Having successfully plunged through the first patch of silt at mile marker 160 we felt we were home free but even with our pink floyd lighting set up failed to see what would become the most treacherous obstacle of our race. Having seen Dust to Glory, the quintessential film on the Score Baja 1000, I was aware of the concept of the silt beds but nothing could of ever prepared us for what was soon to become a fly trap for car 1607 and at least six other cars whilst we were there. Our first encounter with silt was on the pre-run. We were warned that after the dry lake bed there would be "silt" and to stay to the left so even fully aware the results were quiet incredible. The first time we hit it Alex had his visor slightly open and the only way to imagine it is to imagine a football field 10 ft deep with chocolate milk powder. Poof we hit it and even with my visor shut it creeps up from the gap near your chin. Alex having his visor open suddenly started screaming "I'm blind I'm blind" like a woman. Suddenly visionless myself I almost panicked but had the reflex to slam the car into first gear and steer hard left. Alex's screaming, accompanied by flailing arms continued as our little pre-runner dug in for anything to grip onto until we made it to firmer ground. Horrah! Like escaping the jaws of a twisting crocodile we cheered in triumph as the car picked up speed and we left the choco' quicksand in our wake.
Now back on race day, with this in mind and 160 miles behind us, we approached what we thought would be a formality. POOF the front end of the car dug in. SLAM first gear engaged. SLAM hard left turn and throttle to the floor. Head to the slide. The engine screaming at 5000 revs as we moved at an electric wheelchairs pace through a field of lights emitting from other racers that were stuck. As the car regained traction we made the big mistake of celebrating. POOF the second field of silt was waiting for us. but this time our trusty first gear wasn't enough. I was tempted to keep throttling until we were fully submerged to our helmets but remembered that the dig out would just be more treacherous. The crocodile had captured his prey and there was no sense in fighting.
I just couldn't believe it. Everything was going so well. My brain took a long time to shift from immense disappointment to survival mode. Alex was out of the car as i tried again in vane to reach someone on the radio. He was off hunting for rocks as I sat, covered in silt and self hatred. This was the first time I had let the team down. I decided it would be best to leave the engine running so we would have light and also not wear the battery down.
It was then that I saw one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Alex Roy running toward the car with the rock raised at chest level in front of him. Suddenly the ground was no more and with the weight of the rock, alex dove head first into the next mound of silt. POOF like an ostrich buried to his shoulders. I watched him struggle to get out and when his face re-emerged I could tell he was not seeing the funny side of things.
I jumped out of the car and went to meet him. Then and there we had our most sincere moment as racers and probably the one memory that will outlive all the rest. I asked him to just stop and forget that we were stuck for a moment and just to take in our surrounding. We looked around at all the other lights beaming from other trapped racers. We looked at each other, totally covered in dust and we laughed. We hugged and we reminded ourselves that we were racing the fucking Baja 1000 whilst all our mates were at home. This was the moment we decided to take these pictures.
As our friends sat at home watching Gorden Ramsey spit out another crab cake in a filthy restaurant in Long Island or having that 3rd glass of Sancerre with their significant others we spent the next two hours trying to find anything to stuff beneath our back wheels. At some point a hummer with disco lights arrived on the scene like a flying saucer only to pull out everyone but us. We watch and waited our turn only for the Bee Gees to drive off leaving us close to tears and cursing. Perhaps they were overwhelmed, jealous or blinded by the illumination emitted by our lighting rig.
With every twig, rock and branch we could get our hands on under the tires we decided to give it a shot ourselves. I climbed back into the car when suddenly another racer approached and pretty much did exactly what we did. Forgot there was a section section, slammed it into 1st and turned hard left only to slam into our car at about 30 miles an hour before they themselves got stuck. You can image that the dust cloud that a car created means you can't see where the car was going and Alex being vulnerable outside the car waited to the last minute before diving to the ground once it was upon us. When the dust settled I was happy to be alive and the car that struck us was now also stuck.
Alex approached the car and brokered a fair and simple deal. We help dig them out and they would then pull us out with their more powerful 4 wheel drive. The old man behind the wheel offered us his thirty something copilot and two shovels- himself remaining in the car. We dug like fools until he made a successful attempt at freedom and pulled his car over on firmer ground. I handed Alex one end of our tow line as I fixed my end to the front of our car. He ran off into the night and came back with bad news. "he doesn't want to pull us out". I couldn't believe it and had to hear it myself. The old bastard behind the wheel refused to help us fearing he would get stuck again and was pressuring his co-pilot to jump in for their escape. And here is where we met one of the Gentleman of the BAJA. His younger co-pilot refused and insisted they give us a tug as agreed. We left them to fight as begging, at this point, felt very wrong. If they were gonna abandon us then we would repay the hospitality at the finish line with an ungentlemanly punch to the throat. I had already made note of the car's race number 140*.
Finally the reverse lights came on and the car backed up and without to much ado yanked us out.
NOTE: Being pulled out in this sort of racing is very different to other types of tow outs. In Baja racing the object is to leave a lot of slack in the tow line and snap it. I presume this is to get enough momentum going so the front car doesn't car stuck again also. So as a precaution strap in and have your helmet back on when attempting this maneuver.
We didn't stop once back on firmer ground and just got back to racing whilst fiddling with our helmets and harnesses. To our delight we pulled up on car 140* a few hundred yards later just as they were bogging down again in more silt. We screamed in joy as their car came to a complete stop and hoped that the old rat spent the rest of the night shoveling.