Ruta Las Misiones Loreto 400 2016

The original Loreto 400 race was always a favorite amongst the local racers, although as it was held in the soaring September heat that could sometimes reach 50oC, the racers always had to fight tremendous heat and bad weather, yet it was always one of the most picturesque and challenging races. For a number of years, due to problems with land permits, new highways etc., the organizers decided to promote a shorter, looped 30 miles course, so the Baja off road racers and fans were happy when 2016 was once again the original trail.

 

However, one of the other general problems with hosting the Loreto race in September is… it is the most likely time for the area to be hit by a Hurricane. So it simply, NOT really the best time to plan this race… Most of the teams come from Cabo or La Paz, and it is a five to seven hour one way trip up to Loreto depending from your destination. And as it is a loop race from Loreto to Loreto, this entails taking the whole team up there for pre-running, racing etc. It really is a significant expense to incur all those costs, aside from travel, hotel, team expenses etc., to get to Loreto with the uncertainty of whether the race will be held or not, due to the excess of destroyed trails and highways. And, unfortunately, this was the case this year. Hurricane Newton decided to pay the area a visit a couple of weeks before the event, making large sections of the race totally un passable, leaving the municipalities working hard to get everything fixed. Then the week before the race, yet another Hurricane decided to linger outside of Baja with a 50% chance to hit the area right over the race week end.

 

TANOM Racing had everything planned to race both the Trophy Truck #90, driven by Sandy Hall, and the Class 1 Dominator #130 driven by Andrea Tomba. Sandy was going through some crazy work commitments at the time, and was on a very tight schedule for the race week end, so the team was on a constant look out on the weather advances, not to make Sandy take the five flights from Virginia to Loreto, in vain. On Tuesday morning on the week of the race, the team had all the cars put on a semi to be shipped to Loreto, when the news came that Public Safety in Loreto had pulled the plug on the race due to excessive dangers by bad trail conditions, and that the race was cancelled. The team manager confirmed this news with the race promoter, who said that the decision was out of their hands, and indeed it was to be cancelled or postponed. Immediately, the team took the trucks off the trailer, and advised Sandy to cancel his flights and see if some refund could be achieved, which was most doubtful. Later that same afternoon, somebody spoke to someone and made some deal, so now the news was that the race was back on, unless the Hurricane Pain would bring more water before the week end. A pretty risky move, with, at the time, almost a 60% chance of more heavy rains over race week end in an area that was already pretty washed out, with deep arroyos and rocks all over the place. As the team heard the news, they contacted Sandy, who had already cancelled hisflights, and was really not thrilled over the option of paying a second time for a bunch of tickets to come to a race that may or may not held. It seems very short sighted of the organizers to plan such a race at the time of the highest hurricane risk in the area, and especially to expect to be able to take a decision last minute of whether the race would or would not be held, especially for racers coming from abroad.

 

The team decided to bite the bullet and send the Class 1 car and crew up Loreto, with somewhat of a skeleton crew for both the pre-running and the race, and see how things go.

 

Although the Hurricane left a LOT of water and rocks in the several arroyo crossings and trails, it also left a visually stunning, green and lush desert through which to pre-run, reminding us of why the original race is such a beautiful and fun race.

 

On race day, there was a good turn out, and Hurricane Pain decided to stay away, fortunately not adding to the already generous water holes. Andrea and Pio started off in second position in Class 1 and got a flat after the various water crossings in the long first arroyo before reaching the highway to San Javier. As they got up on the highway and started making their way up the mountain, they noticed the flat and were happy to know that they had a chase truck nearby, at the bottom of the hill climb so that they could bring them another tire, as the car only carries one spare, and the team has almost never had to use the one spare in the last years of racing. Unbeknown to them, the police wouldn’t let the chase truck on to the highway, which is pretty much a first, so Andrea and Pio now had to tackle the rest of the very rocky section to El Piojillo without a spare, which they did cautiously. A few miles before the check point at El Piojillo, on a straight away where they were doing around 120MPH, they have a rear blow out. Without a spare, they decide that the only option that they have is to drive to the checkpoint, where there will be some other teams, as the TANOM Pit is further up on the trail, and the other Chase truck was delayed due to the current Police situation not wanting them on the highway race section. As they get there, they pull in to another team’s pit, however, no one has the same hub configuration and thus a spare wheel that fits the Dominator cannot be located, although in true sporting fashion, many of the competing teams try their best to be of help. So Andrea and Pio don’t have much other choice but to sit & wait for the pit to send a tire, whilst accepting food and drinks from the other teams’ pits. In particular, special thanks to teams Ruffo Racing, Team El Generoso and Team El Diamante for all their help and effort.

 

Once, after what seems like an eternity, they get the tire and spare, they get on their way again, now dealing with the dust of the UTVs and slower classes, all of whom are not very cooperative in understanding that we wouldn’t nerf a smaller car, risking damage to their vehicle, but at the same time, needing them to move over rather than keep us in their dust for almost 10 minutes… until Andrea hit a tree stump in the dust and has a third flat. Wow… what a day… But wait… Now the engine decides to stop cooperating, and starts missing and losing power. Andrea and Pio decide to nurse the car to the finish, where they get welcomed by a complete downpour, making it almost impossible to see more than three feet in front of you as they finally come back to the beautiful, although soaked, town of Loreto.

 

This definitely wasn’t the result that the team had hoped for, with the Trophy truck not participating, and the Dominator loosing vital positions, and thus championship points, however, having said that, it sure was nice to be back in Loreto and Comondu, and we hope that next season the organizers once again use this longer, original race program, although have the smarts of programing it at a time which is not a Hurricane warning time!

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