Our first 1st Place Finish!!
You go out and run races that are 100’s of miles, and some times over 1000 miles, so one would think you could race a total of 132 miles standing on your head. Wrong! This last September Team H12:One finally came home with their first, 1st place finish in the Score International Tijuana Desert Challenge!! This is the only multi lap race that takes place over the race circuit, and it’s the only race that involves racing 2 heats. One heat in the morning and one heat in the afternoon. Limited classes all raced on Friday, and the high powered Trophy Trucks, Class One’s and others race on Saturday.
This course was only a 22 mile loop, and we’d complete 3 laps to complete the heat. But man, a very intense 22 mile loop. Hills, Rocks, more rocks, tight hairpin turns, you name it, it had it. There were a total of 4 Class 11’s and we had some what of a unique situation. We had the only Class 11 that would now be racing in it’s 3rd race. Then it would be the only class 11 that would need to come home and get ready for it’s 4th race, the Baja 1000. Now, do we go for it, do we go for the ultimate win, or do we drive a conservative race and take what ever points we can get. I had this incredible fear of loosing control and bringing home an impossible situation to fix.
I knew I had some big heat on my back. First car off the line then we had Eric Solorzano and the Bio Family, and Art Penner behind me. We are talking generations of experience and some very fast cars, and skilled drivers. We were working with a brand new low compression motor that was built by Federico Montes and we had our back up transmission in the car. After the first few miles we realized one thing—-This Motor was fantastic. Almost like there was nothing that could stop it. I was worried about one big hill climb, but I was actually about a 1/3 of the way up when I realized, “This is that Hill!!” We ran up it like nothing, and we could have kept going, and going, and going…
We started the third lap and we had established a good pace and we were hanging on to our first place start. Then we heard that Ramon Bio was munching away at us like Pac Man and sure enough we could see his dust trail and he was hot on our tail. Armando (my Co-Driver) and I made the decision to stick to our pace and run our race and not push it. Armando had done and excellent job keeping us together and again,,,we need to bring the car home in one piece. Before we knew it Ramon Bio of 1118 was on us and pasted us like nothing. We again, with confidence in our plan, stuck to our pace.
We completed all three laps, and finished only 3 minutes behind 1118 and I made the comment to our engine builder, Federico Montes, that the kid (Ramon) driving 1118 was super fast, too fast for me, Federico said, “Well, when you are 17 you have no fear, when you are your age (56) you know you have to go to work on Monday”. Next car in was Eric Solorzano, at about 10 minutes and he suffered a broken torsion bar adjuster at the end of the last lap, and Art Penner had issues as well with a flat tire and engine issues.
Heat #2. I sat this one out and Armando Salazar and Luis Vasquez would take on this little giant of a course. Bochito was running great and it was nice not having to address any issues during our break, however,,,one thing we did not check would almost ruin our day. We would start second and by the end of the first lap Armando had 1121 leading the race. 1118 was spot on and they would eventually take the first position and Armando and Luis would keep them close most of the race, and the two cars continued to pull away from the other two class 11’s. So it was on, a race between 1118 and little Bochito-1121.
On the second lap we got the radio transmission that all was good and they would now enter a dead zone in communications due to the mountain range. We picked them up again at race mile 20, and all was good. I ran to the get a view of the mountain range know that 1118 would soon be coming over the mountain, and that we’d be right behind them. The sun was setting and it was hard to make out exactly who was who as they come over the ridge, but we for sure knew that 1118 was leading the race. We kept looking and then we saw them, no, not 1118, but the Green eye’s of 1121. Armando and Luis were in First Place!! They pasted us in the hot pit area and we would start the time clock—how far behind is Bio? Come to find out, and sadly, 1118 lost their brakes due to failure in their Master Cylinder. 1111, Eric Solorzano would now scream by 6 minutes behind us, but amazingly, 1121 would continue to pull away.
Then it started to happen, 1121 was loosing power. Some times he would completely stop running. We were running out of gas. Can you believe it! You see I thought each heat was only 2 laps, but they were 3 laps. I failed to recalculate the fuel when we realized this. Armando and Luis did all they can to to inch 1121 ahead, but with only about 5 miles left in the race, 1121 was completely our of gas. But,, yes, but, it must have been our day, and the Lord Jesus smiled down upon us as the guys ran out of fuel just down the road from a Pit Support Team. They were able to turn around and coast back to them for 3 gallons of fuel.
In all of this Bochito was able to finish on time and maintained their lead on 1111 and 1126. Eric would finish about 4 minutes behind us, and I can only imagine what that would have been if they did not have the fuel issues. It was my joy to see Armando and Luis climb out of the car after driving a great heat and never giving up. Roger Norman, the president of Score was there waiting and it was great to receive out Victory Flag and our first Official 1st place finish.
We ended up being the only Class 11 to finish both heats, and for us that was a great accomplishment with the great names in racing that were racing with us, truly awesome drivers and individuals. Solorzano and Bio, legends in Baja Racing.
It was great meeting with our good friend Rat Sult at the awards ceremony and talking with him and the audience, and how thankful we were for this finish. We’d now go eat some tacos, then eventually take this Trophy home to the Mom’s, Kid’s, and staff at Mi Casa de Esperanza and add this 1st Place win to the trophy wall as a reminder to never give up and that the Lord smiles on you every day, he’s good all the time, but sometimes you just happen to run out out gas in front of those that have a bit extra for you. Be that someone that never gives up, and be that someone that always has something, a bit extra to give to someone who’s ran out of Gas.