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2006 Baja 1000 Coup de Grace

Monday, December 25, 2006
Darin Hecker passes under the Red Bull bridge aboard the Precision Concepts Honda XR650R outside of Ensenada shortly after he started the 2006 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.
Darin Hecker passes under the Red Bull bridge aboard the Precision Concepts Honda XR650R outside of Ensenada shortly after he started the 2006 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.
In '05 we had exactly zero riders with Baja motorcycle racing experience on their resume, and by the time we crossed the finish line in 146th place, that fact had made itself painfully obvious. Still, we managed to finish, which was a victory in itself, but we knew we could do better.

The 39th running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 began with the same optimism as it did in 2005, only this time our Honda XR650R-mounted team had a bit more experience and was significantly better prepared for what we were about to get into.

On that note, we'll pick up the story early in the morning of Nov 16, the beginning of our second shot at the Baja 1000. This is the story of the Team Hecker Racing/Precision Concepts/MotorcycleUSA.com/Tecate/Honda team 316x made up of five riders with one common bond: A love of Baja.

5:30 a.m. - Day 1

As with the 431 other people scheduled to start the race, our Rider of Record, Darin Hecker, was anxious to be at the starting line before 6:30 a.m., so he had us up an hour early to go over the plan and our supply-packing job one final time. He was soon geared-up and heading to Ensenada through the morning fog. SCORE officials were the only ones there when he showed up. A half hour later the street was packed with the remaining riders, teams and media types: The race was on.

6:30 a.m. - Day 1

The pro riders of Class 22 were the first off the line. The majority of everyone's attention was fixed upon the Precision Concepts Honda CRF450X with the 1x plate piloted by Mike Childress. Would he and his team of Quinn Cody and Steve Hengeveld, who was attempting to extend his own streak to five, be able to dethrone Johnny Campbell and thwart his attempt to win an unprecedented 10th straight Baja 1000?

Not if Johnny's new teammate Robby Bell, who started for the team on his 6x Precision Concepts Honda CRF450X, had anything to say about it. Certainly Bell was feeling some pressure to do well with a record of that magnitude on the line. A rider starting in this first wave who didn't quite get the attention she deserved was Anna Cody. This fast female was attempting to become the first woman to ever solo the event as part of her effort to raise breast cancer awareness with her tribute ride in the name of her fallen friend Lillie Sweetland. She would be the first of 37 riders trying to do tackle Baja solo.
39th Baja 1000 Map
The 2006 Baja 1000 stretched all the way down the Baja peninsula, starting in Ensenada and ending in La Paz.

Hecker was the 39th bike off the starting line behind our friends, teammates and defending class champions aboard the 301x bike. They were six places ahead of us with their dream team consisting of Gerardo Rojas, Jorge Hernandez, Pancho Septien, and Italian Enduro ace Mauricio who would start the race and set the tone.

As the race developed outside of Ensenada, the chase-vehicle voyage was also underway. Hecker's long-time girlfriend Robyn, and myself, were in command of his diesel-powered Dodge Ram 4x4 packed with tools, riding gear, food and our minuscule mascot, 'Mayhem' the Chihuahua. Our first mission was to retrieve Hecker after he completed the 100-mile stint and handed the bike off to rider number two, Carlos Mix, at Valle de Trinidad.

8:00 a.m. - Day 1

Out on the course, Darin battled his way through more than half of the Class 30 field, overtaking a handful of Class 22 riders for good measure. This was the start we were hoping for after pre-running this section a half-dozen times in the last 30 days. He had unofficially dispatched more than a dozen riders by our count in the first 100-mile stretch. This put the rest of the 316x riders in a great position heading into the heart of the race. The less dust the better.

9:00 a.m. - Day 1

Here s Darin Hecker  first rider for 316x as he anxiously awaits his turn to start the 2006 SCORE Baja 1000
Hecker put in a solid start and had our Baja effort running in second at the first rider exchange.
We waited anxiously, along with a dozen other support teams, to see which of the riders would first show up at our remote pick-up point. I suggested wagering on it which sparked some entertaining conversation but didn't result in any serious takers. After hours of anticipation the first rider finally appeared. It was a good thing we didn't put any pesos on it because it wasn't Darin. Covered in dust and grime, the 2x rider, Damon Cardon, who also was the first bike off the line, reported a vicious booby trap had collected him, Robby Bell on 6x, as well as the 4x machine, much to the dismay of the daughter of the 4x rider and his teammates we had nearly wagered with moments ago.

"I hit a booby trap around mile marker 40 or 42 something," explained Bell after the race. "It was just like a 2-foot-tall curb or square or something that some guys built. I was behind 2x still, and he hit it and went down and then I was in his dust and I had no chance. I hit it. I cartwheeled and broke my chest protector off and lost my fanny pack. But the bike was totally straight. At first I was a little dingy and I started going backwards on the course. Then I saw Mikey coming so I got straightened out."

In a surprise turn of events, Hecker was the next rider to show up shortly thereafter. He had obviously put in a strong effort to be so close to the rider who first started the race.

10:15 a.m. - Day 1

We were heading south on Highway 1 before Hecker even got out of his gear. The butterflies in my stomach were more like biplanes at this point because my over-zealous co-pilot was jacked-up on adrenalin and rambling on about how he barely survived the heinous booby trap and how dusty and gnarly it all was. It was starting to get in my head. In a section notorious for local intervention, a well thought-out ambush he described as a telephone pole strategically placed across the narrow race course covered meticulously with brush and branches to entice unsuspecting riders to blast through it. On the other side was a 10-foot wide trench meant to collect anyone lucky enough to make it past the first part of the gauntlet unscathed. A few made it, Hecker included, but many didn't. I was thinking to myself, 'Great, can't wait to see what's waiting for us in the truly lawless lower half of the course.' 

10:40 a.m. - Day 1


Trophy trucks had been unleashed back at Ensenada and within an hour were wreaking havoc on everyone in their path.

Baja is a lot like a dangerous reality show. SCORE's "the Weatherman" provided narration from his vantage point in an airplane 30,000 feet overhead. All the competitors had radios tuned to him for the all-important updates. We were all hoping we would not hear our number announced for fear of what type of crisis we might be caught up in. No news is good news here.

It took a few hours to get to our second objective, making slow progress while driving through the myriad of villages full of children probing us for stickers at every turn, dawdling jalopies and sight-seeing support drivers. We showed up later than anticipated at the second rider-swap near El Crucero. Keeping up with the race bike was imperative, as we were carrying the spare bike, and we were already a few minutes behind.

2:00 p.m. - Day 1

2006 - 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
American Honda's Mike Childress charged to an early lead on the Precision Concepts Honda CRF450X.
Time was going by so slowly for us in the truck, but out there on the course it was moving at a perilous pace. Our rider Mix had managed to keep us in the top half of Class 30 before handing off to Alberto Ruiz, a.k.a. 'Catchetone.' This was his first Baja 1000, and he was making his way down the technical eastern edge of Baja below Bahia de Los Angeles.

Our A-Team 300x, with Pitufo now at the controls, was battling for first place in Class 30 along with the Ron Wilson 307x machine. Both teams were also in the top half dozen overall. The first bikes cleared Co Co's Corner by 3:00 p.m. and Catchetone was about an hour behind them.

Behind us all, Travis Pastrana, who was trying his luck in a car this time around, had passed Check 2; Robby Gordon has his Red Bull Trophy Truck past Check 5 at RM377 around 5:30 p.m., averaging more than 70 mph. They are a couple hundred miles behind us and are closing in fast. Ruiz was scheduled to be arriving soon at the Vizcaino Highway crossing after 160 miles of hell between the Bahia de Los Angeles and Vizcaino.

6:00 p.m. - Day 1 (It's dark now.)

We had just made it past an endless stream of slow-moving traffic, and the orange and white lights from thousands of vehicles at the Vizcaino highway crossing lit up the black Baja skyline. Spectators lined the highway for miles, with the support vehicles and their signage and lights along the road after the crossing. Once we failed to see anyone we recognized for a second time, we agreed that we should head out because I needed to get into the next rider-swap position within the next three hours. About a second after dropping the hammer we heard someone screaming at us to stop. One of those unscheduled fiascos we were hoping not to experience was fully underway.

Ruiz had crashed on the right side in the rocks and had punctured the water hose. We drove the truck down the steep, silt-lined highway shoulder and started sourcing parts off our spare XR in the pickup bed. Our team replaced the hose and filled the radiator in a matter of minutes, and without further adieu the bike was back on track and heading south for a 40-mile highway stint at 60 mph or less - exceeding the limit would result in a 15-minute penalty per infraction. Our Garmin GPS from Precision Concepts ensured we would not lose any time here.

6:15 p.m. - Day 1

Unfortunately, the bike had sat idle while we were making our way through traffic and our other riders searched in vain for a spare hose, losing about an hour of time. This would turn out to be the least of our worries. Hecker was in a hurry to get back on track, so after he tried unsuccessfully to drive up the steep bank onto the highway, he put the truck into 4WD and gunned it. What we heard at that moment was very, very bad. We hopped out with flashlights only to find that the front driveshaft bolts had sheared off and the loose shaft had smashed a gaping hole in the transfer case which was spewing its remaining drops of fluid onto the ground. This was a big problem. Darin went into full meltdown and was ready to throw in the towel. After a brief rant we removed the damaged driveline and whipped-up a shabby patch of the hole and were back underway within an hour, but the bike was well ahead of us now.

7:15 p.m. - Day 1
2006 - 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
Get the hell out of his way! Red Bull's Robby Gordon is flying as he makes his way out of Ensenada and onto the course. The 2006 SCORE Tecate Baja 1000 is about to get interesting.

Weatherman reports 1x has passed Check 7 and is an hour ahead of the problem-plagued 6x team. Team Rojas and team Wilson are in an epic battle for the Class 30 win behind the Precision Concepts Honda super-team's but well ahead of us at this point. Out on the course Johnny Campbell's 6x teammate and Rider 2, Kendall Norman, has suffered a broken arm, so Robby Bell is on the bike at night in a section he has never seen before while Norman is headed back to the U.S. The best riders in the world aren't immune to the Baja effect. Campbell's record looks to be in jeopardy at this point.

"I had to get back on the bike and ride from Vizcaino all the way to race mile 724," reported Bell. "I had no idea where I was going, and it was at night so it was kind of sketchy at times, and I had to ask for directions a couple of times. But I got it back to Johnny in one piece. I wanted to keep the streak going for Johnny. The goals had to change, and I tried to make it a Honda 1-2 and finish the race to get the 1x plate."

Our fourth rider, Victor Villalobos, was making his way through a brutal, rocky, rutted and silt-infested 175-mile night section from San Ignacio to where I was scheduled to take the bike next after Check 7 at RM 724. It was going to take a miracle for us to get there on time after our driveline incident. Then traffic came to a standstill just outside the town of San Ignacio. In the middle of one of the most dangerous stretches of canyon on the highway, a semi-truck had flipped over and was blocking both lanes of traffic. I had been freaking out, worrying that as the only rider to have not yet ridden, I wouldn't even get an opportunity to ride at this point. Fortunately, one lane was re-opened, so traffic was being pushed through in groups of about 20-30 vehicles at a time. But there was no indication we were going to move anytime soon.

I decided I should get geared up to prepare for my stint, so I hopped in the back of the truck and started digging it out when the traffic started moving. I had just pulled all my stuff from my gear bag and taken my pants off so I wasn't getting back in the cab. Instead, I was forced to hang on to the bike while keeping loose gear from falling out as we rolled past the incident carnage. The chase truck behind us hit the high-beams and started heckling me for good measure. Anyone ever geared up in the back of a moving truck at night on a twisty highway of death? It's fun, really. To say we hauled ass after I got back in the truck would be a gross understatement. To paraphrase Charlie Daniels, Mario Andretti would have been proud at the way were moving when we passed that crowd. 

10:00 p.m. - Day 1

2006 - 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
Robby Bell had a bitter-sweet Baja experience. First he hit a booby trap and narrowly escaped with his life, then he had to sub for his injured teammate and ride a section he did not pre-run – at night. Plus, they came in second, so Campbell's streak was stopped at nine. At least he won the Class 25 title and will run the 1x plate for 2007
It turns out that we managed to beat Victor to the spot. He was having a bitch of a time. We got into position for the rider swap in front a Trophy team's lights to help illuminate our rear tire and air-filter changes. I was carrying the wheel over when Victor showed up in a shower of rocks and dust. Villalobos had made real good time through his long section, proving that he was indeed a night rider to be reckoned with, but he had one spill that damaged the front brake. Meanwhile I am standing there holding the spare wheel with half my gear on. My heart was racing and I ran around in circles like a deer in the headlights for a few moments until I came to my senses. I ran for the truck and frantically geared up while super pit crewman Darin got the bike in order. The lights needed to be secured by zip-ties because the mount was coming loose, and the broken brake lever was replaced. Once the bike was fired up I was headed off into the night for my first section, wide-eyed and furry tailed.

The lights were sweet, so I had no trouble seeing what was in front of me. But as soon as I pinned it the clutch started slipping, but I was able to get the bike rolling along just fine by easing on the gas and letting the bike build momentum slowly.

The first dry-river crossing came up on me suddenly, so I had to get the bike slowed quickly, but when I grabbed the front brake lever it just squished back to the grip! The brake master cylinder was an apparent victim of the earlier crashes. So instead of braking I rolled back on the gas and held on for the ride. Looking back on it, it was probably a good thing that I was forced to go through it that fast, as it alleviated any concern I had about surviving the rough stuff. When I hit the other side, half the zip ties broke and went flying off and the lights cocked to the left.

Last year I was stuck with basically a flashlight taped to my helmet for my midnight run so I wasn't gonna let that slow me down any. This section featured hillclimbs and lots of switchbacks through a canyon that normally was a small river. The surface was deep gravel and millions of large river rocks - not a great place to have a fading clutch. But I could tell I was making good time since I was forced to ride fast and smooth or suffer the consequences, and as I neared the area where I was scheduled to meet Ruiz and Hecker for the swap, I got the warm-fuzzies knowing that we were doing pretty damn good this time out.

Miles behind us, the #116 car piloted by Travis Pastrana was upside down and burning, so I guess things could have been worse. I was actually enjoying myself and thanking the lord for the bitchin Baja Designs HID headlights. Before I knew it I was being flagged down by Ruiz who, like me at the last swap, didn't have his gear on! I had showed up about 30-minutes sooner than they had anticipated so when I pulled up to the front of the truck, only Robyn and Mayhem were there.

"He's taking a dump," Robyn replied when I asked where Darin was. She said the look on my face was priceless. We were instantly surrounded by locals when a voice started barking orders from the darkness. "Turn off the gas and put the bike on the side," shouted Hecker from the weeds. "We gotta change the clutch right now!"

While I started on the clutch swap, Ruiz got geared up and Darin stumbled into view and went to work. Like a machine he extracted the searing hot clutch plates, replaced them, topped-off the oil and fired the bike up. In less than 15 minutes Ruiz was heading off into the night much to the delight of the crowd from Loreto that had been watching this entire episode unfold. As Catchtone wheelied off into the darkness the crowd was cheering us on, patting us on the back, shaking our hands and generally being the kind of fans you would like to run across out here.

Midnight - Day 1

Team 316x poses for the camera. From left to right: Victor Villalobos  Alberto Ruiz  Sal Fish  Darin Hecker  Carlos Mix and Ken Hutchison.
Team 316x poses for the camera. From left to right: Carlos Mix, Ken Hutchison, Alberto Ruiz, Victor Villalobos, and Darin Hecker. Baja threw some curves, but the 316x crew hung tough.
Ruiz and I split up this section because it was ridiculously rough, especially the second half, and we didn't want anyone getting tired in the final 300-mile push. Good thing, too, because this was uncharted territory - the Baja had never been here before. Ruiz was tackling a rocky section highlighted with a few dozen deep river crossings and more than enough silt to stop the toughest riders in their tracks. And the top Trophy trucks were going to catch him here, so dust was going to be a factor. Plus it's dark and the light reflects back at you off the dust creating a white-out effect so visibility is near zero when they pass you. I do not envy what he endured out there.

We made it to my second spot with time to spare, putting our entire team together in the same place for the first time since the day before the race. Carlos, Victor and I hang out at the Highway crossing awaiting Ruiz while Hecker leaves for Check 9 where he will wait for me to bring him the bike around sunrise. Just after 1:00 a.m. the Weatherman announces that the 1x bike had crossed the finish line. Campbell's streak is broken at nine and Hengeveld extends his to five.

"We didn't come here to get second, we came here to win, and that's what we did tonight," said Hengeveld. "I didn't have any problems. I just kept riding and I don't think they (his teammates) had any problems either. The new sections were really hard but that's what Baja is about. It's not supposed to be easy, it's supposed to be technical, and that's what we had here today. We all had our tough sections and it's just a really good, tough course." 

3:00 a.m. - Day 2

2006 - 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
Our pal Pitufo helped the Pinninsulares/Pitufo's Race Prep 300x machine of defending Class 30 champ Gerardo Rojas put on a valiant effort in the 2006 Baja 1000.
I had been sitting in my riding gear for more than an hour at RM855 outside of Insurgentes and I was getting weary. This gnarly section slowed everyone down and bikes were constantly rolling through. I was dozing off because I had been awake since 5:00 a.m. the previous morning, driven 1000 miles through the most hellacious highway on the planet, and starving because I had eaten exactly three pieces of sandwich meat, a couple granola bars and a muffin. I could hear Weatherman announce that the third- and fourth-place Trophy trucks were through Check 7 an hour ago, so I knew they were destined to catch me.

It was getting cold and the #97 Baldwin truck had already been by when the howling #83 Red Bull trophy truck ripped through the crowd, but it didn't even cause my adrenaline to fire-off. I was tired but focused. I needed to make good time and keep the trucks at bay so I was going over the section in my head and dreading the obstacles awaiting me, including the water crossing that flooded one of our bikes during pre-running because it was so deep.

When Ruiz showed up he was covered in dust and looking haggard. He was spent and happy to hand the bike off. Later he explained that when the Trophy trucks passed him he was in the silt so it was impossible to even see through the dust with the lights reflecting off it. I dealt with the same thing in '05 and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I climbed aboard and took off a few minutes behind the second Trophy - I could still see his dust but it was settling. Thousands of people lined the course in this area so there always seemed to be people cheering us on. It's a cool feeling when that many people are rooting for you.

Johnny Campbell and the 6x machine crossed the finish line around 3:30 a.m.

4:00 a.m. - Day 2

I had been on course for over an hour, survived the river crossing which had receded, thank god, but some unscrupulous locals were about to throw a strange twist into it for me. I am the first to admit I suck in the silt, so as I struggled through the umpteenth rutted out silt-bed I was going slow and barely keeping it upright when I felt a few things hit me on my right side. Something hit my helmet hard just as I looked to my right to see what the hell was going on and it rocked me pretty good. There were about a half-dozen teenagers along the course stoning me from about 10 feet away. They were yelling and screaming like lunatics and scooping up rocks (basically baseball sized) to get a few more shots in. It turns out they were doing this all night as other riders reported a similar experience. As if surviving the course isn't tough enough, we have to deal with the rock-chucking guerillas too? A second shower of rocks pelted me as I made my way out of range.

A while later I could see the horizon light up so I knew I had finally been caught by one of the notorious Trophy trucks. It took about 15 minutes for it to run me down on a decent graded road, and then I pulled to the side and let the monster pass. It took a few minutes for the dust to clear but the damage had been done. I kept moving, just a bit slower, while I wished for the dust to clear. The morning mist combined with the dust to make a film of mud that ate up the few tear offs I had left. This was the high-speed portion of my section, so it was imperative that I could see what I was about to hit at 100 mph.

'Nino' Rojas crosses the finish line on the Penninsulares/Pitufo's Race Prep 300x machine and claims first place in Class 30. They finish less than 15-minutes ahead of runner-up Ron Wilson, but he takes the Class 30 title for his effort.

5:00 a.m. - Day 2

The 316x bike is still running great and the morning light is beginning to erase the darkness. Meanwhile the Terrible Herbst buggy with Baja legend and one of the most dominant motorcycle racers of all time, Larry Roeseler, at the controls is closing in on me fast. Our bike should be able to top 100 mph, but the 800-horsepower buggy can top out a good 30-40 mph above that. I waited till he was close enough to hear then slowed and let him pass. Within minutes I couldn't see jack and my goggles were rendered useless. I had to go without eye protection behind him and, for a lack of a better way to put it, it sucked. The trick was to tuck in and tip my visor down, and squint my eyes so I could just see the road ahead in an attempt to see and keep the dust out of my eyes.

2006 - 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
Having survived the darkness of night, Hecker took the controls of the 316x again for the final push to the finish.
I kept the bike a few rpm short of floating the valves for a good forty minutes and was eating up the final miles as fast as humanly possible. Maybe this is how Hengeveld does it: Close you eyes, pin it and hope for the best. It worked this time. The sun was just peeking over the mountains as I got my first glimpse of the Check 9 highway crossing at RM943. Crowds of people had braved the long night just to cheer us all on as we passed them at triple digits in the final half-mile to the check.

6:00 a.m. (Sunrise) - Day 2

I handed the bike off to an anxious Hecker for the final 100-mile run to La Paz. The entire team was there and we were giddy as school girls about our overall position in the top half of Class 30. We had made great time, overcoming a number of obstacles, and we were all in one piece to this point. We were expecting to see Darin a couple hours later at the finish line. We headed straight into the sun for the drive to finish line in La Paz. Darin was going to have fun riding into the sun with the dust he was about to endure.

Baldwin brings the #83 truck across the finish line and wins the 4-wheel overall with a time one hour slower than the 1x bike. He was stuck behind the first overall quad, the #7a Temecula Motorsports entry of Danny Prather as they arrived at Red Bull arch in La Paz. Prather wins Class 25 and the title. 

8:30 a.m. - Day 2

2006 - 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
The Tecate was already flowing when Hecker brought the 316x across the finish, where we finished fifth in our class.
We had been at the finish for about a half hour as a couple more trucks and bikes came through. Where was Hecker? This section took us just over two hours during pre-running, and it was now going on three. We were all trying to justify what the hold-up was. Had he crashed? Had he been run-down? Had the bike busted? We were all buzzed and delirious at this point, so time was going by slowly as we waited.

9:15 a.m. - Day 2

We had already polished off our first six-pack of Tecate and the second was getting warm when Hecker showed up. It was a glorious sight to behold the 316x bike perched atop the Red Bull finish-line ramp with Darin pumping his fist. Ultimately the Team Hecker Racing/Precision Concepts/MotorcycleUSA.com/Tecate team was the 22nd bike and 57th vehicle overall out of a record 234 finishers. We were 5th in Class 30, the championship leader heading into this race, Brian Pinard, on 301x finished just over an hour ahead of us. Considering two of the first five bikes to finish came out of our class, we feel pretty good about this one. It took us 25 hours with an average speed just over 41 mph. But what happened at the end?

Hecker told us the final 100 miles had been transformed into a miserable nightmare. It started with the blazing sun searing his retinas as the course took him directly at it as it peeked over the horizon and ending in an unexpectedly dangerous and dusty dash down the coast. He got the worst stuff at the end. Apparently Baja's organizer, Sal Fish, likes to wear you down, and then at the very end when you are clinging to hope by a fragile thread, turn up the heat and watch you squirm. (But he's a really nice guy, too, I swear.) What had been hard-packed dirt along the coastal cliffs during pre-running had been churned into a 3-foot-deep, rut-infested silt belt that stretched a good 10-miles. Thank god I didn't have to contend with that or I would still be there.

Then there was the last 10 miles that was like a scene from Apocalypse Now.

"When I got close to the dump all I could smell was burning garbage," recalls Hecker. "It looked like the whole thing had been lit on fire and when I rode past the smoldering mounds of trash, people who had obviously been there for a long time would pop up and start yelling and screaming. The helicopter was flying low overhead too and the smoke was curling in the rotor wake. I felt like I had rode onto a battlefield in Vietnam. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

10:30 a.m. - Day 2

Solo rider Anna Cody just passed Check 8 at RM855. She's still moving forward but has 300 miles to go. Meanwhile, our entire team, all 10 riders form both 300x and 316x are on the verge of a two day bender.
Team 316x poses with Sal Fish at the finish line of the 2006 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. From left to right: Victor Villalobos  Alberto Ruiz  Sal Fish  Darin Hecker  Carlos Mix and Ken Hutchison.
Team 316x poses with Sal Fish at the finish line of the 2006 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. From left to right: Victor Villalobos, Alberto Ruiz, Sal Fish, Darin Hecker, Carlos Mix and Ken Hutchison.

What happened to us during the next 36 hours is strictly on a need-to-know basis and, frankly, you don't need to know. But I will tell you this much. The second half of our Ensenada-based team, with defending class champion Gerardo Rojas as the Rider of Record, won Class 30, was the fourth bike to finish and was the 12th overall team. They were also the first Mexican team to take the checkered flag, so they earned the coveted Ganador de Mexico Trophy, awarded by the Governor to the top Mexican finisher. As a result of our successful efforts, we partied - and we partied hard. The 2-foot tall crystal Ganador cup doubled as our cauldron for what seemed like an unlimited supply of vodka and Red Bull.

6:00 p.m. - Day 2

Anna Cody became the first female to ever solo and finish the Baja 1000. She is Ironwoman. She etches her name once again in the Baja history books. Cody and Lillie Sweetland were the first all-female team to finish the Baja 1000 back in 1990. After Sweetland succumbed to cancer in 2001, Cody didn't have it in her heart to ride with another teammate again and that was the impetus behind her solo run. I suspect she probably helped Cody pull this one off too.

"I have been through a battle," said a weary Cody. "I made it. I've been riding since 6:30 yesterday morning. I stopped about 20 minutes at a pit to refuel and hydrate and go on. It was tough - the toughest SCORE race I've ever done. It's such an awesome feeling. I just said a little prayer to my former teammate that we did it and I wish she could be here with me. I've always wanted to solo it to La Paz."

Check out Anna's site at www.codygirlracing.com

7:00 p.m. - Day 2

In photo galleries we believe in saving the best for first. Enjoy the Tecate girls.
With the grueling race over, there wasn't anything left to do but celebrate with the senoritas.
La Paz is in full swing and there's no turning back now. Team Rojas, team Hecker and the Vildosola trophy team are all tearing off a piece of Baja Sur and storing it in our long term memory. It's standing room only in the bars or the streets and there's 24 hours of celebration, with the awards ceremony tomorrow afternoon yet to go. Racers are still on course, many are stuck in the silt beds in that final 100-mile section. 200 of the original starters won't ever make it to the finish line. We did.

Noon - Day 3

As we drove out of town and I reflected back on the experience I can only describe as one of the most epic of my life, I must be honest and tell you that I shed a tear. Frankly, I didn't want to leave. Why can't we just stay here?

Better yet, when can we come back and do this again? 


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