The Baja Legend Still Rides Hard
Rod Hall is an off-road racing legend bar none. He is the only driver who has competed in all 39 Baja 1000 races, with finishes and wins in most of them. Hall started with a Jeep and now runs an H3in the Stock Mini class, while sons Chad and Josh race an H1 and H2 in their own Stock classes. We got the chance to strap on belts with Hall and codriver Mike Winkle for a few hundred miles in last year's Baja 1000, an experience of a lifetime. We'd done Rubicon runs for fun with Hall and have known him for some time, but this was our first taste of racing with him. We hope we get a second chance.
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Winning is always the objective, and Hall has won three times in this race alone. His strategy was to finish the race in time, as that would clinch the season points championship and hopefully beat the other drivers to the finish line. This time a rollover near the start line put Hall down a few hours, and damage to a starter, steering gear, and leaf spring showed up later on the course and slowed the progress. With the H3 fixed, our ride segment was on the second night, with codriver Mike Winkle, and we splashed across rivers and raced on goat trails while dodging stuck buggies in 5-foot-deep silt bogs. Hall and codriver Emily Miller took over for the final leg, cruising into the morning finish in time to be points champions.
The H3 is a marvel of basic racing tech. In this class it's mainly only safety items that are mandated-stock-style suspension (with reservoir shocks) are all that's allowed. Figure over a thousand miles of hard-core Baja bashing, and you appreciate the toughness of the stock H3 engine and drivetrain. These aren't the high-flying, soft-landing, 800-plus megamonsters blasting down the peninsula. These Stock classes are more old-school, run-what-ya-brung. The Halls have this down to a science. Combining years of experience in driving and plenty of practice with the Hummer brand, Hall and his crew are on a winning team.
We hope to run with him again someday, as his entire family and race team (his extended family) are right in line with us. Hard-core, do-it-right racers who will lend a helping hand if they can are what racing should be. That's probably why Hall and sons are some of the winningest guys on the course as well as off.
Back in the day, before all this magazine stuff, I used to race off-road with Rich Severson of Flamingo Racing. His CJ-7 was one rough ride, with thick leaf springs and dual shocks to keep the sky-dirt-sky-dirt view in check. It was state-of-the-art at the time, but the whole sport has progressed by leaps and bounds in 20 years. Here I am with the mud-covered 401-powered monster somewhere in Mexico after Rich had piloted us to another winning season. The Jeep is long gone, but this last Baja, Rich entered and won class 7SX in a 2WD Ranger. Way to go, Flamingo!