The 2013 edition of the Baja 1000 was undoubtedly the most gruesome running of the race in recent years. With the exception of the Baja 2000 and the longest recorded race in Baja in 2007, the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000 posed new challenges never before experienced in the long, rich history of desert racing. This was no exeption for Mills Motorsports, whose race was filled with highs and lows during the 883 mile beating on the #842 SPEC Trophy Truck. After 34:25:39 of hell, Mills Motorsports crossed the finish line in third place at the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000.
Mills Motorsports had already spent an entire week in Baja before the truck rolled to the start line in Ensenada, Baja California. The team put in countless hours of finalizing logistics and pre-running to get the team in a favorable position to earn their second straight Baja 1000 win and SPEC Trophy Truck Class Championship. In a close race with class competitor Clyde Stacey for the points championship, Mills Motorsports needed to beat the #844 RPM for the Championship in the SPEC Trophy Truck Class.
Pre-running was split in to two teams, targeted to run the part of the course that each driver would each drive on race day. After seven days of organizing the execution of race day with military precision, Mills Motorsports was ready to conquer the relentless Baja 1000 course with utmost confidence.
Nick Mills was first to pilot the #842 Mills Motorsports SPEC Trophy Truck. Nick stormed out of downtown Ensenada and out in to the desert to begin a day and a half of adventure through the majestic Baja. The plan was meet with Chase Truck 2 at KM 77, where the crews would asses the condition of the vehicle and splash some fuel to keep the #842 going. Nick and co-driver Tony MacNeil made it unscathed, the fuel was dumped and the truck bombed back in to the desert. Chase Truck 2 would not see the vehicle again for nearly 800 miles until it reached The Meadow, or so they thought.
Bad luck struck at race mile 185 when Nick smashed a rock embedded in the course and earned a flat tire for his misjudgment. MacNeil hopped out of the passenger seat and wrenched a new General Tire on the truck and away they went to meet up with Chase Truck 2 to reload another Grabber. Chase Truck 2 chief, Chase Laven, was already at race mile 192 where the two would rendezvous. A quick tire exchange followed and the truck left as swiftly as it arrived. Nick and Tony were now in an all out sprint to San Felipe, where they would pass the truck off to Kent Kroeker and Josh Huff.
When Mills Motorsports commander, Kent Kroeker, got behind the wheel in San Felipe, Kroeker drove with vengeance to make up the lost time from the initial flat tire. The pressure was lifted, as the team now sat in second place and was forced to chew away at the lead the #844 RPM truck had built over the next 650 miles. Kent pushed forward to Calamajue Wash, where disaster struck. The wash was full of water, which would be the deciding factor for their 2013 Baja 1000 race. In the midst of open throttle, the engine suddenly died and the #842 was forced to pull to the side.
Kroeker, understanding every inch of the Geiser built truck, knew that water had made its way to the electronics and possibly shorted a connection. Kroeker and Huff performed surgery on the truck, ripping off panels, pulling out all the modules and searching for the consequential defect to the complex race truck. Two hours passed before the two figured out there had been a loose wire in one of the electronics that served to power their engine.
The two pushed on and were greeted with a cluster of vehicles stuck in the ruthless silt that haunted race miles 380-400. By that time, everything was so chewed up Kent was forced to pick improvised lines to maneuver through the truck graveyard and ragged roots to avoid getting stuck himself. Kent eventually made his way to Alan Roach and little did they know, their duel with Baja was just beginning.
The race had now been running for nearly sixteen hours and Chase Crew 2 had made their way to The Meadow at race mile 840, where the #842 would receive one final splash of fuel before heading to the finish back in Ensenada. After getting camp set up, the crew bunked down to wait for the arrival of the truck and was left to estimate when the #842 Geiser Truck would arrive, as the team lost radio communication between both Chase Truck #1 and the #842. They believed the truck would come through late morning, but there was no way to be sure. After an hour of waiting, a call came in from The Weatherman that the truck was at race mile 546 traveling zero miles per hour at 4:10am.
In the trusty hands of driver Alan Roach, the #842 had been stranded for hours after striking a rock that caused two simultaneous flat tires on the same side of the truck. The #842 Geiser was only built to hold one spare and Roach was forced to drive 20 miles on a flat to Baja Pits, only to learn they had no tire for the team. Roach had never experienced two flats at the same time in Baja and the incident set the team back many hours off the lead. The truck was left with only one decision – wait for Chase Crew #1 to bring them a tire to carry on.
Shortly after receiving the news, the #844 RPM truck came blazing through The Meadow and the hopes of a win and championship were now in the dust. When the blue Mills Motorsports #842 truck finally arrived in The Meadow, it was amidst a close battle for second place. Six minutes is all that separated Taylor Mills, now driving at this point, from the #845 truck of Hedrick Racing. Taylor and co-driver Mike Kerr had been making ground on them for the past hundred miles. With nothing to lose, Taylor hammered down and started reeling in Hedrick. Twenty miles is all it took for Taylor to overtake Hedrick’s spot and stormed on to finish the 2013 Baja 1000 in second place.
After a day and a half of overcoming the Baja, Mills Motorsports found themselves on the podium for the second consecutive year. Although they were assessed a penalty for speeding in a pit that would set their official finish back to third place, it doesn’t take away from the perseverance, tenacity and resilience that has been the backbone of Mills Motorsports since its inception in late 2012. Mills Motorsports will be back stronger than ever in 2014, with high hopes to build on their successes in 2013.