"Are you okay?" Robbie Groff's voice punctuated the silence inside my helmet. "Yes, I'm fine," I responded, breathless from the shock. Still strapped into my five-point harness, but now lying on my side, with a view of rocks and dirt out the open windshield, I pressed the orange call button to communicate with team race manager Don Tebbe and veteran crew chief Barry Beachman. Just a half-mile before, I'd called in: "This is Race Car 1525 passing Mile Marker 712, gauges are good, and we're running clean." "10-4, Sue, we copy," returned Tebbe. "Keep up the good work, you two."
Abruptly, the wind shifted. On point to overtake a Class-III (short wheelbase, minimal modifications) racer, a bow wake of billowing dust filled our roll-cage cockpit. Groff rode the brakes hard, but as dry dirt filtered daylight back into the equation, the road dropped away from our racer, and the Baja T/A 35-in. tires struggled to keep us upright. Nearly 3000 lb of race car tumbled sideways down a rock-littered gully, rolling over one-and-a-half times before coming to a jolting halt.
Struggling to pull the belt release, I pushed in the radio control. "Don, Don...this is Sue...we've rolled, and we're on our side in a gully." I tried putting the brakes on my rapidly beating heart and locate oxygen for my lungs. "We're unhurt." Tebbe's calm voice read the drill. "Remove the fire extinguisher, get out of the vehicle, and report back on your condition."
An hour later, using the jack, spare tire, and rocks--along with the assistance of three other racers, who helped us drag, tug, and roll over the race car one-and-a-half more times--Robbie jumped behind the wheel and pushed the ignition switch, as I gathered tools and gear and loaded us up for another go. The Camry's V-6 roared to a start, and we headed out once again across the Nevada terrain to make a podium finish of one of the toughest off-road races on the planet.