Lucas Baja Racing runs strong at Baja 500 Ensenada, Mexico (June 4, 2006) In what was described as the toughest SCORE Tecate Baja 500 ever, Immke Baja Racing's ...
Lucas Baja Racing runs strong at Baja 500
Ensenada, Mexico (June 4, 2006) In what was described as the toughest SCORE Tecate Baja 500 ever, Immke Baja Racing's #245 Castrol Ford Protruck ran strong until late race drama ruined their shot at victory.
In front of over 150,000 fans literally within arms reach of the race course Chris Lucas and Eric Place attacked the rigorous terrain and charged through the field during the first stint of the race.
Competing against 436 two and four wheeled vehicles in different classes and moving at different rates of speed, the Castrol team got to experience all the unique challenges of the Baja Peninsula. The largest field in SCORE history battled twisty, technical sections, jagged rocks and an area called the "Pine Forrest" which featured 75 foot trees (similar to Northern California's giant Redwoods) on both sides of the road.
"There were a lot a sections in the Pine Forrest where we only had inches on either side of the truck in between huge trees that would have ended our day if any miscalculations were made out there," said Place.
In other sections, local residents produced their anticipated "booby traps" by flooding the course.
"It took everything that we had to keep our momentum in those "man made" muddy sections," said Lucas. "If we had gotten stuck there we would have been there for a long time."
Taking advantage of many long days of pre-running the course before the event, the teaming of Lucas and Place put their knowledge of the course to good use, keeping within a couple of minutes behind the leader in a strong second place at the halfway point of the event. During the subsequent pit stop, former Indy 500 star Roberto Guerrero replaced Lucas behind the wheel for the remainder of the event.
"Chris did an unbelievable job to hand the truck off to me in second place," Guerrero said.
However, the Baja Peninsula takes no prisoners and a series of bad luck quickly befouled the veteran Guerrero.
"Chris is 6'2" and I'm 5'8" and with this terrain it was very hard for me to see over the nose of the truck," Guerrero said. "I didn't have that problem when we tested, but in this terrain I couldn't see the silt and I got stuck, which cost us about an hour and a half."
After sundown, the Castrol entry suffered more setbacks while trying to make up lost time as conditions quickly deteriorated. Despite driving with extremely impaired vision, Guerrero was determined to still turn in a good result.
"Once we got going again, it got dark and really foggy," the native Colombian Guerrero said. "Some of the lights became misaligned and they were not aimed right, some of them up at the sky. Once I tore the last tear-off from my helmet visor I realized that I had haze on my visor so I had to drive the rest of the race with my visor up and the trucks do not have windshields which caused me to go off again and we lost more time."
In spite of the setbacks, the Castrol team still managed to finish in 7th place in class.
"The truck performed flawlessly, the team did a great job," Guerrero said. "It was a very eventful race, but I'm glad we were able to bring the truck home. I'm really looking forward to the next race. I'm very proud and thankful to have a sponsor like Castrol. The livery of the truck and transporter is beautiful. I'd really like to thank Castrol for all of their support."
"We definitely have an edge on our competition in these extremely strenuous conditions with the Castrol products that we use in our race truck," Place said. "There were sand washes filled with silt as fine as baby powder for miles and miles and it really puts a strain on the engine. We've logged thousands of miles under the most extreme constant conditions, but have never had a failure that could be attributed to our lubricants."