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Is the Baja 1000 the World’s Most Brutal Race? A Top Team of UTVers Makes the Case

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Jones and Gugelman hop into a warmed truck for a nap as we caravan down the road towards Lazaro Cardenas in Valle La Trinidad for the next driver swap. After a team taco stop, everyone tries to get some shuteye around 4 a.m. I’ve been awake for 22 hours other than a catnap. Others haven’t slept a wink. Suddenly all the gear packed into the backseat of a Ford Raptor looks comfortable and I nod off.

Knock, knock. Wake up! An Ampudio teammember stands outside the Raptor with urgency. The trailing arm tore off, he tells us, at mile 610. Or maybe it’s 580. Abraham pulls up the race map, fingering along to the absolutely farthest point on the course from all three of our Fords parked in a row.

South Racing thoroughly packs spare radius arms, control arms, belts, and tools for just about any job a Can-Am might need throughout a race. Just about the only thing that won’t fit? A trailing arm, of course—best laid plans and everything. But hold on, Abraham remembers, any stock Can-Am Maverick trailing arm will work. Do the Ampudios know anyone near mile 600 who might be able to sell a trailing arm before dawn on a Saturday morning? Yeah, that’s a no.

Jesse Jones proposes driving on the race course, but apparently a tight canyon means the Raptor will present too much danger to any actual racers he might encounter. Otherwise, getting to Ampudio and Ruiz will require at least a four-hour drive on public roads. As a hedge, Abraham sends Jesse Jones on that fool’s errand. It’s 41 degrees out, darker than dark, and the Can-Am is probably toast anyway, but this is no time to quit.

Half an hour later, we get word over the radio that the Ampudios managed to find a proper Can-Am Maverick X3 trailing arm pretty close to mile 600. Unbelievable, to say the least—and the race is back on. As the sky begins to brighten around 6 a.m., South Racing preps for the final driver change, plus another potential trailing arm swap, all tires and the spare—at least check the work completed out in the pitch black. The sun rises and I risk a sip of a pineapple-coconut breakfast yogurt concoction, plus another glass bottle of Coca-Cola. Hot coffee sounds a whole lot better, but in Baja, I take what I can get.

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