Dakar champ and first-time Baja racer Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah got together with Dakar moto champ Toby Price to pilot the #76 trophy truck to a second place podium finish in the Baja 1000, the biggest North American off-road race early Sunday morning.
Muddy, rocky Baja roads and hours of driving at night was a new challenge for Qatar’s al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel – not to mention he only had about 30 kilometres of seat time in a trophy truck. But the Qatari Dakar champ proved up to the challenging as he and race partner Toby Price with co-driver Dustin Hellstrom chased down all but two other trophy trucks after starting from the back of the pack.
“It’s totally different from what we’re used to. We had a lot to learn from this type of terrain and style of racing, but we enjoyed it a lot and learned a lot – and I am really impressed with this truck. I am sure next year we can come have a good fight with the top drivers,” al-Attiyah said.
“We’d really like to thank Jesse Jones for giving us a chance to drive this amazing machine – we’re really impressed with it. It’s completely different from what we use in the Dakar Rally, but we learned a lot and enjoyed it a lot!”
The Baja 1000 is much different than rally-raid – rather than a multi-day race, it’s a one-shot, no-stop battle – meaning one truck does the whole race, but drivers swap to stay fast, and stay safe.
This year, Price started the race, with a primary goal of not fighting to the front of the pack, but getting the truck to al-Attiyah in good shape so he could work his magic to claim the number 2 position.
“I think we started 26th or 28th this morning, so to be the third trophy truck across the line – we dealt with a lot of people, a lot of passing, but I think the rookies, Nasser and Mathieu, did pretty good,” Price said.
The #31 trophy truck – piloted by Andy McMillin and Bryce Menzies – rolled early on in the race, doing significant damage. Support crews were able to get the truck moving again fairly quickly, but combined with more mechanical issues later in the race, they were out of contention for the podium. Despite finishing in 13th place in this race, Andy McMillin managed to win the SCORE World Desert Championship thanks to his two wins at the Baja 500 and San Felipe 250 and a second-place finish at the Baja 250.
“I take full responsibility – I feel so bad for the McMillin family and the McMillin team for all the hard work they put into it,” Menzies said.
“There’s nothing you can do, you put all this time into it and it’s thrown away because the other guy made a mistake. And I guess that’s racing and I gotta live with that. Huge thanks to Andy and his family for allowing me to come out and race with them,” Menzies said.
“That as a wild race. As soon as I knew we couldn’t win the race, winning the Championship became our only goal. Baja tried to beat us and it did for a little while, but we came back fighting,” McMillin added.
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