SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA (25 November 2008) – The 2008 SCORE Baja 1000 was marked by relentless terrain diversity and technical sections not seen in years. Fresh from an important victory at the Primm 300, General Tire’s Team KORE was poised to tackle the course.
“We felt like this was going to be our race; everything was lined up for the win. Our success at Primm proved we have the speed to beat anyone in our class,” said John Zambie.
But after just a few miles of racing, bad things started happening. With Rodolfo “Rudy” Iribe at the wheel and Zambie in the right seat, while passing another vehicle, a low-hanging oak tree took the Power Wagon’s upper light bar clean off. They had to get off the course and salvage the remaining lights, then stop again at their first pit to offload the lights to the crew. This put them not only behind the entire Stock Full class, but also many other race vehicles.
Rudy drove hard, making up time, passing everyone except Chad Hall in the H3. It was a dark and dusty night with no wind. At Race Mile 284, minutes behind Chad, Kent Kroeker and Frank Martinek took over driving duties.
“There was no time to replace the upper light bar. We just had to suck it up and race with the Soltek LED’s we had on the bumper. They have great coverage, but limited range, so we were constantly overdriving them. It was kind of scary sometimes, but you do what you have to,” said Kroeker.
Kroeker had been suffering from the stomach flu all week. Near the end of the San Felipe whoops he remarked to Martinek that he was not safe to drive the truck to the finish because he was starting to “gray out.” Martinek radioed ahead to the pit to have Rudy get ready to drive again.
A driver swap and some minor repairs at Race Mile 400 put the Power Wagon back in the fight. Heading up the beach toward Santo Tomas Rudy had the truck minutes from the lead. Approaching Erindera, they hit a huge, man-made booby trap – a giant hole dug with a back hoe.
“There was nothing we could do. We were doing about 60, so Rudy just down shifted and pinned in. We hit the other side so hard it bounced the truck about ten feet in the air. We rode the front end, looking at the ground for a long time. I was amazed we didn’t cartwheel,” said Martinek.
Soon parts started flying off the truck. First the front drive shaft, then a brake caliper. With no four wheel drive, they got mired in deep silt. Digging for hours while Chase brought parts to make repairs, their chances for the win disappeared.
“Chad drove a perfect race and deserves that win 100%. We had some weird luck, but getting second in this year’s Baja 1000 was like my driving experience: Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t puke in my helmet, pass out and yardsale the truck, but it still made me throw up in the pits,” said Kroeker.