Going for Third
After I got my balance back and chugged a few more water bottles, I took off my race suit and kidney belt, and my husband and I joined the rest of the pit around the radio. Everyone listened for Tara’s and Quin’s voices, like families used to crowd around old antique radios before the invention of TV. The tension was almost too much! The radio picked up all calls to home base, so we overheard a few more rolls and accidents throughout the course. By now cars were beginning to lap each other, so we couldn’t tell which laps cars were on when they passed our pit. It didn’t really matter, the only cars we needed to know about were in the top three, and you could feel that rank of car approaching before you could see it. Just then the first place car roared past our pit and all went silent. Over the radio someone heard Quin’s shaky voice, and we all jumped up to get a closer listen. We heard Wide Open’s chase car communicating with Tara and Quin, but there was too much static and noise to find out what happened. Nick got on the radio, but received no response. I had been out of the car for awhile now; they should be passing us soon. Where were they? We saw a pretty impressive dust storm impending in the distance, and the desert cracked open with the roar of piercing engines and flying debris. We couldn’t see a car yet, and the storm was approaching at about 50 mph, bushes and rocks flying in the air as they were being crushed, anything in its path trampled beyond recognition. It looked like we were in the path of a tank. I grabbed my husband’s camera and backed away from the track. This would be the first time I’d seen “it” in action. I held the camera to my eye and zoomed in on the tornado. I saw headlights and tires burst through the cloud, and instinctively started shooting – but it wasn’t Wide Open’s car. It was second place. I stopped and looked up from the camera with my heart breaking, what happened to the other girls? I spoke too soon. Tara had been drifting behind second place, and then launched the car into the brush to avoid the bumps, and dive in for the pass. As we were watching second place break through the dust cloud, Tara flattened every bush in her path to heroically shoot past them, risking another potential roll by sliding sideways back onto the track, the front driver’s tire feeling for the dirt, the other three wheels in the air, the top of the car visible enough to remind us you don’t want to see the top of the car at that speed. Then all we saw was the front driver’s tire in the air and the underside of the car, and then I blinked and Tara and Quin pulled up to the pit, shouting that they think something was definitely wrong this time. I somehow managed to keep clicking through the whole pass, sidestepping my jaw that was lying on the ground.
The pit crew came back to life and the bees were crawling the car again, shouting and buzzing as each part of the car was scanned for problems. “Clear!” “I’m clear too!” “Tires are clear!” Two of the guys held water bottles for Tara and Quin while going over the strategy for the last two laps; we were going to hold onto third place with everything we had. The car cleared with zero problems after the beating it had already taken, and within seconds of its arrival, the car departed again, attacking the final 28-mile lap with the full support of their team. Again, we crowded around the radio and listened.
The Final Lap
We didn’t hear much in the final lap, the car was far enough behind second place not to be able to pass them, and far enough ahead of fourth not to feel too pressured. It’s tradition at Wide Open to ring in the last lap with a full moon, so upon learning of their soldier’s incoming flyby, the entire crew lined up across the pullover area of the pit and grabbed their shorts. I grabbed my camera and photographed the looming monster that had previously encapsulated me, while my husband joined the team on the track. Being the incredibly talented driver she is, Tara got her revenge on the crew by maneuvering the car to fly past newly-named “moon row,” from less than five feet away from the poor volunteer on the end, my husband. And then they were off to finish the race on their own, nothing more anyone could do to help them. With less than a mile to go, we all anxiously waited to hear how the rankings turned out once we heard the distant roar of Wide Open’s engine hush to an idle. The pit was buzzing with guesses and wagers of whether or not we got third place just in this race, or third overall. We impatiently waited for Tara and Quin to return, and when we saw that beautifully beat up purple beast pull around the pit and wind down to a park, Quin’s big smile and sunglasses shining from the driver’s seat, Tara happily collapsed in the passenger seat, we knew it was good news. “Get these girls beers!” I heard the crew shout. We all celebrated the fact we had finished the race, no one got hurt, and the car had one of its sickest performances ever! No injuries, crashes, or hiccups, just fast-as-you-can, pedal to the metal, good old fashioned racing! The girls got out and everyone shared in long hugs and high-fives, posing for photos around the creature that made our dreams come true. It was completely filthy, almost to the point of not being able to see the paint, but it was beautiful, and we didn’t care if we got dirty. The girls hugged each other and crawled all over the car for team photos, and the proud crew shook each other’s hands and took a knee in front of the beast, and in front of the team who had been able to tame it for the cause. This unearthly wild ride had come to an end, and this feeling of new family was almost too much to let go, to head back home to reality.
This day, for such a precious cause, 240 cars full of courageous women joined together to face their fears as one, and fight for something close to their hearts. Wide Open had placed their trust in three women whom they knew personally, and who they felt had a special connection to the race, and would be able to best represent Wide Open and its support of finding a cure for breast cancer. Personally, I’m determined to race again. If I ever stop dreaming about that purple beast that made me feel so empowered that day, to forget my troubles and focus on being all I could be, then I’ll know I’ve once again allowed myself to forget to live.
For those who would like to experience Wide Open Adventures firsthand, Baja racecars and the purple beast we raced can be rented, and one-on-one training with the experts can be arranged. For those who have loved ones interested in driving, but don’t want to risk their own prized hand-built beasts, let Wide Open rent them one of their cars to play with. It’s a little easier on the nerves. Book a day session for as little as $250, and a one-day Mexico tour starts at just $850. Want to buy your way into the actual Baja 1000 race? A car, full technical support crew, and a team of 4-6 drivers can be yours for a cool $82,500. Contact Nick at www.wideopenbaja.com for details.