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2008 Baja 1000 Race Afraidium Broken UTV - First Experience

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Jay Kopycinski | Writer
Posted March 1, 2009

We had coordinated our chase coverage such that we would swing back to La Rumorosa in plenty of time to pit one or both of the Afraidium Racing UTVs. Making our way back by the military checkpoint and the toll road we traveled back over the mountain pass. We found even the toll booth workers liked race stickers, though it seemed they bought us no toll discount.

Once back, we settled in at a good spot in the middle of town as the trophy trucks were starting to scream through town. Race speed limits had been strictly set at 60 mph on the paved road sections and we saw a few enthusiastic drivers get a little edgy with that speed restriction.

Travel in Mexico is about the sounds, smells, and moods. Our parking spot put us right in front of a panaderia, or bakery for us gringos. Each time the wind shifted its direction putting us downwind, the sweet aroma of pastries and breads came wafting past us. We would make a number of visits inside as we waited through the afternoon for our car to arrive. Fifty-cent empanadas and pan dulce (sweet bread) along with the in-town racing action made the wait comfortable while we pondered how well our team was fairing.

We got word by satellite phone that Jess was making good time and was moving up in the UTV class. We hoped and waited as we watched more class cars come sliding into town from dirt to asphalt and pick their way down the road mingled with the local traffic, looking for their pit crew. Back to the bakery.....where's our car? Local guys on foot with a cooler selling tacos......where's our car?

Our UTV rolled into town and Jess and his navigator Thorsten Palm took a short break while we checked over the car and gave the team food and drinks. They were soon racing again and we would be too. Mark's Polaris was having some issues. The rear spring rates were set a bit too soft and they suffered a broken rear a-arm and were limping it towards town. Joe and I checked that Mark's chase team had what they needed for repairs, phoned into Flagstaff that Jess was moving again, and pointed the Isuzu back up and over the mountain again to Race Mile 146. This time when we traversed the mountain pass, the sky had turned dark.

When we arrived at the bridge crossing, it was like a big desert party. There were small camps of people lining both sides of the course. Many were setup for the night with camp fires burning, music playing, and the food and drink flowing.

I again set up a pit sign and took my place under the bridge to watch for our UTV. Some race trucks rumbled through the tight wash and a guy driving an old VW bug came bouncing down course. He was not part of the race, just a local having fun on the course. He passed by and five minutes later he bumped back by headed up-course.

Standing in the dark in the middle of Baja under a bridge while fires flickered and spectators reveled seemed a bit odd. But.....there was an ironic contrast of relaxation tinged with the adrenaline of running a fast-paced race through this beautiful piece of country, I heard the tell-tale whine of the UTVs motorcycle engine and shown my flashlight on the pit sign to direct Jess to our truck. He bounced through the wash, turned hard right, and headed to the Isuzu. We were about 1/4 of the way through the 634 mile course at this point.

The guys pulled in and told us they had a bit of a problem with one of the rear axle CVs working loose, but the car was running good for the most part, and they hadn't suffered a single flat to this point. A short repair was made and the car and crew were ready for more.

Sat phone update.....check. John was halfway through the race on his Honda CRF450X and still moving well. Mark was getting his a-arm replaced and leaving La Rumorosa. Truck packed....check. Joe accelerated toward our next interception point as we headed south down the peninsula.

The calories from the sweet breads were wearing off so we looked for a place to eat as we traveled. Joe turned off into what looked like a modern gas station complex that might serve food, but it was so new only the fuel portion was open.

Nevertheless, Joe made quick `friends' with a couple of guys with a bucket of tacos. He flashed them a 200 Peso bill and was soon back at the truck with an arm full of edibles. The score consisted of tasty fresh flour tortillas stuffed with potatoes with a hint of chorizo seasoning. It was good stuff and we gobbled some down. Our next planned pit point was to be at about Race Mile 190.

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