The 2011 edition of the HPI Racing Baja Endurance Challenge Finals are over, and we've got our first-ever repeat champions! This is just a preliminary news article, a complete report will be online very very soon! Every year, racers across Europe look forward to a true test of racing endurance, and the HPI Baja Finals are the only race to provide a regular challenge to large-scale racers. This was the fourth year of the challange and our first visit to Denmark, which has sent their top endurance team for the last 3 years.
With the help of our Danish importer North TQ, Peter Harder the owner and the Hillerod RC Racing club (HRCR) just 45km north of Copenhagen, HPI staff organized a weekend full of racing and activities for Baja fans and racers from all across Europe! We started the weekend with seven teams, much less than what we'd hoped for after a several teams dropped out and cancelled at the last minute. We'd like to know what can improve the number of teams we get, and regardless we forged onward and worked to make the race weekend fun and exciting for everyone. A short driver meeting introduced the teams to each other. There were many return teams, including teams from the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, plus 2 new teams from Denmark, and with the track ready to go they started a short practice session which went straight into a 1 hour qualifying session. Qualifying positions would be determined by the fastest single lap time, just the same as previous Baja Finals and something new and different for the new teams! The top qualifying position was taken by the Danish RCM team, who had definitely the oldest average age of any team so far! The oldest driver on this team was 66 years old! Last year's Baja Finals champions, Team WSE 1 from Holland took the second spot with smooth and steady driving while Team UK took the third spot after driving all the way from Britain, so it would remain to be seen who would come out on top when the 12 hour race started the next day. In the final spot on the grid was one of the new teams, Team Ballistic from Denmark, with the youngest drivers to ever take the track at a Baja Finals - three drivers are just 14 years old and the team manager is 17! Meeting only online to organize the team and coming together in person for the first time at the track, the drivers were helped by a couple of older racers on the same web forum, one of whom bought the young team a brand new Baja 5B buggy to race with! As usual, the spirit and generosity of the HPI Baja racers was amazing to see! After the qualifying session, the teams had their pictures taken and then it was time to pack up and get ready for the Friday night karting race! With the help of Peter from North TQ, the crew at ActionCity.dk in Ballerup near Copenhagen set up a 2-hour endurance race for all the teams. This was exciting and a fantastic way to let off some steam! Afterwards, everyone sat down to a lovely buffet dinner at the bowling alley next door, then it was back to the track or hotel to rest up and get ready for the racing, which would be starting at 8 AM the next day.
The race started with Team RCM from Denmark racing away in the lead, with team WSE 1 from Holland not far behind in second. Team UK moved into the lead briefly, until their engine let go and they fell to the back with a series of tough luck problems. Team RCM took over the lead for the next few hours as the rest of the teams suffered from broken and worn-out parts. The most interesting problem for the racing teams was a series of broken differentials that affected all of the teams, forcing a 20-40 minute stop for repairs. Theories for the diff breakages varied, but most racers agreed the dry track and high levels of grip wore out the diff by overheating, especially when the inside tyre lifted in a tight turn or the engine was revved over a jump and the tyres spun up while landing - this is one of the toughest conditions on a differential and after 4-5 hours of hard driving it was bound to let go. When Team RCM encountered their first broken diff after several hours of racing in first place, their stop lasted for 40 minutes, allowing Team WSE 1 to gain the lead. After RCM's second diff change and then their third diff change they dropped to almost last place and had to drive hard to move back into fourth and were stretching for third when they had more problems! It seemed the record lap times they were running wore out the drivetrain parts much faster than the other teams, and they kept being forced to the pits for lengthy repairs. In the middle of the pack and fighting for the final podium place, Team UK fluctuated from second-to-last and fourth place, battling with Team WSE 2 from the Netherlands and Team HPIBajaFans from Denmark. Team WSE 2 were the first team to go into the pits with a diff breakage, but they only had the one diff to replace. In addition to their own diff problem, Team UK had to deal with their motor change and other breakages, while Team HPIBajaFans had at least 2 diff replacements of their own. Meanwhile, the young Team Ballistic (doing their first race) and Team Sweden (in their second race) were battling it out to stay out of last place and trying to take advantage of the troubles the leading teams were experiencing. The only thing was, they'd have to work around the breakages they were going through as well! It was fascinating to see how these teams adapted to their wildly changing fortunes and worked as a team to get their car back out on the track while the team managers struggled to keep the driving times for each driver as equal as possible. Towards the end of the race, all of the teams were starting to get tired, and most of the teams had used up the allowed time for their fastest drivers. This meant the drivers at the end of the race for the teams would have to drive easy, steady laps, and in some cases it would become a battle of nerves as teams were passing eacy other on the track! Team WSE 1 was well in the lead with a couple of hours left to go, and although the other teams had started to give up on hopes of a win, it was only now that the Dutch team started to say that they could actually win the 12-hour race again. With the team from Holland in the lead by some 70 laps, the main battle was for third place between Team WSE 2 and Team HPIBajaFans, at least until another diff failure meant that the Danish team would now be racing to continue stay ahead of fourth place Sweden, who had moved up as Team UK and Team RCM wrenched away in the pits on various repairs. In the final hour the order was Team WSE 1, Team WSE 2, Team HPIBajaFans, Sweden, UK, Team RCM and Team Ballistic, but with just half an hour to go the Danish Team RCM was moving up quick to catch the British team, who had their second-fastest driver on the darkening track. Over ten minutes of nerve-wrangling racing, the Danes caught up to the British, forced a mistake and got past as Team UK dealt with lapped traffic, then the Team RCM driver made a mistake that required a turn marshall for help, and the hunt was still on as Team UK was hunted down and forced into a bigger mistake, driving off the edge of the track as nerves were stretched to the breaking point! At the end of the race, the leading three teams had enough time in hand to attach their national flags to the cars and do a few parade laps as the spectators watched on and cheered the teams on. The home country was well represented on the podium, with third place going to Team HPIBajaFans, but on the top step once again was Team WSE 1 from the Netherlands! In second place and 89 laps behind was Team WSE 2, with the Danish team 24 laps behind in third. The final order was: 1. Team WSE 1 2. Team WSE 2 3. Team HPIBajaFans 4. Sweden 5. Team RCM 6. UK 7. Team Ballistic After the race, the top 3 teams had a mandatory tear-down where they had to demonstrate the clutch, shock seals and cylinder head were completely stock. With all the teams satisfied they were within full legality of the rules, the results were deemed official and everyone started packing up and preparing for the post-race banquet. North TQ laid out an impressive catered meal for any of the racers that wanted to take part, with a chef cutting delicious meat dishes onto diner's plates. The first round of drinks was provided by HPI for all the racers and guests, then then results were read out by HPI's Frank McKinney as each of the teams were applauded for their efforts. After the trophy ceremony, all of the racers were in with a chance to win some of the latest HPI kits (Bullet 3.0 ST, Blitz 2.4GHz and Blitz ESE), plus Baja option parts and bodyshells, and then it was time to eat, relax, talk about the race and plans for next year! Our plans for 2012 will hopefully include a race date announcement by the end of 2011, 24-hour race, limited tyre allowance, EFRA-quality large-scale track, referee and twice as many teams! It will also be available to any team from around the world!