When we talk to people that are less familiar with the sport of off road racing there is one word that always seems to spark acknowledgement. That word is “BAJA”. No matter how little they may know about racing or motorsports the word Baja always seems to peak their interest. This stands to reason, after all, for more than half a century this unique place has been host to a pair of the most iconic motorsports events in the world. Very few people in the civilized world can say that they have never heard of the Baja 500 or 1000. What most do not know is why these events are so well recognized. That will require a trip south of the border to experience what we know as “Baja”. So what is the lure that keep us coming back to this place? We return in a quest for the Beauty……The Culture…….The Adventure…….. and because we are racers we return for the Challenge! No other place offers this kind of challenge. Each race is a new and completely unique experience. And while you will find our team at the same taco shop at the beginning of every trip, believe me, every race is unique.
This years Baja 500 was blessed with probably the nicest weather we have ever had for this event. I can’t remember ever wearing a jacket in June in Baja so thank you Baja gods for that one.
The crew at SCORE always works hard to insure that the courses are different and always changing for every race. This year their goal must have been to show us who’s boss. Clearly we know that Baja itself is boss. This years route was rough, technical, wet, dry, rocky, silty and challenging, yet if you were to ask any of the competitors most will say “Awesome”.
The Jagged X team had a great starting position in the second row, or was it? In desert racing there is a great debate that rages as to whether it is better to start in front or in the back but I can say from experience that you can win from either place. We were pleased to be up front after spending a little time pre running. We had identified some locations early in the first section that had great potential for the feared “bottleneck” hoping that getting there early would get us through early. Sure enough just a short sprint and Pat Stone and Co-driver Jason Speiss found themselves choked up behind a number of other classes of vehicles that were struggling with a loose rocky hill. While in some terrain these other classes are faster than our UTV’s this rough loose stuff is where we shine. We don’t always make friends in these situations because given just a sliver of a trail we can usually sneak past these trail plugs and get back to racing but this one was bad. From chase truck we could only see that there were a pile of yellow dots all stacked up in one spot. But then a couple of the dots seemed to be moving in another direction, randomly floating across the screen as if they were on their own custom designed baja 500 race course, then amazingly appearing back on the published race course, but with a notable advantage. I believe this is called a “creative line”. This is a debate for another time.
As the traffic jamb cleared and the racing resumed we found ourselves in a pretty good position mixing it up with the 2nd thru 5th place cars but, as I said, from the chase truck we only see dots, well our dot was not moving again. Tell tale sign of a problem. As we waited, the other dots moved past and ahead, but still our dot did not move…… This stopping dot problem, unfortunately occurred several more times throughout the race. Typically a mid pack finish is not the kind of thing you want to applaud with a huge press release but I think it is important for people to understand the amount of hard work and dedication that the teams racing Baja put forth. Our team and our drivers worked very hard to stay in the game at this race, at one point being nearly the last UTV on course, battling back to finish in 7th in a field of 24 cars.,
There is a saying that is passed around in racing “in order to finish first….. first you must finish”
Great advice for sure but the problem these days is that we have 25 other very accomplished teams at every race that are fighting for the same spot. This means that we have to push harder and go faster than ever before to take top honors.
As a team, we avoid making any excuses for races that don’t go well, we try to learn something from every race, win or lose. We try to make the team better with every start. I will say that with nearly 12,000 clicks on the odometer of this RZR Turbo she is getting a little bit temperamental. The ol ‘girl has been a champ for sure and we are all eagerly awaiting a her replacement. This season is really not even halfway over yet and we will be ready to cross the border and head south again in October for another new adventure, the Ensenada 400!
Until then VIVA LA BAJA!
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Words by: Bill Schueler