Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Rally [Print without images]

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Baja Extra


For the sake of talking a little more about Baja, Rhys Millen, and because I just happened to run across some words that I never posted. Here are two views of Baja from Matthew Johnson and Kenny Bartram.

MJ:
I checked out that press about GreaseCar doing the Baja 1000 in a car running on veggy oil. Looks pretty sweet to me, I really like to see people taking the chances and building race cars using alternative fuels. I think rally will be a good platform for experimenting with alt fuels eventually as our media coverage increases. In rally we need the grunt and torque coming out of corners with a flexible power range, this could work there for sure.

I'd love to do Baja one day, and I've been looking at it and Dakar for a few years wondering when I might find an opportunity to make it happen. I went to Baja in 2006 and that place is a trip! It's a different world down there with different rules and people. I'd say part of the draw of Baja is the unpredictability, at times it probably feels like your life is on the line getting out of certain areas and making the next service if you were a competitor in the middle of the night. I don't have a lot of experience desert driving, it looks like those guys make their own roads half the time. In rally we have to manage equipment and understand what the car can take and what's going to cause damage but we stay on a groomed surface most of the time. I think with a little seat time and understanding the capabilities of an off road truck a rally driver would get up to speed fairly quickly. Hopefully I'll get the chance to have a go one of these days! You should check in with Cowboy Kenny and TP, they both destroyed cars there in 06 while I was down. Tanner was there in 06 as well but I don't think he was able to drive when the truck broke before it got to him.

Kenny:
Baja compared to rally is like comparing PB&J and Ramen Noodles (because apples and oranges are too close together). First off, the vehicles are so completely different from each other, the Baja trucks don't handle like anything else I've ever driven. With 20 some odd inches of travel, you can pretty much aim for the biggest rock you see, pin it, and not even feel it. Rally cars are very durable, but you also only have a few inches of very stiff travel suspension, so the feel of the ride is 180 degrees opposite.

Baja the truck doesn't slide a whole lot, it does, but not nearly as much as rally. So even though you're doing 100mph through a turn, you feel the body roll of the truck, but the tires stay in grip, where as rally you don't feel any body roll, but the tires are constantly sliding just at that threshold of grip/no grip.

The notes in Baja are like when your codriver gets lost in rally. They have tulips in Baja, but they get wet after the first water crossing about .01 miles in, so they're no good. Then you're going soley off a GPS. Which is very similar to a Tomtom style, there's a squigly line and you try to follow that line, while being in the desert with almost no visual markings. Except the cliffs, which after dark are very hard to see.

Rallies, you don't get to sleep much, but you do at least get breaks here and there. At Baja I got good sleep for about 8 hours, then our team was 12 hours late getting to the point where I was to take over. Once I got in the vehicle, it was over 24 hours before we crashed and then another 6 hours or so before finding a safe enough place to sleep. The adrenaline keeps you going pretty good, but 30 hours without sleep is tough no matter what.

I think Baja is way more dangerous. I never had any issues with the locals (digging traps, or harassing us), but I have heard horror stories about other people. Just the nature of driving 1000 miles versus 150, not having proper notes, not being even remotely close to any civilization or your service crew, and all the elements combined. Yeah, I think Baja is more dangerous.