Winner and Still Champion
Robin wasn't the only Four Wheeler staffer to brave the Baja peninsula for this past Baja 1000, as I was also down south, once again riding with Josh Hall of Rod Hall Racing and Team Hummer (see also "Desert Onslaught," Jan. '07). My shift in the co-driver's chair (I split co-driving duties with Josh's normal crew of Thad Stump and Sam Cothrun) was at night (my first night experience, which was simply amazingly fun) from Bahia de Los Angeles at Race Mile 377 to Race Mile 553 in San Ignacio.
My leg began at approximately 9:30 p.m., after days of anticipation. Once strapped in, Josh and I were off, but something didn't feel right with the fuel delivery to the engine. Josh could get the Hummer up to 80 mph, but only under partial throttle, as wide-open throttle would only cause the big Hummer to fall on its face. Since the race was on the line and everything else was running fine, a quick discussion between our chase crew and ourselves had us continuing on, monitoring the problem. Josh kept steady on the throttle and we kept moving. As the problem worsened, we eventually had to pull the pumps from the fuel cell. We figured out that the in-tank fuel-pump filters were clogged with some kind of gunk, presumably from a dirty dump can, but were able to be cleaned with brake cleaner.
As Josh and I continued winding our way through the terrain, our nine HIDs melted a tunnel of light in front of us and we set a good pace, soon beginning to catch other competitors. However, as we approached to pass, thick clouds of dust blanketed us and we were quickly flying on instruments. With Josh keeping his eye on the immediate road, I kept him informed of upcoming turns and "dangers" on the GPS unit. Some "double dangers," or what is referred to as a "race-ending event," didn't look like much at the time, but in daylight, I later realized they represented sheer drop-offs to a perilous ending below.
It is no secret that I am an advocate of four-wheel drive, especially for racing, and the H2's four-wheel-drive system once again proved itself, as we were able to pass many competitors who appeared stuck at obstacles that our factory rear locker and low-range got us over without incident or much drama.
We also traversed cactus gardens where the wide H2 would remove a few thorny bulbs from time to time, sending them flying through the windshieldless H2 and right though my race suit and into my chest and arms, eliciting a chuckle and a "Sorry about that" from Josh. Ever try removing cholla from your race suit at speed? I don't recommend it.
From there, it was a good pace through legions of partying Mexicans, hooting and hollering from the back of pickup trucks. We found ourselves passing a few crashed vehicles, including Travis Pastrana's Class 1 entry that was upside down and burning. Fortunately, he and his co-driver escaped. Other crashes were less severe, but we wound our way through the field.
After about four hours in the saddle, we pulled into the BFG pits in San Ignacio, and Thad took over the co-driving responsibilities and would eventually help Josh to take the H2 all the way to the finish line in La Paz.
Minus the fueling issues, the H2 had no major mechanical problems, or even a flat, and Josh (who Iron-Manned the driving duties) and the No. 861 Hummer H2 won the Stock Full class in 26 hours and 30 minutes, a full five hours ahead of the second-place team. This was Josh's second consecutive Baja 1000 win in the H2 race truck (and my second consecutive win co-driving) and good enough for a 44th place finish (out of over 400 entries) in the overall standings.
Josh is looking to continue his streak next year, and more information on the team can be found at www.rodhallracing.com.