Flamingo Feathers Ruffled in Siltbeds

Flamingo Feathers Ruffled in Siltbeds

The Flamingo off-road racing team sprinkled with Cholla residents competes in the SCORE Baja 500 off-road series race. Rich Severson former OBSC president races his truck in the 2007 SCORE Baja 500 race along with Pat Sledge as one of the co-drivers. Other Cholla folks; Helen Wilson, Bill Coughlin, Sue Sledge, Lew Felton, Shirley McDonald, Charlie Jetton helped with the support crew. Read Rich’s account of the race they just finished.

2007 SCORE Baja 500startlinea
Rich Severson #741
Class 7SX

Just a few months have passed and back to Ensenada the Flamingo Racing Team goes again. I head down early Tuesday along with new co-driver/sponsor Bruce Finchum, who we’re going to give a change to drive in a real live SCORE event. He’s ridden and pre-ran showing ample skills so let’s see what the guy can do under the gun.

Wednesday, two vehicles with seven hearty souls onboard head out early to run the course. The plan is to run the RM55 silt area and then up to Mike’s and back through Simpson’s to Valle de Trinidad. By the time we returned to Ensenada 17 hours later we had tried to remove one passenger door from the Land Rover, ripped off a new shock on the Cherokee, saved Team Collins with a come-along winch and lost our Las Rosas hotel room to new guests. A long day.

Thursday we took off on a one vehicle pre-run to check out the new section cutting back from Hwy 1 to Hwy 3. Just miles into the soft course we cross a deep vado and notice through the rear view mirror some idiot has lost a spare tire along the trail. Wait where’s our tire? A quick retreat shows we ripped the spare right off the rear tailgate without a noise. 1finishline A repack of the Land Rover takes place as the spare now rides in the A/C. Along our way we pull a pre-runner truck up a soft hill, jump start a Tomcar, get dusted by Jesse James and in general get the hell beat out of us. Race day will not be fun. In the evening we went to the Horsepower Ranch fiesta. First time there and I thought it was well done.

Friday now has us at an old Mexican motel as our usual secret place has been lost to SCORE officials. To be nice it was clean, no bugs and cheap. Beyond that we got what we paid for and more. One room’s shower window overlooked the urinal in the Disco Bar men’s room. I mean eye to one eye, literally. Room freshener anyone?

The crew got the truck into the new contingency area early as we knew this would be a mess with so many entries. Even then we had a little miscommunication but overcame it to give away a bunch of beads, tattoos and Flamingo goodies. At tech we somehow came up short one driver suit. Pat Sledge made a beeline to his truck and returned with the treasure. All clear and through the zoo by noon. An afternoon run from the start to Hwy 3 helped us plot the start/finish section to be downloaded into the GPS.

2contingentRace day we’re ready to go. The Hwy 3 crew is already gone as Pat Neveau and I work our way up to staging. For the first time ever the cops won’t let us creep north on the main street and send us into the inner city streets. This is not good as valuable time is ticking away. Finally we work our way to the staging area, tighten our belts and move forward to the green flag. No time to reflect, its showtime. We’re the first vehicle off the line in a class of thirteen hopefuls. Down the wash and into the back hills we go. But we have no GPS trail. Somehow we never got the S/F run downloaded after the pre-run. No problem we’ll leave cookie crumbs on the screen for the way home later. The soft hill just a few miles out is already a mess. We shoot up and split stuck vehicles leaving more hanging dust for the pack. I blow one 90 turn and sail over the crest. A quick brodie and we’re back on trail heading to the highway. First off the dirt and down the pavement at 60mph. Back into the dirt we zip with dust hanging. We’ve been on this section many times and make good time even thought there are no GPS markings. Into Ojos Negros we fly and cross Hwy 3 heading to Tres Hermanos. A wave to Checker Pit 1 and into the sandwash we go. The pre-run pays off as I now know the hot line to take to and around the silt beds. Vehicles are stuck but we plow our way around and up the steep hills to El Alamo. #740 Holmes catches us and passes but almost immediately we pass him back as he slows. Around RM70 a 5-1600 crew sends their bug right in front of us and #300 Moss who’s hot on my bumper. We both nearly t-bone the guy but squeeze by. I then let Moss’s V-8 roar by. We continue into checkpoint 1 as first in class. Through the ranchlands, up the hill and down the goat trail to Checker pit 2 where we top off our fuel. In and out in no time, heading into the mountains. At Mike’s Sky Ranch rumor has it the creek was dammed to make the water rise. We floated through and threw mud from our BFG’s into the happy spectators. Around RM 150 we hit our first road block of stuck cars on the trail. #861 Griffin gave them a quick tug and the course freed up. In the mean time #757 Hinesley was now on our bumper. A short distance later down the one lane trail we encountered a full size that was on the driver’s side blocking most of the track. We went high on the mountain but slipped a bit and whacked our rear fender on the roof of the truck. The next dip we took we had major tire rub. I chose to stop and remove the fender and supports rather then run it ’til the tire blows. While PatN all too eagerly ripped off the damaged Perry’s Fab & Fiber, #757 went by. We then chased them to RM186, BFG pit 2, where the Hwy 1 chase team awaited. We gassed, changed a damaged rear tire and threw Bruce behind the wheel with PatN staying in as mentor. I told him “just go from point A to B” and give me the truck back in decent shape. PatN would eventually grow weary of hearing that mantra repeated.

3rdpitAt checkpoint 2, RM197, we’re 8 minutes behind first. Around RM200 Bruce has trouble getting up a hill littered with broken vehicles. Several tries of up and backing down has him to the top but off the track a bit. As he moves back on course they drop off a ledge hard on the left front wheel. All seems good until the brakes are applied. Opps. PatN bails out and pinches off a broken brake line. They’re back in business but the ol’ Ranger is a bit squirrelly when braking hard. Through Valle de Trinidad the Flamingo chase team waves them onto the high speed road back to the Pacific. They pull into BFG pit 3, RM281, about 20 minutes behind the leader. The new guy did ok. PatS and I belt in and charge off into the night, Vision X lights ablaze, with high hopes of hunting down the prey. On the way to the coast we miss a couple of turns that take some time to recover from. Through the very soft sand and over the rock road at Erendira, we cruise up the beach. We can’t get too aggressive due to the weird braking action but we still hit 3rd gear at times. We stop at Santo Tomas, Checker pit 7 for our last splash of gas. Heading up the highway the crew radios we’re about 40 minutes down. Rats, we lost time, but still have many miles to go.
We cut inland at Uruapan and begin the new “technical” section. Why don’t we just call like it is “SH#%*TY!!” The trail is softer, tighter and more difficult to see at night. We blast up the first major hill, no problem but a few miles later I bury the truck on a silty uphill when a broken buggy on the trail catches me off guard. We try the hi-lift but it’s jammed with dirt, so the shovel comes out for the first time ever. PatS digs like a prairie dog on Red Bull while I find a new route up the mountain and wave a few cars past us up the good trail. We get the truck to roll backwards, let air out of the tires and charge up the side of the hill fairly easily. Funny, now the buggy is gone. Thanks for the help boys! Between the hanging dust from no breeze and the inland ground fog I never get into a good rhythm rolling through the corners but we pound on. Through checkpoint 4, RM385, we’re now an hour down on the leader. Just a couple of miles from Highway 3 we miss another turn and get turned around in the desert. A couple of cars go by the wrong way…or are they? A quick 180 and we’re in their dust only to be trapped in another silt bed. The fine powder was up to my knees as we bailed out and PatS dug again while I searched for an escape route. Are you seeing a pattern? Finally free we backed up and hit the high ground on the move. Parallel to the highway we pass a race truck on its side. The strap is out but we can’t stop so I call Ryan in the Cherokee to slide in and tug them back to the upright position. He gets it handled.

On the pavement, beat up, tired and ready to roll home I know to watch for the GPS trail from the start only to find when we make the hard right we got NOTHING!! In our 2004 Baja 500 win I spent an eternity wandering the back hills searching for the course to the finish line, that’s why we got the GPS. Now here we are 3 years later in the same boat. I went nuts. I musta used every unPC term on my team for the unacceptable position I was in. We tried several attempts to download from other chips with no luck. We slowly pressed on peering for every bit of reflective tape along the trail. We made several wrong turns into rancho dead ends and would try another route. Once in a while we would see a car zip by and try to follow them until they disappeared over the hills in the dust. Meanwhile Bruce & PatN are hauling ass from the finish area hoping to lead us into the city. It seems like forever as we inch along trying to read the trail. Finally we get to the new housing area and I know where were at. Off we go to the finish line. Into the baseball stadium at 4:30am, a second place finish, 2 ½ hours behind the #757 Hinesley truck. As we sat there waiting for the Ralley tracker to be removed the Tecate arch collapsed in front of us, we couldn’t even drive under it. How’s that for a welcome home. The crew was very tired but happy for our finish and I immediately began the begging for forgiveness due to my tirade. I actually thought I mellowed a bit. In the old days I would have thrown or kicked something with extreme prejudice along with the verbiage.

I want to thank the entire Flamingo Racing Team that put up with the accommodations and worked so hard during the event. Our team sponsors are Guzman Construction, Casa Fina Development, Smith-Southwestern Inc., BFGoodrich, Xochitl’s Cholla Café and Squaw Peak Sinclair. Our contingency sponsors include Vision X lights, Mobile Radio Communications, Parker Pumper, Raceshock and Sunoco. Our pit support was provided by Checkers Off Road and BFG.2finishline

We knew that this race would be a turning point for several teams chasing the season points. Our great finish boosts us to the top of the leader board with Primm a vision on the horizon. We’ve gotten better each time we’ve raced there but it’s the only SCORE event we’ve never won. The time is now and we’re hungry to make our mark.