Winning the Baja 1000 Part 2 of 2

Mickey designed some of the fastest off-road cars ever built. In 1979 he won the Race of Champions at Kresno. But the race he wanted to win was the Baja 1000 in Mexico -- the toughest test for young men, let alone a 50 year old. But Mickey wouldn't quit. The move to Mexico in 1982 was like an army preparing for combat. It was as if Mickey's whole life had prepared him for this race. There were over 200 cars at the starting line. In a cloud of dust they began their race through the desert. Near Gonzaga Bay Mickey hit a muddy tide pool and flooded his car. "The mud was so thick I had to scrape it out of my eyes before I could open them. I poured some gasoline on my flooded engine and set it afire. It really blazed up. An airplane was flying around and the pilot brought it down to see if he could help. When the fire flamed real high, everyone around me scattered. I jumped in the car, hit the ignition and got it up to 100 mph as fast as I could. It blew out the flames so I stopped and hitched up my harness and put my helmet back on. I'd figured I'd either get the ignition dry or burn up the car. It was a desperate thing to do but that's how you survive in Baja." After ten hours the rough terrain took its toll on Mickey and his car. It took the crew 45 minutes to fix a brake problem. While Mickey stood beside his crew, he watched cars fly by that he'd taken hours to pass. In true Mickey style, he didn't give up. He knew he would just have to pass them again. Over the next nine hours Mickey did pass them again, won the race and set a new speed record of 19 hours, 40 minutes and 23 seconds. From his home made car that beat the rich kids' store bought cars, to his junkyard cars that won street races, to his innovative cars that set new records on the dragstrip, to Bonneville to Indianapolis, to Pan Am to Baja -- Mickey Thompson succeeded because he never gave up.

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For the 1963 Indy 500 Mickey designed and built three new, much lighter cars -- one was built completely out of titanium. But the most important great leap forward was the tyres. Most tyres running then used a narrow tyre tread with a hard rubber compound. This was impractical for Mickey's lighter, low slung racers so he designed a soft compound three times the width with a lower profile and organised Firestone to make the tyres. Mickey's unique wider, softer tyre became the forerunner of today's passenger tyres. But in 1963 Mickey's revolutionary tyres created havoc with the technical committee and the other drivers at the Indy 500. When the other Indy 500 drivers saw the wider, softer tyres they said Mickey had an unfair advantage. Some drivers threatened to strike. Due to the complaints from drivers Firestone switched the formula back to the harder compound. The trouble was no-one told Mickey and the situation became dangerous - the lighter cars needed the softer compound to drive safely. So Mickey's lighter cars with the hard tyres slid, spun and crashed all over the track. With his usual "never give up" attitude, Mickey began designing and building new ideas into two new cars for the next Indy 500.