By Brad Lovell
Colorado Springs, CO 11/21/11 – For the first time in four attempts, I have finished the Baja 1000. The BFGoodrich Team of Bud Brutsman, Andrew Comrie-Picard, Roger Lovell, Joel Weinberger, Kyle Tucker, and myself overcame major mechanical issues to finish with of time of 27:42:26. We were 6th in Class 10. While I am proud of our position, the challenge itself is more memorable and significant.
The race is so many things that it’s indescribable in a few paragraphs. Only a few miles from the start a semi truck jackknifed and completely blocked the course which in turn caused a logjam of trophy trucks. Mud holes and hazards both manmade and natural littered the first 30 miles. Our car came through cleanly and made it to BFG Pit #1 in good time. Roger and I jumped in the car and waited patiently as the Wide Open crew replaced both CV shafts. We bolted from the pit and brought the car up to pace before tackling the rock filled mountains.
Its no secret that our expertise is in the rocks and we passed several racers on the way to the summit. We blew the siren and tapped a class 8 (full size truck) before making quick tracks down the other side. We must have insulted the driver as the truck later caught us in a sand wash and unquestionably tried to wreck us as he passed, an attack I will remember. South of Laguna Salada we cautiously approached an enormous silt bed. It was terribly worse than what we saw in the pre-run and stuck cars littered the area. I floored it before we were blinded and threw the car into oblivion. Bushes, cars, silt holes, and ditches flashed from the blinding dust as I did my best to keep the tires clawing through the powder. Running 4th in Class 10 we broke free of hellish silt and sped south.
About 20 miles later we noticed a sudden drop in oil pressure accompanied by flames shooting off the back of the car. Something had punctured an oil galley covering the hot exhaust with oil which in turn started a fire. We got the fire out and eventually reached the chase crew via sat phone. After nearly 5 hours of hard work, new parts, and a little bit of luck, we had a functional car. Once again adrenaline took hold as we blasted over whoops, rocks, and sand. We were again struck with mechanical demons but able to fight the car into BFG Pit #2. Brief repairs were made and we ventured into the desert at full strength with Roger now behind the wheel.
I have heard plenty of stories about big whoops but nothing compares to San Felipe whoops. The unending monstrous corrugations only yielded when sharp rock filled the course. Soon we found ourselves clawing through another frightful silt bed and this time we became mired. I jumped out into the moonscape and started to dig. I stuffed twigs under the tires and Roger worked the car back and forth. We repeated the process several times and made slow progress. Finally we were free and I was exhausted. We covered another 60 rough miles before handing the car off at BFG Pit #3. With 320 miles down we were well behind the field but making encouraging progress.
Its hard to wait in the pit with no knowledge of where your car is. Rumors abound and there is nothing to do but listen for a radio call. The call finally came before Joel Weinberger and Bud Brutsman rolled into Pit #4. They handed a strong car off to Andrew Comrie-Picard and Kyle Tucker who would be on their own for the last 240 miles of high speed shelf roads, rocks, and hills.
Hours later we nervously waited at the finish line as a race broke out between us and car #1001. They swapped positions several times in the last 40 miles but at the finish our team’s unending effort paid off as we beat them by a handful of minutes.
At this 44th running of the Baja 1000, BFGoodrich captured their 25th overall victory. I’m proud to be part of such a fantastic Baja 1000 effort and experience the rich heritage built over decades by SCORE and BFGoodrich. Thanks to BFG, Wide Open, our chase crew, and everyone who supported us in this endeavor.