Johnny Angal 2016 BAJA 1000 Race Report
Johnny Angal Score International Baja 1000 Race Report
#2921 UTV Inc Polaris RZR XP Turbo – Pro UTV Forced Induction
Well as I sit in my office on this overcast gloomy Sunday thinking about the race teams in Baja today going to the awards ceremony I kind of throw my hands up on the air. Being so disappointed yet again, I know I shouldn’t be but damn it’s hard not to be. We spent months getting ready for this race, we had friends and co-drivers fly in from all over the United States to help us. In all reality I know how hard it is to even show up for a race like this. With around 300 race teams once a year making the annual pilgrimage to Baja from all over the world. There is nothing easy about it the brutality of driving an off road vehicle 850 miles thru the most unforgiving terrain in the world. I say that not because you can’t find harder or steeper or softer terrain in other places, but because the roads and desert trails we are racing on have been chewed up by people prerunning for the last three weeks. Now 300 plus off road vehicles are racing in front of us literally chewing and grinding the dirt into the finest powder you can imagine. The dust floats in the air for hours, at times we can’t see two feet in front of us. The trophy trucks in front of us that are running 40” tires are pulling out rocks from the earth that have laid in the same spots for a million years. They are spitting them out on the trails that are narrower then our race cars. We are racing down next to a beautiful beach during the day with outside temps around 72 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s so badass and perfect! But, 10 feet away on the right are 150ft cliffs that with the tiniest mistake will send you plummeting to your death on a rocky beach! I am not sure why I do it or why my co-driver Boner would even sit in a car with me at time like that. While racing we experience sheer terror at times followed by brief moments of ecstasy and calm all while doing 90mph down a somewhat smooth flat straight road. With a cool breeze whisking the sweat and dust off our body’s, we finally get to take a deep breath, relax our grips on the steering wheel or whatever your co-driver might have been holding onto and prepare for the next 800 miles. A lot of this happens all before we even get out of town.
I would like to thank everybody that made this trip possible: Polaris RZR, ITP Tires, Method Race Wheels, Fox Shocks, Rigid Industries LED Lighting, my awesome crew at UTV INC, Airdam Clutches, SMG Racing, Craig, Keith, Jesse, Al, Victor, Victor, Uncle Johnny, Rodger, Boner, Craig, Vance, My Brother Al, Hostyle Products, Wolf Designs, Mad Media, Joey, Josh, Rusty, Shock Therapy, Satmoto and everybody I am forgetting!!!! It takes so many people to come together to make a race like this possible.
So we went down to Baja 5 days before the race so we could prerun the course. Also I was to be racing the first 292 Miles, Victor doing the mid race section and Craig finishing the race. Prerunning went well for all of us and on Thursday we had tech inspection and contingency. First thing in the morning Boner and Adam (Airdam) had to go out and work on our clutching a little to get the car dialed in. Around noon we headed to line up in tech. When we got there the line wasn’t moving and was miles long so we waited for a couple more hours and got in line around 2pm. We sat in line so long, while I understand it’s something we have to do, to do this the day before a race, sitting in a line for 10 hours, with your legs aching and the sun burning your face and arms, I repeat 10 fucking hours, is just plain silly and to the point of just plain stupid! We have a drivers meeting at 7PM, lol, but we are sitting in line until Midnight the day of the race with our race car! We get back to the hotel and I get about 4 hours of sleep. It’s 7AM and we meet for race day breakfast and head out to finish the final details and go over chase plans. Around 10AM I head to the hotel to put on my fire suit and ready myself for what should be 8 hours of having the ever living shit beat out of me! We head to the starting line around 10:30AM and get to sit and wait some more as we don’t start the race till around 12:30PM. LOL! Not sure again why, if we are not starting for 2 more hours, why we need to be there so early! Seems as if 30 mins prior should be enough time to get us lined up but what do I know, LOL! I just sit in the sun and burn for a couple more hours before I put my helmet on my sunburned face for the next 8 hours. Alright, we start lining up and heading to the starting line which takes no more than, yah you guessed it, 30 freaking minutes and we are 7th in line.
Pulling over the box, I watch the other racers take off in front of me. The anticipation is building and I just stare at the green the flags. I pull up and take it all in. There are thousands of people lining the street at the starting line, I continue to stare at the green flags waiting for them to release us off the line. The green flags go up and we are off!
Our Polaris RZR Turbo 4 is running strong as we leave town and we quickly hit 90mph as I pull up behind three other cars in our class. They are going a bit slower so we pass a couple and pass a couple more that have already succumbed to some kind of issues. As we are leaving town around the 10 mile marker we have our own issues. The car starts running really bad and we lose power. I quickly tell Boner its feels like a spark or fuel problem. He jumps out and starts checking everything out. All the while 100’s of locals surround our race car for pictures and to see if they can help. It turns out our drive belt delaminated a 6” section. Boner put a new belt on and we were good to go except now every one of the UTVs in the race had passed us! I tell Boner ‘No big deal, it’s a long race and we can make it up’. As we take off I tell Boner to call our chase team at race mile 20 to get another spare belt for us just in case. As we pull up to them, we grab it and take back off. We are now in a speed zone on the highway and the speed is limited to 37mph for about the next 10 miles. If you go 1 mph over 37 you get an instant speed penalty. As we come off the highway we quickly start passing other cars. A couple of miles in we pull behind about 10 UTVs that are being held up by a diesel truck that is going so slow and will not pull off the course. So nobody can pass and it is really absurd that this guy is in front of the UTV class. Anyway, good for me, he slowed so many people down that we caught them and started making quick work of getting around them. At the end of the first 80 miles we are back in the race and headed to the coast.
Everything is working great as we approach race mile 117. It is the section right next to the ocean and covered with HUGE river rocks. I see the Polaris RZR helicopter and not wanting to look slow I speed up a bit and fly into the river rock. I smash into a boulder and give us two flat tires. Boner gets out to assess the situation. Joey D (UTV Underground) comes running over and helps Boner get the rear tires changed and sees that we just bent our Method Race Wheel on the lip, letting the tire bead leak air. So they pull the front tire off the car and a local guy runs and gets a sledge hammer. He bends the wheel back in place and Joey runs over to his truck with the tire and fills it with air. Him and Boner come back and put it back on the car. Joey tosses us a tire plug kit as we will now be racing with no spare tire until the next pit stop at race mile 170. We are off and racing again. Around race mile 122ish we pass a RZR that is stuck in a huge hole and they are standing next to the race car with the tow strap out. I think “fuck that” as I drive past. Then I thought ‘Hey that was Justin from Shock Therapy!’ I slam on the brakes and back up to them. They hook the tow strap up to my car and I try yanking them out 3 or 4 times to no avail. As race traffic is pulling up on us they unhook their strap and tell us, “Go go go!!” We take back off into the night with no spare tire. Now we have a huge problem, my car is now attracted to rocks, LOL.
Now I am normally very good at tire placement and not hitting rocks and stuff but now I cannot avoid them. Literally if my life depended on it I couldn’t avoid them. My front tire slams into the first rock and Boner is like “WTF?! You got to be careful, we don’t have a spare!” I am thinking to myself, I know that and that wasn’t my fault that rock must have just rolled in front of the tire! We are now around race mile 135 and guess what, yup, another rock jumped right in front of me. We hit it hard! We make it to a huge pit area at race mile 140 and we pull over. There is no way we are going to make it to our pit at race mile 170. We call our chase crew and tell them they need to come to us so we start going over the car making sure everything else is good. While we wait for them we watch everybody pass us again. We wait for about an hour for our crew to get to us. When they show up we load up with tires, fuel and head off into the darkness! It’s cold but the car is running great and we quickly catch a couple of cars and pass them. We don’t get much further as we come up a small rise right at the top is a silt hole on the driver’s side of the car. We are plugging along doing probably 30 mph and the front drives side tire slams into it stopping us dead in our tracks. I push the gas pedal and slowly pull off of the race course. Boner says “Flat tire?” I say “No… it isn’t flat, I can see it. It is right next to me outside the car about 2 feet from where it is supposed to be.” We get out of the car and see that it’s not good. We need our chase truck again.
Between them getting to us and Boner fixing the car it will be hours of lost time. We decided to call the race on the spot. There was no way we are going to podium this race and that’s what we showed up for. It’s really sad when I call a race especially when you have other drivers that never even got to drive. It’s a really shitty feeling but I made the call and I’m sure I will go over it a million more times to see if it was the right call! Thank you all so much for supporting us and living the #RZRLife with us!