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Baja Belk

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Well I've been waiting for Ben's full-length recap, but I guess I'll just go ahead with my section sum-up.

Backstory: With our Mexican program focused more on NORRA, but personally still wanting more shots at the B1K, I had approached Ben a year or so ago and told him if he ever needed a driver for a P2P, I was happy to do it. Flash-forward to a couple months ago and I got the call. I almost regretted saying yes since I was in the middle of possibly the craziest 2 month gauntlet of my life. Prepping for and racing MORE, NORRA 500, and the B1K in a span of 8 weeks, my son's birthday party(ies), coaching t-ball and flag football, moving back into my house that flooded 7 months ago, etc etc......needless to say I was a tad stressed to be going to Mexico for a week.

Thankfully the whole Precepts crew stepped up and we figured out a plan to prerun and get Ben's car to Ensenada for tech etc. The prerun went smoothly but the course was way more rough and technical than I was expecting. Super chewed up already too. I guess I'm just used to the NORRA fire roads?

My plan, being unfamiliar with Ben's car and knowing this would be a very long race, was to be painfully conservative in order to avoid any downtime and get Zac and eventually Ben a clean car without too much abuse incurred. The starting line shenanigans were super frustrating - I think it was almost 3 hours of mostly sitting in the car idling from the time we drove to staging to the time we actually got the green flag. During one of the in and out of the car maneuvers, I somehow caught my ear buds and ripped one off. That sucks. I had a super hard time hearing anything other than the motor for the next 8-9 hours.

We started passing UTVs and that stupid giant Hummer that absolutely should have entered Sportsman pretty much right away. Trey and Chase got around me quick which I knew they would. Otherwise things went surprisingly smooth for the first 170 miles. A couple near-bottlenecks but nothing major. Dust wasn't too bad. Took me a little bit to get a feel for the car but we were cruising just fine. Dumped fuel in Colonet and they said I was only a couple minutes back from Chase.

After that things slowed down a bit as I had some annoying ticky-tack issues. I stopped twice to try and close the roof that was flapping free, and again to push my one good earbud back in place after it fell out. Visibility started to become an issue as dusk fell and dust and ground-fog creeped in. As we got closer to RM 300 I started getting super anxious about the horrific silt beds I knew were waiting for me in the last 10 miles of my leg. The ground fog was getting worse and there were times I couldn't see 1' in front of the car. It was painfully slow going at times.

As we approached the BFG pit I managed to hear a call from LJ who was chasing me who said I needed to try and get extra fuel since my fuel wasn't going to make it to our driver change. Uh oh, that's not good. Instead of the scheduled splash at BFG they gave me an extra 15 gallons and we set off into the fog. We had a nearly catastrophic moment where I was creeping along clutching 1st gear with absolutely zero visibility when all of a sudden brake lights appeared out of nowhere and I had to stop to avoid hitting a spec truck buried in the silt. Great, we're done. Amazingly I was somehow able to reverse out without getting stuck, and we powered through the berm and made it around. Close call. We soon were at 340 and the silt warnings started pinging on the Leadnav. Thankfully, the visibility had improved enough to where I could pick my lines around the worst spots and through the bushes. We passed a half dozen pileups of 4-5 cars a-piece, and before I knew it, we were done. Zac had to re-locate our pit in order to commandeer some fuel, but I pulled into the Baja Pits with a huge sense of relief that we had made it without ever having to stop or get out of the car. Chase was only about 10 minutes ahead so I didn't feel too about about our slow and steady pace. My dad (and my fuel) had been stuck in traffic on the coast for hours but they had just beat me by about 30 min. We saw Zac off and then jumped on the highway to chase him down to El Crucero. I ran into Travis there and got the low-down on their engine issues, and Zac was the first car through. We decided we were too tired to continue on into BOLA so we handed the baton to Zac's chase crew and set up some sleeping bags on the flatbed trailer for the night. It was about midnight. The moon and stars were incredibly bright and I remembered how much I had missed racing down here. It is like nothing else.

3:00 AM, the sat phone near my pillow rings. It's Wendy, who was running point for us on the tracker back in the states. "Um, Zac thinks there is something wrong with the shocks and Ben wants to know where the Grinch is because it has the same shocks. And they might need them." I peer out of my sleeping bag to Zac's trailer hooked up to his truck which I was sleeping on, knowing the Grinch was inside. F@*(&@. "Wendy, that's like a 5 hour drive from here. And it's 3 AM. And it's really cold out. Tell them I'll do it if it's the only way.....but that they need to find another way". Thankfully for our race, and for mine and Ben's friendship, they didn't need the shocks, so I went back to sleep.

6:00 AM, some idiot is slapping the bedsides of Zac's truck. "Oh hey man sorry to wake you up, do you have a brake cable? Ours broke". F@#)($& Seriously guys? I Threw on some clothes and opened up the trailer but they decided the Grinch's cable wouldn't work so they walked away. The rest of the Precepts crew was already stirring so we lit a fire and cooked up some coffee and carne asada. Best breakfast I've had in awhile.

We started the long trek back to Valle T where my truck was stashed, and late morning I got a sat phone text from Wendy that the car had been stopped in Loreto for awhile. An hour + later they were still stopped, Hernquist had passed them, and "DNF" was starting to creep into my mind. I think we were near San Felipe when she said they had started moving again. I didn't hear much else until 7-8 PM when I finally made it back to San Diego and plugged my phone in which had been dead for a couple hours. The car was almost to the finish line in 2nd place which, at that point, was a win as far as I'm concerned. Was very relieved and pretty happy to notch a finish back on my belt for the first time in a decade - I started counting backwards and realized my last B1K finish was 2011, where I won with Jim Anderson and Rick Boyer. We blew engines in '12, '13, '14, and then lost a transmission in '17. We did not enter in '15, '16', '18, '19, or '20. Time flies I guess.

Super grateful to Ben and Pete and Zac and the team for letting me participate. There were many times over the course of 350 miles I was bouncing off rocks and sand whoops wondering why the heck I was doing this, but as soon as it was over I couldn't stop thinking about how I can't wait to do it again. 2023???

Congrats to Chase and Schweers for a clean run and a well-deserved victory - really cool that Don got to drive the last leg.

🤙

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swiftracing5

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Ok Ok i'm here Mike...
Cool write up, got me fired up to write one but...mine is going to be longer though as our week was not as smooth as your beard.

Drew(Mike's dad) and I became good friends over the last 2 years and he would always slip in a comment about having Mike drive with me at a baja race, as he brings alot to the table. And no, not just money. Trucks, confidence, trailers, good baja network, and obviously some street cred and speed. In the months leading up the race since Lucerne race, my dad had some hesitancy to commit to driving a leg so I told Mike you might get the call. Well a month before the race he told me, I need to know, basically I have my own life too(haha). But the opportunity finally solidified when Erik Irvine and I made the difficult decision to take him off the roster and add Mike. Erik had been buckled down with biz commitments and he could not give us the Erik Irvine we all know and love. That night sucked, I was bummed he would not be there with us. We have teamed up every baja 1000 I have done, he had been in the trenches with us(literally, welding on the car at mile 600 in 2016 to get us to the finish). But the very next phone call that night was to Mike. The family man he is...he did not answer so we talked later and I said welcome to the circus, lets do this thing.

Mike, Drew, Zac and I met up at the shop and went over the car and some details. At that point, it was a week before we were all heading south and I kid you not we had lost half of the chase support we started with so the biggest thing (for me) that Belk helped with was supporting and giving Zac the support he needed in his section. Even if they were not physically supporting him to the end of his section, they talked about all possible outcomes, chase plans, etc, just giving Zac some peace of mind. Everyone on the team knows Zac has something special behind the wheel of a 5 car, it was just the missing piece of the chase support that Belk was able to help him with that I will always remember.

Pit meeting is done. Plan is Mike and Nicolas start, go to MM350 - Zac + Cory go to MM705 - Taylor @TMorford and I go to MM935 - Dad and I go to finish. Wednesday before race week I tow the car to Danzio to once and for all get the pit speed limiter adjusted for Baja zones and get my cold start looked at and adjusted. I get a text from Jason @Slippery P saying Hey your timing pulley is rubbing on the cover and will not last, change it right?? So they wave their wand over the engine and I pick up in 1 day turnaround service. It was my first time going there and will not be my last. They inherited my car from another shop and went above and beyond for me. I leave Danzio around 6 and lead to Thermal(yikes) to drop off the car with Drew Belk as they will obviously be towing the car to the race. I swear, if the race started one day earlier we would have been screwed lol. I tell myself "dont fall into the trap and start talking baja with drew or you will get home at midnight". Anyways, i get home at midnight.

We spend the last 2 nights before we leave getting the prerunner ready. We finally sold the rzr after a tumultuous relationship and got our hands on a 4 seat desert dynamics buggy for basically the same money. We thought we scored, we felt ready to prerun baja sur, relax on the beach in loreto, get it washed and relax while Mike and Zac brought my baby down the peninsula. It is nice to have dreams right?

Border was a breeze, we are thinking this is our week! We meet up with @43mod at his house in SF for a saturday night dinner and race meeting as he will be my main support down south. Although we were not having the support of @BHollander down south this race, I would not have made the connection with Russ(43mod) without his help so thank you Brandon. We have a classic night eating steaks, XX's, shooting the chit, get a good nights sleep and take off from Russ' place feeling lucky to have him supporting us. Well, here is where things start to teeter on the brink for us. Dads truck won't go into gear leaving Russ', and apparently same with Taylor's. What are the odds? A tense 15 minutes with Russ giving us a hard time allowed the trucks to refocus on the tasks at hand and we are back on the road. At highway 5/1 intersection we meet up with Zac/Cory and their squad to give them their sat phone. Turns out they both had bad food poisoning but you could hardly tell. They were about to rip zacs car around baja.

We arrive in San Ignacio Sunday night and this is where it gets good. Monday we gas up the prerunner, do final checks, and hit the trail. Dads good buddy Joe is flying into Loreto for the week and will handle chase driving duties but the issue is dad has to pick him up first, then drive back to San Ignacio to get the other truck. Trust me, we weighed all the options, it was going to be a long day for my pops either way. We get cocky and dad unhooked the trailer for the drive to Loreto, he takes off, Taylor and I take off to start our prerun(9AM).

Prerun is going stellar for the first 100 miles, we are stopping to check on stopped prerunners left and right, just full of confidence. As the weather starts to heat up, and it seemed hot for Nov in baja, so did the auto trans which we frankly have heard more negative than positive on. This slowed the pace significantly, but considering Mike bought prerun notes from NORRA Elias, we were able to cruise and the notes were actually 90% from perfect. We make it to Scorpion Bay, have lunch, still loving life. I remember telling taylor, lets take a selfie in front of the waves while we are still smiling. We laugh, but inside we are nervous. Taylors last 2 attempts at that leg ended in scorpion bay for various reasons, but he started to make some unfair assumptions.... I call dad and he says all is good but Joe's flight is delayed 3 hours so I am just sitting here killing time.

We take off after having lunch and start to head west towards Loreto to meet dad. We start to cross the riverbed that leads into La Purisima at mile 830 and the steering arm on the spindle decides it probably was not ready for 500 miles in baja. Well that sucks. I have never had this happen so there were a couple pace laps around the car while we brainstormed. We both agree the only way out is like we have seen in the movies- pull off the shocks and hub, strap the arms up, Taylor hikes off the opposing side, and we limp it on 3 wheels to the highway(10 miles further up course). I call dad to deliver the news. Tells Joe to find a good cantina in town because he needs to get the trailer ASAP. We should have not been cute with the trailer decision after all....

As Taylor and I are just about to try our 3 wheel luck there is a truck full of guys pulling up who just had a great lunch with a couple Margaritas for sure. Nice truck. They see us with our internal wheels spinning and throw a strap on the bumper and say steer and tell us if we need to stop... so those next 10 miles we bounced off every rock in sight and caused more damage to the car than any race has and tearing up Taylors elbows. But, we were at the highway(3PM). We set up camp as dad has probably about 600 miles to cover to get us, in baja, with a trailer, at night. One thing is that we did not get bored or stay sober out there. Just about every local or chase crew left us some beers or fruit. We got a decent buzz on just enough to forget how long we were going to be waiting. The hours tick by and I am in touch with dad who is white knuckled to come rescue us. Finally about 1130PM he pulls up, and the front of the truck is smashed, missing headlight. I say uhh wtf dad. He replies with simply "we hit a burro, lets load this car up" um ok. Luckily another team was around so it helped getting the wounded car up the trailer behind the wounded truck!

So we take off back towards where we think we can find a hotel past midnight on a monday. Highway 53 into scorpion bay is hardly a highway. I am talking 6-8' wide potholes for 25 miles. We hear banging from the trailer and assume the belly of the prerunner is banging the trailer deck, so we keep driving. Taylor finds us a hotel at 1-2AM in insurgentes, wakes up the poor hostess to get our keys. We notice the rear trailer axle is shifted over 4".... I have seen this movie before... leaf springs are exploded.. FFFFFFFF. well that will be tomorrows problem, wait todays... ugh. Time for sleep.

Tuesday morning, we were supposed to be prerunning from Loreto to La paz. not no mo. Dad calls our Baja godfather Miguel Pabloff and explains our dire state. Within an hour Miguel has a mechanic at our hotel in Insurgentes surveying the damage. He says No Problemo, bring it over. So we drop off our broken trailer towing our broken prerunner with our new buddy and he says see you tomorrow. At the same time we call @Big Whitey /Greg to get some sympathy and says dude we have an open seat in our prerunner, your pops can ride today and you can ride tomorrow so you can see the course. Love those Sullivan boys! We send dad off for some therapy with Greg in his buggy while Taylor, Joe, and I take off to retrieve Taylor's truck from San Ignacio and meet everyone back in Loreto later that day/night to salvage what is left of our fun prerun week. Get some rooms at Loreto Bay Resort(nice), only to see the Schweers boys set up there too. Guess we were in a good spot!

Wednesday- Greg lets me hop in with him and Mikey to prerun 900-1120. We have a really fun day, lots of laughs and enough crap talking for a day. Finish up with a roadside lunch and head back to Loreto for a good shower and sleep.

Thursday is race start day and we will go pick up the trailer/prerunner early AM, and good thing we did. Trailer shows up in MINT condition, prerunner and spindle fixed even with new better gussets. Thanks for the help Miguel. Saved our ignorant butts! I watch Mike take the start online, very anticlimactic with the parade start but still will never feel normal watching someone wheel your car off the start!. And then the long agonizing wait while wearing out the refresh on the tracker. I never thought of one team as the favorites, which was awesome . 4 legit teams! I knew @bhernquist had the best chance to get to la paz first as he had done it more than any of us in the class. But I thought @CHASETHISTOO probably had the best "team". Good proven car, talent and experience at every leg, and checkers pits. But then there is the current top dog and 2021 points champ Sullivan team starting in the rear with the local support ready to spring on any mistakes. All I wanted was to stay out of trouble. I never thought we were the team to beat but Given Mike and Zac's pace mixed with the Jakes car, I knew we would be in the hunt for the second half when all 4 car owners were slated to go do battle to the finish.

Anyways, Taylor and I head to San Ignacio for the night to meet Russ and get set up for an early morning driver change on Friday. After talking to Mike and Zac they really thought their sections would be +- 10 hours. That would put Taylor and I in the car around 10AM which seemed late. As the night fell on the race, I was a fly on the wall for Mikes gas crisis which was figured out without my help, see what I mean about the Belks? Mike was neck and neck with Chase and Bill which was the plan. As I tried to hit the sack for some sleep I noticed Bill(Trey driving) losing some time and the race for the first half between Chase and us. As soon as I start to finally doze off, you know who calls to roost me(Greg). Tells me we are starting to gap the field now with Zac in the car. Well crap, now I am wide awake, lol thanks greg. I watch tracking all night now, as Zac builds up a 35 minute lead having the night of his life. I am starting to realize he is way ahead of schedule and will be arriving by 4AM and tell taylor lets get ready! I was so proud of Mike and Zac, they were perfect!

Then Cory texts me... considering he is riding in the car with Zac my heart immediately sinks. 3AM "Do you have service?" UGH. He says something is wrong with the car, could be shocks, they were making a hard earned pass in the dust/fog and clipped a UTV and something was wrong. They made the decision to limp to their next pit 30 miles away so they could have more support fixing. I am pacing at that point. I call Wendy who relays to Mike about the shocks on the grinch. I then call my dad who pulls the shocks off the prerunner but he is also 3 hours away. If it was shock related, we were in it for a long night waiting(again). Zac and Cory make it to 635 and I get a full report: bent tie rod, bent lower arm, shocks are fine, will change tie rod then head to 705 where I will be and we will survey the arm and make a call on changing it since BFG will be there to help. Chase gets by us while we are limping and the lead is gone just like that. SOB.

445AM Chase pulls through our pit with @Chris Schweers now driving, he was going to be dam near impossible to catch around that section after I saw how fast he was at Parker, not to mention he is a BITD class champion. Oh well. Time to get ready for our boys to pull in. 530AM car arrives, front end is sagging about 6-8" low, beam bushings crying for grease. We do a walk around and car looks solid other than the arm. Arm is bent 3-4" down at the shock mounts, but Zac calmly tells me car feels fine still. We change the air filter, grease her up, and Taylor and I buckle in to try and keep Chris within touch. I really thought if the car would be drivable, we would be able to capitalize on Chris hopefully getting 1 flat. maybe more....

We head West and sun is coming up behind us, as we hit whiteout fog at the beach. It was not exactly a bad thing as it slowed our pace a bit to feel out the car to see if the arm needed to be favored. The lack of ground clearance took some adjusting to, but we still were able to keep the planned 75% pace. As the fog finally started to burn off we started to pick off cars. 10 cars, 7200, Ok this feels good again. We start to see the crowds at Scorpion Bay and we turn it up a bit. With no chase support there we had no idea on Chris but we didnt care. Car was singing, Taylor is clicking off the leadnav notes on point as we hit the pavement in the bay as we drifted onto it holding 60, baja is the best. We take a moment to relax and get ready to hit BFG where the prerunner crapped the bed and go see our boys in Loreto. After our fuel splash the car really started to suffer in the corners and I thought I don't know how this car is going to make it another 400 miles. Something was wrong, but I have driven some very poor cars and thought lets tighten these belts and get it done.

We see Russ at mile 890 and hit the silt behind Loreto. No big deal, the little car charged through even with the snow scoop ride height in the front. Dad is waiting at 935 to ride with me to 1000. 935 was going to be our last big pit where we could assess the car and race thus far. Taylor and I's day together is done and dam it was fun, so Dad starts to get in as Russ leans into the windshield to tell me- we really should change that arm. It is getting worse, your spring divider is exploded causing the upper spring to get stuck while compressed. We all agree and start the surgery. Russ gets shocks apart. Zac gets front end apart. Dad drives to town to get the spring dividers off the prerunner, shows up with the rears which are too big, so he turns around to get the fronts correctly. It felt like hours but I think it was about 2 hours of downtime. In that time Bill got by us and Greg was closing. We had a race on our hands.

I am starting the car as Zac is tightening the shock bolts. LFG! Then I go for reverse gear and its mush... luckily it was the bolt on the shift arm. Russ grabs a bolt, zac slams it in, and dad and I are off with a toot of the horn. We crawl through Loreto hills, that section is brutal. And for such a beautiful town too lol.

We finally hit the wash to head West for the last time at mile 945 and see Greg out there at his drivers change giving us thumbs up. I notice he doesnt have his helmet on yet so I figure I have at least 15 mins or so. In my day dream I proceed to blow the next corner in front of a bunch of fans, hopefully Greg did not see but I am sure he did! Dad and I clear San Javier and the pace is ok. I just feel rattled and the car is a bit harsh in front. I even thought to myself that maybe I preferred the lowrider tune from before lol. But we click off the miles and as we hit BFG at mile 1000 dad says just keep driving, you are our best chance to finish this race. I was sad to think he would not get to drive the finish but he would be there along side me pushing me to the finish, which was what I needed. No time for hugs though, we get fuel and are off and push hard before the whoops. The car feels really good and we are flying now. Dad is cheering and we are having fun but dam we really still had 200 miles to go! As we hit the TT whoops we settle into the slow pace, rolling along, it felt like 10mph but we could get up to 40mph and unless Greg was on a suicide mission I didn't think he could go much faster through there.

We clear MM1100 and it still felt like we were in Lucerne! I was thinking it would be farm roads all the way in to town lol. Get fuel at Santa Rita BFG and they ask what we need, all I say is the finishline, please. We have a laugh and they say keep pushing, almost there. Night begins to fall for the second night and so does the IPAD, so we are back to cruise mode, which was good because I really was running on fumes physically and as much as I would hate to see Gregs big ol smile ahead of me on the podium, I just wanted to get this team a finish. The car was there for me every shift even though the front end felt like it was a marionette puppet and would not track straight from all the field adjustments we had made during the race. All my life I have heard about the stone steps coming into la paz and I wanted them so bad. Dad kept insisting just around the corner! Well we come around the corner and see brake lights, we idle up and it is Bill.... He has a dejected look, helmet off, needs CV parts. We have some but not all, so he realizes all he can do is send me off with his hard earned second place. Love ya Bill, that is not what I had in mind for a baja hangout at the finish.

Finally we hit the stair steps, tip toe down, then hit barstow main whoops on steroids, I am thinking COME ON ROGER NORMAN!! It is an eternity but we see the lights of la paz, and the farm roads finally appear. I do my best Ken Block impression and stall the car mid corner, ok relax Ben. I see all these lights in the distance which look like fireflies, once I come around the corner they are cell phone lights from the fans filming us. My eyes start to well up and you can literally hear them above the engine cheering. Man it feels good to be in baja. We hit the pavement and there is not a dry eye in that JFW car. We are slapping hands and cheering, and we werent even in first! Now we enter the finish gate and they have us do a 1/2 mile dirt short course. So naturally I blow the last corner and Taylor had it all on film. Finally we crawl up the podium and take our helmets off. The first familiar faces I see are Erik and his wife Laura, now I am crying again. They flew all the way down for the finish, good thing we made it! We jump out, dust ourselves off, only to hear that Joe and Zac got hit in my Dads truck on their way to the finish. What a crazy thing we just survived. Tacos and beers ensue until I can no longer hold my head up from exhaustion. Years and years and years of dreaming of coming into La Paz like all the videos I watched growing up, hearing my dad's stories. And we did it. With the best team, best car made by the best builders (sorry Greg).

It was not a win, which is crazy. This was our best chance, great car, great team, it seemed like it could not be better chance and We set a really high bar and since we were not running points this year we were coming down to win. Coulda woulda shoulda, but It really gives the Schweers/Chase team their due credit knowing that we honestly brought our absolute A GAME to this race and they beat us. Nice job guys. I feel very lucky to be surrounded with such solid people who helped us get to this point... dad, mom, Taylor, Brandon, Jake, Matt, Zac, Erik, Steve, , Mike + Drew Belk, Danzio Jason, Joe Moore, Daniel +Dave Folts, Jeff Black at Kartek. Without these guys and girls, we would have been on the side of the course waiting for a trailer. Like everyone says in this sport- it all starts with a dumb idea!

If you read this far, I love ya and hope nobody felt left out.

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43mod

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I just read that w goose bumps and i know some of the story already . Glad to be there . Its certainly a once in a life time adventure that one should do as often as possible . Racing or chasing i am in . Via con Dios my friend .
 

TMorford

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Ok Ok i'm here Mike...
Cool write up, got me fired up to write one but...mine is going to be longer though as our week was not as smooth as your beard.

Drew(Mike's dad) and I became good friends over the last 2 years and he would always slip in a comment about having Mike drive with me at a baja race, as he brings alot to the table. And no, not just money. Trucks, confidence, trailers, good baja network, and obviously some street cred and speed. In the months leading up the race since Lucerne race, my dad had some hesitancy to commit to driving a leg so I told Mike you might get the call. Well a month before the race he told me, I need to know, basically I have my own life too(haha). But the opportunity finally solidified when Erik Irvine and I made the difficult decision to take him off the roster and add Mike. Erik had been buckled down with biz commitments and he could not give us the Erik Irvine we all know and love. That night sucked, I was bummed he would not be there with us. We have teamed up every baja 1000 I have done, he had been in the trenches with us(literally, welding on the car at mile 600 in 2016 to get us to the finish). But the very next phone call that night was to Mike. The family man he is...he did not answer so we talked later and I said welcome to the circus, lets do this thing.

Mike, Drew, Zac and I met up at the shop and went over the car and some details. At that point, it was a week before we were all heading south and I kid you not we had lost half of the chase support we started with so the biggest thing (for me) that Belk helped with was supporting and giving Zac the support he needed in his section. Even if they were not physically supporting him to the end of his section, they talked about all possible outcomes, chase plans, etc, just giving Zac some peace of mind. Everyone on the team knows Zac has something special behind the wheel of a 5 car, it was just the missing piece of the chase support that Belk was able to help him with that I will always remember.

Pit meeting is done. Plan is Mike and Nicolas start, go to MM350 - Zac + Cory go to MM705 - Taylor @TMorford and I go to MM935 - Dad and I go to finish. Wednesday before race week I tow the car to Danzio to once and for all get the pit speed limiter adjusted for Baja zones and get my cold start looked at and adjusted. I get a text from Jason @Slippery P saying Hey your timing pulley is rubbing on the cover and will not last, change it right?? So they wave their wand over the engine and I pick up in 1 day turnaround service. It was my first time going there and will not be my last. They inherited my car from another shop and went above and beyond for me. I leave Danzio around 6 and lead to Thermal(yikes) to drop off the car with Drew Belk as they will obviously be towing the car to the race. I swear, if the race started one day earlier we would have been screwed lol. I tell myself "dont fall into the trap and start talking baja with drew or you will get home at midnight". Anyways, i get home at midnight.

We spend the last 2 nights before we leave getting the prerunner ready. We finally sold the rzr after a tumultuous relationship and got our hands on a 4 seat desert dynamics buggy for basically the same money. We thought we scored, we felt ready to prerun baja sur, relax on the beach in loreto, get it washed and relax while Mike and Zac brought my baby down the peninsula. It is nice to have dreams right?

Border was a breeze, we are thinking this is our week! We meet up with @43mod at his house in SF for a saturday night dinner and race meeting as he will be my main support down south. Although we were not having the support of @BHollander down south this race, I would not have made the connection with Russ(43mod) without his help so thank you Brandon. We have a classic night eating steaks, XX's, shooting the chit, get a good nights sleep and take off from Russ' place feeling lucky to have him supporting us. Well, here is where things start to teeter on the brink for us. Dads truck won't go into gear leaving Russ', and apparently same with Taylor's. What are the odds? A tense 15 minutes with Russ giving us a hard time allowed the trucks to refocus on the tasks at hand and we are back on the road. At highway 5/1 intersection we meet up with Zac/Cory and their squad to give them their sat phone. Turns out they both had bad food poisoning but you could hardly tell. They were about to rip zacs car around baja.

We arrive in San Ignacio Sunday night and this is where it gets good. Monday we gas up the prerunner, do final checks, and hit the trail. Dads good buddy Joe is flying into Loreto for the week and will handle chase driving duties but the issue is dad has to pick him up first, then drive back to San Ignacio to get the other truck. Trust me, we weighed all the options, it was going to be a long day for my pops either way. We get cocky and dad unhooked the trailer for the drive to Loreto, he takes off, Taylor and I take off to start our prerun(9AM).

Prerun is going stellar for the first 100 miles, we are stopping to check on stopped prerunners left and right, just full of confidence. As the weather starts to heat up, and it seemed hot for Nov in baja, so did the auto trans which we frankly have heard more negative than positive on. This slowed the pace significantly, but considering Mike bought prerun notes from NORRA Elias, we were able to cruise and the notes were actually 90% from perfect. We make it to Scorpion Bay, have lunch, still loving life. I remember telling taylor, lets take a selfie in front of the waves while we are still smiling. We laugh, but inside we are nervous. Taylors last 2 attempts at that leg ended in scorpion bay for various reasons, but he started to make some unfair assumptions.... I call dad and he says all is good but Joe's flight is delayed 3 hours so I am just sitting here killing time.

We take off after having lunch and start to head west towards Loreto to meet dad. We start to cross the riverbed that leads into La Purisima at mile 830 and the steering arm on the spindle decides it probably was not ready for 500 miles in baja. Well that sucks. I have never had this happen so there were a couple pace laps around the car while we brainstormed. We both agree the only way out is like we have seen in the movies- pull off the shocks and hub, strap the arms up, Taylor hikes off the opposing side, and we limp it on 3 wheels to the highway(10 miles further up course). I call dad to deliver the news. Tells Joe to find a good cantina in town because he needs to get the trailer ASAP. We should have not been cute with the trailer decision after all....

As Taylor and I are just about to try our 3 wheel luck there is a truck full of guys pulling up who just had a great lunch with a couple Margaritas for sure. Nice truck. They see us with our internal wheels spinning and throw a strap on the bumper and say steer and tell us if we need to stop... so those next 10 miles we bounced off every rock in sight and caused more damage to the car than any race has and tearing up Taylors elbows. But, we were at the highway(3PM). We set up camp as dad has probably about 600 miles to cover to get us, in baja, with a trailer, at night. One thing is that we did not get bored or stay sober out there. Just about every local or chase crew left us some beers or fruit. We got a decent buzz on just enough to forget how long we were going to be waiting. The hours tick by and I am in touch with dad who is white knuckled to come rescue us. Finally about 1130PM he pulls up, and the front of the truck is smashed, missing headlight. I say uhh wtf dad. He replies with simply "we hit a burro, lets load this car up" um ok. Luckily another team was around so it helped getting the wounded car up the trailer behind the wounded truck!

So we take off back towards where we think we can find a hotel past midnight on a monday. Highway 53 into scorpion bay is hardly a highway. I am talking 6-8' wide potholes for 25 miles. We hear banging from the trailer and assume the belly of the prerunner is banging the trailer deck, so we keep driving. Taylor finds us a hotel at 1-2AM in insurgentes, wakes up the poor hostess to get our keys. We notice the rear trailer axle is shifted over 4".... I have seen this movie before... leaf springs are exploded.. FFFFFFFF. well that will be tomorrows problem, wait todays... ugh. Time for sleep.

Tuesday morning, we were supposed to be prerunning from Loreto to La paz. not no mo. Dad calls our Baja godfather Miguel Pabloff and explains our dire state. Within an hour Miguel has a mechanic at our hotel in Insurgentes surveying the damage. He says No Problemo, bring it over. So we drop off our broken trailer towing our broken prerunner with our new buddy and he says see you tomorrow. At the same time we call @Big Whitey /Greg to get some sympathy and says dude we have an open seat in our prerunner, your pops can ride today and you can ride tomorrow so you can see the course. Love those Sullivan boys! We send dad off for some therapy with Greg in his buggy while Taylor, Joe, and I take off to retrieve Taylor's truck from San Ignacio and meet everyone back in Loreto later that day/night to salvage what is left of our fun prerun week. Get some rooms at Loreto Bay Resort(nice), only to see the Schweers boys set up there too. Guess we were in a good spot!

Wednesday- Greg lets me hop in with him and Mikey to prerun 900-1120. We have a really fun day, lots of laughs and enough crap talking for a day. Finish up with a roadside lunch and head back to Loreto for a good shower and sleep.

Thursday is race start day and we will go pick up the trailer/prerunner early AM, and good thing we did. Trailer shows up in MINT condition, prerunner and spindle fixed even with new better gussets. Thanks for the help Miguel. Saved our ignorant butts! I watch Mike take the start online, very anticlimactic with the parade start but still will never feel normal watching someone wheel your car off the start!. And then the long agonizing wait while wearing out the refresh on the tracker. I never thought of one team as the favorites, which was awesome . 4 legit teams! I knew @bhernquist had the best chance to get to la paz first as he had done it more than any of us in the class. But I thought @CHASETHISTOO probably had the best "team". Good proven car, talent and experience at every leg, and checkers pits. But then there is the current top dog and 2021 points champ Sullivan team starting in the rear with the local support ready to spring on any mistakes. All I wanted was to stay out of trouble. I never thought we were the team to beat but Given Mike and Zac's pace mixed with the Jakes car, I knew we would be in the hunt for the second half when all 4 car owners were slated to go do battle to the finish.

Anyways, Taylor and I head to San Ignacio for the night to meet Russ and get set up for an early morning driver change on Friday. After talking to Mike and Zac they really thought their sections would be +- 10 hours. That would put Taylor and I in the car around 10AM which seemed late. As the night fell on the race, I was a fly on the wall for Mikes gas crisis which was figured out without my help, see what I mean about the Belks? Mike was neck and neck with Chase and Bill which was the plan. As I tried to hit the sack for some sleep I noticed Bill(Trey driving) losing some time and the race for the first half between Chase and us. As soon as I start to finally doze off, you know who calls to roost me(Greg). Tells me we are starting to gap the field now with Zac in the car. Well crap, now I am wide awake, lol thanks greg. I watch tracking all night now, as Zac builds up a 35 minute lead having the night of his life. I am starting to realize he is way ahead of schedule and will be arriving by 4AM and tell taylor lets get ready! I was so proud of Mike and Zac, they were perfect!

Then Cory texts me... considering he is riding in the car with Zac my heart immediately sinks. 3AM "Do you have service?" UGH. He says something is wrong with the car, could be shocks, they were making a hard earned pass in the dust/fog and clipped a UTV and something was wrong. They made the decision to limp to their next pit 30 miles away so they could have more support fixing. I am pacing at that point. I call Wendy who relays to Mike about the shocks on the grinch. I then call my dad who pulls the shocks off the prerunner but he is also 3 hours away. If it was shock related, we were in it for a long night waiting(again). Zac and Cory make it to 635 and I get a full report: bent tie rod, bent lower arm, shocks are fine, will change tie rod then head to 705 where I will be and we will survey the arm and make a call on changing it since BFG will be there to help. Chase gets by us while we are limping and the lead is gone just like that. SOB.

445AM Chase pulls through our pit with @Chris Schweers now driving, he was going to be dam near impossible to catch around that section after I saw how fast he was at Parker, not to mention he is a BITD class champion. Oh well. Time to get ready for our boys to pull in. 530AM car arrives, front end is sagging about 6-8" low, beam bushings crying for grease. We do a walk around and car looks solid other than the arm. Arm is bent 3-4" down at the shock mounts, but Zac calmly tells me car feels fine still. We change the air filter, grease her up, and Taylor and I buckle in to try and keep Chris within touch. I really thought if the car would be drivable, we would be able to capitalize on Chris hopefully getting 1 flat. maybe more....

We head West and sun is coming up behind us, as we hit whiteout fog at the beach. It was not exactly a bad thing as it slowed our pace a bit to feel out the car to see if the arm needed to be favored. The lack of ground clearance took some adjusting to, but we still were able to keep the planned 75% pace. As the fog finally started to burn off we started to pick off cars. 10 cars, 7200, Ok this feels good again. We start to see the crowds at Scorpion Bay and we turn it up a bit. With no chase support there we had no idea on Chris but we didnt care. Car was singing, Taylor is clicking off the leadnav notes on point as we hit the pavement in the bay as we drifted onto it holding 60, baja is the best. We take a moment to relax and get ready to hit BFG where the prerunner crapped the bed and go see our boys in Loreto. After our fuel splash the car really started to suffer in the corners and I thought I don't know how this car is going to make it another 400 miles. Something was wrong, but I have driven some very poor cars and thought lets tighten these belts and get it done.

We see Russ at mile 890 and hit the silt behind Loreto. No big deal, the little car charged through even with the snow scoop ride height in the front. Dad is waiting at 935 to ride with me to 1000. 935 was going to be our last big pit where we could assess the car and race thus far. Taylor and I's day together is done and dam it was fun, so Dad starts to get in as Russ leans into the windshield to tell me- we really should change that arm. It is getting worse, your spring divider is exploded causing the upper spring to get stuck while compressed. We all agree and start the surgery. Russ gets shocks apart. Zac gets front end apart. Dad drives to town to get the spring dividers off the prerunner, shows up with the rears which are too big, so he turns around to get the fronts correctly. It felt like hours but I think it was about 2 hours of downtime. In that time Bill got by us and Greg was closing. We had a race on our hands.

I am starting the car as Zac is tightening the shock bolts. LFG! Then I go for reverse gear and its mush... luckily it was the bolt on the shift arm. Russ grabs a bolt, zac slams it in, and dad and I are off with a toot of the horn. We crawl through Loreto hills, that section is brutal. And for such a beautiful town too lol.

We finally hit the wash to head West for the last time at mile 945 and see Greg out there at his drivers change giving us thumbs up. I notice he doesnt have his helmet on yet so I figure I have at least 15 mins or so. In my day dream I proceed to blow the next corner in front of a bunch of fans, hopefully Greg did not see but I am sure he did! Dad and I clear San Javier and the pace is ok. I just feel rattled and the car is a bit harsh in front. I even thought to myself that maybe I preferred the lowrider tune from before lol. But we click off the miles and as we hit BFG at mile 1000 dad says just keep driving, you are our best chance to finish this race. I was sad to think he would not get to drive the finish but he would be there along side me pushing me to the finish, which was what I needed. No time for hugs though, we get fuel and are off and push hard before the whoops. The car feels really good and we are flying now. Dad is cheering and we are having fun but dam we really still had 200 miles to go! As we hit the TT whoops we settle into the slow pace, rolling along, it felt like 10mph but we could get up to 40mph and unless Greg was on a suicide mission I didn't think he could go much faster through there.

We clear MM1100 and it still felt like we were in Lucerne! I was thinking it would be farm roads all the way in to town lol. Get fuel at Santa Rita BFG and they ask what we need, all I say is the finishline, please. We have a laugh and they say keep pushing, almost there. Night begins to fall for the second night and so does the IPAD, so we are back to cruise mode, which was good because I really was running on fumes physically and as much as I would hate to see Gregs big ol smile ahead of me on the podium, I just wanted to get this team a finish. The car was there for me every shift even though the front end felt like it was a marionette puppet and would not track straight from all the field adjustments we had made during the race. All my life I have heard about the stone steps coming into la paz and I wanted them so bad. Dad kept insisting just around the corner! Well we come around the corner and see brake lights, we idle up and it is Bill.... He has a dejected look, helmet off, needs CV parts. We have some but not all, so he realizes all he can do is send me off with his hard earned second place. Love ya Bill, that is not what I had in mind for a baja hangout at the finish.

Finally we hit the stair steps, tip toe down, then hit barstow main whoops on steroids, I am thinking COME ON ROGER NORMAN!! It is an eternity but we see the lights of la paz, and the farm roads finally appear. I do my best Ken Block impression and stall the car mid corner, ok relax Ben. I see all these lights in the distance which look like fireflies, once I come around the corner they are cell phone lights from the fans filming us. My eyes start to well up and you can literally hear them above the engine cheering. Man it feels good to be in baja. We hit the pavement and there is not a dry eye in that JFW car. We are slapping hands and cheering, and we werent even in first! Now we enter the finish gate and they have us do a 1/2 mile dirt short course. So naturally I blow the last corner and Taylor had it all on film. Finally we crawl up the podium and take our helmets off. The first familiar faces I see are Erik and his wife Laura, now I am crying again. They flew all the way down for the finish, good thing we made it! We jump out, dust ourselves off, only to hear that Joe and Zac got hit in my Dads truck on their way to the finish. What a crazy thing we just survived. Tacos and beers ensue until I can no longer hold my head up from exhaustion. Years and years and years of dreaming of coming into La Paz like all the videos I watched growing up, hearing my dad's stories. And we did it. With the best team, best car made by the best builders (sorry Greg).

It was not a win, which is crazy. This was our best chance, great car, great team, it seemed like it could not be better chance and We set a really high bar and since we were not running points this year we were coming down to win. Coulda woulda shoulda, but It really gives the Schweers/Chase team their due credit knowing that we honestly brought our absolute A GAME to this race and they beat us. Nice job guys. I feel very lucky to be surrounded with such solid people who helped us get to this point... dad, mom, Taylor, Brandon, Jake, Matt, Zac, Erik, Steve, , Mike + Drew Belk, Danzio Jason, Joe Moore, Daniel +Dave Folts, Jeff Black at Kartek. Without these guys and girls, we would have been on the side of the course waiting for a trailer. Like everyone says in this sport- it all starts with a dumb idea!

If you read this far, I love ya and hope nobody felt left out.

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coryanderson

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Since Mike and Ben have written up amazing first hand accounts of the first and third sections of the 524 entry, I figured I would take my stab at writing up the middle leg.

First off, I’ll start with how I got so lucky to be racing with an amazing team. During my childhood my family raced a 2-1600 car until about the age I was able to get into the car. I have always been fascinated with the sport and was lucky enough to ride right seat in a 2-1600 car in mid 2000s for several races in MORE/MDR. Since that time, I have been a professional lurker on RDC and caught a post by Zac 2 years ago about wanting a dedicated navigator. I raised my hand quick and high and fortunately for me, Zac and I clicked pretty early and have had some moderate success together in the Grinch. When Ben started talking to Zac about his races plans for the 1000 he looked at me and asked if I could take a week off of teaching to prerun and race. I love my job and my kids, but racing a point to point 1000 has always been a dream of mine and I told him absolutely, I’ll be there giving 100%.

As race week started to approach, I began to prepare myself for our night section. I had never raced in Mexico (been down for a dozen or so races, but never had the opportunity to race yet) and I wanted to be sure I was prepared and not the weak link on the team. I was able to corral 2 of my college buddies who could help chase us during both the prerun week and during the race. They were both new to the sport but very intelligent and experience in other areas that I knew would be helpful for us. Zac had one of his buddies coming down until 3 weeks prior he learned he didn’t have a passport. The first big hit to our week but we both knew we would figure it out.

The Friday before the race we start our trek down to BOLA, we stop in Ensenada for the night to get some rest and to see some other members of Team Train Wreck and check in on how their first day of prerunning was going. They get back after we get all setup and the first thing Steve mentions is how long their day has been and was clearly a sign of things to come. Since we lost one of our chase members, we had a logistics problem getting all of our cars down to BOLA and trying to prerun from 350 to 500, we decided to spend all day Saturday getting to BOLA, setting up, having a solid dinner and then trying to run the first part of our section twice the next day. The drive down to BOLA was slow going as Zac brought down the biggest trailer he could find and didn’t want to break 60, but after 2 close calls, we get to BOLA with sunlight to spare. We setup at Guillermo’s, grab some fish tacos (all they had was fish, this should also have been a warning to us). We have a bon fire on the beach and things seem like they couldn’t have gone better after the first 24+ hours.

The next day is our first day to prerun and I wake up with a kink in my stomach. I keep this to myself because I figured it was possibly nerves or something of the sort. So we get into the Grinch and start to make our almost 2 hour drive up to MM 350. Not more than 30 minutes into the drive I tell Zac he needs to pull over and he has no idea what’s going on, but I need to throw up, before he gets pulled over I throw up a little in my mouth but it’s all water and I Keep it down, stomach feels good again and I tell Zac to keep trucking along. At this point, Zac is asking me all sorts of questions and all I can tell him is something doesn’t feel right but I’m good to go. We end up meeting Ben and the rest of the team at the San Felipe cutoff to grab our sat phone and to see some familiar faces. While waiting, Zac wants to change out a heim on one of the tie rods because the car is swerving all over the place on the road and just feels dangerous. By the time Ben gets to us, my stomach is starting to flip again but I don’t really say too much. On our drive from the cut off this time I get Zac to pull over in time and I throw up all my liquids for the day on the side of the road and once again Zac is asking questions while he is starting to feel a little funky inside too. We still have our plans set to prerun and we do, we get our section through the tractor trail and down back to the cutoff where our chase team is waiting for us. By this time, I’m starting to think I can’t go anymore for the day. I get out of the car go to grab a seat in the chase car and smell some onions and once again, vomit instantly, and now Zac is searching for the TP stuck inside the car and he’s dropping his pants behind the car letting loose everything he’s got inside. Zac is still able to go but I can’t, we throw in one of my buddies in the car to see the rest of the section before the road to BOLA and I jump in the chase truck. We make it back to BOLA a couple hours later and by this point I’m done. I go straight to my bed and try to fall asleep while the other 3 try to prep for the next day. Before the night is over I throw up 3 more times and the team is starting to think the following day is going to be shot.

I wake up the next day and I feel 90% again, so prerun is back on! We plan to run the section south of BOLA all the way to San Ignacio, we know it’s going to be a long day for both the Grinch and the chase team so we get an early start. The section just south of BOLA is fast. Zac and I are great together on these rally style roads. We get some great notes going and we cannot wait till race day to get to this section, we know this is where we are going to put some time on the competition. We get all the way down to San Ignacio and the day could not have gone better. We have some lines through the silt, our chase team was able to do some research on their end, we grab a beer, pack the Grinch up for the long drive back. While driving back, I’m fine tuning our notes in the right seat of the chase car while Zac is driving the trailer with the Grinch back. He catches a pothole/side of the road and drags the right side of the trailer off the edge of the road for about 100’ and pop, 2 tires gone, we only have one spare. So quick thinking, we pull the grinch out, take both tires off, put one spare tire on and we decide it’s best to drive the trailer back with one spare on a lighter load. Just as we get ready to take off, our chase team notices our axle is broken and we need to move the spare tire to the back axle. We make it home after a scary night drive with semis doing what they do down there. We now have a whole new problem to deal with, getting this trailer fixed so we can get the Grinch back to the states.

The next day we wait till our neighbors wake up (7AM) and then we start wrenching. We all have an idea of what we need to do but none of them work, it’s one of those independent torsion axles and the spindle is bent. We try to bend it, bang it, everything, nothing is working. We decide to take it to the llantera down the street and work on their flat surface. While we take it apart, the pressed in spindle just falls out….so now we think we can get it straight and weld it back inside. We end finally get it back together but it was a solid full day of working on the trailer when we were planning to run the section south of BOLA again. At this point we have Wednesday left to prep for the race. We don’t want to run the long stretch down to San Ignacio so we decide to test the trailer and just do a small section from the first day of pre running to test our notes and to get me seat time to see the course I missed. The day is a success, we get back with plenty of sun light and we check out some parts of BOLA we haven’t been able to see yet. The rest of our friends and family show up later in the afternoon, they made it do BOLA in 6.5 hours from San Diego, that new road from San Felipe is the s**t, we now know we took the LONG WAY down.

Race day hits and all we can do is wait. We are expecting to get in the car anytime from 8-2 am. We have no idea. We periodically check updates at Guillermos restaurant (no cell service and the only WiFi around) and we see 524 is moving well. We decide to head up to our start line a little early just in case and while Zac and I are driving up we get a call from Wendy (stateside doing all the dirty work tracking our race), the first race hiccup. Apparently, the gas we need to start our section is stuck in the notorious traffic going down highway 1 and Zac and I scrambling to find 30 gallons of gas, we have no gas cans, no cell service and a sat phone that is barely working. So we try BFG pits and they are doing their best. We get to our starting line and we see a Baja pits and we ask them if they have gas, THEY DO! Crisis averted and they let us use their pit stall, some amazing guys who have been pitting bikes all day.

Zac and I ready to go and all of a sudden our gas ends up getting to our pit 30 minutes early, the first crisis we had ended up being a non issue. The car gets to us in second place somewhere around 10-15 minutes off the lead car. We get in the car, Mike gives us the run down and tells us the car is perfect, which is exactly what we wanted to hear. We take off around 7 pm and the first 60 miles of our section is going to be the roughest we have all night so our plan is to take it slow and then hit BOLA and then it’s ON! I’m all jacked up on 5 hour and super excited to be in my first 1000 and within minutes Zac comes over the intercom all cool and collected and tells me to calm down and I then realize I have been yelling my notes at him. I immediately take a deep breath and start to get a good rhythm down calling notes out, using the stella, checking our rear view, we know some UTVs are going to get around us through these nastier sections. We do get around a hand full of cars but driving very conservatively until we get to BOLA. We think we see first in class pulled over and check the radio to see if our chase guys see the Chase car come through the road sections and it looks like they don’t and we are now in first place but chasing 1600 and UTVs dust everywhere we go. We keep clicking off miles, getting around a car every 5-10 miles or so and still zero mistakes. We hit the road into BOLA and we can see a UTV about a mile ahead of us for the whole stretch in, little did we know that car would be our nemesis for the next 2 hours. We get to the section south of BOLA and are ready to let it rip…..but the damn UTV keeps jack rabbiting us every time we get to his bumper. We follow in this cars dust for 100+ miles, all the way through the fire roads (which are somehow beat to s***) We easily averaged 10-15 MPH slower vs being in clean air. Somewhere around MM 600 the fog starts to get heavy. My shield keeps filling up with moisture every 5 seconds and I can’t read the GPS, so I lift my shield just enough so I can see the screen, I put both of my hands in front of my helmet trying to keep the dust from hitting my eyes. I’m not even looking at the course any more, I’m just reading off notes. I look to my left and Zac is doing something similar but with a rag hanging out of his helmet. This UTV is still in front of us, we hit a long straight and I just tell Zac it’s straight for miles, by this point we have starred at this UTV for almost 2 hours and Zac goes to pass him. I don’t see what happens but we smashed into his right rear with our left front and it sends us sailing through the air. Zac yells some expletives and I look up and we are sideways in the air careening towards spectators off the course. Zac saves it but we hit hard and something isn’t right. We start limping, we pull over into a random pit and ask him to look at the front end, they don’t see anything wrong so we keep going, but we know something is wrong. Our chase team is up the course at MM 635 so we decide we will limp it to them doing about 5-15 mph. This is when I text Ben to let him know what is going on. We get to our chase team, get out and notice it’s a bent tie rod and bent arms. WE get the tie rod fixed and back on the road to Ben and Taylor. We take it easy at first but the car is handling and Zac knows we can make up sometime in the whoop section before the silt bed. So we start putting down some miles again. We know we are behind 30+ minutes but this race is only half way over at this point. We get through the silt beds and we only have 30 miles of technical section left. The sun starts popping up and I look over to my left to see some spectators and I see 3 kids no older than 10 years old up at 5 AM watching the race. Zac and I both don’t even know what to say, those kids are the real winners of BAJA. We get the car to BFG pit and Ben, they look over the car and decide they can hammer on. At this point I have been up for 24 hours, I head back to BOLA with my family and friends while Zac keeps trucking on down the peninsula to help chase. The rest of the day I try to follow the race in BOLA and get random updates, I later hear they are replacing the arms and I know we won’t get 1st, which is what we came down for, but the finish is still easily within reason. Later in the day Ben sends me the picture I didn’t know I needed, the 524 at the finish line!

This race has been a dream of mine since as long as I can remember and now I can’t stop dreaming of the next one! Thanks to everyone at Team Train Wreck for treating me like family since day 1, my wife for supporting all of my antics, and every one down in BAJA and state side that make this race possible. 1220+ miles of incredibleness!
 

swiftracing5

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Thanks for posting Cory. That was great. And we are lucky to have you on board, you and your friends carry their weight and then some.
 

Zac Reish

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Such great write ups. Since Day one Cory has made racing so much easier and so much better. We improved as a team a lot down in Baja. I didn’t so much as a driver as that mistake has haunted me and I’ve thought about it a lot. My buddy asked me if I were to do it all over again would I have gone for the pass again and my answer is yes I would. It was unlucky and a tough combo of elements to negotiate. with the face shield up going 80 with fog, the utv’s dust and 80mph wind squinting my eyes it wasn’t an easy task. And a miscalculation that bit us was the result. Can’t wait to get back in the drivers seat again to start clicking off miles and doing what I love.

Ben I’m honored you keep calling on me to help drive, I’m sorry I screwed up, Cory thank you for all the hard work, mike belk thank you for driving a perfect race and giving me a great car and the opportunity to get in the lead even though it didn’t last. It’s easy to take for granted the position we are in and easy to be frustrated because you were not perfect for 350 miles straight or whatever the distance but when you take a step back it’s unbelievable what we get to do. Flying through towns on the most amazing and beautiful beaches and deserts, amazing weather, food, and memories that will lay a life time. Life is good.
 

CentralWAbaja

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Dream Big Kids, You Never Know, It Just Might Come True


I wasn’t going to do this but reading other race reports inspired me to do so. Its hard to write this one as there are so many raw emotions still. I can write it from the perspective of how great I think I did, or how I did compared to the competition, or how much better I wish I would have done. All would be correct. So I will just take a stab at this and see how it comes out I guess.

The deal between Greg Sullivan, Steve Tyo and myself came to be months ago. Steve wanted to help me cross off a “Bucket List” item (I really hate that term but is so fitting) maybe we just say he wanted to help me live out a lifelong dream. Greg was eager to help make it happen and gave me my choice of segments to run as long as he would take the finish leg. I then I began to work to transform myself into somebody that would be able to take on the starting leg of the Baja 1000. May 1st, I weighed 308lbs. I took the green flag weighing 248lbs. I am proud of that accomplishment, and we haven’t even gotten started.

When they released the course map I was ecstatic. I get to race in the mountains and on the Pacific beach in my first Baja1000. Not knowing exactly what time we would take the green, I also knew that we would have to run clean to the beach to see it before the sun went down. More on that later.

The plan was set for me to come down from Washington State a week or so early and do as much prerunning as possible in my car. This is where the dream is more then just racing the 1000. I would bring a car, that I built from scratch, in our garage, with help from my dad, and rip a bunch of miles on the Baja racecourse including driving on the beach! I am proud of that accomplishment and were just getting started.

Lots of prerunning stories that could be told but that’s not what this report is about. Race day would dawn. For me that was about 4:30AM. We planned to get in the car at the La Jolla Beach camp outside Ensenada about 7:30 and head to the staging line. I made 2 eggs 2 toast and banana. That will be what I live on for the day. (That’s ok I am still a big dude and can stand to lose a pound or two more) But that will come into play later. Race suit time, it’s getting real. Its about 6:30 and I am sweating profusely. I am starting to question my hydration as I will not last at this rate LOL Honestly this would prove to be my most nervous time. Once in the car, I calmed down. We drove the race car to staging, stopping off at the gas station 2 blocks away from the start to toss the attendant $20 and top off with a gallon or so of 91. Because that’s how its done in Baja? I don’t know, but that’s how we did it. Ceremonial start over the stage and a green flag. All just part of the show and the routine that must be followed. Tedious for some, but for me I am taking it all in Because right now, I am a 5-year-old kid dreaming a lifetime of dreams. Through town and then the escort to the starting line. OK not the way we dream of it, but how it’s done these days. Up at the real starting line (timing line I suppose they call it) there would be time to get out and mill around and size up the competition. Ha! I know who those guys are. So its more like ask myself WTF I have gotten myself into? Honestly, I was honored to share that time with some of the best in Class 5U. For the first time I was lining up against them instead of buckling my friends into a car to go race against them. Pretty surreal moment actually. Never did I get nervous about them. They all were starting ahead of me. If I seen them, then they were having an issue or I was exceeding any expectation I had of myself. .

It’s getting close, I watch the other three cars leave before me and now its my turn to stare at that red light waiting on it to turn green. Green! And away we go up through the gears to 100mph or a touch more not sure. “How far is it on the highway Steve?” “A ways, he says, I will let you know but for some reason I have no line on the GPS” As I look down I notice I have no line on the small GPS on the dash behind the steering wheel. Well poop that sucks. It would prove to be more of a mind F*&@K then it should be or in hindsight more then I should have let it be. (They call it experience for a reason; you don’t gain any unless you do it) It’s just not what I was mentally prepared to deal with. Steve had notes but no line. Left ahead, right ahead, downhill into rocks straddle the ditch. That’s great but he has no reference as to when to call it. We adapt and we deal but not what we wanted. I get passed by a couple rigs only to pass them back a couple miles don the road as they are off the track before Ojos. I then began to pass more UTVs then I have ever passed outside of Glamis. A couple 12 cars and couple 1600 cars. And countess wrecks and breakdowns. The amount of carnage in the first 100 miles is impressive. I feel like were doing OK. Not pushing hard enough to make mistakes, there are constant reminders along the way. In hindsight not pushing hard enough to not lose extra time to the other 3 cars, probably could have, maybe should have, pushed harder? IDK? My job was to not kill Steve and I, get the car to the next guy, and hopefully not loose too much time to the guys with way more experience than me. I am proud of the accomplishment of 2 of the 3 on that list

On the crossover we enter an area where I nearly put my car on its side 2 days earlier prerunning. Deep 2-track silty corner. And here is a 1600car up-side-down blocking course. A truck stopped and then us. I try to backup and bump. Can’t go back. UTV there. Steve decided to get out and help turn the car back over. He motions the the UTV has backed up and that I can back up some more. UTV blasts around us in 4x4 MF-er!. Well, I decide to jump the tracks and bushwhack. I make it clear and find a safe spot for Steve to get back in. Why did Steve get out? Well, it was 2 chicks up-side-down in the 1600 and well it was two chicks LOL. While Steve is buckling in the 500 of Hernquist goes by. Wait, when did I get around him? Well, that sucks. And away we go again. A few miles down the road the 500 is over starting to change a flat. And were back around em. We stop at 150 for fuel and BFG guy says we may have an issue with a CV our chase guys no familiar enough with them, we decide we will have Chase 2 (Greg’s Mexican Connection from Pobloff Offorad badass dudes) Have a look as we get off the hwy in a couple miles. Before we get there though I get schooled on the hwy by Trey Hernquist. We sitting at 54mph in traffic on a 60mph zone when he comes around me, I failed spelling were still racing even though were in a speed zone. Dammit I am gaining all kinds of “Experience” He then pulls off to get a spare racked and make a stop. Our guys look the CV over and say were fine. Away we go with the 500 still behind me. A few miles later he blasts around me, He is willing to push harder then I am. I must admit that I struggled with the next 75 miles or so in my confidence. I had spent weeks looking forward to the beach sections and now I just wish I had another shot at them. The GPS deal that I mentioned earlier was still haunting us. Vision into the setting sun, dust, fog ect all that stuff that is “Racing Baja” would creep into my confidence some. We did beat the sun to the first section and I got to race the beach at sunset while Steve took killer cell phone footage lol

As we are getting close to the end of the 2nd beach section Steve has enough phone signal to use his phone and LeadNav file but that will only last around the town of San Quintin so we decide to have his guys in the chase truck meet us at the hwy-wash crossing with a GPS puck antenna out of his chase truck. A few minutes lost there as we make that happen, but the confidence gain will be able to make up for it I hope. Away we go again but it would be short lived as we are making our way up the wash, we hit a man made ditch that was not visible. A common occurrence in Baja I guess. We hit hard, neither of us even seen it. Just BAM! Oh F$%*K that hurt. And the the car shut off. Leaving us dead in the middle of the racing line. The starter would crank but nothing would power on. We used the starter to get us off the race line and then the locals swarmed in. Had one tow us up out of the wash onto flat ground where the chase teams could find us as we begin to troubleshoot. We had a couple guys waiting on a class11 team jump in and help, Those dudes were solid techs, head deep under the dash and in the engine bay trying to help while I am doing roadside gymnastics and yoga trying to make sure my back is completely attached top to bottom. If you are somehow reading this please We owe you a beer. And well, reach out to me, because I know you have video of us hitting that fricking thing. It took a while but we found that the impact had knocked the wire off the ignition switch somehow. After an hour and 30 minutes we are back in the car and headed into the most remote section of the racecourse we would encounter. Yeah confidence was high…NOT! LOL

The next 75 miles are some of the most vivid memories I have of the race. My helmet is fogging, there is inland fog and dust. Steve with his right hand on the dash holding the GPS puck, his cell phone in his left hand for a line to follow, and the GPS screen with notes for him to call out. We begin to pick off UTVs…the same frigging ones I had already passed earlier!! Then we pass a pair of campers off the side of the course miles from anything and the sweet smell of Barbeque is aloft. Not anything south of the boarder style. Were taking Sweet Baby Rays or something. Those eggs and toast are long gone now and I am truly getting hungry. Around RM275-280 we summit the mountains and begin to descend to the highway and race mile 300 where we will hand the car over. We pass about a half dozen cars in the last 20 miles. Chase them down in the dust, and fog and make passes. We are going to end this on a high note, Steve and I agree. As he counts down the miles 18 to go, 12 to go, 8 to go, He calls ahead on the radio and our two chase teams inform us that they have not made any contact with Penhall who we are supposed to hand the car over to. I am going to say Baja happened. Plans are made, then changed, adjusted on the fly, miscommunicated and……learned form. Bottom line is Jerry was waiting after the fuel stop and I did not see him and kept going as that is what I felt like at the time we had to do.

I was not happy to still be in the car, I was ready to be done, but that faded fast as there was still work to do. I was so worried about the next 50 miles that we had not prerun. My only prerun notes are what's on the LeadNav file I studied. Silt beds silt beds and more silt beds. That and what Mike Belk had shared with me in tech the day before. He did not know he was giving me valuable advise, he was just sharing with me what I was going to miss getting out at 300 while he stayed in to 350. His words were insightful silt beds, but the lines widen out and there is traction out at the edges. First one we hit 3rd gear total blackout, down shift was almost too late, down again and we begin the battle to keep momentum and we're through. Next one I see coming and see there are like 3 rigs stuck balls deep. I stop still on solid ground. I relay what mike had said to Steve and said I am going way over there to the left. Steve questions if there is a line there? I said there will be when I’m done LOL I cut across 3 lines and start bushwhacking and we're passed the stuck cars. “OK find me the racecourse again Steve!” That was one of 2 full stop and evaluate the lines I did. And the other were hope and pray as we dredged through them. I was so afraid that we were going to get stuck for hours in there…. remember those eggs and toast are long gone. haha. When not in the silt, Steve was trying his best to squeeze everything he could out of me. “Come on D we need to pick it up and get the average seed up just 2 or 3 mph will help at the other end of this deal for Greg.” I needed that. I was not pushing myself hard enough then. Yes, I wish I could go do it again today. I would do it better. I would push harder, I have it in me. I just didn’t have it in me at that moment. Experience is gained by doing. 20 miles to go, 15 to go, 10 to go we begin to count down. Were less then 5 miles out to Baja Pits at RM350 Lets get this last UTV before we get there. “1 mile out to Baja Pits. Where they at? Where they at?” “Not here D, I guess were going to 370 where the racecourse meets the highway again.” Ugh! OK now my mind is wandering as I am still not comprehending what has happened, only that we are still in the car, not 100% sure who is getting in at 370 anymore. Ok F-it if we need to go to 500 I will do it. But I am going to need food!!

20 to go, 15,12,8 here we go again. When we have clean air we have the light bar on top glaring that bright white light deep into the darkness. The tall single stem cactus look like powerlines to me. Yeah were on a powerline road….wait WTF? Were miles from powerlines of any kind. My mind is shot. We crest a slight hill and the white light flashes off a short spindly cactus. That one looks like a skeleton. Like no poop a Halloween decoration hanging in Baja. Daron you are friggen losing it. And then Steve says “Did you see that cactus? It looked just like a skeleton” Hell yeah I laugh out loud as we can’t both be friggen crazy!

5 to go, 2 to go, here is the highway….right here on the right pull in were done! We gave up way more time then I had hoped for. Some due to issues I could not control and some do to lack of experience and confidence. But we did it, we handed off a solid car to Jerry Penhall even if we took up some of his miles (Sorry about that man) And I didn’t kill Steve and I. I drove the starting leg and first 370 miles of the freaking Baja1000 and I am proud of that accomplishment.

Thank You to Greg Sullivan, Steve Tyo, The Pobloff Offroad gang, and especially my wife for telling me "Go...Chase that dream"


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TMorford

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For those of you giving me the thumbs down for this gif, I'm in half of the pictures Ben posted... LOL

I can't top Ben's write up, but I will say that it was great to finally get a clean run through that section. In 2017 we broke the prerunner about 5 miles after San Juanico and waited 4 or 5 hours for the trailer followed by the race where we broke 15 miles before San Juanico and waited 6 or 7 hours for parts followed by an eventful drive back through the tidal flats where the chase truck got stuck. Cut to this year, I had higher hopes that soon faded away as soon as I hopped out at saw the tie rod and upright of the prerunner weren't getting along... Then I thought to myself, "Welp, thats three strikes so the race is a new at bat." Sure was nice to run 230 miles and never get out.
 

Bro_Gill

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And the 2 Checker's cars. Great job on your part. Too bad there wasn't a finish in the cards. It's Baja and now, you're addicted.
 

Bro_Gill

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And the 2 Checker's cars... Come on Greg!

By the way, was the valve train as Effed up as your race report read to the club last night sounded like? You guys look yet?
 

Zac Reish

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Hey bro. Since Greg listens to you tell him to drag his rig to Johnson valley and let Mikey lay the smack down on a bunch of 5 cars.
 
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