The only American team competing in the tire-shredding 2020 Dakar Rally is sporting a Toyota Hilux clad in baseball’s iconic “Dodger Blue.” This makes sense, as the truck is being driven by none other than Los Angeles Dodgers owner, Bobby Patton. Appropriately named “Fastball Racing,” this team has now completed a third of the 4,000 plus miles rally through Saudi Arabia with no GPS, no pre-running, and zero driver changes.
Much like baseball, the Dakar Rally is just as much about strategy as it is swinging for the fences, and Bobby Patton is no stranger to knowing when to hit hard and when to bunt. These disciplines have led both Patton and his teammate, Robbie Pierce, to advance past the first four stages of the 2020 Dakar Rally, and further into the fifth stage. All told, there are twelve-stages in the rally, and with competitors like Formula One champ Fernando Alonso and three-time 24 Hour of LeMan winner Romain Dumas both out early on with mechanical issues, things were looking good for the Fastball Racing underdogs.
Although Fastball Racing had two tire punctures in the rocky first leg from Jeddah to Al-Wajh, it managed to complete the 319-kilometer stage, leaving navigator Robbie Pierce shaking his head in wonderment. “I have a new appreciation for professional navigators like Kellon Walch,” Pierce said, “They are the unsung heroes of this event.”
The second stage from Al-Wajh to Neom was loaded with technical challenges, as the team made its way around the coast of the Red Sea. Unfortunately, a broken rear A-arm required the installation of a new suspension component from the team’s Overdrive T4 support truck. Disaster struck again, when the crew missed a waypoint toward the end of the stage, pushing them back to 72nd place.
Up next was stage three, where the team was forced to climb over 4,000 feet in elevation at the border with Jordan. After mounting the highest altitude of the 2020 Dakar Rally, Fastball Racing had this to say via social media:
“We can’t thank the crew @overdrive_racing enough for their long days & nights to get us to the finish line every day. Stage 3 delivered beautiful windy & sandy canyons, we got stuck once costing us nearly an hour, and had one left rear tire puncture putting us 2.5 hours off the leader and 58th out [of] 68 still running.”
Fastball Racing has since completed stage four and is currently pushing deeper into stage five, with recent social media uploads showing tires being replaced, as the formidable Saudi Arabian desert continues to punish man and machine alike. Here’s to hoping Fastball Racing keeps swinging because we’re definitely rooting for the home team!