11.20.09 At RM134, 779 had built up a 20-mile lead.
Then, somewhere around RM 140, we heard that a bolt has been lost from the front-right lower control arm. Fortunately, a spare was available, and the delay was not too costly.
At RM154, the Ridgeline’s lead had been reduced to 16 miles.
We pulled into BFG2; it was now nighttime (approximately 8:30 p.m.), and the temperature was dropping quickly. The dust at this point was very heavy, and the crowds of people likewise. Despite the fact that Trophy Trucks and Class 1 buggies were approaching at very high speeds, the crowds were right on the edge of the race track. We witnessed Two Trophy trucks racing each other; the chasing one ramming the leader from behind … “Hey, we are here! Let us through!"
779 pulled in to BFG2 for a quick stop to replace a punctured tire, refuel and tighten suspension bolts, and the Ridgeline was on its way. Both driver and co-driver pulled on more clothing and grabbed some food. Stop time was 4 minutes, 20 seconds. The Toyota was now 27:30 behind and made a leisurely stop as we watched.
RM245 – "Everything OK."
We stopped on the side of the road to watch some of the cars come through the valley below us; fortunately, someone had lit a fire and the embers were still glowing. We coaxed it back to life to get some warmth as we watched. It is definitely cold now!
RM284 – "Everything OK."
Our next destination was the west side of the Baja peninsula; this meant we had to head back through Ensenada, so we took the opportunity to stop back at the hotel (at 12:15am!). It’s amazing what a toothbrush can do to make you feel slightly cleaner!
12.21.09 RM321 – 779 had a 53-mile lead over the Toyota.
An all-night 7-Eleven provided coffee, and shortly afterwards, we found a taco stall for Tacos #3. By all accounts, these were the best so far.
RM342—all OK with 779.
Our overnight destination was BFG5 – basically, a field in the middle of nowhere, for the final major service stop (barring problems). We arrived at 2:30 a.m. and, despite being really cold, we all crashed out in the truck. I discovered that it is possible to sleep on half the back seat of a Ridgeline, while using Matt’s crash helmet as a pillow.
Final race day dawns.
We were up again before the sun rose and sought out news of the Ridgeline; unfortunately, it wasn’t good. Apparently, a variety of suspension issues had arisen during the night, but more concerning was the fact that the chase cars that had gone to the rescue were also stuck on the course with damage. The gap to both pursuing trucks had also closed dramatically … 20 and 36 minutes to the Toyota and Hummer, respectively.More worrying was that we had lost touch with the race truck and no one was able to raise it. Due to the problems over chase cars getting stuck, the scheduled rendezvous back at V de T was in jeopardy, and the truck would have to fend for itself until it reached BFG5, where Chase 3 and Chase 4 were waiting. We would catch snippets of radio transmissions from the truck, but nothing could be communicated back. Eventually, we asked BFG Radio Relay to try to contact the truck, but they, too, failed. We could hear the truck calling for a replacement co-driver, as after nearly 22 hours in the passenger seat, Vlad had had enough. Scott was due to replace him, but Chase 1 was nowhere to be seen; meanwhile, Matt had "foolishly" brought his race suit and helmet and was instructed to get suited up, just in case – fortunately, he was familiar with the course ahead from a previous running of the Baja event. In the end, his driving services proved not to be necessary, as Chase 3 made it in time.
to be continued. . .