It was a celebration for the much lauded SCORE Tecate Baja 1000, which turned 40 this year. One of the longest and harshest courses in recent memory attracted 424 entries from 44 states and 19 countries, but only 239 were able to complete the gruelling 1,296.39-mile course from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas, Baja, Mexico. Countless support vehicles and crews of volunteers lined the peninsula to support the effort, but this year's event was not without tragedy as several high-profile incidents marred the glamour of the 1000 and provided a reminder to most that Baja is another country, far from the civilized security of America and more akin to our Wild West of the past.
The overall winners of this 40th 1000 were Mark Post, Rob MacCachren, and Carl Renezeder of Riviera Racing in the Number 3 Riviera Racing Ford Trophy Truck. Post's Ford averaged 51.13 miles per hour by covering the distance in 25 hours, 21 minutes, and 25 seconds, recording the fastest overall speed in a four-wheel vehicle. BFGoodrich Tires also earned its 21st overall four-wheel vehicle victory in this year's 1000, along with 15 other class victories.
This time, three Four Wheeler editors-two Baja vets and one newbie-headed down with their respective teams, and while one enjoyed the achievement of a podium finish, the other two experienced the frustration that is, more often than not, the norm in Baja. Here are their stories.
Last November, I was presented with an opportunity that I couldn't turn down: To ride a leg of the 40th Annual Baja 1000 with DXR Racing in their 4x4 Stock Mini Mitsubishi Raider. The trip was super-last-minute, planned in less than a week, and after a crazy couple days of preparation and a mad dash to acquire a passport in less than one day (yes, it can be done, and no, I wouldn't recommend it), two other automotive journalists and our tour guide/translator/chauffeur (we'll call him Mo) and I were headed down to Baja.
When we arrived in Baja we met up with the DXR Racing team, lead by Dan Fresh. During the team meeting the night before the race we all went over pit strategy and locations, when and where the codriver changes would be, and most importantly, where I would be getting in and out of the race truck. The section of the race that was selected for me to codrive was about 150 miles long and stretched from the town of Guayaquil to Bahia de Los Angeles. This may not seem like much, but with the speeds that the Stock Minis can travel, this section would take more than four hours.
Tuesday November 12th, Race Day: The DXR Mitsubishi Raider runs in the Stock Mini Class, and being one of the "slower" classes, they are one of the last to leave the starting line. Trophy Trucks were first off the line at approximately 10:30 a.m. Our Raider left the line at approximately 12:30 p.m. With the truck off the line and running strong, we all piled into our mighty Montero chase vehicle and headed down the peninsula for our intercept point of El Rosario.
As with any desert race, there is the inevitable vehicle repair. In this case, the DXR cre
Online Editor Jason Gonderman and DXR Racing driver Dan Fresh strap in before heading out
Gonderman on his way to helping DXR Racing and Mitsubishi Motors to a Third Place finish.
With the Raider running behind schedule, and us arriving in El Rosario ahead of schedule, we had plenty of time to have a good meal, take a shower, and rest at the Baja Cactus motel before making the final 60-kilometer drive to our rendezvous point in Guayaquil. Once in Guayaquil, we met up with the DXR team and had only enough time to get suited up and down a bottle of water and a protein bar before the truck arrived. This was it-my turn to ride in the truck.
The first part of my ride was on the highway with normal codriver Sean Douglas behind the wheel and Dan Fresh taking a quick nap in the Mega Cab following behind us. This gave me the opportunity to become familiar with the truck, the gauges, the GPS, and to practice calling out turns, speeds, and hazards so that when I was in the dirt with Dan, I would know exactly what to do. Upon arriving at the Coco's Corner Pit, the crew quickly replaced a bad ball joint, Dan got in the truck, Sean got out, and I ran into Feature Editor Stover, who was there waiting for his truck to arrive. With the truck serviced, we tore off into the night, down smooth, fast-winding roads, steep goat trails, rocky paths, through a checkpoint, into a swamp, and watched the sunrise as we plowed through miles and miles of whoops and sand wash, took some hard hits, and generally had a blast. By the time we reached the Bay of L.A. and the end of my ride, I was ready to go the rest of the distance, but sadly my time was up and a new codriver took my place as they headed for the finish line in Cabo San Lucas.
I'm happy to report that the DXR Racing Mitsubishi Raider Stock Mini crossed the finish line in third place with a time of 41 hours and 48 minutes, and Dan Fresh drove all but two hours of that. My hat's off to Dan and all of DXR Racing for their great finish, and I have to thank both DXR and Mitsubishi for allowing me the opportunity to share in the 40th Annual Baja 1000 with them. It truly was the time of my life.
-Jason Gonderman, Online Editor