2021 San Felipe 250 Recap
Updated: Feb 22
Baja is a beast.
I’ve heard this phrase (or at least a form of it) millions of times in my life, but man, those words couldn’t be more true! I would’ve never thought that Baja would be this tough. I thought I would’ve at least caught a break at my first Baja race, but I guess not.
So there we were, RM 136 waiting for my dad and Kenny to pull in and it was a sight to see. No hood and no passenger door (which seemed to be a common occurrence). I hopped in with my little booster seat, strapped up, and headed out. Everything seemed to be going EERILY smooth. I was settled, fast, and not even a tiny bit nervous (and if you know me, you know that I’m ALWAYS nervous).
At RM 165 ish, less than 30 miles in, I panic braked and buried the truck. We were in one of the sandiest and softest parts of the course... It was not the best place to panic brake if you ask me! After digging out the truck three times over a span of an hour and a half, we finally made it out. I let Kenny drive the next 20 miles of the course just to get us through the next section and to *hopefully* not get us buried again while I recovered from hours of digging in 100 degree heat.
At this point, our pit crew hadn’t had communication with us in almost two hours. They didn’t know if we were dead or just taking a pee break. Finally, 15 miles before our next pit, we got broken communication with them. We were okay, but our serpentine belt was flying off in chunks and we still had a ways to go to get to them. If we stopped to fix it though, we risked getting stuck again, so we just kept trucking. We made it RM 190 where our next pit was. They changed the belt, I switched back into the driver seat, and we took off again.
About two miles after that pit, our alternator wasn’t charging and was down to about 11 volts. We made our way back to the previous pit, grabbed a jumper box and were on our way again. As you can tell, because of how the day had already went, we didn’t make it very far from race mile 190 before we had another problem...
At RM 204 ish we lost the serpentine belt again. In the process of losing it, I hit a tree and a cactus because of the sudden loss of power steering. We found out our spare belt had been ripped off so we tried to fit the warped, shredded, and shrunken belt back on, cactus was literally EVERYWHERE.
With no luck fixing it and another two hours of fighting this dang truck, we decided to take off without the belt being off. I know that sounds crazy, it here's how we accomplished that... I would drive as fast as possible with no power steering until the motor got to around 250-260 degrees, shut the motor off and let the truck coast until the motor cooled back down to about 215 degrees.
We did this for almost 20 miles until we met up with our next pit truck where our crew proceeded to put another serpentine belt on and sent us off.
To no surprise (because nothing was a surprise at this point), it threw the belt off again a mile later. We gussied her up and took off again... LIMP MODE. We put in more coolant and then our next challenge was driving into the dark.
I had never raced in the dark before. Just ask my friends, you don’t even want to ride on the highway with me in the dark! Although, after about 5 minutes, I figured out that the trees sometime look like rocks and rocks sometimes are bushes and then other times the rocks are actually just rocks (or are they?).
At this point the only thing that mattered to me was that we were making forward momentum. We were solid for another 15 or so miles when we came up on a hard 90 right. I was turning the wheel right (as you do when you drive a vehicle of any kind) and the truck was going so far right that I had to turn the the left for it to make the 90 right... wait... that doesn’t seem quite right. In the process of the truck pulling hard right, it drastically slowed us down in another one of the sandiest and softest corners on the track therefore causing us to get stuck... again.
I ended up running a mile to the nearest access road in full gear to find help. With the help of Baja Pits guys and some spectators, we were back on the road after about a 30 minutes setback. Once we took off, the truck was still pulling to the right like crazy! About 30 seconds later, Kenny and I hear a THUD THUNK CLUNK. Flat? Nope. Oh boy, what could it be this time?
Well we kept driving because our next pit were less than two miles away. Or so we thought. (Pro tip: finding your chase truck at RM 242 will be hard when they’re already at the finish line.)
At this point, Kenny took it into his own hands. We pulled off and stopped (or at least tried to, but there were no brakes). That was our problem. The caliper was just chilling and clanging around in the wheel every time it spun. It was the reason the truck was pulling the right too. One of my main goals this race was to stay off the brakes unless completely necessary, because of this, I wasn’t aware that I had no brakes for almost 10 miles.
After turning off the front brake lines, we took off for the finish with only the turning brake as our way of braking. This definitely got in my head. Before losing front brakes, I was running a great pace but even after running the last 10 miles with no brakes and no problems, I still felt like I needed that safety blanket.
I gradually gained my confidence back and from RM 245 to the finish I had no problems (expect for the brake thing of course). It was our longest stretch on my half of the race without a single issue.
I pulled up onto ramp at finish line with thorns in my back, some cactus barbs still in my legs, exhausted, and dehydrated, but still wanting to do it all over again.
The San Felipe 250 was the most challenging but most fun race that I have ever been a part of. I loved every second of it even through all the adversity and I can proudly say that I am addicted to Baja for life.