Islander competes in Baja 1000 race
November 24, 2008 · Updated 5:39 PM
Far from the glamour of LeMans and the pageantry of Indy, a thousand miles of “race track” snakes through dusty towns and endless stretches of nothing. This is the TECATE-Score Baja 1000 - a race disguised as a party in the desert of Baja, Mexico. For Indy 500 veteran and Island resident Dominic Dobson, it’s a very interesting couple of days at the office.
“I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve ever had to slow down for a donkey on the race track!” says Dobson. Racers at this annual event don neck braces and kidney belts to help their bodies gut out the treacherous terrain. It’s the biggest event of the year in Ensenada, where schools are closed and locals line the streets to watch the spectacle. But it’s a far cry from the race scene Dobson’s used to; in the early ‘90’s, he raced for Texaco with teammates Michael and Mario Andretti. Dinners were often black tie affairs, and drivers reclined in million-dollar motor homes between driving stints.
Flash forward to last month, in the desert: team owners advise Dobson and co-drivers Frank Everett of Bellevue, Chris Berty and Steve Curry, to watch out for booby traps set by locals, who will then offer to “help” free a stuck or lost race car - for a price. And then there are the donkeys, goats, sheep - sometimes even children - who loiter in the road as race cars speed by. Glamorous, it isn’t, but Dobson rose to the challenge in part to add to his impressive race resume, and also to test out his newest high-tech invention, SportVue, a prototype helmet-mounted Heads Up unit that displays speed and GPS data.
Dobson pioneered SportVue personal Heads Up displays, and his company, Motion Research Corporation, was a co-sponsor of the team’s effort. For its part, SportVue got rave reviews from the Baja team. “I was able to maintain the maximum allowed 60 miles-per-hour without having to take my eyes off the road,” said Everett. “This was particularly helpful during our night-driving stint.”
In the end, the testing was successful, if the racing was not. Six hours into their stint, the pair came upon an uncharted lake in the middle of the road. They were going too fast to miss it, and plowed into it at high speed. Their race car drowned, leaving Dobson and Everett standing around in the desert for four hours, waiting for rescue. Still, Dobson calls the event a big success. “It was dusty, wet and bumpy, yet SportVue had no failures. If it’s rugged enough for the Baja 1000, it’s rugged enough practically anything else!” (www.motionreserach.com)