Sunday, December 03, 2006

Baja 1000 Carnage

I was co-driving with Ron Stobaugh in the #1702 JeepSpeed owned by Eric Filar. I got out of the car (as did Ron) in San Ignacio and continued chasing the car. I was at the BFG pit in Loreto when the car was turned back over to Eric and his co-driver. They left the pit and headed south. Not long after they left Eric came on the radio and told me that they had come upon a crash and that the two racers were on the side of the road. He said the races were a little shaken but seemed OK. Eric’s co-driver was an EMT and a few minutes later they came back on the radio and said that the co-driver of the BC3 car was hurt and had a possible concussion.

I was at the BFG pit in Loreto and got on the radio with BFG Relay that put a call into both the Weatherman and Baja Challenge to get someone into their location and get them out.

Long story short … Eric and his co-driver stayed with both guys until someone arrived and got them out of there … four hours later. We finally found someone at Baja Pits who had a 4×4 that could get to them and bring them back. Baja Challenge, to my knowledge, never got their people back (not during the four hours that I waited) to do anything.

I switched over to Weatherman and heard them calling to get some 4×4s in there with winches to extract the car, but I never heard them say anything about getting the people out of there. On two occasions I personally asked Weatherman channel what the status was on Baja Challenge getting their four-seat buggy up there to get their people out. I was told to “Stand by” while they went back to updating their checkpoint statuses.

The second time they told me to stand by and went back to their status reports I got back on the channel and said the following:

“Weatherman … let me get this straight. It’s OK for you guys to do YOUR status reports but not OK for me to ask the status of emergency help that is needed at a crash site. Is that what your telling me? Are you telling me that you don’t care about two racers that are injured out on the course that need help sent to them to bring them back to Loreto? All you care about is trying to find someone to get out there and extract their car?”

Tony … the Weatherman channel went SILENT for fifteen minutes at which time I switched off the channel and never went back to them. They never, ever responded to me! As far as I’m concerned … the Weatherman channel can kiss my ass!

I will say this … when I was trying to get them to respond, Bob was not on the channel at that time. I did hear him earlier calling for people out there to get in and extract the car, but I didn’t hear him on the air after that. I don’t know who was on the air when I called in, but it was not Bob.

Like I said, we found someone in the Baja Pits in Loreto to go in and bring the two guys out.

I want to make one more thing very clear. I have the utmost respect for Bob and what he has done for the sport over the years, but … today our sport has outgrown the Weatherman and what he can do for the sport. With the amount of racers and chasers we now have at races it’s just not possible for him to be effective anymore.

I blame SCORE for not moving forward with safety and providing racers and chaser with more radio coverage and channels to get not only status reports, but to improve the safety and response time of what little safety resources they provide. If these two guys had suffered a life-threatening injury … they would have died!

Part of the problem is that they were at the very end of the cars still running (as were we)and no one seemed to care about the safety of the few remaining cars. I can’t begin to tell you how pissed-off I am … but I think you get the idea.

The other downside of this was the fact that because we, as a team, decided that our racers should stay with the injured racers until help arrived, we could not make the next checkpoint on time and we were out of the race. We … as a team … still stand by our decision to have stayed and would do it all over again, but it was a hard way to get put out of a race.

I also need to let it be know that BFG Relay could have signed off the air as well, but they stayed on the radios until we got someone to the injured racers and they were on their way to safety. BFG did an excellent job trying to get help as well and my hat’s off to them.

If you want more info on this just let me know … or if you just want to hear me piss and moan, then let me know.

I’ll see you after the first of the year when I come down to SF and bring you some bike innertubes and Becks.

Shannon Booth

*An overenthusiastic BC3 driver, aptly-named “Cowboy Kenny” Bertram**, ran off a 300-foot near-vertical cliff coming into MisiĆ³n San Javier, cracking the helmet of his sidekick, Tracy Jordan, and wading the car up. When Wide Open Baja got there for the belated extraction the car had been (gasp!) plundered, as expected. The in-car GPS calls musta been a little sketchy or late, if at all. Prerun, stay with car, etc.