Armin Schwarz Baja 500 in retrospect: "Are you totally crazy?" 700 hp scream behind my neck, our Buggy ploughs through with sheer power, driving is incredibly tough - and I can't see a thing! According to our GPS we are in a dried-up river bed.
Baja 500 in retrospect: "Are you totally crazy?"
700 hp scream behind my neck, our Buggy ploughs through with sheer power, driving is incredibly tough - and I can't see a thing! According to our GPS we are in a dried-up river bed. Everything is either yellow or black depending on the colour of the powdery dust they call silt. I can't even see the gearshift lever let alone the front of our Buggy. Only by feeling my way with the steering wheel through the grooves in the track can I hope that we are on the right path. Every so often I hit something hard and our Buggy springs over. It's unbelievably exciting and exhausting.
We're only 80 miles into the Baja 500., but I've already experienced something that I've never had before in my entire career. I'm constantly amazed at the super professional work my All German Motorsport team does. Such a reliable, professional and laid-back atmosphere is simply unique. The start in the village of Ensenada was a huge festival for adventure-loving fans. They were all able to come right up to us and our cars. The fans here are number one and I reckon that's fantastic!
My tactic was clear: I was the 67th car to take off and wanted to drive as quickly as possible right from the get-go. But then reality hit: In the first twelve miles I only managed to pass two competitors. It was unbelievably twisty and dusty but that wasn't the only hurdle. My problem was I didn't know the overtaking etiquette of the US warhorses and simply tried to drive around them. And what did the lads do? They closed the door on me! So I tried knocking by bumping their rear so that they knew I wanted to pass - then it worked!
On a short highway section with a speed limit I overtook one of the powerful Trophy Trucks - these monsters are almost too strong to move. At low speed on the asphalt they hardly make it around the corner with their rigid rear axles.
After the highway we had a super quick 40 kilometre section with long crests - a little like in Finland. At 180 kph I managed to overtake seven or eight vehicles. Of course not before knocking! This was a totally new experience for me. After the race they came up to me, slapped me on the shoulder and said awestruck: "You are totally crazy!"
After the highspeed experience we dived into the dry river bed. First flat-out to the highest point of the Baja near "Mike's Sky Ranch", a couple of water crossings - then things got even tougher: Initially 45 miles of transverse grooves, one after the other, every one a good half-metre deep. That's a real test for the survival ability of man and machine. Interspersed are huge boulders and in the narrow passes you can just make out a faint track. On this single trail passage I overtook about 35 cars: pull up, overtake, next one - every single bone in my body was well shaken. At the end of the single trails Giniel de Villiers came into sight: I approached him and knocked gently - the Dakar cars are quite delicate compared to our Buggy.
At the 200 mile mark I finally overtook the Buggy that was leading at that point. I had actually caught him back at the river bed but the chap promptly took off at such a pace. Still, now we were leading --- until five miles before I handed the Buggy over to Matthias. I took a short cut and got a puncture. The tyre change worked perfectly - just as we had practised. But a couple of competitors slipped by.
I gave the Buggy to Matthias who then stormed off but he had to s top twice with driveshaft seal problems. With a great deal of finesse and speed he brought our Buggy home to Ensenada where we were waiting in the football stadium with tens of thousands of fans. Matthias, our All German Motorsports team and I were given an enthusiastic welcome by the fans. They love their sport and they know how to celebrate. They also find it great when a relatively small team like ours annoys the main players. In off-road fan-jargon they say: "They kicked the big boys' ass..."
Finally, I want to thank my All German Motorsport team for their fantastic work! Thanks to our sponsors, to the organisers of the SCORE Offroad series and this Baja - and of course thanks to all my fans and the members of the Virtual Car Club for your wonderful support.