SCORE Journal


SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 70 of 124

SIXTY SECONDS TO SPARE Alex Gonzales Finished The SCORE BaJa 500 For A Class 11 Win Story by Stuart Bourdon Photography Courtesy Alex Gonzales  Alex Gonzales, with a team of five other drivers, co-drivers, and numerous support crew members, took home the First Place in Class 11 at the BFGoodrich Tires 53rd SCORE Baja 500 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. Almost everyone spoke of the baffling bottlenecks and dense dust that wreaked havoc on drivers and race vehicles. Myriad technical and mechanical problems encountered during the notably rough 466-mile racecourse were common to nearly all competitors. However, the question we wanted to ask Gonzales was, “Why race Class 11?”       Don’t get us wrong– we have the utmost respect for Class 11 drivers, their teams, and their marvelous machines. But Gonzales’s reply was as expected. “They’re fun to drive but also very challenging,” he said. “They are also one of the Baja racing originals.” It was an appropriate question to ask because of Gonzales’s off-road racing history. “Right now, I’m sort of going backward in racing,” Gonzales explained. “I went from a 700-horsepower Class 1 to a 500-horsepower Spec Trophy Truck to an 80 horsepower Class 11.” Back to Basics Gonzales’ story began with his desire to get back to basics, “I always wanted to drive a 1/2-1600 car, a Class 11 bug, or some other limited class,” said Gonzales. “I started with some higher-horsepower classes like Class 1 and Spec Trophy Truck, and we had great luck. The Spec truck is a monster, and there’s a ton of pressure. You need a huge team to do it right, and it’s a lot of work. Even though it’s a hobby, it almost feels like another job.” Campaigning a Class 11 car with a winning attitude is no less a commitment than any other race vehicle. No matter what car you’re driving, it’s still racing. Gonzales called it “the warrior class.” “A lot of people see that little thing (Class 11 car) and look at us like we’re crazy. I say, try it sometime.” Gonzales has the team and the knowledge to win in bigger and more powerful race cars and trucks. “We brought our mentality from racing the Spec truck into this program. You have to be patient. You find a rhythm, and you can get through all the big stuff. These things are like little goats. They can go just about everywhere. They’re fun, and so many more people can relate to them.” Gonzales isn’t the only one who thinks this way, as the number of Class 11 cars competing in off-road racing has seen a recent resurgence, and it’s again becoming a large class at many off-road competition events. Tres Pilotos Gonzales and co-driver German Melendez started the race in second place. “We had three sets of drivers/co-drivers for the SCORE Baja 500,” said Gonzales. “Mine had lots of steep hill climbs, and navigating through stuck and broken vehicles, but we were soon able to take the lead. It went smooth except for a couple of hiccups. We hit some ‘G-outs’ we didn’t see pre-running. One of them was big, and we were doing about 70 mph. It almost took us out, but we got lucky and saved it. I drove the car to Valle de Trinidad, where Tim Sletten took the wheel.” Sletten and his co-driver Peter McLeod ran the middle section over the mountains. “It was slow-going,” said Gonzales. “Tim got stuck in a bottlenecked canyon near El Coyote. When he got there, something like 40 cars were lined up. It was about 45-minutes before the next set of Class 11 cars came up behind us, so we had a pretty good lead. In addition, the car suffered from electrical problems on the way down to the Pacific Ocean. Tim had to do a rewire job in the middle of the night to get a single amber light pointed forward and turned on.” Sletten took the car to Vicente Guerrero, where driver Clyde Stires and co-driver Nelson Fonte hopped in. “They ran the last section up through Uruapan,” said Sletten. “Clyde indicated to us that it was empty by that time. All the spectators and crews that would normally be lining the racecourse were gone. Buy that’s when they got stuck and had no help. They had to dig and stuff bushes under the tires and push the car out by themselves several times.” Wing and a Prayer “At one point, they were stuck on a steep hill and couldn’t get the car to budge,” said Sletten. “They were worn out, stuck, alone, and Clyde told us he had an overwhelming sense of defeat and disappointment.” According to the accounts, Clyde said a little prayer, and then he and Nelson started pushing again. “At that moment, three locals came over the hill out of nowhere and helped them push the car to the top of the hill,” said Sletten. While Clyde and Nelson were crawling forward mile by mile, Gonzales and the rest of the crew headed to the finish line and waited for what seemed like an eternity to them. When they finally re-established contact with the race car, they were about 60 miles out with about an hour left before they would be officially timed out of the race. However, SCORE officials on-site decided to extend competitors running late due to bottlenecks an extra hour to get the checkered flag. After almost 21 hours on the racecourse, the No. 1196 Bug made it in with one minute and one second to go, making its team the Class 11 winners. SJ

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of SCORE Journal - SCORE-Journal-July-2021