As the 2014 Baja 500 off road race fast approaches, it’s time to talk to the drivers. Today we hear from Team BaDoink’s Tim Whale.
I GUESS, FIRSTLY, WHY ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS?
I used to race 12 years ago… tried to make a little career out of it but never really made it. A friend of mine went from racing to off-road racing and he said to me, “Tim, this is the way forward; this is the new frontier… screw your road-racing career… If you’re going to make a comeback, come and race off-road… it’s like the wild west.” We talked about it on and off for about a year but nothing really came of it. And then, I happened to speak to him by chance and he said, “Oh, we’re going to film this pilot.”
They want to film somebody going literally from zero-to-hero! Or, as my wife suggests, “idiot to dead.” They basically want to go through the whole story of someone preparing to do the Baja, the development of it, the training…
WHAT KIND OF PREP?
I’ve started some physical preparations. Obviously it’s going to be a feat of endurance, driving 500 miles, and so I’ve started physical training, to get some good cardio going and get used to the heat. So, at the moment, every day I do half an hour of cardio and some stretching; I do some yoga, a small amount of weight training…
The thing about driving a truck, or any kind of racing, the physical experience is pretty similar to doing quite a fast jog. That’s the sort of output you’re continually putting out while you’re in the car. People don’t realize that the amount of actual physical force that goes on inside the car is really quite extreme.
WHAT SPEEDS DO YOU EXPECT TO GO IN THE BAJA?
There’s some open desert running, so there it should be around 120/125 I guess, although, in my racing career I have driven up to 200 or so.
BAJA HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING A DANGEROUS, WILD-WEST SORT OF RACE, WITH PRETTY TREACHEROUS TERRAIN… SO ARE YOU NOT WORRIED ABOUT SUSTAINING SOME SORT OF BRUTAL INJURY?
Yeah, I am. The Baja, like a lot of racing events, has killed quite a few people, so it’s something I’m very conscious of. I don’t want to hurt myself… or anybody else… and that will come down to the preparation and the training we do. There’s always the possibility, but it comes down to how you’re driving, really.
DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY?
Yeah, I do. It’d be super easy to go into the race and say I’m going up against one of the legends like Robbie Gordon or Billy Baldwin, but really I’m just racing the desert. It’s my race and I’ve got to pace myself. It’s 500 miles, it’s a terribly long way; it’s all about the finish. So my strategy is going to be, forget about everyone else and just drive to the finish line. Unless there’s some sort of international disaster that wipes out half the field, we’re not going to win.
HAVE YOU LOOKED TO SEE IF THERE’S ANYONE THERE THAT’S KIND OF CLOSE TO YOU, AT YOUR LEVEL, AND THOUGHT, OKAY, THEY’RE GOING TO BE OUR RIVALS… WE’RE GOING TO RACE THEM?
Not really. There’s no novice category and typically in road racing you have all sorts of different licenses. So, this is an international event and to get to do an international event you’d have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on your license, getting it doing national races and finishing those in a certain place to be able to get an international license to be able to compete at this level… Whereas the Baja is crazy because you need no license… Anybody can just go in. I’d be surprised if you needed a driving license.
SO HOW IS THE RACE WON? I ASSUME IT’S NOT JUST FIRST PAST THE POST?
No, there’s no mass start; everyone starts at 2-minute intervals, so basically it’s your total elapsed time, but typically the top 10 guys, the fastest guys will qualify and more often than not will be first on their way, so those guys will be so close to each other anyway.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WILL COPE WITH THE CONDITIONS DOWN THERE?
Badly, if I’m honest… I’ve never driven off-road and I’m terrible in heat. And someone’s told me it’s going to be up to like 115 degrees, 46 centigrade in the truck, wearing three layers of Nomex, long fireproof underwear, a helmet, a balaclava and gloves… it’s kind of like wearing a very thick ski-suit and then putting oven gloves on and a very warm hat. Interestingly enough, the team’s bringing along a nurse and apparently she’s going to hydrate us before and after the race with an IV line, which is something I’ve never heard of before.
WHAT’S YOUR RETINUE?
Okay, so traveling with us, we’ve got 2 team principals – they’ll be looking after all the logistics, the truck and entries and making sure the truck conforms and some of the filming that’s going on – and then we’ll have 15 mechanics, which sounds like a lot but they have to leap-frog each other along the course. So there’ll be two teams of seven and we’ll have to have a pit stop maybe every 50 miles or so to refuel the truck. There’s going to be another truck following us, the support crew, who will also have, effectively, a course laid out, mostly made up of public roads and they’ll be rushing to meet us at each pit stop. So, there are all of them, the nurse… we’ll have a PA making sure we’re okay. We’ll have a nutritionist beforehand, advising us on our diet and what we should be doing to prepare… lots of good carbs and protein.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST OUT OF ALL OF THIS?
Not stacking it! I’m looking forward to finishing it. The start will be very intense… there are like 35,000 people who turn out just to watch the start, so I’m looking forward to driving off the podium and into the crowd. It’s going to be like the parting of the Red Sea, so that should be very entertaining. Most of all, I just want to finish it.
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE A CONFIDENT SORT OF GUY?
I don’t actually. I’m not particularly confident, which seems strange, but I am competitive… I like to do anything well, so I like to compete at things… and I can’t stand criticisms, so if I’m going to do the Baja, I’ve got to get on with it and I’ve got to do it well.
DO YOU HAVE A HERO OR A ROLE MODEL, SOMEONE YOU ASPIRE TO OR LOOK UP TO… TO EMULATE IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS?
That’s a good question… in motor racing, the only person I ever liked was Schumacher. He said, you know what, I go motor racing to win, not to make friends… and I thought that was a beautiful outlook, in the way he applied himself to racing. The only thing I want to be in the end is true to myself and make sure that I experience everything I’ve got to experience.
IS THERE A PHILOSOPHY THAT YOU LIVE BY?
I like to think that my main philosophy is… it’ll be alright. If someone gives me the opportunity, I think, screw it, give it a go and work out the consequences later… because… because it’ll be alright… I’ll be fine.