By Jose Garcia, Negrete Boys Racing co-pilot & Galpin Marketing Manager
Since the second annual Baja 400 is only a few weeks away, I thought it would be a perfect time to share my Baja 500 experience. This time with Baja legend Dave Simpson and the Negrete Boys Racing Class 5/1600 Team.
Before I get into the race recap, here’s some background on who Dave Simpson is. He’s been racing in Baja since 1977 and has raced everything from motorcycles, buggies, Class 8 Trucks and even in a Camel Trophy Discovery (1994 Argentina-Paraguay-Chile). Racing in Camel Trophy is considered the “Olympics of 4×4,” as stated in MotorTrend Magazine. Dave is also a four-time Baja 1000 Champion in four different classes: 5/1600, Class 8, Class 2 and Class 30x. Dave’s racing resume is monumental, but his preparation for racing is even more impressive. Vehicle preparation, chase logistics, team planning and rescue are the key factors of Dave’s racing success. I’ve learned through Dave that finishing the Baja is not all about having money, it’s about serious preparation. If you and your vehicle are properly prepared and tested, you can beat the Baja.
To give you a glimpse of how dedicated Dave is with preparation, he’s been climbing mountains as high as 12,000-feet consistently for the past 6 months in order to get himself ready for his next climbing expedition: Mt. Kilimanjaro. How badass is that. Dave’s climbing one of the highest and toughest peaks in the world. Preparation for Dave has been so strict that he even sacrificed racing the Baja 400. Dedication, planning and sacrifice is what you find in Dave’s DNA. As an ex-Camel Trophy competitor who represented the USA Team out of thousands of candidates, he found out that off-road racing is a thinking man’s sport. Being familiar with your vehicle, navigation, tools, your body and knowing how to read the stars, can all contribute to winning and staying alive. Being in the right seat with Dave feels like taking a navigation masterclass.
Now that you know a little bit about Dave, here’s my Baja 500 race recap. Every time I start to think of this race, I get a little teary-eyed. Surviving the brutal 466-mile course and placing second in Class 5/1600 was truly unbelievable. Dave and I got tasked with probably the toughest section of this year’s Baja 500 course (race mile 104 to 223). Without any radio communication and using hand signals, we endured the rocky and heavy silt climbs past Mike’s Sky Ranch. We had a few mishaps in the first part of the race: getting stuck uphill after passing Mike’s and a late navigation callout on a Y line. Once we got our hand signals down to a T, we started moving fast, so fast that we were first 5/1600 on the road at Checkpoint 1 (RM 170). Five miles after passing the checkpoint, disaster struck and we got stuck for an hour in a huge bottleneck of 25+ race vehicles.
After an hour of pushing the #92 TT, we finally made enough room for a clear pass. Kudos to Trophy Truck Spec Champion Elias Hana for leading the charge to clear the bottleneck. From mile 180 to 215, we raced through some of the worst silt you can imagine. Let’s just say I ran about three miles that night from running up and down the course. After Dave and I made it through hell, we handed the car to Larry Negrete Sr. and Anthony Guerrero who unfortunately crashed into a deep hole eight miles from leaving the pit. Luckily, Dave’s friend Charles and his trusty Bronco were only a few miles from the accident. They pulled the car out and we continued the race. From there, we were racing the clock to the finish. Larry Sr. then handed the car to his son Larry Negrete Jr. and Francisco Sanchez who drove it to the finish line in 2nd place with zero issues.
Out of all the races I’ve competed in, this was truly the toughest and most fullflying race I have ever experienced. A special thanks to Dave Simpson, Ernie Negrete and Larry Negrete for giving me the opportunity to co-drive for their team. I also want to thank our loyal and supportive chase teams who chased us throughout the course: Rafael Negrete Sr., Rosario Negrete, Rafael Negrete, Charles Jirsa, Dennis Webb, Alex Gomez, Jorge Torres and Jim Yourdon. Last but not least we thank our sponsors who made all this happen for us: Cory Rider & Empi Inc, King Shocks, Raceline Wheels, Yokohama, Blud Lubricants, Rulo at ORAF, Transaxle Engineering, Lucas Boxo Tools USA, Comunidad AutoPasion Mexicali and Reviver Auto.
The Negrete Boys Racing Team are the current points leaders for the SCORE International Championship going into the last two races of the year: Baja 400 and Baja 1000.