I landed in San Diego after having been up for over 24 hours, to find out Charlene, Lil Rich and Mustard Dog will be picking me up, Shaffer’s working on a missing 2nd gear.
The next morning, after a fair warning of recurring political incorrectness during this trip, we head off to Mexico. There I rediscovered Mexico time, it’s been a long time since I was in Baja, and should not have been a surprise that everything took way more time than planed.
Pre-running amounted to two sections maybe a little over a third of what I had to drive. In hind sight, it did not matter so much. To keep track of 300 miles of course is impossible, unless you spend a month at it (n’est-ce pas, Lance). In addition, pre-running with anything but a specially prepped pre-runner gives a false impression of greater course difficulty. It did give me a very good appreciation of what kind of terrain we would be racing on.
The adrenaline started pumping even before we drove up to the staging area, it took my all to keep calm. Once the line started moving, it moved, we almost found ourselves scrambling to be ready. As desertfabmotorsports posted [on pirate4x4]” The start and the first 11 miles were crazy, people everywhere… “ I had a tough time keeping focused with the suicidal photographers bolting out for a last second (of their life) picture… . I finally started relaxing once we hit the dirt, As I did so, I started remembering a lot of the course from Torchmate 2009 Baja clips (thanks Torchmate and YouTube!), and more important I started listening to Berne calling out the course. Berne was instrumental in getting my head back into racing, mostly by yelling “ get-it… get-it!…” .
We passed what I realized a few seconds later was the Torchmate truck, they already had help moving the truck. It was a long race so I figured I’d see them screaming on by soon enough. I was finally starting to get there, my braking was getting latter and latter into the turn and I was nailing it earlier out of the turns and soon to my surprise we were passing !!! Oh yeah!
I discovered what booby traps where, some laughable but some giving you quite a kick. Take those wrong and you’d flip. I had what I though where a few oh shit moments, Berne quick to reply “…way to monster truck it, you handled that great !” I guess I still need more desert miles to know what a real oh shit moment is
By now Berne was liking Lance notes “shit these are good… every rut is on there…” We where figuring out what was a 3 or a 4 turn was for us, as well as laughing over some notes “well for the TTs this is a flat out section, but your good at this speed.”
We crept up to the mid 70′s as we bolted into Ojos Negros, my mind saying “we already here!” On our way out of Ojos Berne tells me our average speed is now over 32 and that are doing 83, he couldn’t tell but I’m grinning ear to ear… While we did not really have the speed to truly get airborne in the Ojos jumps, we had a couple nice flights earlier on, the JS remained nice and level and put us down so gently it blew my mind… no more fear of the airplanes on Lance’s notes. Actually the JS handled so well neither Berne or I could get over it, I could just aim it at the trajectory I wanted and drift it out of turns feeling under full control. I would never had though it possible and kept thinking “this is a f***ing jeep!!”
We had covered the technical and first of the high speed sections, we were now entering an ever increasingly rough and rocky section. There were quite a few TT full out section, but we had to pick the best line to avoid some serious rocks. Berne and I were in sync, he’d be calling out the better area as I be heading over to them; that was “way cool”, it was like hearing my guardian angel, did loads for my confidence. At one point we got forced into a “short cut” I had sworn I would not take during pre-running because I though I would lawn dart the JS if I did. The locals had blocked off the course by roping it off and then stood behind the rope on the course forcing every one down the short cut. Well I was wrong again, after staring at dirt the JS simply rolled back up and over the big dirt woops giving us alternating views of the sky and dirt. As we got out of there, the dodging of rock resumed.
After passing another truck, we came to a short hill and started to work our way up, half way up the JS popped out of gear. I looked down “wait a minute this is an automatic ?!”. Berne turns to me “WTF was that! “ … “shit if I know, but we don’t have any gears” … “try four wheel” … “nothing”. We proceeded to try all the different gear and transfer case combos to no avail. We backed down the hill a bit to get off course and Berne jumped out. A bit later he popped back up and continuing with our proper french said “I think were f****d!”. I get out, just to see that externally everything is pristine, nothing broken, cracked, no linkage dangling or stuck branch … WTF. Berne tells me “we got the parking brake working, and the engine rpm drops a little when we shift from neutral into gears, so they must be spinning up. The output shaft must be broken just before the parking brake pin, we need a new transmission” … “Did you see one with the spare parts at the hotel?”… “no”. At this point we try “all” the frequencies on radio as well as the cell phone… nothing. We are not even hearing any chatter on weatherman, we are in a f**king blacked out area, shiiiiiiit!
Once all the racers had motored by, we got a local to strap us out of there. About 1000 feet down the course, one of the Oshkosh trucks is being worked on. We stop and finally get the message out, via their helicopters, that we have a broken transmission. We resume our towing and soon after, we have weatherman Diablo on the radio. It was too late to save Matt from covering the rough portion of race course from Ojos Negro to the highway were we would be, SORRY Matt. By the time Matt reaches us he needs to head off to BFG pit to help 118, but not before telling us how Baja had handed us our buts … thanks for the picker upper Matt.
Berne and I make a fire and wait for the trailer, wishing we had some hot dogs. Not the way we had wanted to spend our evening.
What an adventure, but true to Baja style, it was not as planned.
Thanks to Mike for the seat