05 Dec Feisty Flamingos Finish Fortieth Baja 1000
2007 SCORE Baja 1000
Rich Severson #746
The final race of the SCORE season would be a grueling 1296 miles long. Sal Fish musta been doing some kind of fuzzy math to equate that number of miles to a mil, but the Flamingo Team was up to the challenge. Coming on the heels of our Primm 300 win we were in the season points lead and primed to repeat our B1k win from last year. We arrived in Ensenada a few days early to relax and pre-run a few of the early race miles that can be troublesome during the start. We had already pre-run the rest of the course in late October with Bruce’s Land Rover and pretty well pounded it to a pulp. But a crack crew of Phoenix mechanics had it back in shape by race time.
Contingency on Monday was again staged a bit differently but we got the race truck in line early. Meanwhile some of the team headed off to southern Baja to await our race time arrival. After handing out a zillion flamingo stickers, tattoos, stuffed birds and beads we were through contingency and tech by early afternoon.
Tuesday, race day, we relaxed waiting for our noon start. Upon returning to the hotel from breakfast I found my personal truck, full of all tools and race parts, had been broken into and had the ignition switch popped. A simple turn and it started, we had to be minutes away from losing the truck to Ensenada thieves. This is the fourth time we’ve been robbed in town during a SCORE event. PatN headed to the local NAPA and repaired the switch before he headed out to his driver change area. PatS and I staged early and chatted with a few buds and in no time we were up to the starting line and flagged off. A total of 11 trucks started, with us being right in the center of the pack. Out of the city was the usual dusty, booby trapped, heavy spectator area that makes it so exciting. We crossed the highway and hit the 07Baja 500 course. More dust with twists and turns. In no time we were on the fast farm roads making haste. The RM55 silt, which had captured us last year, was now pre-planned and it paid off. We hit a gravel trail we had marked and never saw another vehicle nor put a BFG into the silt. At the top of the hill we spot McDreamy next to his BC car, he didn’t look happy even though we waved. No time for photos ladies. We’re up onto the plateau running fast when I clip a rock with the right front. Bummer, right away I knew we had a flat. PatS and I worked quickly and were back on the trail. A short time later we notice the GPS is dancing around due to a knurl knob now missing. We get to the highway, stop and the chase team scans the floorboard for the knob. Found, replaced and we’re off. A short time later #759 Hinesley truck shoots by us. That’s ok it’s a long way to Cabo. Later we see #740 Holmes, he begs some water off us and we’re outta there. We hit RM121, BFG pit 1, for gas and a spare tire replacement. We’re refreshed and on the road in third place. On the fast road up to Mike’s Sky Ranch a local throws a large rock and hits us in the windshield. Luckily the broken glass area is near the edge and not in the line of site. That action compliments the many beer cans that we’ve already been hit with. We cruise up and over the mountains into the darkness. I bypass BFG pit 2, which looks pretty busy. We’ll gas ourselves in another 30 miles. Just before our RM200 pit we spy #500 Seeley stuck with tow strap in hand. Can’t stop in the area due to mud. We hit our Flamingo pit, gas up, replace a light relay and head off. Ryan in his 4wd heads back to rescue Seeley and we motor on into the night with a full rack of Vision X lights lighting the way. We now work our way through the rough mountains and tight turns for the next 100 miles. Along the way we encounter a traffic jam on a hill due to a class 7 stuck on rock. PatS & I jump out and take control as other cars are just watching. After some jacking, digging and rock moving we get them up the hill. We tug a 5-1600 off some rocks and then blast up the hill leaving the rest of the pack behind. The trail is tough all the way to RM321, BFG pit 3, where George & PatN now take control of the trusty Ranger. 1:00am Wednesday, we’re in second place about 30 minutes down to #741 Sierra Brother’s Ranger.
The new guys work through the 50 miles of dirt ok and are out onto the long, long, long highway run. It was tough to keep below the 60mph limit and at the same time stay up to the maximum speed. They passed a few racers dragging their feet before hitting the turn off to Coco’s. Coming up was the dreaded Calamajue Wash. Last year this was a quagmire for many a racer. This year the boy’s turned the corner and not a vehicle in sight. They splashed through the shallow waters with ease. A short time later they pass #741 Sierra and take over the lead in the class for the first time. On the pavement into the Bay of LA a rearend vibration has them worried. At BFG pit 5, RM518, they jack up the truck up and find two bent wheels. They replace them with the two spares we carry and they’re off still in the lead, vibration gone. Sunrise now blinds George’s eyes as he motors south and eastward. Dust up front signals another vehicle to pass. Only this time they’re suddenly right on top of a local doing about 20mph in an old Chevy pickup. Braking hard and swerving creates a near miss, the hombre viejo is unfazed by the gringo loco and his morning continues. RM565 brings a gas-n-go from Checker pit 5. They radio that we have a 40 second margin on #741. Not one to be a slacker and loose the lead George picks up the tempo and has fun as he flies down the cactus lined sandy trial back to Highway 1. Later on the Sierra’s would comment that they tried like hell to catch us but that guy driving was fast.
We stop for fuel at San Ignacio BFG pit 6, RM679, and put fresh driver Bruce and repeat corider PatS in the truck. Before heading off to the west coast where our support is nil we check the truck over good. A decision is made to replace the left side ball joints. While doing so #741 cruises by back into the lead. It really doesn’t take long to make the repair with all the great mechanics we have on staff and the truck is on the road again by 10:15am Wednesday morning. On a side note, at the pit I run into my former corider and sponsor from 20 years ago, Rick Pe’we’. He’s now a famous magazine editor riding with some guy named Rod Hall. We have an all too short reunion as both of our vehicles show up needing attention. Godspeed until we met again my friend.
RM 679 through RM918 as retold by driver Bruce:
Getting into the truck after making the decision to change out the loose ball joints and watching our competitor pass us set the tone for my drive. Being 45 minutes behind did not change the goal; get the truck from point A to point B in good shape. Passing though San Ignacio and onto the newly marked trail not on the GPS had PatS questioning my knowledge, but I simply told him to trust me because I had just pre-run this yesterday. Several miles later, we are on the original GPS trail. We soon run into more construction that I had not encountered the day before, but from our pre-run GPS markings we found the more favorable track to follow. It worked perfect; we’re on our way. There was some dust ahead and it took miles for us to reel it in. Not knowing who it was, we just kept pushing, getting closer and closer. Finally #1001 Lawrence was in sight but there is no passing lane because we are on a dike with some soft silty spots along the edges. Our pre-run notes had a hazard rapidly approaching. Our decision was to keep pressing right up to the time we needed to back out and turn left off the track and go around the completely impassable road ahead. The #1001 car was last seen sliding towards the washed out bridge as we continued without a hitch. Nice call co-pilot. More dust ahead and we closed in on #702 Binns with another truck in front of him. Several miles later at an either/or they go their way, we go opposite and pass both trucks by a huge distance thanks to the pre-run knowledge. High speeds across the dry lakebeds and running on the banks of the ocean gave me a little too much confidence at one point. I entered a set of whoops a little too fast and had the back on the truck much higher than the front of the truck. PatS said something about never observing the ground from that angle before. We encounter a BC car in the whoops. I’m not sure how because he should have been faster than us, but we pushed up behind him until he bailed out of our way. I didn’t nerf him as some other member of our team had done to a slower 5-1600 earlier in the race. Stopping at Checker pit 4 in San Juanico for fuel was perfect and Milo was very helpful. He noticed that my helmet pumper hose had fallen off. No wonder I was so hot. We were also informed that we were only 10 minutes behind #741 Sierra. Egos were inflated. Approaching Highway 1 we radio to the chase crews as soon as we thought there might be a chance of reaching them only to find out they weren’t ready for us. That was really cool. My son will never live it down. He was supposed to give me fuel instead he had lunch! The racecourse had been changed at the last minute at RM880 and once again PatS saw the 3 green ribbons that I had been told to watch for by a guy who had run it the day before. We missed most of the silt beds just flying though the area. I say most because we did hit one where the flying powder completed covered the truck. We took two huge impacts for lack of a better word and then a hard hit on our right front coming out of the silt bed. There are no words to describe the feeling of being totally captured by the silt. As we approach Loreto, we passed #741 Sierra in their pit. We handed the truck off to the Rich & PatN and got them out of the pit in first place. What a thrill. The first time PatS and I are in the truck together, we do point A to B. We do it way ahead of the projected time, pass several vehicles and no one passed us. My navigator made me look real good. Thanks to Rich & PatN for letting two unknowns in the truck together, we had a great time.
RM923, Loreto, back in the lead PatN & I race westward into the late day sun. We’re careful not to drive off the side of the winding mountain road. Past San Javier, at a water crossing, a sudden splash from #741 Sierra and he sneaks by. We stay on his bumper with no need to pass as we’re ahead on total time. At RM978 we get a quick splash of fuel from BFG pit 8. We soon see #741 Sierra pitting and we’re back on the point. Across the farmland we go until I miss a tight fence line turn and end up in a soft field and loose traction. A farmer was right there and helped to tug us out but in the meantime #741 Sierra hugs the fence and gets by. Just as we’re freed here comes #862 Griffin using the same track we did with the same results. We’re off and the farmer now works with them. We pound along the long narrow sand trails heading south along the ocean. At RM1037 along Highway 22, Ryan has the extra ball joints that chase crew Bill & Ralph found in Santa Rosalita and tosses them on board, just in case. Off the asphalt and back in the dirt we go. Immediately we’re head on with a local’s sedan stuck and blocking the narrow trail. Eyeing the situation we go left and barely squeak by without tagging the guy. A short distance later we hit Checker pit 6 for a gas-n-go. The next 20 miles are just endless whoops with no rhythm. Some faster cars down on time give us a chance to find a hole to dive into before they roar over us. We get to the tidal pools and carefully pick our way along the edges as to not find ourselves in a mudbog. Once through, it’s back to the long narrow southbound trail. It just goes on forever. A stop for fuel at BFG pit 9, RM1106, has us concerned about another loose ball joint. PatN makes the decision to fix it now with lights and tools at the pit before we get to a tougher section of the course. In less than 20 minutes we’re back at speed.
We clear checkpoint 9, RM1120, and I’m ready for the upcoming silt and steep hill, pre-plan in place. I zig left then back to the right around stuck cars, plowing along and throwing up silt into the night but still moving. That is until the truck drops into a ravine and we perform the softest rollover to the navigator’s side and come to a dead stop hanging in our harnesses. I kill the engine and confirm no injury to PatN. He climbs out first, I follow (thank you for not stepping on my head). This is not good; the possibilities of recovery are bleak due the depth of the silt and our location. As we start a plan of attack, a guy on a tractor comes out of nowhere and motors over to us. For a minimal fee, like all we have, he’ll tug us over. DEAL!!!! Forty bucks and the tow strap was on the truck and we’re back on all fours. I parlay the deal into a maximum pull onto terra firma past the silt. The truck fires right up, no fluid loss, all gauges are a go. We’re back in business. We begin our assault on the steep hill and work our way to the top. I begin turning right to follow the course but I’m too quick in the darkness and slide off the crown and down the edge of the tiny mountain. Not good. Each time I try to go forward we slide a little deeper down. Locals try to help us but the angle and weight of the Ranger are greater than the helpers can handle. Eventually we see #741 Sierra go by. They got to see our whole oops close up while they were stuck in the silt at the base of the hill. Time drags on as we try everything. Finally PatN heads back down to convince the prepaid tractor to come up the hill and salvage us once again. Meanwhile a full-size truck appears with his buddy and sez he can drive it out. Go for it dude! I’ve been here for hours it can’t hurt. With a couple of monster runs and tugs the truck grabs just enough traction to ease out of the crevice. I gave out hugs and kisses to all within 50 yards. Now here comes PatN with tractor guy who he had to pay another 20 bucks just to see us now back on the road. Oh well, we’re tired but free. While this is all taking place, chaser Ryan hears our calls for help on the radio and retreats to the location. He finally gets there ready to rescue, becomes stuck himself, eventually freed and is now way behind the rest of the chase teams. Due to bad radio reception in the race truck we don’t learn of his heroics until much later. We take off for a couple of miles and stop to survey the damage and get away from all of the locals with advice. We off the front fender, sorry sponsors, pinch off a damaged front brake line and change a flat as I regain my wits after the near defeat. I now need to get used to the vehicle lurching to the right each time I hit the brakes. We pull into Checker pit 8, RM1144, and beg for any tow strap available since one of us lost track of ours in the big fiasco I caused a short while ago. They pull one from a guy’s truck who was sleeping and send us away happy. I’m sure I’ll get it back to him someday.
RM1166 has more vehicles stuck. Now gun-shy, I ask PatN to survey the path before our run. He returns and gives me clear precise instructions, which I proceed to completely ignore and stick the truck. He is visibly not happy with me. A few pushes from locals and we’re over the hump. One guy tells us to watch out for the next silt bed and how to go around. I’m familiar with it and there is suppose to be an alternate route according to Sal from the drivers meeting. But when we get there, there is no alternate route and we must plow headfirst into the bowels of hell. Tight turns; downed cacti and native trees; gulley’s, darkness. First gear, max revs, tranny temp pegs, no stopping now. No way we should get through but we do. We stop to let the tranny cool and change another flat tire. #124 Chase (13th place class 1) and #300 Moss (1st place class 3) stop to check our condition. Thumbs up and they pound on. Back on the trail we have no fresh spare tires onboard. I stop at the first available pit, Baja Pits, and they air up our best, un-flattest spare. We have a bit of a safety net once again. Truthfully I don’t remember the next miles as we pull into BFG pit 10 around 3:00am Thursday.
George and Bruce climb back in the truck for the last 96 miles. The pit board shows we’re 3 hours down to #741 Sierra truck so I advise repeat driver George we now need a finish to be complete and watch out for the crazy braking action. All jacked up on coffee they shoot off into the darkness. Sure enough when George comes into the first hard left hand corner he hits the brakes and is violently jerked to the right. Oh, yeah, watch the brakes. Passing through Todos Santos they’re supposed to stop and the Flamingo chase team will toss on a good spare tire. But due to a miscommunication and having finish line fever they pass on by the crew. The last miles though the mountains are very tough. There were many wash outs big enough to swallow the entire truck, as evidenced by some of the other vehicles they witnessed still in them. They did drop into a crevice but were able to back out and work around it. I hear that corider Bruce may have been calling out the GPS’d turns tighter than actually occurring to slow down the focused George. Once again the sunrise hit them directly head-on slowing progress. By the time they caught the first glimpse of Cabo George had just gotten used to the wild braking action. Through the wash and under the inflatable arch they receive the checkered flags for second place in class, 3 hours behind the winner. Surprisingly they are mobbed by the entire winning #741 Sierra team who had waited for us. Noe and Tony Sierra said, “they know that the Flamingo Team never, never, never gives up” and wanted to be here to celebrate both of our victorious finishes. Now that’s class and what great competition is all about. Thank you Team Sierra. The #759 Hinesley team finished third about 8 hours behind us and no other teams made it to the end within the time 53 hour time limit.
Thanks to our second place finish we secured the 2007 SCORE Class 7sx Season Championship. We are also one of only 20 teams to have finished every race mile this season and will receive a Toyota True Grit award. What a compliment to the entire team for their total dedication to success.
Our season corporate sponsors are: Smith-Southwestern Inc., BFGoodrich Tires, Guzman Construction and Xochitl’s Cholla CafÃ©.
We used the following contingency products: BFGoodrich Tires, Parker Pumper/BSR West, Vision X lights, Raceshock and Sunoco Fuel.
Out pit support was provided by the Checkers Off-Road club and BFGoodrich.
Other businesses whose services we chose: Alger Stowers Transmissions, The Machine Shop Drivelines, Dick’s Automotive and Squaw Peak Sinclair.
And the Flamingo Racing Team members that were crazy enough to come to Baja and participate in this event include: Scott Berry, Bill Coughlin, Lew Felton, Harry & Drina Fiebig, Bruce & Fawn Finchum, Ryan & Trisha Finchum, Charlie & Rhonda Jetton, George Jirka, Shirley MacDonald, Larry Miles, Pat Neveau, Donna Passante, Dan Raley, Pat & Sue Sledge, Greg Smith, Ralph Valenzuela, John Vanatta and my gal Helen Wilson.
Thanks to everyone for a great season.