Ensenada, Baja California – The Baja Peninsula is known for beautiful vistas, delicious seafood and it’s friendly industrious people. If you are a racer, it’s known for sand, rocks and silt. At the 46th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 Roger Norman and his crew came up with a new twist, vertical silt. By reversing the direction of the race course, sections that would normally be taken downhill now had the added burden of gravity pulling against the cars. Two weeks before the race everything was fine. After prerunning the course it was still fine, only it was fine dust. The silt was deep and the course was steep and narrow. On race day it caused mayhem everywhere.
“We had the leader in sight when we got to the first bottleneck,” said Mike Shaffer of Shaffer Motorsports, “There were several trucks piled up behind a Spec TT that had a broken front hub. There was a slight gap that the leader squeezed through and took off. As we moved up to take the same line one of the trucks backed up and then got stuck blocking the gap. With no way to get around, we had to wait it out until the course cleared ahead. The steep hills covered in deep silt were trapping Trophy Trucks with 39 inch tires and class ones with tons of ground clearance.”
The Transfer Case Express car was in for a long day. First time co-driver Matt Elmore was in and out of the car too many times to count; earning respect from Mike and the rest of the team. “Matt busted his tail climbing up and down those hills,” says Mike, “Our Honda power plant with parts from K-Tuned Products and tuned by Hondata makes plenty of power but it needs air to run. After hours in the silt, the filter was loaded up killing its power. To get up the hills I had to slip the clutch too many times, it got overheated. It was a good thing that Matt was so willing to climb out and help navigate from outside the car; I’m not sure we would have made some of those climbs with both of us inside.” They got a helpful push up one of the hills from a truck but it climbed over the rear bumper smashing the valve cover. In true racer fashion they duct taped it together and it held to the finish.
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They continued to fight through the mountains until reaching their pit at mile 260. The filter box had 3 pounds of silt in it. The worst was over but John Bowers and John Cantrell who were now in the car had a huge challenge waiting them ahead. The cool ocean temperatures were on the other side of the mountains; they had to race in temperatures that reached 108 degrees on the dry lake beds. With just 20 miles to go they slid off the course and got high centered. They got back on course and finished a long day with a 10th place finish.
In order to accomplish a race like the Baja 500 takes a lot of support. In addition to the crew, Transfer Case Express, Ruffstuff Specialties, PSC Motorsports, Powertank, BozTec, Cytech Communications, Instone Inc. and Shaffer’s Offroad the team Randal Morrison, who handles communications and logistics played a huge part in the team’s success. They completed the course without a single flat tire thanks to BFGoodrich Tires. The race exposed some areas that could use modification. The Shaffer Motorsports team will redesign the filter intake system to add an additional filter and upgrade the clutch to a dual disc configuration before they line up to race again.
Photography By Bink Designs, HighRev Photography