300,000 Watch as Chad Hall Makes it Four in a Row For Team HummerÂ® November 19, 2005-La Paz, BC, Mexico: Over 300 thousand spectators lined the deserts of Baja California to witness the 37th running of the Tecate SCORE `Baja 1000' as drivers...
300,000 Watch as Chad Hall Makes it Four in a Row For Team Hummer®
November 19, 2005-La Paz, BC, Mexico: Over 300 thousand spectators lined the deserts of Baja California to witness the 37th running of the Tecate SCORE `Baja 1000' as drivers from 38 states and 19 foreign countries took on this year's "peninsula run", held once every three years from Ensenada to La Paz. Starting off first in the Stock Full class was Mike Winkel driving the #861 Team HUMMER H1 pickup. Winkel, a friend and partner with Rod Hall in Reno, Nevada's Winkel HUMMER, was slated to drive to Coco's Corner around the 300 mile mark of the race with chief mechanic, Brad Falin, in the second seat. About half way into his 300 mile section, Winkel hit a big rock, well hidden in the silt, bending the right-side upper control arm, and folding the tire back against the primary shock on that side. Of course this bent our only primary shock, leaving us to depend on the smaller, secondary shock for the remainder of the race. The team was able to scavenge an upper control arm off one of the chase vehicles and get back on course after a couple of hours but by the time Chad took over at Coco's Corner, they were running in third position about 3 hours behind Josh Hall, in the #863 Team HUMMER H2 SUV and Mark Stein in the #868 Ford F-150 pickup.
The H2 and the Ford were locked in a tight race for the lead during the first 600 miles of the race. Team owner, Rod Hall, had done his job bringing the H2 into Coco's Corner for the driver change with a 15 minute lead over the #868 Ford but that lead would evaporate when Team HUMMER's Carl Perez noticed that the H2 had not been given their full measure of fuel at the gas stop in Puertocitos. Carl attempted to communicate this fact to Rod before he got too far away from the pit but the radio was dead. Using a satellite communications system Perez then con- tacted co-driver, Josh Hall, 70 miles down the course, in Coco's Corner to let him know that the H2 was about 30 gallons short on fuel. Hall jumped in a chase vehicle and approached a number of pits located in the area. Noticing that Alan Pflueger's Chevrolet Trophy Truck was in their pit apparently out of the race, he asked if they would sell Team HUMMER the necessary fuel. They offered to fuel the HUMMER for free provided we pass on the favor the next time we run across someone who needs some help. So, an alliance was forged and Josh drove directly from the driver change to the Pflueger pit where the H2 took on 30 gallons of fuel and headed out of the pit in pursuit of the #868 Ford, who had taken over first place while the truck was being fueled.
During the next 300 miles, Josh had a few minor problems that were taken care of quickly. He had overtaken the #868 Ford shortly after Bay of LA and was, once again, in the lead and forcing the Ford to work hard to keep up with the H2, a battle the F-150 was losing gradually. By the time the H2 had reached El Datil, about 600 miles into the race, Josh had built a 20 minute lead when disaster struck. Apparently some locals had thought it would be fun to replace the course danger marker with a course direc- tional arrow leading in to a corner. This caused Hall to take this line and set up for the turn unaware that there was a huge series of ditches at the apex of the corner. When they hit the lip of the first ditch, they thought for a moment that they might survive the incident but then the right front wheel dug in on the landing, shearing off the steering knuckle and catapulting the H2 into a 360 rollover that ended with the car landing Damaged H2 front end ready for reassembly back on, what was now, it's three wheels.
The sat phones lit up and crew members were called in from everywhere, including the H1 crew of AMGeneral factory whiz, John Klatte and team photographer John Pappenfort. Everyone was pressed into service, removing parts from a chase vehicle and installing them on the race truck. Rod was enroute with the parts but he was some distance away so the parts he brought went on the scavenged chase truck. While the crew was busily replacing the knuckle/hub/brake assembly, upper control arm, half shaft and the tire and wheel assembly, the lead was regained by the #868 Ford F-150. For- tunes are constantly changing in the Baja 1000 and within 50 miles, the Ford was out of the race in San Juanico with an engine failure. Fortunately for us this allowed Chad Hall and the Team HUMMER H1 pickup to take over the lead for the final time when he passed both the H2 and the Ford F-150 a couple of hours later.
Meanwhile the race was far from over for the H2. After about 4 hours they were back in the hunt and soon to be in second place. Before get- ting back underway, team photographer, John Pappenfort, took a moment to gather the group around the trucks for a group photo. Note the large erosion ditch that Team HUMMER's John Klatte is sitting on juxtaposed against the majestic Cordon Cactii in the background. Along with it's cousin, the Saguaro, the Giant Cordon is the largest cactus in the world and lives over a century. This is a good image of the Baja and an appropriate backdrop for one of the finest teams in off-road racing!
Josh was back in the truck and running a strong second place about an hour behind Chad in the H1 when the lower, right front ball joint failed at the 700 mile mark South of San Juanico taking with it the Lower control arm assembly and another half shaft. This was a lengthy repair because the parts were in the box van located across the peninsula and by the time the truck was ready to reenter the race, the H2 had dropped to fourth place, just 5 minutes in front of John Griffin's #860 H1 pickup.
As Josh was just beginning the final 300 miles in the H2, Chad was crossing the finish line in La Paz and claiming his fourth consecutive Baja 1000 victory for Team HUMMER. The #861 H1 pickup had run trouble-free since bending their rear control arm and shock early on and won the race by over two hours. Second place was claimed by Bob Graham in the #867 Nissan Titan, an apparently new Nissan factory program and third was won by Ken Kroeker in the #866 Dodge Ram 2500. A little over five hours later, the #863 H2 SUV took the fourth place checkered flag, having put more than an hour on John Griffin in the 5th place #860 HUMMER pickup.
Perhaps this year's Baja 1000 is best summed up by H2 Co-rider, Thad Stump: "Overall this turned out to be a very gruelling event that is difficult to appreciate unless you have experienced it first hand. All of the support crews were called to service at some point during the event and in some cases, multiple times. The dedica- tion and teamwork was superb which is reflected in the race results..."
- grt -