By Patricia Wells-Wright, Special to the Independent
With 218 entries from 22 states and 9 countries, the San Felipe Baja 250 was held March 12, with the start and finish at the famed San Felipe Arches on the outskirts of the fishing village on the east side of the Baja California peninsula.
The race started at 6 a.m. for the motorcycle and ATV classes, which were followed three hours later by the car and truck classes. One vehicle starts every 30 seconds in the elapsed-time race, with an 11-hour time limit to become an official finisher.
The challenging course, a long, narrow loop extending north of San Felipe and then back south through three picturesque and challenging washes featured four checkpoints for timing of all race vehicles as well as 22 virtual checkpoints.
Truck owner Nick Tonelli set a blistering pace from the start, running through Diablo Dry Lake and lots of silt. Wright took over at mile 122, covering sandy silt beds, jagged rocks and narrow passes between walls of rock in Matomi Wash. At mile 160, end of the Matomi Wash, Wright encountered an accident. Truck 605 was on its side and trophy truck 8 was at the scene to put out a fire, with trucks 600 and 619 reeling in the dust on a hard left turn. Wright pulled up, hooked a strap to 605 and pulled him back on his wheels. Good sportsmanship overrides competition on the course. “Couldn’t be more proud of our boys,” said Nick’s father, Lyle Tonelli.
Wright continued the race through Huatomote and Chanate canyons to finish the 252.09-mile course in 7 hours, 3 minutes, 41 seconds, averaging 35.7 mph.
The Tonelli race team, sponsored by the Bee-Hive Sports Bar and Hostility Clothing, was at all four checkpoints and various pit stops throughout the desert course. Will, Wright’s brother, was there to assist, along with Lyle Tonelli, Jonny Williams, Kyle Scott, Dave Crum, and Dustyn Loppnow.
Wright, a welder and fabricator, and others on the Tonelli crew, rebuilt the truck days before the race and was pleased #1549 went unscathed from any mechanical problems and no flat tires.
Wright expects to return to Baja for the 500-mile Ensenada race June 3-5.
Laguna Beach resident Patricia Wells-Wright, mother of Ben and Will Wright, took a pre-race run at 70 mph over five-foot dips and was at several virtual checkpoints on race day.