So, just six minutes inside the 44-hour time limit, Top Gear’s car made it to the finish of the Baja 1000 desert race. It hadn’t been an easy ride.
After Team Top Gear (myself and photographer Justin Leighton) completed the opening 395-mile stint (read about that here) we handed over to TV presenter Jessi Combs and UFC fighter Josh Barnett at around midnight. They had a nightmare. In no particular order, they rolled our BC-6 buggy, got it stuck in superfine silt, clipped a biker (breaking his foot) and drove off a small cliff. This last act broke the left front suspension arm, and meant a five-hour delay while waiting for the right parts.
But that was by no means the sum total of the damage. The bonnet went missing after the roll, the shell was cracked in several places, they had three punctures, reverse gear disappeared completely and second was only there part-time, plus there were fluid leaks and power steering issues. This meant that the last pair, Jeff Johnson and Steve Mackie, who did the final 320-mile stint, had to stop every 35 miles to top up with power steering fluid brought from hardcore Mexican fans camping out in the desert.
The attrition involved in the Baja is astonishing - more than half of those that started failed to finish, so the fact we finished last out of the six cars in the Baja Challenge class in a time of 43 hours 54 minutes and 16 seconds is neither here nor there. Just making the finish line at all is the achievement here. Or that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. Being a competitive sod with a short-term memory I’ve now forgotten the pain and am desperate to go back and do it again and do it better.
Having said that, seeing our car creak and limp its way over the near-deserted finish line was quite emotional, especially knowing what it had been through and just how ridiculously brutal and tough this race is. Baja: the ultimate test of man and machine.
The full story and pictures from Ollie and Justin’s incredible journey will be in February issue of Top Gear magazine. Don’t miss it!