The Factory Racing traveled to Baja from Nov 17-22 to compete in the 43rd Annual Baja 1000. This year’s race was a true peninsula run traveling from Ensenada to La Paz, 1061.69 miles of various types of terrain: mountains, deserts, silt, whoops, rocks, and ruts. The weather was pleasant with only night fog to deal with. It took Dan Chamlee only 28:10:19 to complete the race. With 292 starters leaving the Ensenada starting line Thursday morning, competitors from 37 states and 19 countries battled the rugged terrain in cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs in 33 Pro and 7 Sportsman classes. Massive crowds reaching nearly 250,000 lined the historic Baja peninsula to gain a glimpse of the competitors. Vehicles left the start line in 30-second intervals and all vehicles had 45 hours to become official finishers of the race. Dan Chamlee won this race in Class 7 for the fourth time in the last five years, as well as getting their fourth class wins of this year in their Ford Ranger.
Class 7 had 6 starters; Dan was able to pass the first opponent in the wash shortly off the start line and held the lead the entire race. He began to notice that he didn’t have full braking power at race mile 50. At the second pit they blocked off a brake line.
The team relies heavily on the GPS to stay on the designated course but shortly after the start the GPS began to turn off and on. They tried fiddling with wires to see if it was a loose connection to no avail.
The Factory Racing acquired a new light sponsor and was so excited as the sun set to have the new Rigid Industries LED lights. The improved night visibility allowed the team to maintain higher speeds during the dark making it feel like day. At one point the light bar had a bolt break and the light bar fell down lighting the sky instead of the course, fortunately this was on a freeway section close to the next Pit where they were able to find a new bolt and get them put upright.
In a section of thick silt and many stuck trucks, Dan crossed a deep rut and it turned the truck on its side. They tried winching themselves over but the winch cable broke. Fortunately Baja Pits came along and was able to put them back on their tires.
At Pit 4 Laurie remembered that Dan wanted the oil checked at each pit, when it was checked it was 4 quarts low. Now they knew the truck was burning oil and it needed to be watched carefully as to not damage the engine.
The team continued to battle with no GPS trying to stay on course. Shortly after San Juanico there was a long section on the graded road. Usually when the course is on the main roads there is flagman to direct the racers on and off the course, this particular exit didn’t have anything but a small course marker and Dan missed it. He was flying down the road and suddenly the truck pitches sideways. Knowing something is wrong he pulls over to find a ¾” bolt had broken on a suspension piece. They fix it and get ready to continue when the GPS miraculously flashes on for only a few seconds but long enough to know they missed a turn off several miles back. While on the wrong course they had wondered why they hadn’t seen any other traffic.
At Pit 6 they put in another 3 quarts of oil. But engine is running strong and not overheating. At this point they began to have trouble shifting gears after all the silt they’ve gone through they were sure that the clutch was packed in dust. The next Pit they used an air compressor to blow out the dust and bleed the clutch, which helped but didn’t completely fix the problem.
Thomas Chamlee took over the driving duties at race mile 962 and Dan became the co-driver. When Thomas took over the steering wheel the team only had a 25-mile lead over 2nd place. They all knew a small mistake could take them out of the lead. The clutch wasn’t working well and he was having to speed shift and if he missed a gear he’d have to completely stop and turn off the truck to get it in first and try again. Which works fine until you try climbing a steep hill with lots of silt (a fine powdering dust the consistency of sifted flour). He missed a shift and came to a stop. As he tried backing down the hill be got stuck. Fortunately many spectators helped pull him to the bottom of the hill. He made the hill the second try with no problems.
The last 30-40 miles were so hard to do without GPS, it traveled down the side of a mountain with lots of possible little roads. After making a few wrong turns they saw a truck they thought might be second place and hurried to pass them but when they found it was another class they backed off a little to follow them into the finish line so as to not get off course.
Laurie Chamlee was given the honor to wave the checkered flag as the came to the finish line. The teams’ goal was to finish Friday before dark and was really praying for that since they didn’t want to go another night without a GPS. They arrived at 4:40 pm and were able to get to the hotel just as it got dark. They found that second place was stuck at the same spot as they had been stuck in the silt. Of the 6 starters, 3 were able to cross the finish line, and only 2 were considered finishers. Dan completed in 28:10:19 with an average mph of 37.7, second place Jose Alberto Gonzalez finished in 35:03:51, 6 hours and 57 minutes later. Guillermo Gallardo A. finished 3rd but after penalty points were assessed he was given a DNF.
The Team that traveled the full distance to La Paz included Dan Chamlee, Thomas Chamlee, Laurie Chamlee, Valerie Chamlee, Scott Brady, Wendy Brady, Kacey Brady, Kelly Brady, Kylie Brady, Karson Brady, Ryan Gomez, Amy Tate, Ian Graham, Ben Buchmiller, Tiffany Thomas, and Dean Teague. They spent Saturday in La Paz resting and preparing for the long drive home. Other team members who assisted through San Felipe included: Dave Owens, AJ Denunzio, Kurt Kimball, Cooper Kimball, Kory Bantilan.
Dan’s co-drivers for this race were Amy Tate, Dean Teague, Ian Graham and Ryan Gomez. Thomas’ co-driver was Dan.