The day had come for what some teams and drivers wait all year for – race day. The 2016 SCORE International Baja 1000 kicked off on November 18th running in a loop starting and ending in Ensenada, Baja California.
The course would take teams 866.6 miles through some of the roughest terrain and gnarliest obstacles in all of off-road racing. For Terrible Herbst Motorsports all the preparation, prerunning, and practice all came down to this one day.
For teams, the clock does not start until you cross the starting line. The staggered start gives everyone an even playing field no matter when you start. Position on the course does matter as dust from trailing a car can be a nightmare.
One vehicle leaves ever 60 seconds for Trophy Trucks, Class 1, and Trophy Truck Spec classes with a five-minute gap between these classes. All the other classes will start one vehicle every 30 seconds.
With the Herbst qualifying position, they would be leaving 6th and 7th off the line. With the drop of the green flag, an all out assault would begin. Each vehicle would have a maximum of 36 hours to complete the course hitting four physical checkpoints and countless virtual checkpoints.
It would not be an easy battle with drivers like Rob MacCachren, Robby Gordon, and Kyle LeDuc ahead of them, but they would push man and machine to their limits. Starting in the no. 91 Trophy Truck was driver Ryan Arciero and navigator John Tondro and in the no. 19 Trophy Truck was driver Brett Sourapas and navigator Beau Eckert.
The course would head down the Pacific Coast through some of the most technical terrains on this year’s course. The teams filed down the course staying in order through race mile 81 in Uruapan.
An interesting feature of racing in Baja is the ability select a pit location wherever teams wanted unlike races in Best in the Desert where they are in select locations. Teams can push to get track position with more strategy going into the game plan.
The Herbst trucks had little issues except for the no. 19 truck having GPS issues from the start. The no. 91 truck had a tire shred with a piece flying into Tondro’s lap about file miles from the team’s pit at Camalu Beach.
Pushing the vehicle and time they opted to wait until the pit to have the tire changed conserving time. At the same pit, the team added another GPS antenna in hope that it would fix the issue.
They would continue on down the coast before cutting back onto the highway to reenter the race course down the road. There is a speed restriction on the highway of 60 mph and a penalty of 15 seconds for every mile an hour over. Teams would have to decide whether the time penalty or track position was more valuable.
Coming back on the course and checkpoint two Tavo Vildosola speed up to try and pass Sourapas and the no. 19 truck. Sourapas held off Vildosola while they came door to door which resulted in Vildosola taking out the checkpoint.
The race cars are not the only ones racing on race day. The chase vehicles bouncing from position to position are in a race in themselves. The chase vehicle we were in was in a race to beat the no. 91 truck to every pit.
“I would rather be in the race car on race day,” Todd Grouch said while driving the chase truck. “In the chase truck there is way more going on and more that you have to worry about. In the race truck, you are just focused on driving.”
The terrain the driver’s race on is not only rough, but also holds some beauty to it. Whether it is down the coast or through the desert with massive cactus it is something to enjoy.
The no. 91 truck would continue to push forward and get to the point where it was the second vehicle on the course behind the no. 3 Riviera Racing truck drove by Todd LeDuc, Mark Post, and Ed Herbst. Coming into the third pit and the driver change the Riviera truck and the Terrible Herbst vehicle would come in only a minute a part.
The no. 3 Riviera Racing truck was having its own issues. “We had lost our front brakes it seemed like the balance bar had broken,” Kyle LeDuc explained. “We were having to diagnosis the problem on the fly while we were driving.”
While the drivers where switching in both trucks the no. 11 of Rob MacCachren would pass them on the highway. MacCachren’s truck was pitting down the highway where they would have Jason Voss jump in and finish the race.
For the no. 91 truck Troy Herbst would swap seats with Arciero. An issue with the seat belt would cost the team some time, but they headed out into the night in an attempt to catch MacCachren. The no. 19 truck at the same pit would be swapping both driver and navigator with Tim Herbst and Beau Morton jumping into the truck.
There can be mixed emotions exited the vehicle, but either way, you have to stick to the game plan. “I knew I had to stay on Rob’s (MacCachren) bumper,” Arciero said. “It was nearly impossible to pass in the dust so we just had to keep it close.”
The GPS was still having issues at this point of the race as it appeared that the unit had failed. “it was brutal with no GPS,” Sourapas explained after he exited the truck. “It was frustrating not being able to go as fast as I wanted because I did not know what was coming up.”
This was the last pit for Chase One and we headed back to the hotel to wait for the team’s arrival at the finish line. The team continued to battle with the no. 11 truck, but it just seemed to find a way to stretch its lead.
The Baja roads may not be as bad as the race course, but they are nothing like the States. Things where so bad that when we had arrived back at the hotel we released that we had cracked the oil pan in the truck. With no time to fix it, oil was added before heading to wait for the team’s arrival.
At a little after four o’clock in the morning the no. 91 truck crossed the finish line second behind the no. 11 of Rob MacCachren. The team would have to wait a couple days for SCORE to finalize the results taking into consideration any penalties.
“It feels good to be second across the line,” Troy Herbst said. “My hats off to MacCachren and Voss they pretty much dominated out there. The team put together on a heck of a truck for the race and we put up a great battle.
The no. 19 truck would cross the line around an hour later completing the race for Terrible Herbst. The team could be more proud of their trucks, it was the first Baja 1000 with the new trucks and they handled everything.
The final results would come out with the no. 91 truck placing third and the no. 19 truck placing 13th. It was a successful trip to Baja and it was time to head back to the shop and being prepping for the next race.
We would like to thank Terrible Herbst Motorsports for allowing us the opportunity to spend the time with the in Baja. Until the next race be sure to check out the gallery below!