Have you ever wanted to drive a Baja sand dune buggy? I have and I got my chance to work in the race team pit for John Holmes, international famous Baja California racecar driver for Ford Motors Corporation. John has won more races for Ford in his class than anyone else.
I met up with John in the desert just east of Laughlin, Nevada. He was sitting on a great big rock, eating cheerios out of a small box. Behind John were two mechanics with some electronic instruments making the final engine adjustments on his Division 7s and 7sx modified Ford Ranger. One other team member was trying to force as much gas as he could into the fuel tank.
“Reporting for duty,” I announced to John. “Want something to eat?” asked John. “No thanks”, I said, “What do you want me to do”? “Photos. I have been racing for 15 years and I don’t have any decent pictures of my races,” John said. “This race will be good for pictures since the race is a 20-plus mile looped course, 500 miles today and another 500 tomorrow. You will have lots of opportunities to get some good photos.” I was excited about my assignment, as this would allow me to watch the events up close.
I asked John what he thought his chances were to win. John, without missing a beat said “we’ll win.” I looked around at all of the hundreds of pits with their fancy 18-wheelers full of every tool, spare parts, and electronic gadgets you’ve ever seen. John’s race pit was a simple motor home and a trailer that carried the race car.
The racecars were started two at a time. Each pair of cars was timed. The car that completed the fifty laps of the 20-plus mile course first would be the winner. I was allowed right up front with my camera to record the race. Each pair of cars lined up at the start line waiting for starting lights to go from red to yellow to green. Dirt would fly from the rear tires fifty feet in the air as they took off. John was lined up with a black and white truck.
The lights went from red to yellow to green – the white and black truck sped off leaving John in the dust. John started his car spinning his tires but took off calmly picking up speed. The first obstacle was a 12-foot-high ramp. The cars were at speeds up to 100 mph when they hit the first jump. The cars were reaching heights of 20 feet and flying over 90 feet before landing. The suspension systems were highly sophisticated works of engineering to absorb the full weight of the cars going 100 miles an hour.
During the day I got lots of great photos of John capturing the many exciting aspects of the race. John was right: he won by over three minutes, which is huge in a sport where the difference between a winner and the first loser is measured in hundredths of a second. John humbly accepted his award and cash purse.
My next contact with John was in the high Andes of Peru where John and his family had paid for the building materials for a three-room school house and medical clinic in a very poor village. John and his family were part of 44 people who had donated money to purchase building materials for schools, medical clinics, greenhouses, and bathrooms for the very poor people in Peru.
In the Andes, the roads are very narrow and full of ruts, chuckholes, and boulders. After traveling several days on these scary roads, John suggested that we modify our four-wheeled vehicles with special suspension systems, similar to that used on the Baja Race Cars. He asked if he could drive one of our vehicles and determine what modifications could be made. John and our Peruvian Supervisor Ceasar started down the High Andes road toward our hotel in Cusco.
The remaining 43 of us loaded into our bus and could see only the dust trail of John and Ceasar. It took the 43 of us two and a half hours to reach our hotel; on the other hand, it only took John and Ceasar one hour. John was very excited about his plan to modify our three vehicles with special shock absorbers and suspension systems. By modifying our vehicles, John felt that our project managers would be able to visit twice as many villages each day. This would be a fantastic blessing since we had projects in 175 villages all of which had terrible roads. We could do twice as much work in a day with John’s modifications. John also felt he could get many of the items donated by his race sponsors.
John did get all of our items donated by some of the most prestigious racing manufacturers in the world. It took several of us traveling to Peru to get all of the suspension parts for the Hope Projects vehicles there. Along with the suspension parts was a detailed step-by-step
diagram of how to modify our vehicles. It took several hours for our project supervisor (and a lot of advice from John who speaks Spanish) to complete the modification of our three vehicles.
Twenty years have now passed since our vehicles were first modified, and the results have been unbelievable. Since then we have modified eight more vehicles. We travel about 400,000 miles each year, and a vehicle only lasts us about 5 years. We are now able to visit 2-3 times the number of villages in a day, visiting some remote areas that we could not get to in the past. We can now deliver needed materials and supervision to our remote villages high in the Andes safely with the speed of the Baja Race cars. Now we can touch the lives of more people because of a simple suggestion of a World-Class Baja Race driver. Thousands of people are being helped. Thank you John from thousands of people high in the Andes who are now being helped.
If you want to know more about Hope Projects and 175 village projects that are affecting the lives of over 650,000 people, either log on to our website at www.hopeprojects.com and download our catalog of over 40 different projects or call 435-671-8000 and a catalog of our projects will be sent to you without any obligation.
Help us help the very poor people of the high Andes help themselves out of poverty and bring hope for a better future to their villages. Remember, 100% of Hope Projects' overhead is paid by the board of directors, and also 100% of your donation is tax-deductible since Hope Projects is a 501c3 IRS-approved charity. We provide building materials and the villagers provide all of the labor.