The Factory Racing traveled to Ensenada Mexico to compete in the granddaddy of all the off-road races the Baja 1000 on November 19-22, 2009. This year’s course was a grueling 672.85-mile course traveling from Ensenada down the Baja peninsula through San Felipe and back up to Ensenada. Each team was given 30 hours to complete the course; the factory racing led by Dan Chamlee only needed 22:01:16 to complete the race with a 30.55 mph average speed.
Thursday, November 19th was spent at the usual festivities in downtown Ensenada where the race vehicles need to be inspected to pass technical requirements. Thousands of fans and vendors line the streets as the trucks pass through them as they wait for their turn for inspection. The fans hope to receive stickers or autographs from the teams.
After technical inspection was completed the team headed out to pre-run the first 30 miles of the course, a section that is only available to pre-run the day before the race. This also gave the team a final check to see if the truck was running properly. The team did find a problem with the sway bar. Back at camp they welded a piece on the sway bar and hoped it would hold together.
The victory didn’t come without difficulties and complications. In the first few miles the truck began to lose voltage indicating a problem with the alternator. At race mile 30 they met up with a chase team to find a wire coming unplugged from the alternator, fortunately a quick fix and not requiring a replacement. The first scheduled pit stop was at race mile 88. Laurie, crew chief, had ordered fuel based on beginning the race with a full tank of gas however, due to some confusion the truck didn’t start the race with a full tank of gas. Dan radioed to the team that he was afraid he wasn’t going to have enough fuel to make it to the pit, fortunately he did however they only filled him with the amount ordered which was going to leave him short for the next pit. The chase team including Laurie, Ryan Gomez and Amy Tate headed to the next pit to see if they could get some fuel and headed out to intercept them on the course. Which turned out to be a good decision they intercepted the race truck a mile from the pit where the race truck was sputtering.
At this point Dan had a list of things that needed to be repaired at the pit. However, the one chase group was still coming from the road crossing through heavy traffic. Chase 2 including Thomas Chamlee, David Owen, Bill Chamlee and Jose Garcia was stuck waiting for fuel at a very long line at a gas station and hadn’t arrived at the pit yet. So Dan arrived at the pit to find no help and had to get out to begin the repairs himself until everyone else arrived. The sway bar broke in spite of the attempt to repair it the night before; it was taken off making the truck lean and less stable. He had no brakes, they found that when the sway bar broke it snapped a brake line, which was capped off, and the brakes bled. The shocks where too low so an adjustment was made to them. The truck was also fueled and sent back on the road, losing one position back to second.
The next 200 miles was the section that the truck should easily put some time on its competitors. This truck was built to handle the sandy “whoops” of San Felipe and it performed beautifully during this section and he gained that position back and an additional 50-mile lead.
The next section through the famous Mike’s Sky Ranch was slow and steady with only a stop to push someone’s truck out of the course so they could continue on. The section along the beach near Irinida was fast and uneventful despite the sway bar issue, furthering the lead to about 150 miles.
Just as the team was starting to taste a victory at race mile 635 Dan caught a ledge on the road and the truck tipped over on its side. It was on the edge of a 30-foot cliff, a scary experience for driver and co-driver. Fortunately Chase 2 was only a half-mile away and quickly there to help. The race truck is equipped with a winch that was fastened to the chase truck and safely tipped back over. Fortunately no one was injured and the truck sustained no damage except replaceable body panels.
Now with only 2 miles to the finish a victory in sight, all they had to do is make it to the finish line, Dan made a wrong turn and found he was off the course. He decided to go over a small berm to get back on course and found a large ditch on the other side. The truck again found it’s self on its side. This time Dan was able to continue down the ditch driving on its side to the end of the ditch and turned the truck back on it’s wheels. This time it broke the spindle on the front wheel. He was able to finish with the front wheel wobbling like a broken shopping cart wheel, getting the team to the finish and the victory. Second Place was Jose Gonzalez of Mexicali with a time of 27:15:45. There were 9 starters in Class 7 and 2 finishers. There were a total of 328 competitors and 185 finishers only 56% were able to beat the course and finish in the allotted time.
Dan Chamlee drove the entire race, his co-drivers were Tiffany Thomas from Hawaii, Amy Tate of Goleta, David Owens of Santa Barbara and Ryan Gomez from Oxnard. Support was given by Laurie Chamlee, Thomas Chamlee, Bill Chamlee, and Jose Garcia of Riverside.