Ok, so you're interested in racing but need all the answers before you're ready to call Pistol? Read up:
What is the schedule for a typical race weekend?
- Arrive by 8pm, check into your hotel, and get a good night's sleep
- 8am: Meet Pistol and your pit crew and convoy to the testing area
- 9am: Unload the truck, and start getting familiar with the race truck
- 9:30am: Take turns riding in the passenger seat as Pistol takes you out for a spin so you can feel how hard you can push the truck, learn about line choice on the trail, and practice the startup/shutdown, buckle in/out, tire changing, and radio procedures
- 10:30am: Take turns with your drivers and co-drivers out on the course Pistol has laid out for you. Get used to the truck and your co-driver.
- 12:00pm: Pack up the truck and head to registration
- 1pm: Complete registration / tech inspection / contingency
- 6pm: Go to official driver's meeting
- 8pm: Get a good night's sleep!
- 6am - 10am (depending on the race): Meet Pistol and convoy to the starting area
- 1 hour before race time: Get suited up, warm up the truck, hydrate and have a light snack
- 30 min before race time: Get in the truck and stage at the starting area
- GO GO GO!
- 2 hours after race time: Get a drink and a steak with Pistol, and swap bench racing stories
- Fly home on your schedule
- Fly home on your schedule
What do I need to do to book and arrange everything?
Pistol and his team will help you arrange everything ahead of time, from hotels to race registration. They will also guide you during the event, for things like the driver's meeting and getting ready at start/finish.
Aside from the rental fee, what other costs are there?
You are responsible for your own race registration, airfare, hotel, rental car, and food.
Race registration prices vary from series to series and race to race, starting at $200 and going up to $3000. Please check out the website for the specific series, race, and category you'd like to attend, as they're different each year. Generally, "sportsman" categories are the cheapest, but they don't pay prize or contingency money if you win, sometimes race for less mileage, don't count for season points, and start at the back of the field. This can be a good way to save a few bucks, so ask Pistol.
You are also responsible for a $5000 damage deposit that will be refunded after the race.
How hard is it to drive these trucks?
Easy! The Class 3000 truck is designed for newbies, but can win its category because of its chassis and suspension design, light weight, quality components, and battle-tested reliability. It features a very strong power steering system, so you won't get fatigued, and massive suspension so you can nail the biggest bumps while on the gas.
The 7200 truck is a lot bigger, and a lot more powerful. Still easy to drive, but make sure you have some seat time before you move up to it.
Both trucks have ultra reliable 3 speed automatic transmissions, so while you still have to shift, you don't need to worry about the clutch.
How many people can we bring?
You can bring as many drivers and co-drivers as you'd like, but for shorter races it makes sense to have 1 or 2 pairs, and 3 or 4 pairs for longer races. Spectator-wise, bring everyone!
What does the co-driver do?
It may not seem like it at first, but the co-driver is the difference between a fun ride and a fast race. Primarily the co-driver watches the course map on GPS and alerts the driver of upcoming turns, checkpoints, obstacles, and dangers. A good co-driver will be calling out a new instruction to the driver every few seconds. The co-driver's other responsibilities include monitoring the truck's vital signs (water temp, oil temp, oil pressure, voltage, fuel), keeping an eye on the mirrors for overtaking traffic, manning the siren while overtaking or in spectator areas, talking to the pit/chase crew on the radio, and spotting good racing lines for the driver, especially in the dust. Lastly, the co-driver does most of the work during a tire change to keep the driver fresh.
Remember: a team is only as fast as their co-driver.
If you don't like driving together, or they can't read a huge GPS while hauling ass, they're not ready to be a co-driver. In that case, Pistol will provide an experienced co-driver for you. But we've found that anyone with the enthusiasm for it can become a great co-driver in just 30 minutes of racing. Just don't get carsick!
Will we be able to practice before the race?
Yes. Pete will take your drivers out for a shakedown and training session the day before the race, and then you will have a chance to practice with your driver and co-driver pairs.
Am I going to crash?
No. Well, we hope not.
Look, it's desert racing, and you're in control. If you do something dumb, like pin it into a valley, you could be in some trouble. Crashes/rollovers are rare, and injuries even more rare, but it does happen. This is racing, and it is dangerous. Every weekend, a number of trucks and buggies will roll over, but those are mostly guys fighting for the season championship, who are hanging it out every single turn at full speed. If you drive at 95% of your ability, you'll be fine. If something does go wrong, the trucks are unbelievably strong, and you'll be wearing full safety gear (helmet, neck brace, 5 point harness, etc). We've had customers roll a Bajalite, and then go on to win the race.
What if we get hurt?
In case something goes wrong, the race organizers and Baja Racing Adventures are there to take care of you.
First, you should radio in to Pistol who will be in the chase vehicles. He will then contact the race organizers who have emergency personnel on the course who will come out. If you're in a loop race, it will be easier for them to come get you, but if you're in the middle of Baja at night, it could be awhile.
There will also be a GPS transponder mounted in the truck. If Pete sees the transponder stop moving, he'll probably call you on the radio to see what's up, and if something goes wrong, the race organizers will be able to see your GPS location.
But at the end of the day, you are completely responsible for yourself. It's racing, and it's dangerous. Really dangerous. That's why we do it.
Is there cell phone service on the course?
In US-based races, there usually is depending on lines of site. In Baja races it's very spotty.
If I damage the truck, what happens?
Normal wear and tear on the engine, transmission, and third member aren't your responsibility.
However, you are responsible for anything you do directly, such as flat tires, bent or broken rims, broken bodywork, and any other damage from bad driving, a crash, or a rollover (i.e. smashing the third member on a rock, or rolling the truck and damaging the engine by not restarting it properly). Pistol will go over proper procedures in case of damage or a rollover in the training session, and can assist you by radio during the race. We've had customers roll a truck, land on their wheels, and finish the race, no problem.
In general, a full set of plastic bodywork for the truck costs about $2500, and it's unlikely you could smash all of that up, or really do any other damage except for tires, which are $225 each, and wheels are $165. Most customers don't have any extra bills for damage.
What if the truck breaks down?
If the truck breaks down you have two choices: fix it, or lose the race. We recommend the former. For common issues, there are spare parts on the truck that you can replace out on the course, for some types of damage, you can limp back to the pits and the chase crew will go to work. For really big things, you will be stuck on the course for a bit until the organizer's tow vehicles can come get you. Make sure you're far off the racing line, stay on the radio, and sit tight.
What do I need to bring?
You must wear a SNELL SA2010 rated helmet, neck protection, and a one piece firesuit. These are the minimum.
Your helmet will need to have a port for a "Parker Pumper" air blower (so you don't get dust inside) and a "desert" race radio setup for a microphone and headphones. (A good example is available from our friends at PCI Race Radios.)
We have some helmets, neck braces, and firesuits you can borrow, but we strongly recommend bringing your own for size and sweatiness reasons. If you don't have your own neck brace, you'll need to purchase the helmet->neck brace connectors at the race.
You should also bring your own fireproof gloves and sunglasses.
Can we put our own stickers on the truck?
You bet! Bring your own vinyl decals and go nuts.
Can we get pictures and video?
The trucks have GoPro mounts on them, but you are responsible for bringing your own cameras, batteries, and memory cards. The chase crew can help you change those out at the pit stops, but you'll have to remind them to do that.
Baja Racing Adventures does not provide GoPros because in the case they don't record properly we don't want you to be disappointed. So practice hooking yours up during your shakedown rides and you'll be good for raceday.
If you really want to go all out, you can have dedicated race photographers take photos and video of you on the course, including from a helicopter. Surprisingly, these services are only about $250 per race. Check out Tuba Art films or Turn 2 TV.
Why should I rent from Baja Racing Adventure vs. another company?
At the end of the day, we hope you're coming out to race, not to take a "desert tour." To race and win, you need to know everything about the terrain, have a tested vehicle, and be backed by a great chase crew.
Pete builds and races his own trucks, and wins. No one else renting trucks does that. You benefit from his engineering and testing of the vehicles. With years of being out on the course fixing problems and fighting the desert, Pete knows how to run a chase crew to support you.