The rest does us good. Well, I fall asleep on a road section, but apart from that and the time Justin calls a right early and I end up doing laps of someone's campfire, we're all good. In the groove. Battered, grimy and knackered like proper veterans, we curse the support trucks that cheekily use the race course as a short cut, blasting through their dust without lifting, tooting our siren, flashing our massive light packs. All is well until we strike, well, I'm not sure what, but the impact is considerable. There's a scream and then silence. That's it. I've broken Justin. I'm going to have to stop in this dark, hostile desert and call for help.
I slow down to crawling pace. I've really hurt a guy I care about, and that makes me feel awful. For a few miles, we trundle, as Justin tests his neck. It's manageable, and for that I'm weepily thankful.
The last 50 miles are unforgettable. We struggle through the swamp, floorpan deep in mud and water, then suddenly we're in the cactus forest. It's so stunning, we temporarily forget the pain. Picked out by our ferocious headlights, the cacti rise from the desert like spiny sentinels, appearing ghost-like behind the sheen of white dust that hangs in the air. It's hauntingly beautiful, so calm and quiet compared with the jack-hammering buggy. And then, suddenly, we're on a road, and only five miles from handover. And we're elated.
The lights of our pits are the most welcoming we've ever seen. Justin and I unbuckle harnesses and collapse into a brotherly hug. Twelve hours done. I pat the buggy. We're still last, an hour down, as Josh and Jessi head into the dark. It's the last we see of the buggy for 31 hours. They have a nightmare. Josh rolls, gets it stuck in silt, hits a motorbike, breaking the rider's foot, and having given himself the mental and physical jitters, hands driving duties back to Jessi. A wrong direction call sees them drive off a small cliff, breaking the front suspension, leading to a five-hour delay.
It limps home in 43 hours and 54 minutes, less than six minutes inside the 44-hour limit. But it's made it (one of fewer than 180 to do so, from a 300-strong starting list), even though Doc and Steve had to stop every 35 miles to buy power steering fluid from spectators. BC-6 dribbles on the podium. We smile, and toast with warm beer.
The Baja 1000 is a race that strips you, teaches you about pain thresholds, concentration levels, how you perform in adversity. It's the only racing I've ever done where the limiting factor isn't the car or the surface, but you. That's a tough lesson to learn. But we've done it, we made it. We fought the Baja, and we won.
This story originally appeared in the January 2013 edition of Top Gear magazine.