View From The Sidelines
While Tech Editor Holman and Feature Editor Stover were getting down and dirty with the Halls and Pistol Pete, I was busy living the sweet life. For the last few years, I have been right beside the rest of the team getting dirty, eating street tacos, and enjoying every minute of it, but when the invitation to join Volkswagen in Baja to watch the debut of its new Touareg TDI Trophy Truck team came across my desk, it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.
My adventure began Thursday morning at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where I met up with the folks from Volkswagen. We caravanned down to Ensenada in a fleet of new 2009 V-6 TDI Touaregs, arriving just in time to catch the end of tech inspection and contingency. I awoke bright and early Friday morning and headed for the starting line to watch the VW take the green flag and become the first ever turbodiesel Trophy Truck to compete in SCORE. The VW pulled up to the starting line with Ryan Arcierio behind the wheel, the green flag dropped, and he stalled it. This was a sign of things to come for the race Touareg and crew, though none of us knew it at the time.
Hero: The Fans Without those passionate individuals who line the race course to catch a g
Arcierio quickly got the Touareg refired and took off like a rocket. I, too, had to take off at that point, quickly heading over to the waiting helicopter that was going to fly me to approximately mile 150 on the race course, where I would next see the race Touareg go by. The helicopter landed and dropped us off at the Rumarosa Grade just in time to watch the first Trophy Truck go flying by. From that point on, we waited--and waited--for the Touareg to come through. It shouldn't have been far off but nobody could tell us where it was or what had happened. Finally, as I was heading for the helicopter for my return flight to Ensenada, without much warning the VW race Touareg emerged through the dust and went flying by just as fast as any of the other Trophy Trucks. It was a beautiful sight to see, but night was falling, and since helicopters can't fly at night in Mexico, we had to get moving.
Once back in Ensenada, there wasn't much to do but sit around and wait for the trucks to start coming in. So I grabbed a quick dinner at the V-Dub Club and a drink at the Red Bull Energy Station, and then headed over to the SCORE Media Center where I met up with Feature Editor Stover, whose day had ended shortly after it had begun. We spent the next several hours sitting around bench racing and watching the live tracking site that was being projected on the wall. The tracking system was working out great; we could see where each truck and motorcycle was at any given time and what their current speed was. This was all well and good except for the fact that the VW race Touareg was nowhere to be found, and to add even more to the mystery, none of the VW or SCORE staff could tell us where the Touareg was.
Fast forward five hours. It's now 11 p.m. Friday, and we see on the tracker that the first of the Trophy Trucks are heading for the home stretch, 12 hours after they had started the race. So we all headed for the finish line, hoping the Touareg had somehow made up the lost ground and would be coming in soon. Shortly after 11 p.m., the first truck arrived--the Trophy Truck of Roger Norman and Larry Roeseler, followed closely by B.J. Baldwin. As the night wore on, the trucks and buggies trickled in, but the Touareg was nowhere to be found. Finally, at about 2 a.m., some news; the VW people informed us that the truck was up and running strong and due to arrive around 4 a.m. Weary from the long day, I headed back to the hotel to try and get a couple quick hours of sleep before the truck came in.
4 a.m., Saturday: I'm barely awake, standing at the finish line in the cold and fog, waiting for our truck to show up. Again nobody knows exactly where it is, so we wait. Finally, just before 6 a.m., the VW Touareg TDI Trophy Truck crosses the finish line. With my photos taken and congratulations handed out, I was off to bed, exhausted from the long day of waiting for the Touareg.
So what happened to the Touareg, you ask? Well, here is the full scoop. Remember the stall at the start line? That was just the beginning of transmission problems for the team. At race mile 40, the truck lost clutch pressure because of a lack of fluid in the clutch slave cylinder; this cost them one hour to fix. Next, at race mile 130, as a result of the slave cylinder problem, the dog rings on the Second and Third gears in the transmission suffered damage and warranted replacing the entire thing. This cost the team one hour and 45 minutes. Back underway between race mile 170 and 190, the truck fell victim to a silt bed with over 15 stuck vehicles. It was one hour and 20 minutes until the course was cleared and the VW was back on track. At race mile 234, the truck stopped for fuel and a driver change; this took 41?2 minutes. Then at race mile 425, the truck stopped for its final pit stop but ended up having to change out the rear-axle third member because of a broken pinion gear. This took 45 minutes to complete. The team ended up finishing 13th in class in a time of just under 19 hours. So, in theory, if the five hours of downtime due to the transmission could have been avoided, the VW TDI Touareg Trophy Truck could have finished with the leaders.
The 2008 Baja 1000 was an exciting time and one that I will never forget. It was great being treated like royalty and getting to watch the race from a helicopter. But next year, I hope to be right back in the thick of it watching the race from inside the race.
--Jason Gonderman, Online Editor
Hero: People Behind The Lenses
We simply couldn't convey the whole story of Baja with words alone. It takes vibrant color photography caught in the moment as it happens. As such, we thought it was worth honoring those people who risk their lives to get the shot. Hundreds of film makers, videographers, and photographers attempt to capture what happens at the Baja 1000, and in most cases the majority of their work goes unappreciated. This unnamed photographer captured a shot of one very excited Ernie Negrete, solo driver of the No. 551 VW-powered Class 5/1600 race car as he crossed the finish line in Third Place. To Ernie, this photograph is priceless.