Immke Racing Baja 1000 summary

Immke Racing puts on strong performance with Castrol car at historic Baja 1000 After running strong and leading for several hours in front of a crowd of over 300,000 spectators, late race trouble led to a disappointing finish in the Baja...

Immke Racing puts on strong performance with Castrol car at historic Baja 1000

After running strong and leading for several hours in front of a crowd of over 300,000 spectators, late race trouble led to a disappointing finish in the Baja Challenge class for Immke Racing at the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. The punishing terrain challenged the record field of 342 cars, leaving only 163 finishers, as they went coast to coast on the Baja peninsula, starting and ending in Ensenada, Mexico.

Woody Williams started the race in the Castrol sponsored entry and drove aggressively over some of the most technically difficult terrain in this year's course. Williams' run in the Castrol car was punctuated by hard contact into the back of car #12 while passing him. Despite the contact, Williams picked up the position and eventually brought the car into the pits in a strong fourth place.

The lead pairing of Chris Lucas and Eric Place took over after sunset. "We were pretty pumped up with Woody bringing the car in such a strong position," Place said. "We pushed it to the limit keeping in mind that we had a long way to go to get the car home to the finish."

It paid off. After a couple of hours, the Castrol car was in first place leading the Baja 1000. "We led for a long time before a flat tire caused us to pull over for an impromptu pit stop," Place said. The pit stop was quick but it shuffled the Castrol car back to third position by the time the two teammates got the car underway once again

Miles and miles of very fine sand proved to be extremely taxing on all of the event entries. "It was in the silt that we became even more grateful for Castrol's involvement with our team. The Castrol Oil performed phenomenally! We were running sustained oil temperatures in excess of 250 degrees for significant periods of time in the silt without any engine problems," Place said.

Thirty miles from the end of their stint, Lucas and Place went blasting at full speed through a river that was three feet deep. Chris Lucas said, "The force of the car hitting the river sent a wall of water clear up over the car, soaking us from head to toe."

With the nighttime desert air at a crisp 27 degrees, the numbing cold posed a new challenge for the drivers.

"It literally took our breath away," Lucas said. And the worst was yet to come. Driving at speeds in excess of 100 mph, the cold nighttime desert air ripped through the soaking wet driver's suits like a knife.

It became increasingly difficult for Lucas to grip the wheel with frozen hands and the intense concentration that it takes to drive in this race. "The smart thing at that point was to turn the car over to Keith and Drew Guenther in good shape and up front. Pushing too hard had too much potential of a race ending disaster. We kept a good pace and handed the car off to them in second place," Lucas said.

The Castrol entry was still running strong until a wheel bearing seized up and immobilized the car deep into Guenther's stint. Without radios due to the water damage from the river incident the breakdown left the pair stuck in the desert for hours until they were able to walk to the next pit. The delay took the team out of contention for the win, but after the valiant effort to finish, they reached the finish line in 30.5 hours.

Despite the disappointing end, Place remains optimistic about the team's performance.

"The bottom line is this race was a huge confidence builder. We proved to ourselves and everyone else that we could run up front. Leading the Baja 1000 as we did was a thrill that we will never forget. I wish that we could fast forward to the 2006 race immediately! We will win this race in the future," Place said.

When it wasn't turning heads on the race course, the spectacular red, white and green Castrol livery attracted a lot of attention off of the track as well. Prior to the race, the Castrol car was the only car featured on display at the Wide Open Baja party.

"I can't say enough about the job that the people in Castrol's graphics department did on the car. There were other cars whose sponsors were hosting the pre-event party that were passed by in lieu of the Castrol car because it was so aesthetically captivating," Place said.

Immke Racing plans to return to next year's Baja 1000 in grand fashion, moving up significantly in class to the highly competitive Pro Truck division. The team intends to make a "big name" driver announcement before the end of the year.

Coverage of this year's Baja 1000 will be televised on a delayed basis as a one-hour NBC Sports special for the second consecutive year on December 10 on the NBC Network. Additional coverage can be seen on the Outdoor Life Network on December 17.

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