At the last minute, I'm presented with an opportunity to ride a leg of the 40th Annual Baja 1000 with DXR Racing in its 4WD Stock Mini Mitsubishi Raider-how can I turn that down? The trip has been planned in less than a week, and after a crazy couple of days and a mad dash to get a passport in less than one day (it can be done, but I wouldn't recommend it), two other automotive journalists, our tour guide/translator/chauffeur from Mitsubishi, and I head off to Baja California, Mexico. After arriving in Baja, we meet up with DXR Racing, led by driver Dan Fresh. During the team meeting the night before the race, we go over pit strategy and location, when and where the co-driver changes will be, and where I'll be getting in and out of the race truck. The section of the race in which I'll co-drive is about 150 miles long and stretches from the town of Guayaquil to the Bahia de Los Angeles. This may not seem like much, but with the slow speeds this section requires, it'll take over four hours to complete.
DXR's Mitsubishi Raider runs in the Stock Mini Class and is returning to Baja as class champion. In last year's event, DXR beat Rod Millen by 33 seconds, the smallest margin in Stock Mini history, after a crash near the end of the race determined the victor. This year, the same truck is back, with new modifications to the suspension and body.
Since Stock Mini is among the slower classes (relatively speaking), it's one of the last to leave the starting line. Trophy Trucks are first off the line at 10:30 a.m.; we don't leave until 12:30 p.m. As DXR is given the green flag, the rest of the team piles into the Montero chase vehicle and heads down the peninsula for our first stop in El Rosario.
The Raider is running behind schedule and we arrive in El Rosario early, giving us plenty of time to have a good meal, shower, and rest at the Baja Cactus Motel before the final 60-kilometer drive to our rendezvous point in Guayaquil. We meet up with the DXR team there, and I have just enough time to get suited up and down a bottle of water and a protein bar before the truck arrives. This is it-my time to ride in the truck.
Preparation is extremely important in a race-arguably more so than the race itself-so the first part of my leg of the race is spent on the highway, learning what my job will entail. With normal co-driver Sean Douglas behind the wheel and Dan Fresh taking a quick nap in the Dodge Ram Mega Cab directly behind us, I have the opportunity to become familiar with the truck, gauges, and GPS, and to practice calling out turns, speeds, and hazards, so when I'm in the dirt with Dan I'll know exactly what to do. When we reached the Coco's Corner pit stop, the crew quickly replaces a bad ball joint-the only major repair during the entire event-and Dan replaces Sean in the driver's seat.
The next few hours are a blur, and it seems as if everything is happening at triple speed. With the truck serviced we tear off into the night, down smooth, fast winding roads, steep goat trails, rocky paths, through a checkpoint, and into a swamp. We watch the sun rise, plow through miles and miles of whoops and sand wash, take hard hits, pass trucks, get passed by trucks, and generally have a blast.
By the time we reached the Bahia de Los Angeles and the end of my ride, I'm ready to go the rest of the distance (adrenaline is an awesome thing), but sad to say my time is up and a new co-driver takes my place as they head off down the coast for the finish line in Cabo San Lucas. Our time in the race truck complete, we hop back into the Montero and head down the coast to meet the truck at the finish.
I'm glad to report that the DXR Racing Mitsubishi Raider Stock Mini crosses the finish line in third place with a time of 41 hours, 48 minutes, and Dan Fresh has driven all but two hours of that. I'm just lucky I've had the opportunity to be a part of the 40th Annual Baja 1000 with DXR. It truly has been the time of my life.