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Flamingos Flip for Fortieth Baja 500

We welcomed a sunny race day as part of the chase team headed out. Co-rider Fawn and I lined up early knowing the low turnout and short spacing between the starting vehicles would have us out of town earlier than usual. This race would have an extra touch to it as we had an onboard camera to record the action just as we experience it. 10:21am and the green flag waves us off, first vehicle in our class. Into the Ensenada Wash we sail over the well-groomed jumps. Back up on the pavement and towards the edge of town we pass our first car before the dirt. Parts of the trail look familiar and other are new to us. The usual grouping of spectators marked the booby traps and tougher spots where action might occur. We were patient and a couple of the typically faster trucks in our class went by. Fawn called out the turns well as the dust hung heavy in a couple of the more technical spots. Race mile (RM) 35 had us crossing Highway 3 in fine shape continuing to work through the twisting hilly terrain. Finally we hit 3rd gear on the high speed Ojos road. Soon the Tres Hermanos area approach with the wash and silt beds we've grown to respect. Since we didn't get a chance to pre-run, I hoped that our flagging from the 1000 would still be in place. Sure enough traces of ribbon were still present in the trees. We hauled ass on the high side and cut over to the fence, only to miss the opening again. A quick 360 got us through and back on our preferred line. Into the cut we went and the dust was still hanging from earlier traffic. Not wanting to jam us up in the silt I paused to get a better view and sure enough a couple of trucks snuck by us. We jumped in behind them and pressed on. The typical silt area was almost non-existent and we sailed through and up the mountain trails. On the backside we pick up confidence and speed. This combination leads us to a big whoop that kicked the rear end skyward. We're looking forward only at the ground waiting for the results. The truck settles back in and Fawn sez "good job." I reply that it was all gravity and physics, holding the steering wheel had nothing to do with it. Regrouped we're back pushing hard. We come upon another vehicle that we're just a bit faster than and want to pass. I think its Rod's Hummer, Fawn says it's the FJ (which at this time is still in dispute) either way I'm not going to nerf 'em and we're in their dust on the narrow trail for a long way. RM 81 has us on the highway for a short run. We're feeling good and running strong.

Back in the dirt the roads are well worn and fast. We start to call out that we're close to our first pit stop with BFG. The team radios that they missed the turn off for the pit and we need to stop for gas and then continue on for a few more miles for the rider change. I get on the horn and implore them to get the planned pit location. The reply is they can't make it as the first of our class is passing by them as we speak. At RM 87 I'm back on the mike trying to solve the perceived pitting problem just as Fawn is calling out a hard left-hander with a double skull & crossbones danger marking. I don't hear her due to my yakking on the radio and we hit the spot way too fast. I remember seeing a deep ravine with a couple of boulders blocking the course. The rear of the truck pitches off camber down the embankment and we slide sideways until nature takes over and I put the roll cage into the full operational mode. We luckily came to a quick stop and didn't roll forever. Hanging upside down for the first time ever was a bad feeling. Tranny oil began to drain onto Fawn's feet as she tried to open the window netting to escape. Unfortunately the crash had pinched the snaps closed and they wouldn't free up. A guy pokes his head on my side and says to sit tight as they're hooking up a winch line to flip us over. Fawn had already unbelted and was on the roof as we were rolled back upright. She got the double whammy. I radioed to the team what had just transpired and we would need crack mechanic PatN at our location. Locals towed us off the track so we could assess the big picture. Lots of sheet metal damage, all windows broken, all fiberglass cracked, Vision X light bar wiped out, etc, etc, etc. But drivable if the engine would fire. I gave it a quick bump but it was already hydraulically locked up. While the locals assisted us until PatN arrived it just wouldn't start. With way too may hands on the motor and a lack of bilingual participation we towed it to the BFG pit only 3 miles down the course.

As PatN worked over the engine with other team members we cut metal and replaced the lights just in case. Hours ran on as he chased down every item that could have been keeping us from restarting. As strange as it may sound the last thing we did was to change the oil and the engine fired up. While it was running, it was obviously not right. PatN jumped in shotgun and we got to checkpoint 1 and then on to Checker Pit 1 at RM 105. Along the way we discussed the situation. Way down on time early in the race, lack of full horsepower with a difficult trail still ahead, we're not racing for season points and a limited number of chase vehicles, I chose to call it a day. There was no need to limp along and put the team or truck in a more precarious situation. Let's regroup and live to fight another day. We headed back to Ojos Negros before putting the Ranger on the trailer and stopping for dinner. We wanted to burn some time to allow an earlier truck accident on the highway to clear. The plan worked, as it was clear sailing into Ensenada and back to the hotel way to early.

Sunday's awards showed that our class had a great race. Steele was first, with Holmes only 5 minutes back and then Sierra 10 minutes behind him. Horner finished fourth, four hours later. No other vehicles finished out of the 10 starters. This is our first SCORE DNF since the 2005 Baja 1000. A role the team isn't used to or accepting of.

As the days have passed, many pictures and videos have surfaced on the Internet of the crash, leading us to speculate that we fell victim to a well-executed booby trap. However it was avoidable on my part with better driver concentration and patience. A tough lesson learned. We'll rebuild and repair the truck but it will take some time. Keep your eyes open there's no telling where or when the Flamingos will attack again.

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