The third day of car racing kicked off in Loreto, Mexico early this morning. The bikes, cars, and trucks all rallied for position along the course as their paths finally had crossed. After a long evening of repairs and short night of rest, the drivers and riders were up with the rising sun and had their course set for the beach side town of La Paz.
First to take the green flag were the bikes, riders staged in the early morning hours and the flag waved at 0600 local time. Ahead of them was 189 miles of trail and 111 miles of winding roads. I caught up with them at the Highway Crossing where their track and the car’s paths would meet. Some riders having timed out due to, what they felt, was a misprint in the day’s schedule of events. The #9 team pleaded their case to the trackside officials before loading their 3-wheeler on the truck and opting to plead their case when they reached La Paz. The riders were kept clear of the course for the fast approaching Robby Gordon in his #300 Gordini truck.
As the clock approached 1300 (local time), a distant cloud of dust broke the horizon and was followed closely by the thundering roar of hundreds of gas powered horses. Close behind him was Bob Gordon’s #85 Toyota buggy, looking to break Robby’s streak of first overall finishes from the past 2 days. Six minutes later the Walker Evans #20 car thundered past and gave chase to the Gordon cars. The small crowd of local spectators that had gathered in front of the local restaurant at the crossing cheered wildly as the cars passed by. One by one the cars and trucks made their way across the thin strip of pavement, stopping only for fuel and the occasional driver swap, before disappearing back into the distance.
Ahead of the drivers was another 75 miles of bad (off) road before their short trek across the broken pavement that lead to La Paz. Some drivers found themselves in drifts of desert silt, while others saw the hazard and were able to wait for them to clear before blasting through the powdery mess. The calls came across the VHF radio for assistance from Dave Cole, of Ultra4Racing, and his team of rescue and recovery vehicles to help free the stuck cars and clear the course of its new hazard. Brian Garvey (#17), when asked about the silt, said “I don’t know how the cars who don’t have a whole lot of suspension travel are going to make it through”. He went on to say that “after losing a bunch of time on day one, we’re just in it for fun and looking forward to Cabo!”
Between the crowds of fans I was able to catch a quick moment with Mark Post, driver of the 333 Pro-Unlimited Truck. He’d been running fast all week, but was fighting some mechanical issues. Mark said “we’re a little frustrated…we’ve lost 3 oil sump belts over the last 3 days. I haven’t lost one in 20 years, and they just take a long time to fix. I lost an hour today.” If not for these repair related delays, the gap between he and the current first place holder, Robby Gordon, would be almost indiscernible. Today’s finishing Top 5 finishing order saw Bob Gordon, Robby Gordon, Walker Evans, Dave Sykes, and John Gable cross the line. Robby took a moment to put on a show for the fans, doing a few donuts before approaching the platform.
Racers continue to cross the finish line, despite the sun having long been down. The vintage iron is still beating its way South with the crowd favorite “Snortin Nortin”, the rescued Chevy Blazers, and the Ford Bronco of Rod Hall (#222) still lining the lamp lit streets as race fans stop and pose for pictures and the enjoy their beach front evening stroll.
Looking out across the hotel parking lot as I peck away at the keyboard, Louis Harker and the 161 team have pulled their engine for a quick overhaul as they prepare for the final stage of the race. Not 100 yards away, Chris Burnett and the 1206 team are reassembling their front end after it met an untimely end in the silt beds that swallowed many of their competitor on their way to the finish line. The laughs and smiles abound as fans, drivers, and support teams alike gather around late into the night to share in the joyous symphony of power tools that’s filling the air of La Paz.