Matlock Racing’s Wayne Matlock, Wes Miller, Josh Caster, and Dofo Arellano’s Suffer a Disappointing DNF at the 2012 Baja 1000
I’m sitting here in the border line looking back on the last 12 days I’ve spent in Baja. We had a lot of fun and a lot of disappointment…
My week started out great prerunning with my wife and kids, it made my week go by fast and smooth. As far as the course was concerned the San Felipe section was rough as usual, but coming from District 38, it felt like home. The rest of my sections were a lot of fun just like Baja should be. Prerunning went flawless and before we knew it, it was time to sign up, tech the race quad, and do all of our last minute stuff like packing chase trucks and checking over the quad for the fifth or so time.
On race morning we all got up and headed out into Baja. The chase truck drivers were delivering riders to their starting points and the riders were sitting there just trying to focus on what they had to do when it was their turn. For me, I had a short ride down to the starting line and waited for the circus to start. If you have never seen the start of a Baja race it is hard to explain. Most people see racing on TV where everyone lines up, the gate drops, and they all go through turn one that most of the time has just been groomed. Well Baja could not be any further from that at all. Our turn one is lined with thousands of screaming fans that are waiting to see chaos and if they don’t see it soon enough, then they will create it. The start of my race went better than I had ever imagined it would. I started second quad off the line and I managed to pass the #2A quad of Brandon Brown within 1 mile of the start and before the dirt. I was pumped to get to the front before the dust got too bad. From there, I just put my head down and tried to put as much time between me and the rest of the field as possible. I came into Ojos Negros at mile 35, handed the quad off to Josh Caster, and hopped in the chase truck. When the next quad came through it had been about 2 1?2 minutes. I headed down the road in the truck to K77 where we would watch Caster come through and be there if he needed anything. He came through right on time and had opened the gap up to 4 minutes on the next quad. I jumped back in the truck and headed down to the next pit were I would get on at race mile 170ish at Honda pit #3. Caster came in right as expected, Honda fueled the quad and I took off. After I left the pit I heard over our Racer X communication system that #2A had closed the gap to a little over 2 minutes. I knew that the rider on that quad would be fast through this section as he lives in San Felipe. So I gave it everything I had and tried to stretch the gap back out without making a mistake. All the training that I have been doing paid off. I was able to pound right through the roughest stuff in Baja and it felt great. When I handed the quad back to Caster I’m not sure what the gap was because I had to jump in the chase truck and hurry to the next stop. Unfortunately in my haste to stretch the gap, I knocked the GPS off the quad, which was not good because my next section had a 47 mile long highway section that I could not exceed 60 MPH on. So when Caster came into the pit we did a quick fuel stop then I jumped on the race bike and took off without another quad in site. Caster jumped in the chase truck and they stayed in front of me doing 53 MPH, better safe than sorry, to pace me down the highway. Once I left the pavement my ride went smoothly. I came into Coco’s Corner and pulled into our pit so the crew could look over the quad. I jumped off the quad and ran over to the truck to quickly pee. After I took care of that I felt a lot better and was able to pound the woops going into Honda pit #6 at El Crucero. I came into the pit, they fueled the quad and checked the oil, then I was off. After leaving the pit I was told over the radio that the #2A quad had came in and had to mess with the steering stem and left 9 minutes behind me. I rode at a good pace to where Dofo was waiting for me at the Bay of Los Angeles Highway. When I came in we put the Baja Designs lights on the quad, checked and added oil, and Dofo was off. We waited to see the time gap and we had stretched it out to 12 minutes now. I jumped in the chase truck and headed down to my next scheduled section at Vizcaino.
Shortly after arriving at this pit our whole race took a turn for the worse. While waiting to get on the quad the satellite phone rang and just hearing that thing ring makes my heart stop…it is the worst sound in the world during a race. On the other end of the line was Dofo. He said the quad lost power, stopped, and the air box was full of oil. So after a short discussion I got in the chase truck and drove back up the highway to the El Arco turn followed by my dad in his truck and Caster in his. We left Wes Miller there in case I was able to get it running, he would be there to pit Dofo. From the highway it was another 21 miles of dirt road up into the pit area. We got there just in time to see the Can?Am quad go by and my heart sank a little bit deeper. Once we found Dofo, we pulled the quad off to the side of the pit and started to look at it. I have cracked a piston before and knew what it looked like. With the air box full of oil I was pretty sure that’s what had happened. We all talked about it and we were only 501 miles into a 1120 mile long race and in Baja anything can happen so the rule is to never give up. So we unloaded the prerunner out of my dad’s truck to take the top end off of that quad and put it on the race bike to bring it back to life. Once we started to dig into the quads, a crowd started to form and people were getting too close and we did not want to have any missing pieces, so we had to throw it all back into the trucks and tow both quads out into the desert. Once we could work without fear of losing any parts the top end swap went pretty fast considering we had a cabinet maker (myself), a construction estimator (Josh Caster), and a feed store salesman (Dofo) doing the swap. It took us a little over an hour to complete and when it was done Dofo jumped on the quad and took off like nothing had happened at all. At that point we were now down 2 hours and 45 minutes and running in 6th place out of the quads and unfortunately we were now mixed in with the trophy trucks. We packed up the mess of quads and parts and headed back to San Ignacio to catch back up with the race. When Dofo came into the San Ignacio Honda pit he was now in 4th place with #2A leading #6A and #4A. Wes got on the quad after a filter change and headed out for a 180 mile section that would bring him to the Pacific Ocean and back to the Sea of Cortez. When he got to where we were waiting with Dofo we got reports that the #2A had been through and the #6A Can?Am had been through only 1 hour before we came in. When Dofo took off he knew we were making up time and was excited. We all jumped in the chase trucks and headed for the next pit in south Loreto. At this pit we got word that our quad was having trouble running and Dofo was struggling. He finally came into the pit and handed the quad off to Wes Miller and to our surprise he had passed #2A who was having clutch problems and we were now in 2nd overall. He said the quad was running great again. With that news, Miller jumped on the quad and took off. Dofo ran back to the truck and took off because it was going to be tight for him to make it to the next pit. Meanwhile I was waiting about 10 miles down the course at a Honda pit with a fresh set of gloves and goggles for Miller because he had 10 miles of river bed to go through and it was full of water. After waiting there for about 10 minutes I was starting to get worried when I heard a quad coming up the canyon. The quad jumped out onto the narrow paved road and was on the throttle. I was shocked and then panicked as the quad roared past the Honda pit not getting fuel or fresh gloves. Without fuel he would not make it to the next pit and we would be out of the race. What I had not realized is that was not our quad. It was #4A and we were already out of the race. We sat there and waited for Miller to come in and as time went by that feeling in my stomach got worse and worse. Then there was that horrible sound again. The satellite phone was ringing again and it just made me want to scream out loud. Kristen answered the phone there was nobody on the other end then it went dead. Then it rang again and nobody was there and it went dead again. After the third time of this game we realized that the sat phone that was on the quad was broke and just seemed to be mocking the whole situation. So we jumped back in the chase truck and headed back down to the last time the quad was seen. On the way there the phone rang one more time and this time Wes Miller was talking to Kristen. It was broken up real bad but he said that he was still in the pit were Dofo had given him the quad. When we got back to the pit there was Wes waving us down only 100 yards from the rider change that took place about an hour before. I got out of the truck and talked to Wes and he told me that when he took off from the rider change he shifted from first to second and when he shifted to third the tranny locked up and the quad slid to a stop. With that I knew we were done and along with it, so was our run at a fifth straight championship.
I know that our reliability in Baja has been has unheard of on ATVs and in the last eight years of racing Hondas in Baja this is my teams first DNF. That right there shows you that Honda and all of our after marked sponsor’s products are the best in the business. I am bummed that we lost the #1A plate and that our championship streak is done, but I knew it would not last forever. No matter how well you prepare for a race like the Baja 1000 sooner or later she takes your number and the rides over. I am also glad that it was a team like Can?Am with world class racers like Josh Fredrick that was able to take it from us. They all deserve it and put in a lot of hard work. We could not have asked for better competition than they gave us this year. We will return next year, stronger than ever, looking to get that number back.
I would like to thank the riders on the team. Wes did an excellent job like always and Dofo did an outstanding job and I’m glad he joined our team this year. Most of all I would like to thank Josh Caster, not only is he a very talented rider but he also helps build every race quad that we have raced and won on for the past five years. He has shown a dedication that is hard to find and he will be missed next year as he has decided to step back from racing and focus on his career and family. This is something that we have been talking about for a while and I’m just bummed that our last race together went the way it did. I would also like to thank our whole crew that supports us. As well as my wife who does more to keep this racing team going than anybody knows.
And a big thank you to all of our sponsors because without you guys we would not be here at all.
American Honda, JCR, Maxxis, Elka, Vey’s Powersports, Scott Goggles, Rich Morel Race Motors, Precision Concepts, Roll Design, KZ Trailers, Fly Racing, Renthal, UNI, DWT, FMF, OMF, Tire Balls, Quad Tech, DID, Hinson, Precision Racing Products, Baja Designs, Racer X, Motion Pro, UPP, Pro Armor, Go Pro, Kal?gard, Alpinestars, Galfer, Lonestar, Works Connection, IMS, Baja Cycles, Hammer Nutrition