A finish in the Baja 1000 is the most amazing task. Every year there are acts of heroism getting to the finish line. I truly believe that “Everyone at the Baja 1000 has an interesting story, it’s just a matter of capturing it.” Year after year teams come in past 32 hours, after the finish line closes just to say they crossed it. I have even been on one of those teams, the tractor was taking the dirt mound off of the street!
This year the Baja 1000 Pirate4x4 chat went into official “Baja 1000 OVERTIME” as the SCORE Finish line closed at 10:18pm and two teams that we had been tracking were still on the board and moving. With the Internet, we were part of the story as it was happening. So what was the big deal? Just another cool story. At close to 2am the teams of #1802 and TT7 crossed the finish line of the Baja 1000, after approximately 36 hours on the course. Who are these guys? Nobody really knew until they made a wrong turn that would change their lives in our offroad community forever. UTV #1802 was driven by Kane Fraser who is a paraplegic from Canada that is running the Baja 1000 as a fundraiser for the Man in Motion, Rick Hansen Foundation. After watching Dust to Glory multiple times, he decided to add the Baja 1000 to his bucket list. “This was our first Baja 1000, our first time racing, and for me my first time racing in any sport ever,” said Kane Fraser. He enlisted the help of his friends, and with never even being in the desert, much less racing, they set off on this awesome journey. “We were super naive, but we learned a lot along the way, and got laughed at a lot which was fun,” Kane said with a smile. “In terms of what I wanted to accomplish, for me number one was to raise $25,000 for the Rick Hansen Foundation. Second, is to create awareness of the abilities of people with disabilities. And third, to inspire one disabled person to really move ahead with their goals and strive to achieve their goals, because as long as you try and try you will succeed, you just have to keep moving forward.”
We were first introduced to the team when they made a wrong turn. And I mean a major wrong turn. As the Polaris RZR900 came down into the San Felipe loop area, they forgot to turn left to go down, they were headed to the Pacific Coast. “There are obstacles in everyones life, like we were just talking, how could you miss the turn, there were like 15 flags! We kinda knew there was something wrong when we were mixing it up with the Trophy Trucks an Class 1 cars. Then the challenge was how do we get back in the race. We couldn’t let our team down, we had been prepping for 11 months and just to let a little 100 miles get in the way of the finish wasn’t an option.” And they did. The chat went wild with people watching the 1802 go way out of the way to get back on course. But still no one knew their story.
As the night started to fall for the second time of the Baja 1000, the 1802 was still moving. They had gotten back on course and had maintained a consistent pace, but not one that would allow the 1802 to make it to the finish line before it closed.
Lets now introduce the #7 Trophy Truck of Jim Riley, Rick L. Johnson and Scott Steinberger. If there was ever a truck full of Baja Spirit, this would be it. Riley and Johnson, partners in Azunia Tequila a major supporter of the Baja 1000 and Scott Steinberger is the owner of PCI Radios and Weatherman’s son. Need I give any additional credentials? To be short about it, they had a most challenging race. The R8 Trophy Truck had an issue with the rear end when the snout broke off the hub and they were stopped dead in their tracks. With rallying parts all the way from the US, they got the truck back up and running. The team continued through the night and the next day when Jim Riley would take it for the final 200 miles. Riley recalls, “We had a nice clean run until we hit the silt beds on the Pacific side of the course. That’s when the entire dynamic of the race changed for us. The rear hub had almost an inch of “play” in it and I was knee deep in silt. I called Weatherman to alert him of our possible withdrawal from the race. We were out of time and parts and he was looking for a status update. He “suggested” that if we stayed in we could help out two race cars that had gone over the cliff ahead of us. It was about this time that 1802 passed us on the course. After 30 minutes of digging and finding something to get us out of the silt we were back on course and running. Craig and I decided that we would make it to the stranded racers and enjoy the Pacific side of the course. By the time we reached Santo Tomas we heard the full story of 1802 and realized that we needed to stay on the course and make sure he made it to the finish line if he were to encounter any problems. I think that sometimes on a dark Baja race course you can be inspired to keep going by just knowing someone is behind you to pick you up if you fall. That’s what I call the “Spirit of Baja”. We wanted to be that for 1802. We limped or truck through some of the toughest terrain I have seen in Mexico and were equally inspired that 1802 was out there checking off his bucket list.”
Also in the Spirit of Baja, the Weatherman took the battle of the teams to SCORE Ops pushing them to allow them to finish, in time or not. “You have 32 hours to finish, even if the check points close, let them do it,” said Weatherman ~ “Once you close the course, you can’t stop them from continuing, so let it ride, there are people on the internet that would hate you for not letting them finish,” said Weatherman ~ 15 minutes to closure of the finish line and the 1802 was at RM620 ~ “As a Ceremonial closure, 1802 should be allowed to finish the race,” said Weatherman. “They can come cross the finish line, but no one will be here,” said SCORE Ops ~ “He is a paraplegic here to do his bucket list and he is amazing, absolutely amazing, you don’t want to stop this guy,” said Weatherman. “Ok, Thank you,” said SCORE Ops.
SCORE Ops shut down the finish line at 10:18pm, but one of the largest outpourings of support rallied across multiple internet outlets and the Weatherman continued to be vocal. The focus now turned to watching these two get to town. “We were already damp and cold but we wanted to finish, we didn’t care, nothing would stop us. We kept going and did finish! We were a little bug eyed, but we finished,” said Heino Seibert, Kane Frasers Co-Driver. Jim Riley adds, “At the end of the day we met up with 1802 at the beginning of the wash in Ensenada and drove to the newly established finish line by friends and family. There was no Tecate or finishing pin but the smiles on our friends faces will never be replaced by a formal finish line. We shook hands with the support team from 1802 and took some pictures together – all knowing that we just beat Baja on our own terms and timelines…I would not trade my race for all the wins in the world!”
The level of support for these two teams would make any pro racer envious. Kane and his teammates persevered for almost 800 miles over 36 hours. He never let up, he never whined, he kept a smile on his face and moved ahead, 1 mile at a time…and TT #7 was right by their side, battling their own demons to finish this race, but together, they helped each other and made it across! Just another amazing story of the Baja 1000! To read more or support their fundraising go to http://www.baja1000fundraiser.com.