Plenty of vehicles complete the Baja 1000 every year, but usually none of them wear a Lexus badge. After completing the Baja 500 last year, Joe Bacal and JTGrey Racing won their class at the 2010 Baja 1000 in a Lexus LX 570.
“This one was a nail-biter—a real test for everyone,” said Bacal. “But my team stayed with it and we got ourselves back in the race. With the problems behind us we just flew to the finish line.”
Bacal is referring to both mechanical and electrical problems that nearly took him out of the race. Just a few hours in, around mile 180, the Lexus lost a wheel, not an uncommon occurrence at Baja. Unfortunately, the loose wheel caused a fair amount of damage during its departure from the vehicle. Bacal and co-driver Chris Cocores were sidelined for over two hours with repairs.
The problems didn’t end there, though. After the Primm 300 race in September, the Lexus had developed a problem in its electrical system interfering with engine starting. The team thought they had it fixed, but naturally, it decided to resurface during the most important race of the year. The issue eventually sidelined the team again within spitting distance of Checkpoint No. 5 at mile 382.
“We knew we could finish on the podium if we could just get to the finish,” said Bacal. “By now we were exhausted and hungry, and the finishing window was getting very tight. We tried everything we could think of and with just 40 minutes left to get through the next checkpoint, the LX started. At that point, it seemed like a miracle.”
Bacal made the checkpoint, but after their long breakdown and a lack of communication, their support team had already packed up and headed home. Thankfully, they hadn’t gotten far and the team was able to meet up at mile 545 to hand off driving duties to Bob Ditner and Paul Williamsen as planned, if not a bit late.
The Lexus, thankfully, was trouble-free from that point on, which is more than can be said for the until-then class-leading #861 Hummer, which broke down with only a few hundred miles to go. Bacal retook the wheel for the last stretch and crossed the finish line at 7:54 am after just under 43 hours on the trail, earning JTGrey Racing the class win in the Stock Full Class.
The win at Baja caps a near-perfect season for the young team with only a season-and-a-half under their belts. Combined with four class wins and one second-place finish, the Baja win let JTGrey Racing easily claim the class championship for 2010.