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:
When we think about racing and safety it is natural to focus on the driver and co-driver inside the car – race suits, helmets, seatbelts, neck restraints and the list goes on. But what about outside the car, specifically at the pits? What we don’t usually think about are the plans the pit crews have in place, the preparations that are made to eliminate any concerns, and the rules that are there to help prevent any incidents from happening.
Speaking of rules, Frank DeAngelo made sure to mention the new rule for this year at the BFG Pit Meeting: there is no pitting on the left side of an asphalt road. SCORE Safety wants to eliminate any vehicles crossing oncoming traffic. Second, while not new, everyone is reminded that all pit lanes must be at least 50 feet off of the racecourse; not where the pit truck is parked but where the race vehicle pulls in.
The danger of fire is a huge concern to every pit with fuel and excessively hot exhausts and components. At the BFGoodrich Tires pits, there are usually 6 to 8 essential and necessary fire extinguishers.
Within each pit crew there are 4-6 people who has the job to handle the fuel. These chosen few are required to wear a fire suit, special protective gloves and shoes, and either a Balaclava (protective head sock) with goggles or a full-face helmet. The designated fuel crew stays dressed in their gear all day, with the exception of the helmet, no matter how hot or cold it may get. It is their job to do any moving of the dump cans full of fuel, the refilling of the dump cans, and the refueling of the racecars when they come into the pit.
Each pit also has at least one, if not two, people whose job it is to “hold” the car. When a car comes into the pit it is their responsibility to stand in front of the car where the driver can see them and by use of hand signals, a board, or a stop sign show the driver that it is not ok for the car to move. Once the pit crew has finished what they are working on and all members back away from the car with their hands in the air saying “Clear!”, this person then confirms again all pit members are clear only then do they release the car so it can continue it’s race.
“We want everyone to have a great time but we also want everyone to come back safe,” said Frank DeAngelo, the leader of the BFGoodrich Tires Pit Support team. If there is one thing that all the pit crew leaders, pit crew members, and other support staff all agree upon is that safety is paramount.
Historically Bob Bower wrote this article “What About You”. These are words that circulate the internet and pit books at every race. A simple reminder that it is important for every aspect of the team to be respectful to each other and Baja.
Bob Bower with Ladies Offroad Challenge winners for 2016 SEMA Show Experience Kristie Moore (lt) and Leigh Ann Lane (rt).
WHAT ABOUT YOU? By Bob Bower
I will be blunt. Not brief. This may be the wrong time for brevity.
Deal with it.
It is possible that there will be at least one less member of the greater off-road community around, come November 21, 2010.
Someone could die because of their involvement in the Baja 1000.
Will it be you?
“Of course not”. “No way”. “That stuff happens to other people!”
If it pleases you, just toss this thing now. After all, it’s just the ranting of one of those
guys who never lacked an opinion, or wasted the opportunity to thrust it upon you. Now is the time. There’s a trash can around here somewhere. Toss it if you want to.
If, on the other hand, you might be open to what one guy with a little experience has to offer, read on.
People, the single biggest danger to our safety as we involve ourselves in this race is us. Us.
We represent the single largest jeopardy to our own well being out of all the freak things that could happen. On the surface, it would seem that those most in danger of clobbering themselves are those that have less experience down there. I wonder.
I am one of those with experience, and I know how seductive it is to tell myself that my experience gives me license to risk more than those without it. “The rules are for the new guys” “I can compress time frames”. “I can eat later”. “I don’t need to take a nap”. “If I follow this stupid overloaded truck all night, I’ll miss my deadline”. “I’ve got great lights, and I can see past all 6 vehicles ahead of me and take them all in one pass”.
This race is one long son of a gun. All drivers will feel the pressure to drive past sunset. It’s a given. It’s a must! There are loads of stories about Baja at night. What is interesting is that very few of the really scary stories come from the race cars. The most amazing and most tragic come from the highway travelers. Is that you? Have you had “Your Story” yet? It’s out there, waiting for you. There have been times when the situation happens very far north. Like a tanker full of fish crashing around Santo Tomas, and closing the highway for over 5 hours.
Now your time frames are shot. What do you do?
The history of what goes on and how we deal with it is not something to take lightly.
Motorhomes crash. People fly, land, and suffer. Tractor-trailer rigs roll over and burn. A pickup full of drunk locals veers over the line and smacks a perfectly good Bronco with chasers in it.
It is not a case of “Will it happen?”, but a fact that it will happen. To whom, we don’t know.
We will know when the flash comes on the radio. Not right away mind you, but only after all the wrong information has had its chance to stab the hearts of those that know names, and care.
Know this. Medical assistance for emergencies comes late, and is lacking. You have to hope that someone associated with the race will be close by and help you. It is first aid at best.
Worse is going through a nasty wreck, and you coming through it fine, but your buddy is bleeding and out cold. You were behind the wheel. How do you feel? He trusted you to take care of business so he could sleep.
Here is what you should do to increase your chances of staying out of harms way.
Eat food even if you are not hungry.
Drive for a maximum of 6 hours and give it to your partner.
(There is only one Ironman)
Plan on getting to your destination late.
Don’t drink alcoholic stuff. Period.
Do not use drugs. Period.
Ask yourself, “Are we important enough to the people in the race car that they will
feel good about us getting maimed trying to catch them?”
Ask yourself, “Would I do this if my kids were with me?”
Think about the great time you will have when you make it back home.
Think about the great feeling of being involved in the toughest off-road race in the world, and getting back home to tell the tales.
Think about how those at home will roll their eyes, and be patient, when you start on one of your stories.
Think about how proud of yourself you will be when you hear a horror story about someone else and realize you did things the right way, and went through the danger successfully.
It may sound corny, but think about how happy your Mom & Dad, or wife, or sister or brother, and yes, your kids, will be when you talk to them after you are home, safe and sound.
You’ve just had the adventure of a lifetime, and you are back! Wagging your tail, your mouth going like a ducks butt, telling everyone what an experience it was.
I’m going to the Baja 1000. I am going to have a ball. I won’t forget a moment. It will be the biggest, baddest damn race ever.
And, I’m coming back from it.
With stories. With experiences. With laughs. With memories, and with the pride that comes of doing a good job.
What about you?
“Life Is A One Lap Race!”
PS – Bob Bower and I are not related, although we do occasionally claim each other. :) My dad is Ben, an ISDT Gold Metal racer and avid offroad enthusiast that had a career as a corporate packaging engineer to afford us the opportunity to have all the experiences we were blessed with.
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.