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Two amigos: Quinn Wilson, left, and Phil Casey; top left, the race car on the Baja California Peninsula

Two days without sleep, mechanical problems and a prang with a massive cactus bush couldn’t stop two long-time Queenstowners claiming third in their class in one of the world’s great desert races.

Sharing the wheel of a 2.6-litre, Chevrolet-powered purpose-built race car, Phil Casey and Quinn Wilson crossed the finish line in Mexico’s Baja 1000 off-road on Sunday after covering more than 1800km in under 45 hours.

But Casey, who’s been based in San Diego since last year, says they’re gutted because they were out to win. Competing in the Class 3000 category, they were one of more than 400 entries from 27 countries who tackled the point-to-point race between the Baja Californian cities of Ensenada and La Paz.

He says they encountered “thousands” of hiccups – an engine problem, fog, losing their brakes 600km in and “silt, silt, silt”.

“We also ran into a massive cactus bush and destroyed our gloves, race suits and bodies – Quinn and I are still covered with hundreds of needles.”

Casey says it’s the “greatest race in the world”, but also the toughest.

“Most teams have five drivers and five co-drivers. We sat in that truck for two days and two nights with no sleep.

“Out of the 405 vehicles to start only 42 per cent finished. It’s hard to explain how mentally and physically tough this race is – it’s agonisingly tough.”

Casey says he and Wilson, a director of Queenstown Paraflights, are old family friends and drove jetboats together for Shotover Jet.

They’d love to do the race next year, but it costs more than $50,000.

“It all depends on if we can attract sponsors – it’s very expensive.”