Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rod Hall Wins SCORE Stock-Mini Title

In one of the most bizarre finishes I have seen in over 30 years of Baja racing, Rod Hall finished second in the Stock-Mini Class, clinching his third consecutive SCORE Desert Points Championship in the Stock Mini Class and qualifying for a share in the Toyota Milestone Awards for the 2008 season. Rod's friend and partner Mike Winkel was at the wheel of the #760 H3 SUV when the truck took the checkered flag.

What made this finish so unusual was the fact that Gavin Skilton, in the #779 Honda Ridgeline and Ryan Millen, in the #762 Toyota FJ Criuser, had been locked in a battle for the class lead during the entire race. As they entered the final 10 mile dash to the finish, fully an hour and a half in front of the apparent 3rd place winning #760 H3, Millen apparently hit a large boulder, resulting in a devestating crash and ripping the entire front end off the Toyota which brought it to a halt five miles from the finish. Skilton, now thinking he was on easy street, almost immediatly got buried up to his doors in a mound of silt just a few feet from Millen. Both vehicles remained in place, motionless, for almost an hour as the HUMMER H3 moved closer to the finish and the win. After an hour of race traffic coming by, all unwilling to stop and lend a hand, the #862 Dodge came by on his way to a second place finish in the Stock-Full Class. Driver Kent Kroeker agreed to tow Gavin Skilton free from the silt that restrained him, allowing the Honda to take their first SCORE Baja 1000 win. Millen was finally being towed out of the area, as Mike Winkel passed him by for the unlikely second place finish. It just goes to show you that, as Yogi Berra once said, "It isn't over til it's over".

Meanwhile, Josh Hall in the #863 H2 SUT broke another front suspension part (tie rod) back at RM 520 or thereabouts but got back in the race to finish third in the Stock-Full Class. Twenty four hours and forty nine minutes after they began the odyssey that was the 2008 Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000, Josh Hall, Sam Cothrun and Team HUMMER overcame most every obsticle that Off-road racing could throw at them to bring the #863 Team HUMMER H2 SUT home for the Checkered flag.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Team Owner, Rod Hall, a happy 71st birthday and to congratulate everyone at Rod Hall Racing and Team HUMMER for a great performance.

Good day from the 41st Annual Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000.

George R. Thompson
Rod Hall Racing


Chad Hall Wins 2008 Baja 1000

In a tough and diciplined race that demanded a trouble-free drive from start to finish, Team HUMMER's Chad Hall drove a perfect race in the #861 H3 Alpha to win the Stock-Full Class at the 41st Annual Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000. The win marks the 7th Baja 1000 victory for Chad Hall and the finish earns him the 2008 SCORE Stock-Full Desert Points Championship and a share of the Toyota Milestone Awards, which are awarded each year to each driver who finishes every mile of every race in the SCORE Desert Championship Series. Our congratulations go out to Chad Hall and the H3 Alpha crew for another championship season.


Early Morning Problems

As of 5:34 this morning, Chad Hall, in the #861 H2 Alpha, is at RM 582 and continues to lead in the Stock-Full Class over Kent Kroeker in the #862 Dodge, who appears to be parked on the side of the road at RM 560, giving Chad his biggest lead of the day. Josh Hall, who has been fighting problems with his front suspension in his #863 H2 SUT, broke an idler arm at 3:30 AM near race-mile 420. He managed to get it repaired in about 25 minutes and get back in the race in time to barely hold a one-mile lead over Clyde Stacy, in the #779 Dodge Ram. Currently he is running in third position at RM 460 with a 33 mile lead over Stacy.

As of 5:56 AM, Gavin Skilton is holding the lead at RM 562 in the Honda but Ryan Millen is reeling him in and is only a mile or two behind him in the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Mike Winkel, back at the wheel of the #760 Team HUMMER H3 SUV, had a couple of flats between Check Points #4 and #5, which slowed him down just a bit. Currently he is at race-mile 507 in third place and running well, now that he has two new spares on the truck.


A Brief Update

At 1:15 AM, after 1 1/2 hours of downtime, Josh Hall and Sam Cothrun got back in the race after replacing a broken pitman arm. This is a serious job at anytime but in the dark and in the dirt, it was very challenging. He is currently running in third place and is at RM 368, 102 miles behind Chad in the #861 H2 Alpha. The #863 H2 SUT is scheduled for a fuel only pit stop at BFG Pit #3 (RM 403).

The #862 Toyota is running again as of 1:20 AM and is currently 28 miles in front of the third place #760 H3 now being driven by Rod Hall. The #779 Honda leads the race by 40 miles over the H3 with about 215 miles remaining in the race.


The Good, The Bad and the Unknown

Well, here's what I know as of 1:05 AM. In the Stock-Mini Class, The #779 Honda Ridgeline is in the lead at RM 412. Ryan MIllen's #762 Toyota FJ Cruiser has stopped at their pit at race-mile 400. The rear of the Toyota is jacked up and the rear suspension appears to have sustained some serious damage from the "whooops" leading up to the pit area. The Millens have brought in some service vehicles and it looks as if #762 may be in the pit for awhile. Mike Winkel is running well at RM 365 and closing in on second place.

In the Stock-Full race Chad Hall is at RM 447 and continues to lead in the #861 Team HUMMER SUV by 14 miles over the #862 Dodge. Josh Hall, who was gaining ground in the H2 SUT, suddenly came to a halt a RM 360 and due to his remote location, we cannot reach the race-car or crew by phone or radio. An appropriate service vehicle has been dispatched to establish contact so we can determine the extent of the problem and I'll report those findings as soon as I hear back from the team.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Hall/Winkel Move Into 3rd Place

At 10:33 Mike Winkel, at the wheel of the #760 H3 HUMMER SUV, passed the #761 Ford to take over third place in the Stock Mini Class. Currently Winkel is at race-mile 294 with a 14 mile lead over the now 4th place Ford of Steve Kovach. The H3 remains about 65 miles behind both Millen in the #762 Toyota and Skilton in the #779 Honda, who are still running within sight of each other.

Chad Hall continues to lead in the #861 H3 Alpha with a five mile lead over Kroeker in the #862 Dodge. Of interest in the Stock-Full Class is the fact that Josh Hall in the #863 H2 SUT has made up 30 miles on the leader in the last hour and 10 minutes. This should develop into an interesting race as the night progresses.


Josh Hall Back in the Race

As of 9:45 PM. the #863 Team HUMMER H2 SUT is back in the race and running better than ever according to the pit crew at BFG Pit #2 (RM 282). Apparently, two bolts that fixed the right-side motor mount to the frame came loose and fell out, allowing the engine to rock from side to side. This movement caused the intake manifold to contact the engine support tubing, cracking the manifold. By 8:45 PM, after spending almost an hour finding something to use to support the engine in the frame, Hall and Chief Mechanic, Sam Cothrun were able to get it under power again and limped the H2 into the BFG pit, some 20 miles up the road. Once in the pit the crew was able to epoxy the intake manifold and install the proper bolts into the motor mount to secure the engine and fix the vacuum leak. #863 is currently 70 miles down to the leader, Chad Hall in the #861 H3 Alpha. With nothing to lose, you can rest assured that Josh will put the hammer down and make every attempt to get to the front in the next 300 miles.

In other news, Mike Winkel in the 760 H3 SUV is currently at race-mile 273, about 5 miles behind the third place #761 Ford driven by Steve Kovach. The H3 is currently 70 miles behind the leaders Ryan Millen in the #762 Toyota FJ Cruiser and Gavin Skilton in the #779 Honda Ridgeline, who are running neck and neck for the lead.


Josh Hall Sidelined at Race-mile 260

While enjoying a 5 mile lead over the #861 HUMMER H3 Alpha, Josh Hall's #863 H2 SUT sheared some mounting bolts on the right side of his engine which sidelined his truck just 20 miles from BFG Pit #2 located at race-mile 282. At the present time, Chad Hall is at RM 285 and leads the Stock-Full Class by four miles over the #862 Dodge while the #863 H2 continues to sit at race-mile 260, waiting for the crew to find a way into the area. More news as it develops but as of 8:22 PM, I am in the dark as to the exact nature of the problem and cannot contact anyone on the H2 chase crew to find out more details.


Rod Hall Running Again

After an hour of downtime, the Team HUMMER crew was able to reach the #760 H3 SUV, make repairs, and get underway with Mike Winkel behind the wheel. In spite of the quick repair, Winkel is about 50 miles down to the leader as darkness falls in Northern Baja. The H3 is currently running in 4th place but after considerable downtime to replace some suspension parts, the 3rd place #761 Ford driven by Steve Kovach is only 14 miles ahead of Winkel. I'll put a clock on them to see if Winkel is making up any time on the competition.

Josh Hall is in the lead in the #863 Team HUMMER H2 SUT with only 4 miles between him and his brother Chad in the #861 H3 Alpha. Closing in gradually is Kent Kroeker in the # 862 Dodge, with about five miles separating him and the 2nd place Chad Hall. Back at the Check Point (RM 140) Kroeker was about 8 miles back so he seems to be running a slightly faster pace then Chad. On the other hand, Josh seems to be holding on to his 9 mile advantage over the big Dodge.

Rod Hall Down with Steering Problems

As of 4:45 PM, after changing a flat tire at Race-mile 98, Rod Hall has apparently broken his rack & pinion steering at race-mile 114. The chase crew is heading in to make repairs but they estimate that it will take 45 minutes to reach the #760 Team HUMMER H3 SUV and another hour to make the repair. Co-driver Mike Winkel is driving in with the chase crew to take over behind the wheel and give Rod some time to rest. "It's a long race," said Hall. "There's still 500 miles to the finish and a lot can happen by then."

Meanwhile, Chad Hall in the #861 H3 Alpha clings to a narrow lead in the Stock-Full Class over Josh Hall in the #863 H2 SUT. They are both at race-mile 125, eleven miles in front of the third place Dodge driven by Kent Kroeker.

HUMMERS Rescue Stuck Race Buggy

At race-mile 53 stands Compadre Pass, a steep and rocky hill, which is narrow with steep walls along the sides that do not allow for easy passing. As the race was beginning to spread out in both the Stock-Full and Stock-Mini Classes, Chad was the first among these two classes to reach the pass only to find a Buggy stuck on the rocks in the middle of the hill. In no time the trucks started backing up behind the Buggy, Chad, Josh and everyone else in the S/F and S/M classes. Leads of 3, 4 and even 8 miles were quickly reduced to leads of 3, 4 and 8 feet as everyone found themselves in a traffic jam waiting for the buggy to dig his way out and get going again.

Chad and Josh in their H3 Alpha and H2 SUT combined to shove the buggy up and through the pass so the race could continue. As of 2:25 PM everyone is back in the race and both the Stock-Full and Stock-Mini Classes are spread out over an 8 mile area between RM 65-73 and running in a tight pack with Chad still holding the lead in the #861 H3 Alpha followed closely by Josh in the #863 H2 SUT.

I'll check back in a while after the race traffic begins to sort itself out, once again.


One O'clock update

Chad Hall in the #861 H3 Alpha continues to lead the Stock-Full Class at RM 35 as of 1:01 PM with his brother Josh right on his tail. The remainder of the class is currently about 8-10 miles back with #779, Clyde Stacy, from Bristol, VA running in 3rd place in his Dodge Ram.

Ryan Millen is leading in the #762 Toyota FJ and running about 4-6 miles in front of Rod Hall in the #760 H3 SUV who is in a tight race with the rest of the Stock-Mini Class. Rod is running well but merely running at his own pace knowing there is about 600 miles of bad road left to the finish line.


They're off the line

Team HUMMER's Chad Hall left the start line at 12:00 noon in the #861 Stock Full H3 Alpha followed by Josh Hall one minute later in the #863 H2 SUT. They are currently at race-mile 18 with Chad and Josh holding a slight lead over the field and Chad slighty out front.

Rod Hall got under way in the #760 Stock-Mini H3 SUV at 12:02:30, clinching his third consecutive SCORE Stock-Mini Championship. Currently Ryan Millen is in the lead in the #762 Toyota FJ with Rod in a fight for second about two miles back. Millen is at RM 21 as of 12:42 PM.

Everyone seems to be running fine at the present time. This early in the race it's all about taking your time and threading your way through the more than 200 cars and trucks to find your comfort zone while the race traffic thins out.

More news as it develops.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Team HUMMER Ready For Baja 1000

Good morning from Ensenada, Baja California and the 2008 Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000. Led by team owner, Rod Hall, Team HUMMER is at the starting line in downtown Ensenada waiting to take the green flag for the start of the 41st Annual Baja 1000. Chad Hall will be the first HUMMER to start in the #861 H3 Alpha. He is expected to get under way about noon today and only needs to finish the race to lay claim to the 2008 SCORE Stock-Full points championship. Starting third in the Stock-Full Class will be Josh Hall in the #863 Team HUMMER H2 SUT. Between them, the Brothers Hall have won the Stock-Full Class at every Baja 1000 since 2000 and 3 of the 4 SCORE races in their class this year with Chad taking wins at Laughlin and the Baja 500 and Josh winning the San Felipe 250.

Rod Hall is racing in his 41st Baja 1000 and will share driving duties in the #760 Team HUMMER H3 SUV with Mike Winkel. The veteran Hall is the only driver to have participated in a car/truck in every one of the legendary Baja 1000 events and will clinch his third consecutive Stock-Mini Class points championship as soon as he starts the race. He also holds the record for Baja 1000 Class wins with 19 victories. His goal this year is to make it an even twenty wins and win the 23rd Annual Toyota Milestone Award which is awarded yearly to each driver who finishes every mile of every race in the SCORE Desert Championship Series. Going into the final race of the season there are only 15 drivers still in the running for this prestigous award. Team HUMMER's Rod and Chad Hall are two of the fifteen eligible drivers.

As if this wasn't enough, team owner, Rod Hall, celebrates his 71st birthday on Saturday. Ride along with us and I'll bring you all the Team HUMMER action throughout the 41st Annual Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000.

George R. Thompson

Notes from Ensenada

I'm sitting in a coffee house in downtown Ensenada while the race trucks slowly snake through the streets for tech and contingency.  We wrapped up pre-running yesterday after five days out on the course.  Although the race is a short one this year at approximately 640 miles, it is long in some respects.  It is definitely a tough, tedious, technical loop - but well suited for our HUMMER race trucks.  A highlight of the first 148 miles to BFG Pit 1 is the descent off La Ruma Rosa.  The several thousand foot decrease in altitude is marked by sheer cliffs and stunning vistas.  It will be an impressive sight to see over 300 trucks race it - knowing that a missed turn could be fatal.  Multiple corners involve three-point turns.   

The loop from Borrego through San Felipe is completely whooped out and the last portion of the course on the Pacific side is marked by several treacherous silt beds.  We are very happy to have four-wheel drive vehicles and have marveled on several occasions at the Class 11 drivers who finish the race in stock VW Beetles.  

We're happy to have George Thompson, veteran desert racer and Rod Hall Racing team member posting regular blog entries throughout the event. So check back.  Thanks to all our fans and sponsors for your support.
Posted by E. Miller

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Heading to Baja

Rod, Emily and Mike Winkel head to Ensenada tomorrow and begin pre-running the course. The trio will meet up with Josh and Chad Hall, Sam Cothrun, Thad Stump and the GM crew on Friday at BFG Pit 1 at RM 148.  

Sean Holman of Four Wheeler Magazine will co-ride with Josh in the H2 SUT.  And this year, Rick Pewe from 4-Wheel & Off Road Magazine will leave the line with Rod in the Stock Mini Class.  Pewe has joined the team two years in a row, but unpredictable race dynamics and circumstances have kept Rick from jumping in the navigator's seat with Rod.  He is incredibly capable and we are excited to have him experience the insanity a Baja 1000 start offers.

More tomorrow, before we cross the border.