Melissa Eickhoff is embedded with the Honda Off-Road Racing Team for the Baja 1000. The team is fielding IndyCar star Alexander Rossi, team owner/driver Jeff Proctor and Baja veteran Pat Dailey in a Honda Ridgeline.
As professional and capable and driven as he is, even Alexander Rossi, an Indianapolis 500 winner, had to concede that Baja won this round, and take a DNF in stride.
He’s not alone. Even the finishers of the 52nd running of the Score Baja 1000 aren’t sure of their status. It was a brutal race course. One that was originally laid out to challenge the racers, then, add to it historic rain fall that completely changed up the course.
Meaning, all that pre-running wasn’t much use. The actual route of the race didn’t really change, but the condition of the course itself was a new animal, one that drivers & co-drivers hadn’t seen. Their fastidious notations of course features to pay caution to, were insufficient. Even Baja veterans like Robby Gordon, were quoted as saying this was one of the hardest SCORE Baja 1000 Races he’s ever driven. Watch for the official results to post, the finishing rate will emphasize this point. And in the coming days, months, and years – stories will emerge and be retold, only adding to the legend that is the Baja 1000.
For the Honda Ridgeline team, the race ended at RM 250. To try and point to one thing that influenced this decision is folly. Which brings us back to the variables (see Day 1). Rossi said. “Too many variables weren’t in our favor this year, so we had to call it. Jeff evaluated the situation and ultimately decided that the safety for the team was being compromised. It isn’t just the driver and co-driver to consider, but the crew for repairs and recovery in sketchy conditions.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for anyone on the team. They are dedicated to the finish, but the balance of safety vs competition had been tipped. Jeff Proctor, team owner, stated, “I’m very proud of our team. From planning and logistics to the chase crews’ fast responses to driver/co-driver needs, they really came together and no matter what the official results say, we succeeded in so many ways.”
Even before the race start on Saturday, Proctor and his team were talking about next year’s Baja 1000. A point-to-point race from Ensenada to La Paz, will add even more variables for the team to manage in their quest to finish the Baja 1000. Now, they’ve added the proverbial “fuel to the fire” in the form of redemption. It will occupy their minds all year long.
Alexander Rossi and his co-driver, Evan Weller didn’t sustain any serious, even treatable injuries – a testament to the safety of the truck. Yes, they’re a bit sore.