September day near Las Vegas last year.

David Evans, autosport magazine

And the man who taught me that I knew nothing was Armin Schwarz. Invited to attend Armin's test prior to the Primm 300, I was excited and intrigued. I knew very little of Baja racing beyond the fact that they had big motors for big journeys through big deserts.

I was about to find out a whole lot more. Standing beside the class one race buggy which Armin shared with Matthias Kahle and Martin Christensen was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life. It was so much bigger than I'd expected and so much more agricultural - there were none of the World Rally Car niceties here. Sensing my trepidation and seeing me looking for the non-existent windscreen, Armin laughed. "You don't need a windscreen," he said, "not, when you've got these."

And with that, he handed me a crash helmet with a strengthened visor and disappeared. No seriously, he disappeared. In the time I'd taken to pull my helmet on, Armin had gone - only to reappear in the driving seat. "Get in," he shouted.

How? There was no door and no chance of going through the window. Armin revealed how he'd disappeared by pointing at the roof. Ah, you get in through the roof. Obviously.

Once installed, the real insanity of the day kicked in. We'd been through the stage, which carved its way through the Nevada desert in a five-mile loop, in the pre-runner (a sort of Baja-style recce car), but now it was the real deal. "This will be three times faster than the pre-runner," Armin grinned. Again, sensing my concern, he gunned the starter and the glorious five-litre BMW M-tuned engine burst into life behind me. The noise was stunning. This was a pure race engine. We were off.

Nothing, believe me, nothing, prepares you for your first run in one of these cars. On the long lazy corners in the first part of the track, the car wobbles and nudges the side of the ruts which we're mercifully locked into at well over 100kp/h. The way back in and the vicious, evil bumps are what really impress. The dips and hollows in the road are well over a meter deep, but Armin's right foot is buried. And you barely feel a thing. The suspension is probably the most impressive aspect of the car. The dampers are working overtime next to me, but they're keeping us bang on track.

How Armin maintains any semblance of focus and concentration with all that noise, vibration and dust going on around him is beyond me. In fact, on that day, most things were beyond me.

Before I arrived in the desert, I'd been deeply sceptical of events like the Baja 1,000. Now I can't even begin to tell you about the respect I have for Armin and his mates. That said, I still think they're all mad.

Nothing makes sense anymore.
    Armin Schwarz


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Drivers Armin Schwarz , Matthias Kahle