1000 Race Report
For a race known year-in-and-year-out as the most grueling motorsports
event in the world, the 2003 Baja 1000 will be etched perhaps unfavorably
in the minds of the 272 car, truck and motorcycle entries as the toughest
Baja 1000 ever. One by one, most of the 119 entries that failed to
complete the 805-mile trek feel victim to some of the harshest terrain
known to Mexico, and others simply got stuck in quicksand-like silt
on the west coast of the Baja penninsula.
For Robby Gordon and his Red Bull Chevrolet trophy
truck, which was designed and engineered at Robby Gordon Off-Road
in Anaheim, Calif., the tough course was no problem for the two-time
Baja 1000 winner and his 5,000-pound beast of a truck.
Instead, it was one unthinkable mistake and one
unpredictable mechanical failure that added Gordon and his navigator
Greg Till to the list of 119 non-finishers.
After starting the race 10 minutes behind the
first truck in line, within two hours Gordon had passed all but
five of the 19 trophy trucks that started in front of him. After
working hard to pass truck after truck in a shroud of dust and debris,
Gordon approached race-mile 106 and radioed his team that he had
a flat left-rear tire after a rock had bent the wheel and ripped
a huge hole in the sidewall of the massive BFGoodrich off-road tire.
What started out as an incredible stroke of good
fortune with the truck loosing a tire at a point so close to his
team gradually turned into disaster when the crew was forced to
borrow a fellow competitor’s air gun. For the next 100 miles that
Gordon drove, the team thought it had saved the race, but instead,
as Gordon’s truck ran at full song along the coast of the Baja Peninsula,
the wheel that the team had changed came loose from the truck, breaking
several studs off the hub and bending the others, preventing Gordon
and Till from replacing the tire easily.
More than two hours later, after pounding the
bent studs off with a rock found in the desert and machining an
axle cap at a local pit, the truck pulled back on the course more
than two hours behind the leader.
"From the start we were passing trucks at
will, and when the tire went down we lost five positions on the
course," Gordon said. "I thought that was our biggest
problem until we lost the whole wheel. We’ve tried to make sense
out of how a wheel can come off, and the only thing we can imagine
is that the air gun that my guys borrowed to change the tire didn’t
have enough air pressure to put the lugs back on tight."
With more than half of the race still left to
be run Gordon still felt he had a chance to make up ground and run
down the leader. However, at 3 a.m., with more than 100 miles remaining
to the finish, valves in both rear shocks of the truck leaked all
of their air and subjected the truck to rear suspension damage if
he had continued.
"I know we had a truck that could win, and
I’m proud of the fact that our RCR Chevrolet engine ran well and
that we were competitive when we were on the course," Gordon
said. "Both of the problems that we had during the race were
easily avoidable, and we’ll learn from our mistakes and come back
next year and give it another run.
"I desperately want to win a third Baja
1000, and after that I’ll want to win a fourth. I know we built
a truck that was probably the most technologically advanced in the
desert, and even though we only had 70 miles on it before they dropped
the green flag, it performed great. We’ll run it a few more times
before next year’s race and we’ll make it as close to perfect as