Robby Gordon and his team knew they’d face a tough battle to win the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 when they drew the 20th starting position. But after last year’s second-place finish, just five minutes behind Tavo Vildosola, the team wasn’t ready to be discouraged.

Forced restart

A jackknifed semi-trailer forced a restart of the trophy truck class some 10 miles from Ensenada. After that setback, Gordon immediately began working on his strategy for the win. He jumped out early, trying to get a jump on as many trucks as possible. After a good battle with Pistol Pete in the 70th mile of the race, Gordon found himself in a good spot. He had just five trucks in front of him and he was in the three spot on corrected time.

Darkness fell on Gordon as he approached San Felipe. This part of the course features very rough terrain, which was problematic for Gordon and his competitors. Near race mile 250, Gordon stopped for a light bar, two rear Toyo tires, and a full tank of gas. The SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires team had him back on the track in less than a minute. At that point, Gordon had only five trucks in front of him and he was just a few minutes behind Bryce Menzies, who was at the head of the pack.

Rolling near mile 400

The race went as planned until Gordon rolled his truck near mile 400. He hit a berm at nearly 130 mph and rolled, landing squarely on his Toyo tires. The truck’s body was in bad shape and Gordon had to navigate slowly to the pit at race mile 400. His team inspected the truck and found no serious mechanical issues. With new lights and a new set of Toyo tires, the truck was ready to return to the race. When Gordon returned to the course, he was in ninth place and 45 minutes behind the leaders.

Replacing the lights

After the setback, Gordon began pushing his SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires trophy truck to the limit. He drove aggressively for 100 miles and had gained a full 25 minutes on the leader by the time he headed into Valley Trinidad. Gordon was still gunning for the win, but the lights on his truck would prove to be the next setback. By race mile 645, the lights were bent down and Gordon had little visibility in the darkness. He stopped and had them fixed at the archway heading back into Ensenada. Even after the stop, Gordon was still within striking distance of finishing in the top five.

Denied just before the finish

Gordon passed the first truck off the line — driven by Jesse James — near Ensenada’s muddy washes. James rolled his truck as Gordon skated by, leaving Gordon with one less competitor in the final portion of the race. He had great positioning, until his truck suffered a broken drive shaft just two miles before the finish line. The SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires team had to push the truck out of the mud to change the failed part. The operation resulted in a loss of 90 minutes to the overall winner.

At 5:30 a.m. local time, Gordon finally finished eighth in the trophy truck class and 10th overall. Had the drive shaft held on for two more miles, Gordon would have finished in fifth place, 25 minutes behind first-place finisher Andy McMillan. Gordon explains the adventure this way, “We missed a turn at the 390-mile mark, and we crashed the SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires trophy truck. We were running 130 before that so we probably hit the ground at 100; it was a big one. I haven’t crashed that hard in a long time. Then literally two miles from the finish line, the drive shaft broke but I’m sure it broke because of the crash. The back of the truck moved over about three inches because of the crash so the drive shaft probably got jarred pretty hard. Toyo Tires were great, just awesome.  We just never have any problems with them.  I think with SPEED Energy we are gaining more exposure for the brand and changing the desert from green to orange.”

Another shot at Dakar Rally

You can see the SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires team in action again at the 2012 Dakar Rally. Robby Gordon is eager to get another shot at this competition, after stepping out early last year. Stay posted on all team events via Twitter, Facebook, and SpeedEnergy.com.