Baja 1000 pre-race run in 2010 Ford F-150 Raptor
The Baja 1000 is one of the toughest off-road races in the world
The Baja 1000 is an amazingly tough race and the adventure of a lifetime and Brad Lovell said he hopes to be back in 2010
No 703 Torchmate Ranger entered a class in the Baja 1000 with 8 other trucks, only two trucks finished the loop race of 672 miles
Remote areas of the Baja 1000 make good use of GPS systems. Many teams have to be recovered from the brutal desert.
Tough desert terrain with sand traps and silt are only part of the Baja 1000 many obsticles
Lovell and the No. 703 Torchmate Ranger with K&N products entered a class with 8 other trucks in a total field of 340 trucks, buggies and motorcycles for a loop race of 672 miles.
“Three different crews piloted the truck,” said Lovell. “Bill Knuz and myself to race mile 206, Greg Jones and Nick Socha to race mile 420 and Marty Fiolka and JT Taylor from there to the finish.”
The team pre-ran its sections in 2010 Ford F-150 Raptors, a factory modified pickup designed for the abuse Baja is known for. “We dinged the running boards and banged the undercarriage a bit,” said Lovell. “By the end of the week, our Raptor had 800 brutal off-road miles on it.”
From the pre-run to the starting line, Knuz and Lovell waited for the green flag to drop at 11:37 am Friday morning. “We were both calm but did not underestimate the change in rhythm that was about to occur,” said Lovell. “We had 31 hours to reach the finish line.”
In the first 30 miles the roads were windy and dusty. They were also lined with spectators. “We had problems along the way,” said Lovell. “Eight miles in, the team ahead of us ended their race by hitting a boulder that was rolled on the course. At mile 16 a silt bed created a log jam of stuck trucks.”
Lovell smashed into a dirt bank but made it through. “We charged a slower truck and lost the road in the dust near mile 19,” he said. “We heard clanking and banging and came to a stop. A rock had broken the transmission pan.”
During the two hour wait to get moving again, Lovell said they thought about their mistake. “The open race course was now a stream of on-coming traffic and broken racers,” he said. “Near mile 30 we met a stuck chase truck which blocked the course. We struggled to free him before giving up and barely made it around him on a risky side slope.”
Lovell and Knuz had to wait again near mile 31 for the recovery of several race buggies that fell down a 30 foot ravine. “When the race resumed we reached the more remote areas and found our pace,” said Lovell. “We made good time to mile 206 for the driver change.”
Around 1:30 am the crew woke to a satellite phone report that the truck was hopelessly stuck in a sand wash nearly sixty miles away. Lovell and Knuz took their Raptor to try and pull them out.
“Armed with a GPS, we headed into the most remote area of the course to recover the team,” said Lovell. “While we were driving, Greg and Nick frantically dug for six hours and freed the truck a foot at a time.”
Lovell and Knuz were within 8 miles of the second crew when the race truck started moving again. The minutes were ticking away along with the miles but the No. 703 made it to mile 420 for the next driver change.
“At that point we were racing the clock,” said Lovell. “The team had to travel 115 miles in about 3.5 hours. Marty and JT had no problems setting a good pace.” Unfortunately the crew was not able to make the next checkpoint closing time and they called the race.
“Not finishing stings,” said Lovell. “It is little comfort, but only two in our class of nine finished the race. Now we have more knowledge of what Baja is about, how to race it and how to prepare. Our whole team worked as hard as they could to fight the circumstances.”
Lovell said he hopes to face the Baja 1000 again in 2010. In the meantime the Torchmate Ranger is getting prepped for the last race of the season, the BITD Henderson Desert Classic in Nevada on December 5th. “We are currently 2nd in points and hope for a strong finish,” said Lovell. ““There is a lot of silt and fine dust on these courses,” said Lovell. “K&N filters keep the debris out of our engines and our sensors do not clog up.”
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