Nov 29, 2015
Flying blind through silt beds!
Armin Schwarz and Steven Eugenio conclude an extremely tough Baja 1000 in seventh overall – Galindo Motorsports #1 Trophy Truck runs like clockwork under the most grueling conditions.
Ensenada (MEX). This year’s Baja 1000 will remain indelibly etched in the memory of every competitor: the conditions at the 48th running of the classic through the Mexican desert were some of the toughest and most difficult competitors have seen in years. Thick dust in the silt beds and tricky tracks threw the overall classification into chaos and saw many of the top pilots retire early. Armin Schwarz, Steven Eugenio and their Galindo Motorsports #1 Trophy Truck passed this test of endurance with flying colors: After 821 race miles they reached the finish line unscathed in seventh place. For Schwarz, this marked the first top ten result in the Trophy Truck at the Baja 1000, the traditional wrap-up round of the SCORE World Desert Championship season.
Over the first 285 miles along the Pacific coast, Schwarz and his navigator Bryan Lyttle battled their way through the field with the Trophy Truck. After starting from 21st place, they put in a spirited charge and were soon within striking distance of the leaders. “We knew that now we could fight for victory,” says Schwarz. “We swapped positions constantly, anyone who got a clear run pushed to the front. And we were amongst the ten fastest vehicles, and at times even in the lead.”
But once the route turned inland after 285 race miles and the first silt beds appeared, the Baja 1000 bared its notorious teeth. The first time Schwarz and Lyttle were held up was at the entrance to a wash, a dried-up riverbed. “The route led over a pass down into a valley and then over a so-called bottleneck into the wash,” outlines Schwarz. “The narrow bottleneck with an almost three-meter high edge was the only way into the riverbed. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem for a Trophy Truck, but the track was so deep after the pre-runs that Tavo Vildosola, who was running in second at this point, got stuck with his truck. He was almost like a cork in a bottle and blocked the entrance to the wash.”
There was no way through for the vehicles behind, including the Galindo Motorsports #1 Trophy Truck. So the competitors had to find other ways – with zero viz! “It was dark, dust hung thick in the air. It was so bad you could only just see the hood of your own vehicle,” said Schwarz. “Robbie Gordon tried to drive into the wash over an edge further to the right. But he realized too late that the edge was almost four meters high. He wanted to put his foot down to jump but the front of his vehicle got stuck in the sand at the bottom with the rear in the air.”
Still, the route he’d found looked promising, and so Schwarz and Lyttle decided to follow this path. “Bryan walked ahead in the headlights to try and find a spot to enter the wash. But we had bad luck too and landed right next to Robby in the sand. If I’d accelerated I would have landed right on top of his roof.”
Schwarz and Lyttle freed themselves from their unfortunate predicament, but then faced another 45 miles through the thick dust of the silt beds.”You can’t imagine how endless 45 miles can be – that’s 70 kilometers – when you can’t see a thing – not even your own engine hood. It was extreme. You’re driving blind and you don’t know whether you’re even on the right track. At times we encountered fog, and the moisture mixed with all the dust in the air stuck to your visor. There was no point wiping it away, because it just smeared everywhere. Steven came up against such passages, too. The silt beds this year were simply unbelievable. Almost everyone had to stop six or seven times because they simply couldn’t see a thing.” In addition, the tough track conditions took its toll on the top favorites: while holding a comfortable lead, Bryce Menzies, BJ Baldwin and Cameron Steele, among others, retired with broken steering or dropped far back.
But despite the grueling conditions, the Galindo Motorsports #1 Trophy Truck ran like clockwork. “We had no technical gremlins, no punctures, nothing! And that’s incredible when you think how tough the Baja 1000 is. You can’t imagine in your wildest dreams what the material has to withstand,” says Schwarz. ‘But all the technical components from our partners were perfect and stood up to these extreme conditions. The bearings from Schaeffler, the springs from Eibach, the shock absorbers from King, the lubricants from Liqui Moly, the filters from K&N, the exhaust system from Remus – they all endured the extreme sand and brutal tracks. What’s more, we ran the new 40-inch tires from BF Goodrich, which we tested under race conditions at the Baja 1000 as the development squad – and they performed perfectly, as well. We had no punctures and they gave us excellent traction.”
At the end of the day, Schwarz is pleased with his Baja 1000 mission: “A top ten result under such conditions is super! Of course we wanted to go for victory, and we had the speed for this, but the field is so competitive that you really notice every second you lose. The level is so high in the meantime that you virtually have to drive the entire 1,000 miles at qualifying speed. Of course it would be great if you could keep out of trouble and just avoid the dust – but that wouldn’t be the Baja. All in all, the time we lost was not too bad. We’re happy – seventh place is totally okay.”
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