The road into the fifth checkpoint, an oasis high in the mountains where an enterprising Mexican had built a small resort called Mike's Sky Rancho, was narrow, and many of the turns were blind, bordered on the outside by steep slopes and, in some places, sheer cliffs. Realizing how serious, even dangerous, the lack of brakes had become, Evans took no chances; he drove cautiously and conservatively, and required two hours and 23 minutes to cover about 38 miles. Still, he misjudged one turn—a sharp lefthander on the blind side of a crest—and the truck fell over a bank. For a few minutes he and the codriver feared they might not be able to drive the truck back up to the road, but Evans eventually spotted a trail that allowed them to escape.
"We'll never know how close that was," Evans said in relief as they bounced back on the road.
They had been racing nearly nine hours. An engine flywheel dust cover had vibrated loose—harmless enough, but the truck sounded as if it had picked up a hitchhiking platoon of little men with rakes who were busily scraping leaves across the bottom of the engine block, and whistling while they worked. As if to divert his attention from the yardwork taking place under the hood, Evans reached into the pocket of his fireproof suit for another cigarette.
Evans spotted two Mexican boys at the side of the road, grinning and waving their arms like hustlers flagging tourists into a Tijuana strip show. Evans slowed nearly to a stop, smiled out his window and said, "No way, boys." Then he rolled through a huge, hidden rut that at 60 mph could have taken the ball joints to the same junkyard as Parnelli's.
A few miles farther on, a spectator raised three fingers as they sped past.
"Did you see that?" asked Evans. "That must mean we're the third car through. Hot damn! Only two ahead of us."
There were only two. Evans had passed 50 buggies, and even a few bikes, despite the bikes' two-hour head start.
On the final long leg, a 58.15-mile jaunt between the tiny villages of El Rodeo and Ojos Negros, the number of spectators grew as the truck got closer and closer to Ensenada. Most of the American spectators were involved in the race in some way, so they knew who Evans was, and, from his position, knew he must have been chasing Ferro all day. But they didn't know that he had driven most of the race with practically no brakes.
There was one small group in particular that Evans wished had known about the brakes. Then maybe they would have understood that the contretemps with the barbed-wire fence wasn't his fault. Not too much, anyhow.
About 20 spectators were standing around a 110-degree left-hander at the end of a roller-coaster dirt road, and Evans came storming down the road at 100 mph, the truck sailing high enough over the undulations for the spectators to see the horizon under its belly. Evans waited until the last instant to back off—he had practiced this turn during a pre-run, had it down pat and wanted to make it good—and then...waited a split second longer. The codriver saw it coming. So did Evans. The truck slid toward the fence, its two front wheels locked and plowing furrows in the soft dirt. Evans cranked the steering wheel hard to the left so the truck wouldn't smash straight through the fence. It didn't; it smashed along the fence. The truck became entangled in barbed wire like a fork in spaghetti; fenceposts fell like saplings tripped over by a klutzy giant. One hundred and sixty feet of spaghetti tangled and 10 saplings fell—the crowd, whooping like fieldhands at a hootchy-kootch show, had measured and counted.