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Friday, November 23, 2007

Baja 1000 Report from Team Exile



Team Exile Baja 1000 Report

I'm looking up at a star filled sky...the constellations Pleiades and Orion are drifting silently through the night around the north star. The mesquite and chola wood fire is crackling by my side and I'm secretly hoping that no scorpions or tarantulas are making their way into my immediate vicinity. Yep, I'm back in Baja...it's day two of the 40th anniversary Baja 1000 and I'm lying in the desert sand at 4 a.m. somewhere between the little town of Insurgentes and the littler town of San Juanico on the west coast of the Baja peninsula. Jay Manning is fast asleep in the chase truck, trying to get some shut eye before we hop in the car and finish the race that has already claimed around 60% of it's victims so far.

So far, Big Momma Baja has decided to raise her ugly head and put the hurt on everyone trying to cross her hallowed sandy ground. Overall, there have been 4 driver emergency medical airlifts , a helicopter crash that claimed two lives and critically injured two more and an uncountable number of vehicle crashes that ended the Baja dreams for those teams. Jesse James miscalculated a turn and put his $500,000.00 trophy truck into the Pacific Ocean. And we are just getting started. For the Bigfork team of Exile Motorsports, we have had a heckuva time as well. We lost our first transmission at race mile 14, limped the car all the way to the BF Goodrich pit stop at race mile 121, put in a new transmission and were back in the race with a 6 hour delay for the repairs. Even with the delay, we are still hanging in the top ten for the race...seems everyone is having a long day.

As I lay there contemplating the race, the desert, the stars and life in general, I'm listening to the radio traffic from all the different teams and the "Weatherman" (the emergency coordinator for the race). It sounds like a war zone: "Weatherman, Weatherman, this is Race 96a, I've got an injured driver at race mile 322, do you copy?" "Standby Race 96a, we've got lifeflight inbound to your area but it's going to be awhile...hang in there!" "Weatherman, Weatherman, this is Race 501x we have a rider with serious injuries at race mile so & so"...it's been going on like this for hours. My thoughts are drifting between the injured drivers and their families, and the safety of my own crew. I know Roberto Zavala & Jake Batulis are screaming through the desert right now, weaving in and out of the carnage that Baja has created in the few short hours since the race started. I'm excited and anxious to get in the car myself...

Unfortunately, that won't happen. A few hours later into the morning we get radio traffic that our car is about 80 miles away from us, stuck in the silt with a flat tire and another broken transmission. 80 miles from us, and 300 miles from the finish, and just like that, Big Momma Baja puts the brakes on our journey for good at 900 miles into the race. It's been a long night in the desert and now the journey is over. I won't call it a complete loss however, as once again Baja gave me memories to last a lifetime. Laughing, joking & hanging with the locals from Ensenada all the way to Cabo, seeing the smiles on those little Mexican children's faces when we were handing out stickers or T-shirts, sharing fresh (and I mean FRESH) fish tacos with close friends in Loreto...yeah, it's been a great trip no matter what! I won't complain about watching the sun rise over the Sea of Cortez just in time to see whales breaching offshore, or watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean either...these are the little things that Baja gives back to you. Memories, friendships, laughter and absolute amazement at the beauty of the Baja desert and its people will occupy my thoughts and dreams until we make the journey back to race next year. Yep, I know it's crazy, but we will keep coming back to Baja no matter what...call us nuts...maybe we are, but once you've been bitten by Baja, there's no turning back.

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