SHEEET!..... if only, almost...#16 Score International Baja 1000 wrap up
Having started my racing in Baja in 1982 as a navigator and 1985 as a driver we have a pretty good idea of what it takes to get it done and we tried to bring the entire package. This is the long and complete version of race day.....
For 2015 we made a strategic move to sit out the Baja 500 for a new Dougans Racing Engines 474 8 stack power plant (up from the 454 injected) with the support of most of our sponsors. The changes made also included chassis upgrades and new FOX racing shox bump stops. We chose this timing so we could test 1000 plus miles before the 1000 at V2R and other races. The gamble and plan paid off and worked perfectly.
We started the 1k in 9th position and sadly one of my favorite drivers Luke McMillin was parked at mile 7 with a serpentine belt problem. Man we got that serpentine crap off the 14 4 years ago and it was the best thing we ever did. Anyway
#17 was leaving a dust trail and at key moments we would make ourselves close enough in the switchbacks so the navigator could see us. They ended up making a mistake and we were right on their six and went by. Along with #83s tough start we had a 2 minute gap of no dust, sort of.
We ended up getting on the dust of #5 and came out at Urapan 6 minutes behind the leader, we had started 9 minutes behind them.
Down the beach I missed a line behind some fences that I thought might be a no no but then came to a line we wanted to use and Cody called out two VCPs we needed to make. At the time we were 5th on the road and could see what looked like only 1 of the 4 trucks ahead of us had made these 2 VCPs based on tracks we saw.
We end up seeing Rob (we didn't know at the time but he had a flat and #5 got by) we chased up to the #11's dust and were happy to be able to see Mr. Mac.
We pit at mile 133 and our crew and others near by had us leading on time. Sweet. Our Bullet Proof Diesel Pit crew had tires and full load of fuel in in under 50 seconds, we lost no position in the pit and chased on after ol Mac. We suspected he had to pit still as they usually, along with the #70, stretch fuel economy. We hoped our pit was faster and that we could catch Rob in his pit.
At mile 200ish there was the #11 sitting in the pit....no lie it was a pretty grand moment to know we, in our minds, out pit Rob. We ran down the highway for about 6 miles right after and Rob was gaining on us. We had our limited set so we ran about 58.5mph, Rob was obviously closer to the 60.8mph optimal mark. We slowed down to the required crawl through the 300 feet before the check point and to Rob's credit so did he.
I knew when we got off the pavement in a mile the dust would be horrendous going into the "Soccoro Loop". Rob later complained in the finish line notes about following our dust....it's okay, I say suck the dust Rob if you let the DA circus by. Sorry.
We came to our driver change at mile 283 5th on the road about 50 seconds behind the #5. Our crew had us 2nd on time to the #70 who was running dust free and of course are bad ass drivers with great equipment.
LVDC driver Pat Dean (owner of Patrick's Signs) and Shane Robinson had been waiting a week to see us and they had been pre running the "Never Never" the whole time. About 3 minutes after Pat left #11 came by and then the #17 a minute or so behind them.
Pat and Shane's hard work paid off. They decided NOT to take a tough line they had seen all week and they passed #21 buried in some silt and then the #77 stuck on the line they chose not to use...funny side story, told while laughing by Pat and Shane..... Robby tried to flag them down for a tow. Ha ha, Rob would not stop for anyone under any circumstance and I wish I could have seen his face as they drove by. The #16 was 3rd on the road and not stopping to tow another competitor at the front of the race. Maybe if we were 25th....maybe.....
At Catavinia #70 our buddy 2J came through first and Weyrich told us about the drama back in the silt but that our truck had made it through. #5 was 2nd and then came our little mule #16. We have never been able to stretch fuel segments due to other reasons so we needed a splash. Vince at Pressure Pro has the real equiptemt, we had the truck fueled and on the road in record time. At this point we were 2nd on time.
Pat and Shane lost our only tire on the "Catavinia Loop" and #11 got back by. They had to chew his dust for 70 miles but we are not complaining..that's how it goes when you stop.
At the Trackside Performance, LLC semi at mile 483 #70 2J was handing out an ass whooping. His pre running paid off huge and he was demolishing everyone. #5 was next about 20 back, then #11 and then #16 about 7 minutes back.
I can be a brake abuser and our kingpin on the crew Rene made the call that we needed rear brake pads. This was tough to bite down on but we made the change.....in 2 minutes and 25 seconds Rene and Frenchy changed the rear pads.....still cost us a spot to the #17.
We got out of the pit and moved it quick as the #17 had a driver change 5 miles up course. I think we surprised our little buddy Josh Daniel as we got by them parked in the pits at the "Coco's Road/Hwy 5".
4th on the road on the painful 70 miles of Hwy to Puertocitos I ate a Bonk Buster and we discussed the plan. After laying up for a podium in 2015 we were firmly committed to going for the win. We were 4th on the road but felt we could do some chasing down while still being smart.
We got after it on the "Old Puertocitos Road" and closed a couple of minutes on the #11 at our pit in San Felipe. Our timing had us 3rd but we knew there were still penalties to be handed out. Had we known Jesse #70 was parked we might have changed up our plan but we didn't and we were on it in the whoops and maybe we risked too much....
At 90ish mph we had the steering go out just past VCP 71 at about mile 634. We instantly assumed we lost a belt in the whoops, we shut the truck off and removed the hood to find the belt still on, sheet!
We went to start the truck to diagnose the issue and the truck would not start....this has been a chronic issue at the finish line of races as we normally never shut the truck off during the race with our starters cooked. We have the highest dollar most fancy one possible and the second starter is what we think is the best combination of parts available. We struggled to try and jump the starters, re-set the breaker/fuse and still could not make it happen. Greg Distefano has been doing this with me since the 80's and got to us first with Azam and Rogellio. After much drama the truck finally was started and the pump was changed but it was about 1:45 minutes of time lost.
We ran the rest of the race clean passing slower cars etc and Cody and I never had a flat tire thanks to BFGoodrich Tires and Method Race Wheels. We changed to these, in my opinion, two superior products weeks before the race and they paid HUGE dividends. 621 miles driving with no issues other than the steering pump.
Re the steering pump. Many ask who makes ours, in a negative tone. I am here to tell you that if you deal out the abuse we were giving the truck anything can fail at anytime. We proudly use Howe Performance Power Steering and hold Jeff, Justin and crew in the highest regard and will have their pump, rack and servo on our truck all next year again as we have had for the last decade. Sometimes Baja wins.
Many thanks to Rene Brugger who is the main man behind our success as we never had a prep issue all year as is the norm with him spinning the wrenches.
Much respect and congratulations to the #11 Rob MacCachren and Andy McMillin and their entire team. They kicked the crap our of all of us, fastest to the finish with the most compliance....they also held off Baja. The toughest part of this race is the peninsula herself and we enter each time with the utmost respect for her.
Our prayers and thoughts go out to those who suffered the greatest loss at this years race and all involved. Sadly it can be a part of any motorsports event and our thoughts are with all impacted.
For 2015 the Desert Assassins sign off and say thank you to the crew, volunteers, sponsors, supporters, fans, media and officials that made our year possible. We love what we do and see great possibilities on the horizon. May each of you have a great holiday season and be filled with great cheer.
Monster Energy Lucas Oil Bullet Proof Diesel KC HiLiTES, Inc. Method Race Wheels BFGoodrich FOX Shox Currie Enterprises Prime Fabrication VP Racing Fuels Patricks Signs FK Rod Ends Action Sports Canopies Troy Lee Designs Alpinestars RaceCo Dougans Racing Engines Rancho Drivetrain Motive Gear and Trackside Performance.
Words by Cameron Steele