Finally, a straight, flat stretch with no hazards indicated on the unfailing GPS screens. This was the picture of Baja I had in my head before we'd started. As fast as BC7 would run in top gear, we floated over the landscape at an indicated 72 mph for what seemed like 10 minutes. Dave finally called out, "Ninety-degree left in a quarter mile," and, true to form, there was a great big metal fence in our path.
The last dozen miles before the driver swap at Puertecitos were possibly the most punishing. The smooth, silty dirt was replaced with melon-size white rocks and shale dispersed over undulating terrain. Paul Page's threats echoed in my ears. Even at a reduced speed, we nearly drove right past the Wide Open Baja pit zone: Ten crew members waiting in the middle of nowhere with spare tires, a welder, 50-gallon barrels of race fuel, and bottled water. We pulled in, hopped out, and the crew went to work. They found a loose alternator mount and an oil filter dangling from its supply and return lines. The bracket was removed and welded on the spot and the oil filter fixed in place with a few industrial zip ties.
Newhardt and I debriefed the next duo just as the sun was setting, "The GPS is great, but it lags behind by about a hundred feet. The brakes are good, but they've been spongy all day and need at least two to three pumps before they work. The suspension and Yokohama tires are miraculous. We only touched the skidplates once or twice and we haven't lost a pound of air in six hours. Good luck and have fun!" BC7 left in a cloud of dust. It turned out we'd passed two of our teammates who'd broken down along the way. This means we made up two positions in six hours.
There were 234 starters, competing in 24 professional and five sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs. Just 151, or 64 percent, finished before the 40-hour time limit elapsed. The winning truck made the trek in 16 hours, 19 minutes, and 3 seconds. Their record-setting average speed was 62.34 mph, or just 0.11 mph slower than the overall winner who made the trip on a motorcycle.
A Motor Trend license plate didn't stop other competitors from bumping BC7 out of their
Our team from Wide Open Baja entered seven identical buggies this year, and they all finished. The fastest WOB covered the Baja Peninsula in 23:31:20, or just over 43 mph. Our BC7 lost the two places we made up and finished last-in-class with a 32:17:18 overall time. According to WOB, this is the first time in the 35-year history of the Baja that a manufacturer of a four-wheeler posted a 100-percent finishing record with multiple vehicles.
Running even just a portion of the Baja 1000 was at once the most life-threatening and life-affirming experience I've ever had--and I can't wait to do it again. Perhaps with fewer TV sets in the road this time. And I'll bring my own catheter.
If this sounds like your kind of fun, contact Wide Open Baja, 888/788-BAJA, or go to wideopenbaja.com. If you prefer a more leisurely pace, they also offer less adventurous Baja drives in the same buggies--minus the 1000-mile race part.