2012 Baja 250,
All of our Photos are here.
I put my name out there for any pro teams looking for another rider for the San Felipe 250 this year. Two weeks before the race I was contacted by Daniel from Chula Vista, CA who runs the Southside Racing team. They were racing with two teams, a sportsmen team and a pro team which had an opening . They were renting a house from a local and we’d just be sleeping wherever there was room which was fine with me, I wanted this to be a cheap trip. The team was made up of all Southern California guys who thankfully all speak Spanish.
My chase team consisted of Adam and my dad (as usual) along with my friend from work David. David has no racing experience or mechanical interest but he was game for a fun adventure. We left for San Felipe at 5am on Thursday. We headed straight for the trail so I could begin my pre run with Adam. We arrived at Zoo road about noon and unloaded to begin pre running from Race Mile (RM) 94 down to RM124. From there we would get some fuel from the Baja pits guys and then cut across the course to RM194 to ride to the finish at RM249.
As we were unloading the Robby Gordon team showed up to do some testing. We left before Robby showed up but my dad and David got to sit and watch them test through the huge Zoo Road whoops for over 30 minutes. His team said he hit 89mph through those whoops and he was flying across the road crossing.
Adam and I hit the trail and the first part of my section was very whooped out and it was also full of many different lines. The line choices were amazing. The best lines were for motorcycles only since they were so narrow. I didn’t bring my GPS that I just bought because I wasn’t happy with how it was loading the SCORE GPS files so I was a little nervous about picking my lines that day and potentially missing a VCP (Virtual Check Point). The VCP’s are coordinates you have to come within 100 feet of or you get a time penalty.
We were having a good pre run, I was riding my dad’s dune quad because I blew the engine in my race quad a week earlier. Adam hit a big silt bed so I got next to him to point and laugh like any good friend would do. I have silt x ray vision so I went around the silt and took off once he was clear of the silt. Then I looked back and saw Adam wasn’t there. I waited a while then doubled back to find him. He said after I was done laughing at him his quad wouldn’t rev right so he had to beat out the air filter which fixed it.
We got to the Baja Pits and took a break. That 30 mile section felt like about 75 miles it was so rough! Our total pre run was only around 80 miles and we each had desert tanks so I figured we’d only need a splash of gas to get back to San Felipe. So we each got ½ a gallon from the baja pits and took off. The next section was Huatamote Wash, it has been used a lot and it is very beat up. There were multiple single line narrow canyons full of solid rock like a jeep crawling trail. You gotta be careful and pick a good line through there to avoid denting the skidplate and a-arms. The trail was fun but rough, then we hit a high speed wash and my quad started sputtering so I made sure the fuel switch was on reserve and kept going. A mile later I checked the fuel level and it was really low. I unpacked my small emergency bottle of fuel and dumped it in.
We came up to a nice pre runner parked in the wash and I stopped to see if they had any fuel. It turned out to be Mark McMillin and his crew. He said the only fuel he had was in the tank and of course I didn’t bring my fuel syphon hose for this short trip. He said hold on then he hopped out of the truck. He was thinking about something then he hopped under the truck and asked me to join him. We were laying under the truck checking the fuel lines when he introduced himself. It was funny to meet laying in a wash under a bitchin pre runner.
His fuel system was equipped with a T after the fuel filter with a quick disconnect line. His crew pulled out a pre made hose that had quick connect fitting on it and he told me I needed to pop that hose onto the T and we could get some fuel. He said the job was mine since he didn’t want a fuel bath that day. Luckily his fuel system and connectors are so awesome I just popped it right on and there was zero spillage. He turned on the fuel pump and we instantly had a full service fuel station. I took 2 gallons and Adam took 1 gallon and we talked with Mark and his team for a while. He asked if I was any good and we talked about how long he had been racing baja, turns out he has been racing down there for 2 years longer than I have been alive. He said he wasn’t sure if this new pre runner was equipped with that fuel system setup like his old truck, thankfully it was. Thanks for the fuel Mark!
Adam and I kept up our pre run and we got to the new section, Amarillas wash. This wash had never been raced before and it was so smooth, fast and fun. We made our way out of the wash and out by the Airport and out to the highway. We navigated the streets back to the San Felipe Arches were we saw David and my dad parked in a dirt lot. I popped the curb into the lot and I saw my Best in the Desert team mate Nick parked there too. He was down there pitting for the Carlisle Tires UTV team. They flew him in down in a friggin leer jet, he said it took 45 minutes. SOB.
We loaded up and headed to a local taco shop for some freshly made Carne Asada tacos, they were great. From there we followed the handmade map to get to the house we’d be crashing at. We found the house and the owner was there washing her van. She didn’t speak a word of English and we don’t speak a lot of Spanish so things got interesting. Daniel the team leader (and fluent Spanish speaker) was running really late so we had a 20 minute conversation with lots of hand gestures to figure out how we’d get our truck and trailer into the fenced in courtyard where her van was.
While this negotiation was taking place her friend was making us fresh Ceviche in an enormous bowl. She also sent him down the street to get beverages. We were there to rent her house but she wanted to be a good host and make us dinner. It was really cool. The house was very nice and the courtyard was awesome. David and my dad ended up sleeping out there in the courtyard that night and most of the team slept out there too, the weather was awesome.
The next day we woke up and started checking out the race quad. It looked nice but while we were bolting some of my parts to it we found a lot of things wrong. Daniel had paid a shop $1600 to do the full race prep and build the engine but they must have been busy that day because they forgot to tighten a lot of stuff. We found the bare wire from the fan stripped back and hand wrapped around a spade connector, this is a fine fix on the side of the trail but not exactly the way to prep a quad to race. The wire was also grounded to a powdercoated place on the frame. So we scraped the powdercoat off to get a better ground. Several engine case bolts were loose, the radiator hose clamps were not tight at all, we pulled the radiator hose clean off the radiator. All of the wiring harness connectors were broken so they would not remain snapped together. There were lots of other small things we fixed.
After a few hours of prep we walked down to tech and contingency on the beach boardwalk. It was a zoo like usual which was awesome, the hustle and bustle of tech day is fun. I flew through registration and met up with my chase crew at the taco stand. I tried to save us a table while they ordered and they covered my tacos in what is best described as napalm salsa or scorched earth. It made my mouth burn for 15 minutes, bastards.
We saw the familiar old dude with the metal handles that he dares you to hold onto so he can shock the crap out of you. There was live music, girls throwing out shirts, tv crews, Robby Gordon’s Speed Energy helicopter flying really close overhead. It was a good time.
Daniel rode the race quad down to tech and it seemed to run fine but when we got back to the house they were trying to get it started, it would not start. Even pull starting it the quad it would not run, it clearly didn’t have fuel or spark. We checked some stuff and eventually their mechanic friend drove up and found the small wire to the coil was not making good contact. Once that was fixed the quad started and I went inside. The rest of the team was outside messing with the quad and putting a new gas tank on it.
We loaded it up to take it out to zoo road and when we got there the quad would barely run. So we went back to the house and started messing with the jetting which didn’t help a lot so then we started swapping parts off the backup quad. We swapped the coil, plug wire, spark plug, rectifier, CDI and more. Eventually it was running good so we went to eat. Also while they were testing it that night the kickstarter fell off! Needless to say Daniel will be looking for a new shop to prep his teams quads.
On Raceday everyone was up at 5am to get ready. My crew headed to Zoo road to watch the leaders come through and to make sure our quad came through. The leading motorcycle came through flying, this was only race mile 12 and they already had a small gap on the competition. Our quad came through 4th in class which was good since we started 8th in our class. So we drove to the end of zoo road at RM94 to wait.
A couple hours later everyone came through including all the sportsmen ATV’s who start well behind us so I knew something was up. It was an hour after we were scheduled to come through so I asked the Baja Pits guys to call the previous baja pit to see if our quad had made it through. They said it hadn’t so I took my helmet and backpack off. Then the sportsmen quad who was part of Southside Racing came by and the rider said our quad was not running good at all but they were working on it in the El Diablo lakebed area when he went by.
About 30 minutes later our quad came through and I hopped on. The quad was supposed to have a dual gasser throttle since I race and ride with a twist throttle but it only had a thumb throttle so it made my ride about 10 times more difficult.
Within 5 miles my hand is hurting so bad I want to cry. The technical stuff and whoops are the worst, my thumb feels like death. But I have some fun on the higher speed stuff. I don’t see anyone in my entire 30 mile section and I know the trophy trucks are only an hour behind me and gaining fast. I get to the next baja pits and turn it over to Sergio, the next rider.
I hitch a ride with Daniel’s dad and we drive across to RM194 where I am scheduled to get back on. We sit in the wash and watch all the leading Trophy Trucks and Class 1’s come through which is really cool. Then we head up a bit more to the next pit area where I am getting on. An hour later those same trophy trucks come back through. They did the bottom half of the course (70 miles) in about an hour, friggin amazing.
I see a few quads come through that we were ahead of so I start thinking we are out of it again. At this point we are getting close to not making the time cut off. They give you 11 hours to finish this race and we started about 6:25AM, it is getting close to 3:00pm. Then our quad appears so I strap on my helmet and take off. The rider who turned it over to me told the crew in Spanish he smelled something bad, might be the engine or clutch.
I take off and I am doing ok, within 5 miles I see 102A, one of our competitors on the side of the trail with his tow strap ready to go. We are already so far behind I stop to help him out. He speaks some English and I tell him my clutch might be bad, and he better be sure it will start. He says it will so I wait and he hooks up the tow rope and I pull start him. While he is removing the strap from his bumper the quad dies. So he hooks it back up and I start him again, which is no easy feat in this soft sand. I take off and within a mile or so I start to notice that the rear end is feeling really low and I start pinging off some rocks that I should be clearing easily. The rear shock is either blowing out or just fading so badly it is useless. I keep going and I struggle through the rocky single track with the thumb throttle while trying to keep the skid plate off of the rocks.
A few miles later 102A catches me and I wave him by. I keep my head on a swivel and I manage to move over for all of the Trophy Trucks and Class 1’s that are coming through. Only one of them had to give me the horn to move over. I make it to the next pit and my hand is killing me, I am using every part of my thumb, palm and wrist to manipulate the throttle. By this time the rear shock is gone, if I hit any bump with speed it squats all the way down and then pogos me up into the air. I slow down and make it out of the wash and onto the whooped out Airport road.
I am scheduled to get off here and hand it over to Daniel so he can do the final few miles into the finish but I don’t see anyone. So I continue on through the whooped out road that is completely lined with fans who are cheering me on even though my pace isn't exactly setting the wolrd on fire. I turn the next corner and I see my crew and Daniel waiting for me. I hop off and they take over to the finish line. I am not tired at all but my hand is really hurting and swollen.
We end up crossing the finish line within the time limit and in 6th place. I was just happy we finished. It was another good baja adventure. Next time I go I want to do ZERO wrenching on the race quad the day before the race. So far every team I have been on has been up all night the night before the race wrenching. It sure makes it exciting but I’d prefer a little less excitement. :-)
I should clarify, there was one team that I was on that wasn’t up the night before wrenching and it was the time we won the Baja 500 in the Sportsmen class.
Thanks to my family and team members for all the help to make this trip possible!
All of our Photos are here.