By Andrea Tomba
We then began to overtake several of the smaller cars and trucks, and make it into to our pit in Las Bebelamas at race mile 100. The crew quickly looked over the truck to see if there was anything that they could do about the overheating; they also checked the radiators, clamps and caps, but everything looked ok, so it was decided that Pio would just continue doing his marathon arm-water-throwing-exercise, and that we would stop at several ranchers to refill the water cans. We then took off, now behind Class 7 Stock trucks.
We had just gotten into a more technical and dustier area, making overtaking extremely difficult, when I suddenly realized that we had lost all brakes. I don’t mean having bad brakes, or not being able to get the truck to a prompt stop… I mean NO brakes whatsoever. Stopping the truck with an automatic transmission is never ideal, but was all we could do, and caused us to come across as more violent than necessary when trying to overtake other cars. Being able to get on the brake as the car decided to pull over led to very interesting results. With one 7 Stock in particular, every time we got close to him and tried to hold back a little to give him some space to pull over, the co-driver flashed the Blue light, meaning that he has seen us and is looking for a place to pull over; however, instead of pulling over, he decided to speed up and cause us a whole new dust cloud, leading us to back off a little once again.
This game went on for quite a few miles, until we decided to get up very close and personal, helping him along his way. When he felt the inertia of traveling faster than he was intending to travel, he quickly agreed to pull over by slamming on the brakes whilst cranking the steering wheel to the right, just as he went over a steep rise, leading us to plunge our nose under his fuel cell, as it was impossible for us to brake, and tears almost came to my eyes as I heard the crack of our hood, and our beautiful LED REFLEX Light Bar, being torn with all its protectors and bases of the trucks, as another sacrifice to the desert gods.
This saga continued as we got to Ciudad de Constitucion, the halfway mark. We were just coming into nightfall, and were amazed by the thousands of people whom were out to see the race. We had to drive approximately 10 miles parallel to the Highway 1, and both sides were stacked bumper-to-bumper with cars and trucks out to enjoy the show. And a show it was as we rolled into the checkpoints without brakes, trying to wave the officials away before seeing the scatter as we brought it to a halt just in time, having to to apologetically get our check ticket.
By this time, we had been in truck for about 4 hours, and I was starting to get grateful for the discomfort of the piss tube, as I started getting mentally prepared to start relieving myself. I reached down over my overall just to check the tube, and I could almost swear that it feels like the tube has been detached from the condom, probably by either the safety harness or seatbelt. Has it or hasn’t it? Hmmm… I decide that I don’t want to find out by possibly feeling myself with a warm wet feeling, because once you start… Ladies, you may sometimes envy us for our ability to go almost anywhere, however we sometimes REALLY envy you for being able to stop whenever you want to! I decided to hold it until I could check for sure.
We drove through what would normally be my favorite section, from Constitucion to Loma Amarilla, where we were having our second pit and gas refill, as it was a really tight, fun, switchback section, with lots of jumps and turns; however, running the section without brakes puts a whole new dimension on the experience. I came into a right turn a little too hot; even slamming the poor transmission into first didn’t help us avoid hitting a nice solid “Choya” cactus that kindly repays us by donating us a whole bunch of its pear-like arms filled with barbed thorns which embed themselves into my left leg and lap.
At least I get a cold shower at the same time, as I catch Pio on guard as we connect, just as he is throwing water towards the radiator, managing to completely drench my back, chest and shoulder. At least that takes my mind off the needles somewhat. Often when I run Wide Open Adventure race tours, I tell people that the next section that we are about to race through feels like a PlayStation 3 video game, with cactus half an inch from the driver side and ¼ inch from the co-driver’s side.
Unfortunately, I find out how true a statement this is, as the first cactus ripped off a large part of my door, and left just enough of a fiberglass edge to stick out ¾ of an inch on my side, reminding me of one of those little cardboard pieces that you used to hook onto one of your bicycle spokes when you were a kid to make your bike sounds like it had an engine roar (in your head at least… as it actually sounded like a pretty lame patetypat…) except that in this case, my door well was the cardboard piece, and the cacti lining the trail were the wheel spokes, and each patetypat was leaving an additional prickly souvenir inside the cab.
We rolled into our pit at race mile 200 (actually we rolled past it, as we seemed to confuse all the crew because we couldn’t stop for about 50 feet past it, and then reverse into p;ace). The crew filled our tanks up with gas, found the broken brake pump, and while they tried to temporarily fix the problem, I got out of the truck, checked the famous tube which was still all connected. What a relief it can be to relieve oneself!
It was 9.30pm, and we found out that only two Class 8 trucks have passecd before us, and the second one is ATR’s own Edwin Rebolledo in the “Bat,” as Edwin is having a trouble-free race, and they are a mere 10 minutes ahead of us.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of Andrea’s race. While waiting, why don’t you share some of your own Baja racing adventures in the comments?
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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