By Andrea Tomba
We arrived at the timed start at around 3:00 pm. It was a hot, sweltering day, especially walking around in a race suit with little shade. It is always fun to see the various drivers’ routines prior to a race: there are those who always seem to find 101 things left to do to their race vehicle, those who seem to most enjoy the opportunity to socialize with the other drivers and teams, those whom seem to do a full prayer and visualization technique and those whom merely seem to try to take it as easy as possible.
We were trying to keep as cool and hydrated as possible, and just before deciding that it was time to dress up with full overall, helmet, harness, ear plugs and the rest, it was time again. Yes, it was time to get on the male external racing catheter kit, otherwise known as the famous “piss tube,” which allows the racer to pee through a condom attached to a flexible tube that is strapped down one leg, comes out at the bottom of the trousers, and is hopefully long enough to stay out of your shoes—it is really annoying to find out that you’ve jumped through the hoops to fit the tube with surgical precision inside your shoe, only to feel the warm and wet sensation around your toes. Somehow though, you manage to get into the truck, and you find yourself between tubes, a safety harness and a 5 point race harness.
We then hooked in our helmets to the Parker pumper, which circulates fresh filtered air, and plugged them into the intercom system just minutes before taking off, only to find out that my helmet had a wiring problem and was transmitting a lot of noise interference. I preferred to switch of the intercom and tell my co-driver Pio to make signals if he wanted to let me know anything really important… like a 300 meter drop off that I may have forgotten, for example.
We were the tenth Class 8 Open truck in line, and as the green flag dropped on us, we already knew that we had a massive task ahead of us in terms of overtaking, and we could already see the long dragon-like shape of endless dust forming in front of our eyes. It wasn’t long before we start seeing the welcoming and seducing, yellow amber light of the truck in front of us, and there went the first overtake… eight more to go… and within the first twenty miles, our truck, affectionately known as “The Black Demon” let us know that he had a different agenda for the day.
Our temperature gauges began to climb. Engine water temperature went up to 200F, whilst our transmission temperature pushed the Auto-meter gauge’s limit of 250F. We knew that our trusted friends Los Hurtados and Bandas were watching the race from the mountain offering jaw dropping views of “El Mechudo” about another 10 miles ahead, so we decided to baby the truck to where they were at and pull in with them for help.
Pio quickly decided that it was our Vision X HID lights mounted on the roof rack that were impeding the air flow into the radiator intake, so we stripped the roof rack, (we still had three Vision X HID up front and an incredible Vision X LED bar to light us up later on at night), and they gave Pio two water containers, one 3 liter water bottle and another 5 liter washing liquid container with a nozzle, also filled with water, so that Pio could throw water on the radiator by hand to help keep the engine cooler, at least until night when we would hit the cooler Pacific side. So, 150 pound Pio lifted the 3 liter container over his shoulder every two minutes or so, with a dash of water hitting the radiators and a big dash hitting my right shoulder and back… for approximately three hours! No wonder he told me that he couldn’t feel his arms the following morning!
Off we went again, and although we lost several spots, we weren’t too far back as we tackled the treacherous mountain climb and the scary decent with the really tight corners over the really big drop offs. As we reached the bottom, we saw a friend, Sammy Araiza, in his single seat Class 1 Unlimited buggy, having gone over a smaller drop off, but a drop off all the same, and the buggy was lying wheels up. Sammy was standing alone next to it, not looking too bad, taking everything into consideration.
However, the thought quickly crossed our minds that it would probably take several hours for Sammy’s chase crew to come in and get him, and the desert is a very lonely place at night, especially alone. We pulled over and tied a tow strap to his buggy, trying to right it, however as it was on a stone plateau, it kept sliding. After 20 minutes of trying, we had to abandon our efforts, and we were sorry to leave Sammy to wait for his team; however, seeing Class 5-1600 cars going past us we knew that by that time the dust factor would be punishing.
Keep watch for Part III of Andrea’s race. Meanwhile, share your own racing stories with us!
Andrea Tomba has lived in La Paz, BCS since 1994 and started racing off road in 1995. He has since accumulated a Class 6 Championship and 3 consecutive Class 8 Open Championships, as well as accumulating tens of thousands of off road miles by working as a guide for Wide Open Excursion.
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