“Weatherman, Weatherman we have an emergency! Can you provide us with help please?”
This is a familiar call during any major SCORE off-road race and most of the time Weatherman is able to provide a solution to the problem at hand.
Who is this Weather person anyways? Bob Steinberger is the founder of PCI race radios and the voice that provides the two-way radio service for SCORE that most of us get to appreciate all the time. “Weatherman” is simply his nickname that stuck when in 1975 at the Mint 400 race he hung antennas on to 3 weather balloons in order to increase his radio transmission reach. It turned out that going to mountain tops yields better results. At age 72 he doesn’t mind the nickname and actually extended it to his son Scott Steinberger (Trophy Truck #7) that he calls “Weather Boy” over the air.
Did you know what it takes to provide this free of charge service to the racing community? Starting the day before the race Bob takes the long 4 hour drive to the top of the mountain close to El Diablo top where the Mexican government operates 2 observatories he sets up camp. He stays there during the race and often 1 day after the event to help coordinate some racers and chasers still stuck on the course.
It’s a long and tough drive up the 98km access road and in just resent years its paved. The air is notable thin and moving around takes a little bit getting used to. If it rains at sea level then it snows up there.
The location at 9,500 feet elevation is crucial as it provides an excellent point to reach most of the race course via radio and as an added bonus you get spectacular views.
The antennas get setup at a very steep ledge and one wrong step will tumble you downwards with zero chance of survival.
Then starting with the first bike of the start line he is available on the air to help coordinate the race and be as helpful as possible to anyone calling in with their request for help. With such a sheer volume of calls he sometimes needs to be selective with who and what he can address. Medical emergencies take over all priority and turn the channel into “Code Red”. Code Red means absolutely no communication other then the emergency at hand.
Over the years there have been way too many Code Red’s including fatalities. Sometimes all the help provided by rescue workers simply can’t defuse a situation but more often thanks to the efforts of Bob, lives are being saved. Over the years there have been hundreds of very critical calls that got handled and resulted into someone racing again another day.
Weather Man is like the 911 of Baja Racing.
Most people calling in on the channel are courteous to the proper protocol but there is a fair share of abusers. Weatherman tries to defuse any radio problems but rightfully calls out some of the “Richard Craniums”.
As the race progresses into the late evening hours Bob often gets crankier and his patience for stupid requests runs very thin. Yet there is always room for some fun and out of nowhere he presents the joke of the day. It has become such a trademark of his service that racers and fans often ask each during all the racing stress if the Joke of the Day has been told yet or not.
It’s the simple things and attention to detail that make listening to Weather man on race day invaluable and a pure pleasure.
Here at race-dezert.com we stream the audio live on race day for the three SCORE Baja races since 2004. For the 2009 Baja 1000 we will re-broadcast the entire radio communication for those that missed it.