Ollie Marriage19 November 2012

Top Gear mag in the Baja 1000

"The Baja 1000 is utterly brutal, a full body pummelling that never stops..." Ollie Marriage reports back

Baja 1000

I don't really know where to start. The main thing is that Justin and I made it through 395 miles of the most brutal driving either of us has ever experienced. It was beyond anything you can imagine.

At one point we hit a series of sleeping policeman, only ones made of sand and three feet high, created by the cars and trucks that had already passed through. They went on for 100 miles. No let up, just constant, neck-snapping pitching and diving as we tried to maintain some sort of momentum. For one hundred miles.

Of course, something broke. Both rear CV joints - at the end of the drive shafts - gave up the ghost and had to be repaired at our second refuel stop (that's the picture above), which set us back an hour. Up until we hit those ridges we'd been running well, level pegging with two other cars from our class and overtaking a fair few others.

That was during daylight hours, where we could see where we were going. After that the headlights only really served to show us yet more dust, meaning navigation was down to faith. It should have been down to the sat nav, but such was the constant shaking and pounding that Justin physically couldn't focus on it unless I slowed down.

We had one proper near miss. Chasing a rival BC car just before the first pitstop we got lost in his dust and so, so nearly piled into a broken down Trophy Truck that loomed out of the grime just 15-20 metres away. Frightening. We also had one proper impact when I misjudged what looked like a flat, level road, which then abruptly dropped into a riverbed. In we flew and the car impacted the bank opposite nose first, bouncing up into the sky. I was trembling so much for the next few miles that I couldn't keep the throttle smooth.

I'm flabbergasted at the amount of punishment the buggy can take. This is scenery that a Range Rover literally wouldn't get through - you're clouting over massive boulders, blasting through rivers, spearing across rocky, churned-up desert, doing massive, massive jumps. It's utterly brutal, a full body pummelling that never stops. My kidneys ache, the harness has bruised me, and for the last hundred miles all Justin and I could do was swear and whimper. It was agony.

People say the Dakar is the world's most hardcore off-road race, but the Baja 1000 runs it close and perhaps surpasses it in several areas. I'm sorry about the lack of new pics with this report, but Justin's camera got swamped at mile 0.5 of 395 and barely functioned thereafter.

We will have some amazing video footage and pictures in due course, so hang tight...

Gallery: TG magazine builds up to the Baja 1000

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