Preference: Charlene Bower and Ladies Offroad Challenge winner Megan Stevenson will be reporting live from the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000 as they expose the complexity of the BFGoodrich Tires Pit Support Program, highlight all the ladies racing and of course talk racing! This article is by Megan Stevenson:
There are a total of nine relay stations, manned by 13 volunteers, set up in between the eight BFGoodrich Tires pits. At least one month before the race Wild Bill, leader of the BFG communications team, starts gathering up all the equipment tirelessly inspecting each unit, checking to make sure everything works, down to examining every cable for possible damage, and fixing or replacing as needed. This year a total of 12 in car radios, 12 mag-mounts with antennas, 7 suitcase satellites, 4 mobile satellites, 3 base antennas and 3 mast antennas will be distributed between the relay stations. Those numbers don’t include the units distributed to the pit crews and other BFGoodrich Tires vehicles traversing Baja this week. When you call BFGRELAY, this will be the team of volunteers that will be helping you.
Included in the nine relay stations are two stations that are located atop the mountains of Baja. How does one get there you ask? Why mules of course! In this year’s 50th Anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000, the BFGoodrich Tires support team will have not one but two teams utilizing mules/burros. With the average FM radio only having a range of about 60 miles, the height of these two relay stations allow them to reach distances of around 150 miles, sometimes more depending on the weather. Basically, they are scaling the Baja mountaintops for the sole purpose of creating better, stronger and farther reaching communication for everyone involved in the race.
Nancy Chiasson travels all the way to Baja from Ottawa, Canada to help with the BFG pit effort. She has been involved with BFG racing since 1985 helping as a pit crew member and pit leader. Now she is one of the teams using mules to get to their designated location. The Vaqueros will load their equipment into saddlebags on the burros, then the burros are let loose and away they go up the mountain. “The first time I was like ‘Hey! There goes my radio equipment, my sat phone, everything we need and it’s going up the mountain’!” laughed Chiasson. After the burros are released, they climb up on their mules to make the hour journey 5,000 ft up the mountain. By the time they reach the top, the burros with all their equipment are already there and they are ready to get set up.
The other team is made up of Pauline Wickham and her husband Darren who have both worked with BFG pits for several years but this is their first year taking on a mule team for the Baja 1000. Pauline explained that their trip would be a little different since where they are going doesn’t usually do these sorts of trips. “There will be two mules for each of the guides, one for each of us, and then two for our equipment,” said Wickham. They will have guides lead them the 7 hours up to the top, stay with them until they are done with the race, and then lead them the 7 hours back down.
The dedication, time, and effort that these volunteers put in to make sure everyone can stay connected is heartwarming. Everyone in the BFG communications team expressed love for their BFG Family is the overwhelming portion of what keep them coming back year after year. Pauline summed it up the best by saying “Its the love of Baja, the love of adventure, and being able to give back and help.”
List of Relay Volunteers and Locations:
Observatory – Adam Holloway
La Paz – Amparo Bush
Observatory – Andre Hansen
Puertocitos – Charlie Bignell
LA Bay – Darren Wickham
San Carlos – Ellen Utschig
Loreto – Erin Flaherty
Volcano – Greg Weirick
La Paz – Harold Bush
Sierra San Fran – Kenny Reynolds
Loreto – Kristin Flaherty
Sierra San Fran – Nancy Chiasson
LA Bay – Pauline Wickham
Mesa Gato – Ralph Schoonmaker
Mesa Gato – Ronnie Pipher
San Carlos – Wild Bill Wiederhold
Puertocitos – Win Deen
Charlene Bower is the owner of Bower Motorsports Media since 2008, Ladies Offroad Network and Offroad Marketing School among other projects. Bower is a Performance Team Member for BFGoodrich Tires in addition to other honors and certifications. She has been working in the offroad industry for 23 years and has recently focused all her attention on supporting the ladies who love offroading. For the 50th SCORE Baja 1000, Charlene ran the 2nd Annual Ladies Offroad Challenge where anyone from across the country could enter to be her media assistant or participate in two other events. Megan Stevenson from CA earned the opportunity and is helping in the execution of this exciting project in coordination with BFGoodrich Tires.