Mark Murrell Motorsports LLC

Fire Guys Racing

 MINT 400                                                                     March 12, 2016


 I was anxious to race the '98 Wrangler Jeepspeed after purchasing it 3 months ago from Bill Frey. I had driven it in Barstow after purchasing it with Mike Barnett of Jeepspeed showing me the ins and outs of driving a Jeep fast. Fireguys Racing had taken all three of our race vehicles to Plaster City prior to the Nov. 2015 CODE race for FOX testing and tuning. So this was my third time driving the Jeep, first time racing it, on a MINT course we had finished third in 2015. We destroyed much of the car last year getting a podium finish. My goal this year was to drive conservatively, get a finish, and learn more about the Jeep without killing it.

Team SIMCO was helping Larry Schmueser in his TrophyLite, Project Baja Class 11 team was out in force ready to tackle the MINT for the first time, and KC was here with his Class 11 to have a run at it with a Green Beret, courtesy of the Special Forces Charitable Trust. We also were happy to have a Green Beret riding in the Fireguys Racing Jeepspeed, hoping to give him an enjoyable ride in the desert, and a break from his job of protecting our freedom. We all pitted in the same neighborhood of the main pits so we could help each other out as needed. We had a lot of support from a great bunch of folks ready to enjoy a weekend in the desert.

 On Fri. morning we towed from Buffalo Bills in Primm to Downtown Vegas to get in line for Tech/Contingency on Freemont St. The crew offloaded the Jeep as I went with the Schmueser and Mike Sims to registration. We got there as it opened, and our long wait kept getting longer as the line kept getting reformed. Mike had to bail out and go back to assist with diagnosing the TrophyLites gremlin of not wanting to start. Once registered I met the Jeep and crew most of the way through contingency line. Bob Bowers was interviewing everyone as the cars proceeded towards Tech inspection, pretty cool!

Race morning would start early as our staging time for the first race was 0530, with a 0600 start. We met our Green Beret for the first time as Canadian Paul was getting suited up as a back-up, just in case. We gave him a very abbreviated briefing, got strapped in, and headed to the staging line. The sun came up 30 min prior to our start time, so no lights were needed for this race.

I requested a rear start, our #1788 would start 10 of 11 Jeepspeeds. We took the green flag and as soon as we hit third gear realized a burble, kind of a rev. limiter feeling which stayed all day. The Jeep didn't have top end capability all day, at max. RPM under load the motor would cough and fall flat- no power.

We cruised up the rocky, windy climb directly behind Primm. This was the section of course that historically has concerned me in the bug. If a faster car catches us here there is no where to get out of the way. When SNORE first brought back the MINT in 2008, this is where on our third lap, trailing leader Ed Mahoney,  a Trophy Truck appeared in the rear view mirror. I slowed, pulling over into a small area free of boulders waiting for the truck to scream by and I could pull back on course, catching its vortex and not get stuck. The truck hesitated long enough to make me come to a complete stop as it went by. We were stuck. For over an hour of down time by the time we got racing again. Went on to finish 2nd in the 300 mile MINT. This section of course no longer concerned me in the Jeep, with 4WD. It's very comforting to be in a vehicle you know you can drive the entire course, stop if needed, and not get stuck. (Here we come 2017 Baja 1000!)

The strap holding the driver's side spare tire was working loose, finally falling off around RM 25. The tire stayed put and I hoped the brand new General Tire and KMC rim would continue to hold on for 5 miles until Pit A where our guys could fix it. We radioed ahead what was going on, pulled in and got the strap reattached, then took off.

We passed many vehicles from all classes broken down the first lap. Last year I was amazed at how fast the course was compared to previous years. This year's course was fast as well, not a direct comparison being in a different vehicle this year, but was faster than it was rough. The biggest issue I had driving the jeep was shifting the AX-15 5 speed trans. I'm used to a longer throw, more space between gears, this is much closer and tighter, I felt like a student driver!

We pulled into the main pits starting lap 2, the crew dumped 18 gallons of 91 Octane pump gas into the fuel cell as I sucked down a gatoraid. The Jeep looked good, got the thumbs up from the crew and we headed out for the second half of the race. We gave the thumbs up to the crew as we passed Pit A. We needed an emergency human pit stop shortly after, allowing a half dozen cars in other classes to go by, including the 1st place and eventual winner in Class 11, Alex Rivas. We got going again and had an uneventful rest of lap 2. The dry lake beds were fun to see how fast we could go. We hit 83mph in 5th gear, knowing there's more once the little top end hiccups go away. We reached the checkered flag after seeing the Trophy Trucks in Race #2 along the first few miles of their race. Much safer than seeing them in the rear view mirror!

While waiting in post race line for the interview with Bob Bower, it was nice to chat with my Class 11 brothers and see Jennifer sneak into finishers row! Getting a podium finish required a post race Jeepspeed inspection. Huge thanks to SIMCO guys for the wrench work!

I was happy to get a podium finish and not hurt the Jeep my first time out. Congrats to Jeepspeed winner Skyler Gambrell.

We'll see you in Laughlin!

Mark 

 

 

 

2015 CODE Raceready 275                                        Dec. 5 2015

Wow, what a great ride! The final race of the MAXTRAX WSOB would also be my scheduled final race in the Fireguys /Racing Class 11. I recently purchased a Jeepspeed Wrangler and look forward to a new chapter racing a 4wd Jeep, a dream I've had since the 1982 MINT 400. 

 

This grand finale started out with the three Fireguys Racing race vehicles headed to Plaster City to meet up with the master FOX technicians for shock tuning of the recently rebuilt (and mutated) Class 7 Toyota, our newest team member Richard Nowlin's Class 1, and my Jeepspeed Wrangler. After a very successful day of suspension tuning we took the short drive across the border to our host Hotel in Mexicali and pre-race Tech/Contingency. The bug and truck would race, our first CODE race, and the team was excited about being back in Baja for another adventure.

The truck had been working through "new truck" issues after the multi year conversion from 7S stock to 7 open. Jason and Paul were very eager to get back into their "old" truck and feel the results of their blood, sweat and years of hard work. Jason Harvey would get the right hand seat from the start with Jason Hutter driving to the halfway point where Paul Blangsted would take over the driver's seat and Galvin Seedorf would navigate to the finish.

I would team up with Gary Helming in the Class 11. A fitting final race in the bug as we started this Class 11 adventure 10 years earlier, winning our first race at the 2005 SCORE Primm 300.

As is the case in every race, our pre-race planning went out the window at the drop of the green flag. The truck lost 3rd gear immediatly and would experience alternator problems soon after. Just short of the halfway point the truck lost all electrical and came to a stop. One of the awesome things about racing in Baja is the enthusiasm of the spectators and their ability to assist a race vehicle. A battery was borrowed and the truck limped on to the pit stop where a new alternator and battery were swapped out. Driver/Co-driver swap was made and the truck powered on to the finish line, a very respectable 3rd place finish.

Meanwhile, Gary and I were having our own Plan B as our race and plans were changed at RM10 when we drove over a big rock (the size rock you can hear and feel under your feet as the car plows over it). The motor immediately sputtered and died. I investigated the damage and saw none, only a dry fuel filter indicating the mechanical fuel pump had given up the ghost. No problem, just flip the toggle switch to turn on the secondary electrical fuel pump. We used the MAXTRAX to get unstuck. The first 30 miles was pretty sandy with intermittent whoops thrown in. A Class 11 is all about momentum! Don't stop unless you're on firm ground, preferably facing downhill! We took off, powering through the terra not so firma at max RPM The brand new Blaine Beecher built motor feeling incredibly strong. In fact, with the new cam and other little tricks Blaine did this time the car could pull another gear through the uphill sand-very nice!!

At Max RPM, when needed the most, the car sputtered and was stuck, again. I switched the fuel line over to the back up (to the back up) fuel pump. Deader than a doornail. I bypassed the dead mech. pump and ran the fuel line to the carb. That was the ticket, car ran flawlessly for the next 100 miles. But this time we were stopped (stuck) in a really sandy uphill area which took multiple MAXTRAXing. I did the unthinkable in a Class 11 and put in in reverse thinking I would back onto the MAXTRAX. Yep, grernaded reverse gear. The gear shrapnel banged around in the RCTRANS for a few minutes until it found a quiet place and settled down. John's building me a heavy duty trans. with T2 Diffs, heavy duty stuff. It wasn't done for this race so looks like the new owner of the bug will get it! Gary was driving now, when we finally MAXTRAXed near the top of the sand crest and it looked like the car could get enough momentum to keep going, I told him to go until he found firm ground. I'd catch up. Two miles later I did, he had swapped out a flat for a good tire as I walked the two miles to the car. We got buckled in, Gary hit the go pedal and we got stuck. Easy MAXTRAX out, did a big loop to park on solid ground and try again. This time we got going, back to the race!

We finally made it to CP1, an hour after they closed, and out of the loose stuff. We could settle into the race now with the fuel delivery issues no longer stopping us. We knew we were too far back on time to be able to make it up and get a finish, but the car was running better than it ever had, we were racing in Baja, life is good!

We had zero communication with Jake, our sole chaser of the Class 11, all day. Not too worried knowing Jake is very Baja savvy and knows the reality of race plans changing, he's been down this road a time or two. We got to CP2 long after they were gone. Stopped to take the covers off the KC lights and try Jake on the radio again. No word on the radio so we kept going to RM120 at Chinero where our planned gas stop was. The car felt stopping 10 miles prior to this was more appropriate. Very dark narrow canyon, no communication all day, no tracker for anyone to know our whereabouts. This was old school Baja racing! As I was thinking about a 10 mile walk to the highway we saw lights slowly coming our way. A chase truck was pulling a wounded buggy down the course, too rough to go up the course. The very helpfull team siphoned 2 gall. of 110 from their race car on a rope and dumped into our bug. After many Thanks and offering to pay for the fuel (no worries, happy to help) Gary and I slowly drove on to RM120, then a few more miles to the highway access. No sign of Jake, but another race team's chasers were there. They offered to help, we bench raced and talked politics for a while. One of them offered up his cell phone, I called Jennifer in Colorado to get a hold of our guys and tell them our whereabouts. 

While we waited, Team Hendrickson came out of the night, trailering their Class 11 up the course. Motor had blown up, ending their race and very strong run at the MAXTRAX WSOB $10,000. Ouch. Congrats to Cisco Bio and his very fast car for claiming the prize!

As Jake was driving by on the highway we caught him on the radio. We loaded up the car as it was well beyond the time limit of the race, headed to San Felipe and our rental house. We spent a couple days relaxing at the house, enjoying the company of good friends and the non winter conditions of the San Felipe area!

The rest of the adventure was getting the truck prepped for and to the SNORE RATR the next weekend, but that's another story! 

Thanks and see ya at the races!

Mark

2015 MINT 400                                                       March 13,14-2015

Jim Graham contacted me a couple months ago about racing the MINT 400. He wanted to revive Class 11's at the MINT and put on a good show. It didn't take me long to say count me in, it is the MINT after all! Maxtrax America agreed to help get the Fireguys Racing/Maxtrax car there and we were on! This year's race was back in the Primm area, a 120 mile loop where we would do two laps and the faster classes would do three. For safety reasons race day would be split into two races. The unlimiteds would race in the afternoon, the rest of us in the morning. While this format mirrors the old SCORE Primm 300 and not the historical MINT 400, I fully support it-the last thing I want to do is be on a loop course with 54 Trophy Trucks and the same number of Unlimited buggies!

The 2008 MINT 400 raced on a similar course. My car had good results then, finishing 2nd out of 11 in class. Our very first race was on much of the same course in 2005 and we managed a 1st, so my car likes racing in Primm! I was expecting a long, rough course for the 240 miles or so we would race!

Rod Hall (yep, that Rod Hall!) was scheduled to drive my car on lap 2 after he got out of the "Vintage Class" Dodge D-50 pick-up truck he would drive on lap 1. This would be worth bringing the FireGuys Class 11 to the MINT, Rod Hall driving my car and me sitting next to the legend, absorbing as much knowledge as my smiling face possibly could! 

We got the car in line 0800 Fri. morning for Tech / Contingency, up close to the front. Registration was a breeze and we were through tech. by 1100. The pre race festivities are certainly what makes the MINT the MINT! Las Vegas, Fremont street closed down all day for the endless line of race cars being pushed through, the vendors booths and crowds of fans and curious gamblers. Pretty cool, you just have to absorb it as it's happening!

We had a great team for this race! The SIMCO team with Mike (Carrey couldn't make it), their kids Tyler and Parker, Momma and Pappa Bear, Dave, and Lindsey all rode out in the RV from the Glenwood Springs area. Ty came up from Phoenix, Gary from S. Cal, Jason and Marissa were in S. Cal on vacation prior to the race.  Jennifer made the race, first one in a few years. Shelby, first race for him, Canadian Paul from the Front Range, and me. A great group of folks! My Fireguys teammates loaned me the use of their 35' enclosed trailer again, nice to have a garage on wheels!

Gary and I belted in the car for the long staging process to the start line. First car was off the line at 0600, sun came up at 0648 so I ran just 2 of my KC HID's to get to the start line. By the time we started it was light and no need for lights. I didn't request my usual rear start, so the luck of the draw had us start 3rd, next to #4701 Johnson/Mahoney. We started 30 seconds behind the #4721 H12:one Hollenbeck team and  #4716 Wallentine. Behind us were #4707 Grahm, 4713 Maxtrax KC, #4749 Rivas, and #4722 Straight.

The green flag dropped and we went around the CORR track, then out into the desert. I did my usual slow start, not wanting to break the car flying the jumps the first mile of the race. We had just raced this same infield 3 weeks ago at the Battle at Primm and I was amazed at how well the car held up; I didn't want to push my luck!

After a few miles everyone had gone by and we were settling into the lap 1 pace. By mile 30 I pointed out the obvious to Gary that this was a fast track! Pit 1 at RM 39 we honked and waved as we went by Lindsey and Shelby pitting KC's car. KC's Maxtrax car has a stock tank and would pit at all 3 pits, not wanting to risk running out of gas on the course (been there, done that!). A few miles down the course KC's car passed us at speed, Gary and I thought two things; how big of a smile KC must have seeing how Jeremy (King Dave's son) is handling his car, and that car will never hold up!

All the rough and slow areas of the course I remembered from previous races, the "woopville" section at RM 26, the boulder field at RM52, the rutted out rocky 2-trac coming down the pass at RM 105, were non-existent, non-issues, not even much of a slow down! Where'd they go? I thought. That with the 4 or 5 sections of high speed dry lake bed crossings, and the paved road where we reached an all time high speed of 77 mph it changed my assumption of this being a survival course to a FAST course!

Rod Hall's Dodge passed us mid lap, he was on the gas dancing the truck as it pulled away from us. We went by pit B, waving at Ty and Canadian Paul through the 25 mph zone. A couple of our competitors had pulled over on lap one to change flats, we passed them thinking stick to our plan of "slow in the rough, fast in the smooth."

We came into the main pits at the end of Lap 1 with the #4716 Wallentine car pitting directly in front of us. Half of us in Class 11 were pitting in the same area, nice to share resources and knowledge. King Dave was there helping out as well. No Rod Hall, he had just come in with the truck and didn't have time to reconfigure in the bug. Gary was good to stay in the right seat for the second lap. We shut down to check the oil level, there was a slick under the hood but oil level was fine. We told the crew we had hit hard on the drivers front (hard enough to rattle my teeth, but no flat!). They tightened up the ball joint, added 13 gall of Sunoco and waved us out. We took off and discovered the brakes had locked up. The crew pushed us back to the pit and started fixing it. I got out so Dave could check the adjuster behind pedal. The left rear adjuster wouldn't back off far enough, but enough to free it. I buckled back in, thanked the crew and we took off, this time not dragging an anchor!

The long pit stop allowed me to get hydrated again. I had forgotten to put my camelback in the car (it was in Colorado) so Gary did a good juggling act getting me water bottles and using a plastic hose for a straw I managed to get a little water in me on lap 1! We didn't have the GPS course download so lap one was old school (it is the MINT!). Starting lap 2 now we knew the course and what to expect. We had more dust free miles at the start of lap 2 then we did Lap 1, with the still morning air and heavy traffic. It was nice to be able to go faster with clean air! The other classes were coming around us, the leader had fought us 20 miles from the end of lap one. On a loop race half our race is concerned about what's coming in the rear view mirror, the other half what's in front of us. My priority was to get out of the way of another class vehicle ASAP, but a lot of times it's not immediately possible to move over without ruining our race. Some folks behind us understand that and have better patience than others! We did get our driver's side rear fender and tail light smashed by a Class 10, I moved over as far as possible and he came by, his right front hit us on the way by. That happens a lot, always on the lookout for driver's side fenders and tail lights!

The car was feeling good on lap 2, the brakes were not locking up, they were a little looser due to the adjustment in the pits. I'll take that over coming to screeching halt! We cruised on by our Pit A and Pit B. We were having a race with the #4716 Wallentine car, both of us mid-pack. The Johnson/Mahoney Superteam had checked out. We were following the #4716 for most of the first half of the lap, then they followed us the second half of the lap. Around RM 100 KC's Maxtrax car was off to the side, Jeremy waved us on. I was thinking that's a tough part of the course to get help if they need it (reminded me of a helicopter ride I got from SCORE in 2006!). About the same time, I stepped on the brakes and the peddle went to the floor, nothing! I told Gary we'll have to slow down and when the #4716 gets on our bumper I'll let him by. That's my normal passing philosophy, early in the race I'll pull over and let anyone by. Late in the race they have to want it, get on my bumper and then I'll move over. We discovered in the loose just lifting off the brakes slowed the car down enough we didn't have to slow down too much. Going into a couple sharp corners it was exciting with the car dancing in the brake whoops! We rolled through a checkpoint, through the flag hitting the A-pillar (sorry-no brakes. How many times have I heard that working check points!) The #4721 H12:one car was on it's side in the middle of a rutted turn a few miles from finish, we just got around the high side, roosting the approaching recovery vehicle. Gary thought we were now in third place. We passed through our pits just a few miles from the finish line, with #4716 about 15 seconds behind us. Pretty cool to see everyone cheering us on. The crew radioed we had a flat right side rear but at this point there was no stopping. Approaching the dike jump we could hear the tire shredding, hitting the fender. We lost a lot of speed in this high speed section, down shifted and kept peddle to the floor! We navigated the final infield turns and jumps, made it over the RedBull leap with the checkers in sight as the Trophy Trucks were starting side by side in the CORR track next to us. 

We got in line with the other finishers, motor running rough at idle, then I shut it off patting the dash telling Tortuga thanks and sorry! Gary got out of the car and came over to my side saying "don't look at your car." The right rear shock mount had ripped out of the mounting plate, breaking the brake line, and eventually cutting into the tire. The tire was basically gone, remnants of a tire on a beat up rim. The smoke I thought coming from the tire was motor smoke resulting from a shredded fan belt, (a surprise discovery when we opened the deck). The other surprise discovery was made later, the right side front upper shock mount had torn from the beam! The car wanted to get to the finish, but now it was dead. We couldn't follow the line of other finishers and drive up the podium ramp and tell our story. We put the spare tire on and with the assistance of our support truck, towed it back to the pits.

We had a great race with #4716 Wallentine for 3rd. Congrats to #4701 Johnson / Mahoney on their win, and #4749 Rivas on second place. Madmedia and BITD put on a fun race! A lot of stories will come from this one! Thanks to my wife Jennifer for being part of this one and for the continued support of my passion. A great weekend in the desert with a bunch of people that made it all happen! Great to meet some new faces and see old friends!

Thanks,  Mark 

(Photos by Shelby Bates, Canadian Paul) 

 

2013 Baja 1000                                                             Nov. 15-16,2013

The Fireguys Class 11 was happy to be back in Baja for the longest, toughest loop race in its history. Maxtrax came on board and gave us the boost to make the 46th running of the Baja 1000 a reality. Our adventure started the week prior to the 1000 with a trip to the SEMA show in Las Vegas.  Tortuga was sporting a whole new look, wearing Maxtrax black and orange and  4 "new" fenders for the occasion. The '69 bug with TONS of race character looked somewhat out of place at SEMA, sitting behind a little green BMW and next to a Rally x-games looking ride. I did get a lot of positive comments regarding the car all week!

After SEMA half the team headed to Baja, more specifically to our rental Casa south of Ensenada, arriving Sat night, 5 days prior to the start of the race. We had time and rigs to do a little pre-running for the first time ever! Paul and I headed out in his Rescue Ranger for the section from Colonet, up and over to Mike's Sky Ranch, and on to Hwy 3. In this 70 mile stretch was roughly 10 miles of brutal tight, rutted, silty, rocky, climbs that by race day would be virtually impossible for Tortuga to make under it's own "power" (or lack there-of). We'd have one of the 4wd chase trucks in this area for assistance.  The Mitsubishi with J. Harvey and Roger pre-ran from BFG #5 to Hwy 1. In this 100 mile stretch they encountered 2-3 silt hill climbs that also had potential to be problems for the bug. We'd have Gary's Mitshu, a stock mini Baja 1000 class winner a few years ago, be in the neighborhood during the race. Due to SCORE allowing Class 11 and a few other limited classes, to bypass the miles and miles of DEEP siltbeds at the south end of the course, we had the luxury of pre-running and seeing the worst sections of the course prior to the race.

Team Maxtrax meeting  was Wed night prior to the Fri. start of the race. Jason, Canadian Paul, Tara, and Handcrank Film guys Chris, Erik, Jim, and Diego all arrived, along with Maxtrax KC and Melissa. Maxtrax Brad, as it turned out, had border crossing issues and wouldn't make it for the start of the race so Paul would co-drive the first 209 miles. The final race plan was penciled in our team binders and the BFG "bibles."

Thur. morning the team got the car in line for the 10:00 Tech/Contingency start. Jason and I took his Raptor from the Start to Ojos  in the pre-run parade. Afterwards I joined the Tech/Cont. party while Jason and Jason went back to work on the Mitchu's 4wd issues. Tech/Cont. is always a crazy busy congested atmosphere in Baja, something you gotta experience!

Race morning! Paul and I staged in our 2nd rear start position, with 4 Class 11's in front and 1 behind us. A boat load of sportsman and UTV cars started behind Class 11's this year, more reasons to watch the rear view mirrors the first few miles. We took the green flag at 10:40am, squealing the tires on the pavement. We dropped into the dry wash (nice!) and settled into the technical beginning of the 830 mile race.

We felt a loss of power pulling 2nd gear around RM 12. A spectator gave us the flat tire sign and Paul determined we were close to our chase Raptor at RM 15. We pulled the bug over and started to change tires when Jason, Tara, and Chris pulled up and took over. Tortuga doesn't get flats too often, hopefully this was it for the race! We took off again, hearing the Raptor was pulling up to the course at RM 20.5 just as we rounded the left hand sweeper. The car quit sweeping and kareemed into the burm in front of a group of startled spectators. The Raptor pulled us off the course where we saw the upper right side torsion arm had worked it's way out. The crew and some eager spectators assisted in the repair as Tara tended to my bloodied finger (due to an eager spectator helping me take the wheel off). Nothing was broken on the car so we tightened and checked all the arms, then went on our way. All right, a flat and a mechanical issue right off the bat, I was hoping for smooth sailing now, for a while anyway. We had that, settled into a Baja pace through Ojos and across Hwy 3. Spectators were heading home, towards us on the course so we had to expect oncoming traffic around every blind corner. Urban racing for sure untillwe got further out of Ojos.  A few miles later the steering went away.  We pulled off the course and discovered the long side tie rod had broken in half. We put the spare on and adjusted it close  to where both front tires pointed the same general direction. 

Around RM 60 was the first steep hill we didn't make on the 1st try. Second attempt was good with Paul pushing, then smooth sailing onto BFG #1 at RM 75. We gassed up with good smelling SUNOCO and took off for the next leg up and over the summit area. Unique Baja country here, scattered Jeffrey pine trees, steep rocky canyons. We plugged along up and down the rolling hills, then started up the biggest final hill.  300 yards from the top we lost momentum at a big rock. Paul pushed, used the Maxtrax as a bridge between rock gaps, winched (an experiment for this race), worked his butt off in this section. A fast buggy squeezed by to our inside, horsepower and suspension making it easy. One more push, pull, and Maxtrax on the final climb and the bug was at the top. I pulled over far right to gather everything up and let Paul catch his breath. the noise of another buggy was climbing the hill behind us. I fired up the car while Paul waved at the buggy to stop while I moved forward.  BC1 ran over the rear of Tortuga as I moved forward, not wanting to wait 5 seconds. Fortunately the damage was cosmetic and a broken tail light, scars of the adventure.

We slowly banged and clanged down the other side, finally hitting the flats and silt around RM 150. The Raptor was waiting for us, assisting a broken race truck in the silt beds. We made it past them and a few miles later got stuck. The Raptor pulled us out and we got stuck again. Raptor pulled us to the next hard surface and unhooked us. Got stuck again in the sand and Paul Maxtrax'd us out. I kept going to the next hard surface at RM 165 while Paul hitched a ride in the Raptor.

With all the issues, we were pushing the closing time of checkpoint #1.  We left the silt/sand and back to slow rolling whoops, loosing more time getting to CP1. Crossing Hwy 3 CP1 was not to be seen, having closed a few minutes earlier. Not as big a deal now that CP's don't stub, since the GPS tracker magically keeps track. We raced on down course 17 miles to BFG 2 that was staying open for us. A ticking noise started but with no loss of power I suspected an exhaust leak. The noise got louder the closer we got to BFG 2, but still no loss of power. RM 209 we pulled into BFG 2 and after gassing up, diagnosed the noise as being a rocker arm wave washer/clip issue. KC swapped out our spare rocker arm, strapped in the drivers seat with J. Harvey now navigating. Paul and I hopped in the Raptor as the car headed down course. 

We heard "1108 at RM 215, AOK", "1108 at RM 220 AOK", then "oil light is on". The motor locked up and we were done. The Raptor towed it to San Felipe and we retrieved it the next day with the trailer back to Ensenada. 

We had a good plan in place with the Team Maxtrax resources available. Our team was a great group of enthusiastic people with the same goal of getting the bug around the course to the finish line. The car had other plans this time from the get go, but that's Baja! I felt bad KC and Harvey had a short ride,  Gary and Roger never got to get in the car, Melissa and Brad and Canadian Paul didn't get an opportunity to get in the car. But we will be back! Maxtrax is a product that works as claimed, it really is the easy way out! We had fun hanging with the Hand Crank Film guys, can't wait to see their footage (the last two pics in this write-up are from them)! 

Mark

 

 

2012 Baja 1000                                                     Nov. 15-16,2012

Six years after our first attempt at the peninsula run with the FireGuys Class 11, we were back with the goal of getting to LaPaz. Tons of prep. to the car left me with a good feeling about our outcome. The car was better than ever and as good as she could be with an 1121 mile, 45 hour race ahead. Logistically the team was ready to do whatever it took to accomplish our collective goal. We had three sets of drivers/navigators. I would drive with Jason Harvey the first leg from start to Bay of LA (400 miles), KC and LeRoy would drive the 2nd leg to San Ignacio (220 miles), Paul and Chance would take it to Loreto (235 miles), then I would get back in with Jason to the finish (270 miles). Paul and Chance would chase us in the northern section in Paul's newly acquired Ranger, (with an even newer engine) known as the Rescue Ranger. Dusty and Gavin would bring Big Blue towing the trailer down Hwy 1, and Jim would bring the Tijuana rental car. There's generally an 11th hour issue with something on the race car just prior to a race. We had that occur with a locked up Transaxle two weeks prior, plenty of time for Paul and Jason to transport it to Vegas and wait while John at RC Trans worked his magic. A quick 1100 mile round-trip and we were good for a systems test a week later, but still a week before the race. The car checked out, all systems ready. The 11 1/2 hr. issue this time occurred with the chase Ranger, a"new" engine was picked up in Colo. Springs and Paul and company worked an all-nighter to get it in, good to go!

We convoyed out to San Diego, the FireGuys Colorado contingent, driving through Utah snow with the Class 11 and Rescue Ranger in tow. We hit the BF Goodrich pit meeting, dropped off tires and dump cans and coordinated how much Sunoco we needed at each of the 8 pits. We met up with Gavin (from San Diego), then crossed the border headed for our rental house south of Ensenada where we met up with KC, LeRoy, (from KS) and Jim (from FL) in the Tijuana rental car.

The two days prior to Tech/Contingency would involved pre-registration, (very smooth), getting Tourist cards (way too confusing-nothing smooth about it), SCORE rollcage inspection (it passed the last time I raced score, so no sweat right?) Nope, failed. The team jumped in and found a local fab shop 6 blocks away that jumped on the problem and fixed it. Great work everyone! Tech/Contingency day we got the car in line at 7:00am, 3 hrs. prior to opening. We were behind Rod Hall's Hummer (the only guy to have raced in every Baja 1000. That's all 45 of them!) And in front of the McMillin's trucks and buggies. Yep those guys! We breezed through, done before lunch! It was cool to hear all the comments from the bug-loving locals and from our fellow racers regarding the car. The locals do have great enthusiasm for the Class 11's!

We met the film guys from handcrankfilm.com in line. They came down to do a documentary on Class 11. We obliged them with a little camera time. Great to see folks so enthused about the Class 11 race family!

Race morning, Dusty and Gavin drop us off in Ensenada, then head south for El Crucero (RM 346), convoying with the Tijuana Rental. The team would regroup here when the race car went  by. Jason and I got strapped in, staged the car as it got closer to start time. We would be the last Class 11 starter, 3 cars in front of us. Not the last starter of the race though, the Sportsman UTV's would start behind us. We were getting closer, 30 seconds separating the cars at the start. Our back-up tracking devise that was to be placed in the car at staging was nowhere to be seen and we were getting closer...Sal shook our hands and we were on the dirt mound prior to starting, still no tracker. Our turn, we point at the empty container with no tracker. The flagman shakes his head and says don't start without it. We see a guy running towards us in the rear view...the green flag drops and "the rhythm of the race" did NOT begin. We pulled over to wait. A UTV takes the green and zips by, The IRC tracking guy installs the device and we're good to go. A second UTV starts and we tuck in behind it, we're off!

We make the two lefts on the pavement and drop into the wash heading out of town. Just a little mud and water, not too bad this year. Thousands of fans line the wash and the streets. We did no pre-running but heard the first 20 miles was very technical. We settled into a pace to get through the start, people everywhere-pretty cool.

At RM 16 (yes, 16) the car lost full power and developed a severe internal thump. We discussed what it could be, pulled over to have a look. Nothing obvious. Jason pulled the #1 plug wire and the thump went away. We radioed the Rescue Ranger, they were headed to RM 20. The car wouldn't climb the hills we were in on 3 cyl. I backed down to get out of the way when a kid in very clean English asked what they could do to help. I said you could tow us up the hill, as a truck positioned itself in front of us. Jason attached the strap and up we went. Lots of spectators lined the course still. We were delivered to a group of guys that said they could help. One of them spoke broken English, his buddy will look at it and fix it, he knows VW's and race cars. He said leave our tools in the car, we pulled the jack, jacked the pass. side rear, he pulled the valve cover and exposed a rocker arm shaft broken in half. While he unbolted the rocker arms I dug out our spare rockers and showed it to him. He said something which I interpret as "I'll be danged! and bolted it on, adjusted the valves, and we were good to go. They wouldn't take any money, told us to get in and get going. We shook hands, strapped in and were gone!

We had issues getting to the top of a couple hills. On one of them the car lost RPM's and momentum close to the top. I didn't want to back all the way to the bottom and didn't have to thanks to a bunch of kids that ran to our aid, they pushed the car to the point we could get going again. Thanks!

We stopped briefly at the big white arch (RM 20) to have Paul and Chance look for any oil leaks. A bystander pointed out my drink tube was hanging out my door, dragging in the mud. Mud flavored water, yummy. We took off, the car running and feeling strong, we're back in it!

After Ojos we pulled over so Paul and Chance could remove the rest of the light covers and I drank a gator-aid. Forgot my straw tube for the occasion so it was a little more challenging, and would continue to be at every pit. Paul also pulled the lens cover off the camera and we started filming. The next hour or so showed roughly 100 spectator cars heading towards us, heading home after watching the start of the race. An added challenge to the start, but not unexpected as we were running behind schedule and most folks thought everyone had gone by.

The car settled into a nice pace, everything continued to feel good. Our team goal was to not be concerned with where our fellow Class 11 cars were. Our competition, our race is the clock. We needed to keep an avg. MPH above 25 (the min. needed to finish under the 45 hr. time limit). The GPS not only had the course download, showing us where to go, but also the running avg. mph. We were a little behind due to the early rocker arm issue and knew we would not make it up in the San Felipe whoop section. These two plus hrs. of racing would be slow but steady. The Trophy Trucks float over tho top of the whoops. Not us, we drive up the front and down the back! 

We bounced down the Goat Trail onto Hwy 3 at RM 110. Paul and Chance dumped in 2.5 gal. of gas as the 1st BFG pit was at RM 151 and I was uncertain as to what kind of fuel mileage the car would get. I based everything on 8 mpg, but expected 10 mpg. I didn't want to run out prior to BFG 1 so we poured in a little insurance here. The course paralleled Hwy 3 for a few miles and the Rescue Ranger got some night time video bouncing through the whoops. 

The 7 KC HID's stayed adjusted perfectly and lit up the darkness. Due to alternator limitations we needed to turn off a set at times. With over half the race being a night it was nice to have good lights! We spent the night racing the same 3 vehicles. A 5-1600, a UTV, and a class 6 truck we would see over and over as we passed each other. We'd pass them while stopped, they'd get going and catch us.

After Check point #2, we hit 47 miles of pavement on Puertocitos Rd. This is where the horsepower classes have to slow down to the 60 mph limit. We, on the other-hand,  can make up lost time and get our avg MPH up. We breezed through Coco's Corner and Check point #3, headed for Calamuje Wash. This was a part of the course I was concerned about. In 2006 we spent a couple hrs. stuck in the wash, granted the reason we got stuck then was we had no 1st gear, but I didn't want a repeat of that. As we entered the wash (RM 331) we had all hands on deck! All lights on, all eyes focused on the best line through. We idled through and around, the car never feeling like it was having traction issues. Lots of folks camped along the wash, but no racers stuck this time, only a van buried pretty good. The driver waved us around with no problems. We made it through and back to race speed!

Next thing we know is we entered the lights and congestion of El Crucero. Our team was waiting here. We zipped by with the Rescue Ranger a few miles behind us. The guys would regroup here, KC and LeRoy would head to BFG pit 3 at Bay of LA ready for their turn in the car. Paul and Chance would get some sleep to be rested when they drive the 3rd leg in 9 hrs or so. At RM 369 we hit the pavement for 27 miles down to Bay of LA. One more opportunity to get our avg. mph up! Car felt great, almost the same as it felt 16 hrs. and 400 miles earlier at the start. There was an intermittent shifting issue that had been going on, wouldn't always shift into 2nd without going to 3rd first. The ign. switch was a little sticky, but other then that I felt good about the condition of the car. Jason and I got out of the car, turning it over to KC and LeRoy with a 25.5mph avg. We briefed them on the car, buckled them in and watched the car head south.

The following is KC's writeup as posted on Class11Coalition.com.

I was lucky enough to get to be on the FireGuys Team #1149 at the peninsula run this year. Picked the car up at Bahia de Las Angeles (Bay of LA) at daybreak. It was a pretty epic sight. We had a rear start and early engine problems that left us almost last into the pits. Tranny was a touch sticky so we just dropped her in second and started making up time. Fast running for 75 miles or so but there were lots of WICKED washouts and ditches that were almost invisible with the sun just cracking the horizon in our eyes. Able to weave around "most" of the car eaters and were averaging around 35 and looking good.
Then we went west and crossed the mountains in a low pass that was beautiful and the weather was just right for the car to climb switchbacks in the shade on fast roads. About that time we started losing horsepower. It was obviously an air/fuel/spark problem. As luck would have it it would turn out to be a combination of the three. Kicked over to electric fuel pump, changed coil and pushed on wires to distributor, and cleaned air filter. Of course it didn't actually go that smooth or fast in the field but its pretty boring drive tinker drive tinker process. Feeling good, car feelin good, running strong, passed through a truly Dr. Zeus like forest of saquaros cacti that were like 20 ft tall with 10 arms that two or three grown men couldn't put their arms around. Beautiful, but too worried about sticking a cactus arm through the window and impaling one of us (co driver Leroy Anderson) to catch more than a glimpse.
Then it happened. A lifetime of riding sand hills from dry river beds to the canyon lands to the high deserts of Wyoming couldnt prepare me for what we entered. The most wicked off road conditions in the world appear to be the sand and silt beds of Baja. Silt and sand for 50 miles without a break at least. It was like all the worst parts of Caliente Dusty Times this year in one place for one never ending time. It was a wide course section and the track was totally shot for a class 11. So we bush bashed for MILES and MILES, we got stuck several times, and these new fangled bright orange Max Trax thingies worked awesome. The mounts were so so and we toyed with the ARB air jacker rescue bag. It sucks (unless your rig is just off the lot without a SINGLE exhaust crack or loose clamp anywhere) The we used the max trax as shovels then just jammed em under the rear wheels, no jacking. Pretty quick. Lots of class 11 surfing and some help from the locals in a few tough spots got us to within five miles real roads.
At that point our tranny, which had slowly been deteriorating, gave up the ghost. That was it, race over. Team worked hard and we had fun. Slept by the road on Highway one surrounded by dogs and tarantulas at the bottom of jake brake hill. Oil tanker tipped and blew up just after we got off the road in the middle of the night, life was won land lost, and we worked our way home. Typical Baja. Good times, Co driver, KC #1149.
 
Class 11 has had one finisher at each of the last six peninsula runs. Congrats to #1103 on their fine run, finishing with 3 hrs. to spare. 2012 was not our turn, but we sure had a heck of a fun adventure trying! We'll be back to try again, I have a vision of the FireGuys bug seaside in LaPaz...
 
Mark

 

2012  SNORE   DUSTY TIMES 250               June 23  2012

 

Mike and James both raced their trucks at Caliente so the whole SIMCO / VIGIL MOTORSPORTS family was there in support. It's always a good time when the racing family is around!

 My main focus for 2012 is the Baja 1000 so wanted to use this race as a final systems check and more importantly some seat time for KC, who will drive a leg in Baja. We parked are cars in front of the school Fri. morning for the traditional show and tell. Always fun to see all the kids with the swag, getting autographs. (Kind of like me in Baja!)   KC had never seen the car prior to Caliente, so I decided it would be smart to get him in the car for the "stress free" fun run on Fri. We got stuck a bunch and I realized this year's Caliente was going to be a lot tougher than 07' and 08' when I won with no problems.


Race day I drive lap 1 and KC rides to see how I do it, then we'll swap for lap 2 and I'll talk his ear off as he drives! We power through the first wash, passing a stuck or broken Robert Johnson #1100, then a few miles later pass Mike's truck, broken off the side of the course- Bummer.  We hit a "either / or" section and go right, as suggested in the drivers meeting. We bog down in a gravel wash and get stuck right next to #1180 in an area I messed up and got off line. KC jumps out and hops on the rear bumper which is just enough to get us going. He hangs on for a little "Class 11 surfing" as I pull up to a hard packed section and stop to let him in. We're on the wrong section of course, getting ready to cross under the RR tracks about 20 miles too soon. A Course worker says "we're going the wrong way" and tells us to turn around and head for the gap in the hills. Not sure how we got so far off but I make a mental note to hit the right line next lap. 
We stop at Pit B for gas (my strategy was to have this be our main pit), then on around. Always enjoy the fast uphill smooth section!! A bunch of cars passed us on this uphill section so we couldn't hit "terminal Velocity"!  We hear on the radio James is at rm 50 with problems. We offer and assistance as we're coming up on him, but the radio responds he's limping to the pits - Bummer. I stop at rm50 to ask a course worker if we're blowing oil. Everything is dry he says. I'd been thinking we were blowing out white smoke for a few miles, fortunately it was just the dry white gravel dust I could see in the rear view. that first place paranoia was already kicking in!

We head up the front side of OMG Hill, bouncing up the whoops and it feels like we're dragging an anchor?? Turns out the rear brake locked up- going uphill! We get that fixed and get to the main pits in 1st place, ready for the Chinese fire drill. 
We're in first and I tell KC to drive the pre-run speed, don't overdrive the car... He does great motoring through the first wash and we get to where we got "lost" the first lap and I screw him up with directions and we get buried big time in the wash. We spend what seems like an eternity here, doing the carpet trick, jacking, pushing...#1180 passes us...we finally get going again. I tell KC a lot can happen in the next 50 miles so keep to the plan. A few minutes later we pass #1180 stuck in the sand. At Pit B we fuel and 2 miles down the course our radio sez #1180 just went by looking good. OK, with 35 miles to go I expect to see them in the rear view at some time...I tell KC stick to the plan, they still have to catch us and pass us. We get stuck a couple times. My turn for a little "Class 11 surfing"... We make it up the front side of OMG hill and are ready to drop down into town and the finish when #1180 is on our butt, horn a blazing!! Holy Crap!! I tell KC to hold his line going down the hill. (In 08' a 10 car caught me on the hill and I pulled over slightly and almost rolled the car. The 10 car was on the gas as he passed me!) We started 90 sec. behind the 1180 so even if he went for the pass of the century we were still ok. We get to the bottom and the 25mph no passing zone and have it! Except the car wasn't running!! I'm about to bail out and push when KC realizes he inadvertently shut the ign. off at some point "rodeoing" down the hill. He fires it up and we putt to the checkers with a finish way too close for comfort!!
Great race Other Level Racing!! Just think what a 3rd lap would have been like!!

The whole SIMCO / VIGIL team came to the awards ceremony after the race, thanks for all the help and for a fun weekend in the desert with the racing family!

Next race...the Baja 1000 in Nov!

Mark

 

2011 SNORE 250                                                                  Oct. 22, 2011

Josh, Alex and I headed out to Ridgecrest in my Dodge with the race car in tow. They would swap out riding, the first time for both of them. Locations Racing had to bow out from the race at the last minute, but Danny assured me they would be there to pit for me.

We overnighted in Primm, arriving in Ridgecrest Fri. morning in time for the  "Fun-run." Minor detail of not having anything to pre-run in so we marked off a pit spot close to the S/F line and went into town to register and Tech/Contingency. We zipped right through, partly because of the low number of entries (77).  Did some bench racing after the drivers meeting and Motel'd next to Team #1179 Brenner. Nice group of folks!

Race morning we headed out to the main pits. Danny, Rick, Greg, and Jim (Locations Racing) showed up as we were warming up the car. Bill was also there to help out in any way. Josh rode first, we got buckled in and took off the line at 8:40am, the last starter of the race.

With no pre-run to check out the 45 mile course, this first lap (of 3)would essentially be the pre-run (AKA slow lap). We passed the 1127 and 1148, both pulled off the course with terminal ailments. We were able to get out of the way of the fast classes pretty easily, a good course for that!

We pulled into our pit at the end of lap one for a passenger swap, Josh would get out and Alex would get in. In the process the guys discovered the bottom right torsion arm pulling away from the beam. It was in the process of killing the tire, upper shock bushings, shock res. hose, and a bunch of other stuff if we hadn't of stopped then. It took a while to get everything back in place (that front skid plate is good for protecting the front end from rocks, but really gets in the way when working on the car!)

We headed out for lap two, having been lapped at this point by #1100 Johnson. The course was pretty torn up and rough the first lap so it wasn't too much different on our second. The car was feeling good until it lost power mid way around lap two. We couldn't make it up a hill, came to a stop next to a 5-1600 that was stopped off the side of the course. They eyed the car and said everything looked good. We backed down but there was no way we were getting up underpowered. Soon two 1450 trucks had issues and we all parked off to the side of the course swapping stories, waiting for an official vehicle to tow us up and out.

I pulled the valve cover and discovered a busted rocker arm clip. I put a new clip on and modified the adjuster to work long enough to drive it the 18 miles to the Main pits. We zipped up the hill, no problem with all 4 cyl. powering the car. Stopped briefly to tell our crew we didn't need the tow, we'd drive it back.

Arrived at the S/F 15 min past our 7 hr. time limit , and a lap short but got an honorary waive of the checkers.  It was fun while it lasted, but didn't quite work out as planned. Congrats to #1100 Robert Johnson on the clean victory. A huge thanks to the Locations Racing guys for what turned out to be very active pit support! We'll get them next time!!

Mark

2011 MINT 400                                                    March 26, 2011

The car was prepped, tested and ready to race. The new engine (after the RATR catastrophic failure due to a tiny piece of rubber plugging the main oil gallery) was pulling strong thanks to Blaine, the new (straight) beam was reinforced to take the abuse of the MINT course.

Jennifer, Pete and I drove out in the Dodge/Lance towing the VW. We convoyed with SIMCO in Pappa Bear's RV. This was a multi team collaboration with fellow Colorado racer Team Schmueser's Class 10 effort. Danny from Locations Racing also offered up their team's assistance and resources. He also marked us all a big pit area in the Main pits- Thanks Danny!  Andy Schifinelli's Class 8 truck wasn't quite ready to race so he came out to help. My FireGuys teammates Jason and Paul also came out to help and Paul rode with me during lap 2.    

We registered and zipped through Tech/Contingency before noon on Fri. That gave us all afternoon to go through the Pre-race checklist and get ready for race day the next day. Dave spotted another crack in the cage from the RATR aerial antics (I don't think Class 11's are made to fly) and James welded it up. We adjusted the 5 KC HID's and 2 Daylighters, just in case we ran into the tail end of the posted 18 hr. time limit.

Race morning was cool and cloudy, the FireGuys #1188 was the last car off the line (5th in class) at approx. 0825. There was no pre-run at this race, so Pete watched the GPS, calling out the corners. We passed a fair amount of cars and trucks broken along the course, meaning we'd have to watch the mirrors for the ones that got fixed and continued on. The big question with any loop race is when the leaders would catch us. There were over 45 unlimited trucks and buggies entered so we'd have to watch the mirrors closely and get out of their way, many times! Doug, from WICKED GRAVITY VIDEO installed a rear facing camera for this very reason. Pete turned it on 30 min after we started, anticipating the inevitable.

We got stuck briefly in the loose rocks of the Rock Garden as I pulled over and had to stop (the goal in a Class 11 is keep the momentum going-don't stop!) for a limited truck that didn't get by us as fast as I had hoped. Pete jumped out and got us moving in no time.

The Kodak moment came around RM 25 when the first two Trophy Trucks passed us, in each others dust, then a few seconds later the third went by flanked by two VERY low flying helicopters. The three trucks were out of sight in no time as we continued along at my conservative survival pace. Pete now focused all attention on the mirrors, while I'd watch where the car was going.Videos

We crossed under the interstate at Pit A where our crew was waving and cheering. Jason came on the radio and said a Class 1 was coming fast. He passed us clean but roosted us big time, breaking in my new SA rated helmet!

The hill prior to check 9 wasn't too bad yet (read lap 1) and we got up it no problem. We settled in for the miles and miles of bumps and whoops in this section, eagerly anticipating my favorite part of the course, the fun high speed hilly powerline "rally"  road coming up. After Pit C it's back to the rough stuff. 20 plus miles of zigzag, back and forth washes, hills, rocks, and did I mention hills?

We wave at our crew at Pit D, the car's feeling strong. The hills aren't bad (remember, this is lap 1) and we have no problems. A big yellow truck fills the rear view mirror and I pull over, he goes by and I tuck in right behind it, bouncing over the whoops. there's Doug videoing-cool, that should be a good shot.

We roost a little silt in Hell's Hole and get to CP20 and the next smooth section, yippee, 3rd gear! The powerline section that turns right at CP22 and I-15, paralleling I-15 always brings back Classic MINT 400 memories when I see it from the interstate. 20 plus years ago I "pre-ran" the MINT on my dirt bike through this area and 2 yrs. ago rode with Gary in his truck pre-running, but this was my first time racing this "hollowed ground" section. (Wipe away teary eyes-good to go.)

We hit top speed of the day (64mph) along the I-15 section and get to the 25 mph speed limit of the Main pits in no time. Pete gets out and Paul gets in for his first ride in the 11. The crew fills the fuel cell with the good smelling F&L fuel, I drink a gator-aid  and we head out for lap 2 in 3rd place.

Paul, along with Jason, is used to their Class 7s Toyota but settles in nicely in the bug. He calls out the cars in the mirror like a pro. Things are going well until the hill prior to CP9. It's more chewed up now and the line we took last lap didn't work this lap. I back down and try 3 other lines, finally making it. The car sounds like it blew out the rusty old exhaust system again and lost power. Paul gets back in and we keep going. The next time the underpowered issue comes up is on the hills around Pit D. The car couldn't make them and Paul works his butt off pushing and hoofing. We get towed up the hills by a SNORE official, losing tons of time. We make it to the Main pits where the crew determined Cyl.#3 is not firing, pull the valve cover and see why. Rocker arm issue, which I don't have a spare. We put new wave washers, clips and pushrod in and cross our fingers. Light bar goes on (Thanks, Tyler), I shift over to the pass seat and Pete gets back in, driving this time. 

We have full power for the first 20 miles, then back to 3 cyl. The lights are adjusted well (except for the HID that fell off on the first lap). We have no chance getting up the hill prior to CP9 on 3 cyl, try a few times and then I go ask for a tow up the hill. It takes a while for the retrieval truck to make it's way back. I stand by the fire and talk with the CK9 friendly folks. I hear a Class 11 coming, it's #1191 going by taking over 2nd place. Eventually we get towed up the hill and discover our Alt. is just about dead. We drive it to CK9 and wait for the crew to come. Pete had radioed what we needed and the crew was coming to fix it. Pete and I start working on the car with the aid of headlights from the CP crew-thanks!

The guys come and replace the Alt, battery, and try to "Baja Engineer" the rocker arm part. I'm told by the CK9 worker we're out of time. I said with a 18 hr time limit we still had plenty of time to finish. He went back to the radio and confirmed the 18 hrs. was based on the first vehicle to start. I'm obviously a little agitated so he calls the Race Director on his cell and lets me talk to him. He reiterates the same story, I'm not happy and a little confused on the time limit interpretation, but we're done. I tell the crew thanks and we head back to the pits, DNF.

Sunday morning we head home with another race memory in the memory banks, knowing aside from a little rocker arm issue the car was strong. Thanks to Jennifer for coming out and for all her support and patience! Another huge thanks of humble gratitude to all the individuals and teams that made this possible; SCHMUESER, SIMCO, VIGIL, FIREGUYS. Schifanelli, LOCATIONS,and all those that I was oblivious to while behind the wheel.

Living the Dream!

Mark

 

 

 

Laughlin  RATR                                                  Dec.11-12, 2010

Pete and I tested the car in Grand Junction a week prior to the race. The car felt strong and Pete did a good job driving for the first time. A few tweaks to the car and we're ready for the Rage at the River, SNORE's final race of the year.  SNORE's 14 mile course is similar to the one SCORE used to run across Needles Hwy and back with a man-made infield full of tight turns, big jumps, and moguls.

SIMCO and VIGIL MOTORSPORTS each brought their Class 8 trucks out to race. I'd have the opportunity to ride with James in his truck on Sat and with Lesley in Mike's truck on Sun. An opportunity I was very excited about: an early Christmas for sure!

We all headed westbound out of Colorado Thur. morning headed for Laughlin. A couple of blown out trailer tires later we set up our pits next to LOCATIONS RACING. Danny had saved us an area next to their Class 8 team semi, which we were very grateful for -Thanks Danny!

Fri brought an escorted slow lap around the course. We all piled into Mike's dually 1 ton to see the course. After registration and Tech. we headed over to the drivers meeting for last minute details about the race.

Sat, race day #1, got us up for a 7:40am staging, 8:10 race start for the trucks. Team SIMCO/VIGIL did last minute checks, warmed up the trans. and rear end, then we got buckled in. James and me in #8035 and Mike and his wife Carrey in #8028. The class started 2 at a time, 20 seconds apart, Mike starting 6th and James 7th out of 9 trucks.

Green flag drops and we race to the first of 3 jumps, then a series of tight 180 turns, moguls, more turns and more jumps past all the pits and out into the desert where we can choose from multiple lines, across Needles Hwy., up a loose powerline road (that many 2wd's got stuck in during the pre-run), a sharp left into a very tight "rally road" for 1/4 mile, transitioning into a 2-track road with an easily missed left turn (oops), some big brake induced moguls prior to "The Drop", a steep downhill that wakes you up (make sure you have it pointed straight down!), down around the water reclamation area, then the second half of the lap starts with big curvy rollers, back across Needles Hwy, over the new walkway (watch out pedestrians!), around the high school, over a series of man-made jumps, back to the big rollers and into the start of the pit area and 2 mile infield.

I was getting used to the tremendous speed difference between a Class 8 and my Class 11, giving James the info he needed with what's coming up behind us and helping with what's in front. The truck was having top end fuel delivery issues, seemed fast to me but it couldn't utilize full throttle.

I was amazed at how smooth the ride was for how fast we were going! James hit the tabletop jump in front of the grandstands pretty fast on lap 2. The truck sailed the tabletop and nosed into the flat ground, coming down easy but my eyes had to have been the size of silver dollers the closer the ground came! I think the quote from James was "we'll hit that a little slower next lap."

The truck started to shift harder and smoke was evident in the rear view after the tight turns. We had heard over the radio the SIMCO truck was out with tranny issues, we continued on, with me watching  the mirrors and gauges closer. We started our 5th and final lap laying down quite the smoke screen. About RM 3 the truck came to an unceremonious stop just off the course with no gears. James put a couple qts. of ATF in, but still no motivation. Course workers in a very big bronco pulled us off the course and back to our pits (thanks guys). The issue was diagnosed as a leaky seal, not one that can be purchased at the parts store so we were done for the weekend.

The SIMCO truck was also on its final lap when it lost all forward gears. After being towed to the pits and a little searching, Mike borrowed #8006 rick Harrah's transmission (they also did a swap after torque converter issues), and would be able to run tomorrow's race.

My race was heat #5, after the big trucks and buggies raced. The course was chewed up more with bigger bumps and ruts, and softer sand. The 10 of us "Land Rush" started in two waves of 5. I settled back to the rear of the madness through the infield. Coming into the second 180 turn there were 4 cars stopped in the rut. We kept the momentum up and got around them on the high line as they got untangled. A few turns later a buggy was on it's lid and we hugged the inside line around it, then out to the desert- we survived the infield carnage! 

The new front suspension felt good, taking more abuse and matching better with the rear. My goal was to finish with a good car for tomorrow's race, basically mid pack by the middle of the race. We hit the infield jumps a little harder every lap, getting the feel for how hard to hammer the car and keep it alive. We finished 6th, the car feeling just as good at the finish as it did at the start. Back in the pits we discovered the tubing that supports the front beam had broken and cracked in 6 places- not happy with the impacts! We borrowed LOCATIONS RACING welder and James and David got it burned together. 

Next morning I got strapped into Mike's truck with Lindsey doing the driving. He had not seen the course so the first lap would be me narrating what was coming and him getting the feel of the truck and track. The second lap Lindsey turned it up noticeably as the truck was literally flying over the moguls and jumps. I was making the effort to keep my upper body loose and not do the death grip on the chicken bar in front of me. I didn't realize my lower body was doing the death grip, feet to the floor boards so hard I got a blister on the bottom of my left foot!

Going past the pits and out to the desert on lap two I was enjoying the heck out of this! We caught a couple of trucks and had a good run with them, passing one at the fence crossing by the High School. At RM 11 (where I had broken last year) the truck came to a quick stop with no forward gears- transmission again. Lindsey put in a couple qts. of ATF, nothing. A retrieval vehicle towed us off the course where our team was waiting. James put in a few more qts. and the gears came back! We strapped back in while getting confirmation from SNORE that we could resume the race where we had left off. We drove back to where we left the course, and were racing again! The next turn the same thing, no tranny. Lindsey tried to steer off the course but couldn't make it. With reverse only it looked like he could cross the burm and get off the track. Nope, that didn't work. Now we're dead in the water on the outside of a huge rutted out left turn, with the truck just past the apex out of sight off oncoming trucks.

I spend the next 20 min. directing trucks to the inside (against their will). Thankfully most followed my direction but 3 managed to clip the left front fender, the last ripping it off. No other damage and finally we get pulled out of there again and back to the pits.

We swap stories and watch the big boys run, then it's my turn again. Pete drives this one and I ride with him. The plan being to get him some quality seat time behind the wheel so when Baja rolls around he'll be more comfortable with the car. Nothing like throwing him to the wolves first thing!

Today, after a Class vote, we start 3 at a time every 20 seconds. A much more sedate start than the wild crowd favorite land rush. Pete's doing a good job getting the feel for the car while thrashing it through the infield. We head out into the desert and dodge the bigger and deeper bumps (they grew from yesterday). We hit a bump on the front left that launches the car nose first, twisting down without missing a beat. A bit later on the fast sandy run the hood flys open. The ground is too loose to stop and shut it without getting stuck so we keep going till the next turn where there are some course workers. The hood goes down but it's too loose here too, so through the very tight section we go, as I'm trying to keep the hood down reaching through the front. Pete pulls over at the next turn where a couple course workers latch it. Thanks guys and off we go.

We get around the course well, back to the infield where Pete hits the jumps a little harder and the car seems pretty happy about it. Past our pits and out on lap 2. The motor starts to sound louder (exhaust?) and we lose power. A Class 12 buggy closes fast, sorry but we can't get out of the way. Pete just makes it to a wide spot and shuts it down, smoke coming out from the engine compartment. Motor is seizing, we get towed back towards the pits along with a broken 5 car.

It was fun while it lasted! Pete got some real world experience, I got to fulfill a dream by riding in a Class 8-twice. And we got to hang out in the desert with a bunch of great people and live the dream!

 

PAHRUMP NUGGET  SNORE 250                     Oct. 2, 2010

Finally! After busting my Achilles tendon in Jan. I made it to a race; my first run in 2010.  Recovery has progressed well, I made it to one weekend-long fire this summer, and I'm feeling "close" to normal. My friends ask will I know what normal is if I hit it? Good point, probably not. The weak leg happens to be the gas pedal side, strong leg is the brake side. Sounds like a combination to do better at slowing down rather than going fast (That's my excuse, should I need it...).

James, Mike, Parker, Dave, and I head out towing the car in my "new" Dodge 3500 with Josh following in his Toyota.  A strong support team to get Tortuga around the 205 mile loop to the finish line. Leaving Colorado, headed for Pahrump Fri. morning I felt confident in the car. We actually had time to put 15 miles on it last Sat. in the north desert and everything felt good. After the test I adjusted the brakes and replaced a suspect pass side ball joint with a torn boot, washed it off and was ready to race!

We pulled into Pahrump Fri. afternoon, zipped through registration and set up camp in the back lot of the Pahrump Nugget, just past the finish line. Mike and Dave both signed on as secondary drivers / riders just in case. With all 3 of us with some sort of ailment (tweaked backs, leg) we figured any 2 out of the 3 of us could finish the race, hopefully.

Seven showed up in Class 11. I requested a rear start, the last starter of the 105 total entries. Being a point to point race we had the rare luxury of not having to be glued to the rear view mirrors, looking for the leaders as they catch us. Kind of nice to be able to focus more on our race and not have to be worried about that big truck grill or dusty "where did he come from" blur in the rear view.

 After our 10 mile parade to the start line north of Pahrump, we all re-stage for the green flag.  The crew tops off the fuel cell and Chappy Steve Hanson makes his way to "Tortuga" and says a prayer. Thanks Steve- always nice to refocus at the start line!

Starting immediately behind us (remember, we're starting "last") is a truck that missed his starting spot due to a mechanical issue. So much for the "don't have to be glued to the mirrors" theory.

The first 10 miles of the race is rocky and rough. The truck zips by us in a wide spot and I try to settle into the race. A hammering noise is coming from the rear suspension (funny, didn't do that in testing). I drive a survival pace as I try to diagnose the noise. We pass a couple of our competitors in the middle of the course nose to tail. One of them wave us around so we don't get stuck behind them (thanks!). We're in 5th place now, with a long way to go. Dave radios to the team we'll pull into the first pit for a quick visual. Everything looks ok, we get the thumbs up and head out.  Once out of the rocks the hammering noise mostly goes away. The car feels good...

Going through one of the many sand / pea gravel washes we round a corner and see Richard Nichols "Cold Forged" bug off to the side and driver / co-driver out of the vehicle. Richard gives us a thumbs down and we're able to stop on somewhat firm ground. He asks for a belt, I give him a couple and we take off. Richard had pulled an all nighter getting the car finished, drove all night, registered late just to make the race. It's the least we could do is help him out.  Now we're in 4th...

About a half mile later we round a corner and see a truck stopped behind  a VC truck stuck with no easy way around. I stop on firm ground and Dave jumps out to scout a way around. He says there is no way around, the way I wanted to bonsai through had a big rock hiding in the bushes.  Dave helps the co-driver of the stuck truck dig and jack and push while I look at the clock go tick/ tock... The truck in front of us finds a way by but it did not look doable to me. Another truck comes and gets around, I'm getting impatient watching the clock tick and am about to go for it when the truck gets unstuck. Dave comes back, gets in as the Cold Forged bug scoots by (dang it), now we're in 5th. I drop the clutch and am stuck. Dave gets out and jumps on the back bumper and we get going. I'm sweating after sitting in the stationary car for 15 min., Dave is really feeling it after that last 15 min! He drinks out of the Camel back and we head for the next pit for a quick gator-aid.

We pass Garey Leavitt out of his car, get a thumbs up and keep going, now we're in 4th place. We're logging mile after mile, the car feeling good, I'm feeling good. At pit 5, race mile 106, we stop for our only scheduled fuel stop. The guys dump 15 gall. of the good smelling F&L fuel, give the car a quick look and after a gator-aid we  head out for the second half.

It's a mid 90 degree day but feels good in the car with the wind blowing through and the pumper giving us fresh air. Very nice to know at all 7 pit locations we have help if needed. Mike, James, and Josh are able to drive to the next pit before we can get there on the race course and are there just in case.

In the 40 miles between pit 6 and 7 we pass #1189 Ed Mahoney's car off the race line with no obvious problem. As we go by I see dirt flying out from the left rear tire. Each time I ask Dave if he's behind us I get a "no", but I expect a yes at any time... A short while later is Robert Johnson's car off to the side. I think we're in 2nd place now. Dave and I have a short discussion recounting the cars we have passed. By our count we've passed all 6 of our competitors, with the Cold Forged car passing us back. But we've not seen nor heard anything about him for hours. Is he behind us in in front of us??

We're planning a quick visual stop at our last pit, 18 miles from the finish but Mike says keep going, Ed's 10-15 min back. No dust in front, but Dave keeps a close eye on the mirrors the last leg of the race. It's pretty rough so I don't hammer the car too much. If someone's in front of us we're not going to catch them and I don't want to push too hard and break. If anyone catches us they have to pass and pull away to beat us (thanks to our rear start).

Pahrump gets closer and closer and finally we see the finish line. Mike had found out and radioed the lead car had finished ahead of us, so we're in second place. I'll take that, our first strong finish with absolutely no car issues in quite a while! Michael Brenner #1179 had started directly in front of us and had a flawless run to the checkers. Richard Nichols, who got back around us early in the race had pulled out and DNF'd. I'm still confused how I counted getting around 6 cars but never saw the #1179 all day. Just proves when I'm driving I can't multitask (or count past the available fingers one one hand)!

Congrats. to Michael Brenner who finished with a 31.4 mph avg, right at the usual winners race speed  for our class. Ed Mahoney chased us to the finish, finishing 11 min. back. Jim Juneau was the final finisher of the Class 11's, after being involved in the first incident at race mile 2.

Thanks to Mike, James, and Josh for making the trip out to support the FireGuys Class 11 effort. We'll see you at the Laughlin RATR race Dec. 11-12!

 Mark

Rage At The River , Laughlin,NV            Dec.12,13/2009

 Once again,another fun filled eventful weekend! After breaking a rear shock in half at the last race, it was time to upgrade. Wally at ORW said FOX could build my shocks, should have them in 3-4 weeks, but...I may not. So I optimistically prepped for the race, not sure if I'd make it. 6 weeks later and 4 days before the race, the shocks were next-day aired to me and Pete and I spent the better part of the next 2 days in the shop. Mike and James and David (and Parker) helped button things up Thur night, we opened the shop door at 1:00 am Fri. to 11 below temps and put the car in the trailer for a 6am start of the 11 hr drive to Laughlin. A huge thanks to Wally for getting me the shocks and to SIMCO / VIGIL MOTORSPORTS and my buddy Pete for all the help. It was time to go racing!!

After a fairly uneventfull drive we pulled into Laughlin at 4pm, registered, checked in to the Motel and waited in line with the car to Tech. After a couple hours and minutes before the 8pm drivers meeting we were done. Thanks to Paul for driving me over to the meeting on time. Stock Bugs raced in the first race, 6am stage for a 6:30 start. So up at dark:30 and ready to go! 5 of us Class 11's showed up for the SNORE finale, close to 200 total entries.

We land rush started, always a crowd favorite (but it was too cold and early for a crowd). I had no idea how the car was going to react with no test time on the new rear suspension. It cycled great in the shop but this would be the test. We brought up the rear of the pack at the drop of the green flag, hung with 'em for a few miles and then dropped back as I was "Pre-running" the course this first lap. It was cool to cross the Needles Hwy, the first time since 2005 a race has been able to do that thanks to Don Wall's persistence. Dave and I started the second lap almost 2 min. back from the leader. Picked up the pace now while trying to stay out of the way of the 45 cars in 4 other classes out there with us. Dave did a good job of watching the mirrors, telling me when to scoot over.

At race mile 10 of lap 2 the car came to a hault; I thought transmission or CV. Turned out the 6 inner CV bolts sheared off at the flange. A SNORE official towed us into our pits where Mike and James tore into it. We were pitted next to Rick Harrah's "Locations Racing" class 8 team. Danny gave us use of their semi to get it fixed and James made short work of it. In between watching the other races we got the car good to go for the next day's race, making sure the bolts were good and loctite (thanks again to Danny and Locations Racing for the Loctite).

After a good long sleep (finally) we were anxious for round two. Blaine arrived while we were staging the car, due to the weather he didn't make it out for yesterdays race, but it was good to have him and his dad here today.

The land rush start line-up found me starting in the loose dirt. Green flag dropped and I was off to my normal slow start. I hung with the pack and was 40 sec. behind Cory's #1102 after the first lap. The warmer wind blew in rain about 2 miles into the second lap. It came down hard, couldn't keep the visor clear with the towel or my leather palmed "chamie" gloves. We were closing the gap with the #1102 but visibility wasn't that good, especially turning into the sun! We flogged around, having an excuse for hitting every bump ("couldn't see em"). We got around the #1102 by the high school and finished lap 2 in second place after passing a stopped and broken #1101. Robert Johnson had rolled earlier and undoubtedly the tranny suffered from it. King Dave Hendrickson in the #1158 "Deathmobile" had electrical problems earlier and was out. First place #1111 Felipe Neri-sanchez was 2 min ahead. I kept a pace that was slowly pulling away from Cory; we started the second lap only 5 sec. in front of him. 

With 4 miles to the finish line the car came to a stop again, with the same issue as yesterday but on the drivers side this time. Cory went by and on to finish second. We were towed to Needles Hwy. and waited for Mike to bring the trailer. Loaded the car up and headed home.

I had a great weekend in the desert with my "family!" Really enjoyed racing Cory close on Sunday and had my first heavy rain experience behind the wheel. We'll get the latest weak link strengthened and be ready for what 2010 brings!

Thanks again to Mike and James for making this all happen, wouldn't be able to do it without your support!!

Merry Christmas,  Mark

 

2009  SNORE 250                      Oct. 3  2009

Well this was certainly an eventfull weekend! Half the story here is the race to get to the race. It all began on a dark and dreary night...okay, not that suspenseful but nevertheless eventful.

I took the car around the neighborhood for a systems check on Wed. before the scheduled departure Thur. morning for Primm with the SIMCO and VIGIL Motorsports convoy. Mike and James had their Class 8 trucks ready for the desert and the plan was to have a leisurely trip from Colorado to Primm and set up camp at the main pits. Friday morning we would pre-run the 69 mile course and tech Fri. night. I was looking forward to a 4 day race weekend, swapping stories and good times with everyone around the campfire.

A block from the house the car quit with a seized motor. I discussed our options with motorman Blaine and we decided to try to make the race, albeit latter than the original plan. Blaine tore the motor down Thur evening and found the culprit was a seized rear main bearing. He tunnel bored the case and Fri. morning we cleaned the case (Thanks Pepsi Jim) and headed back to Blaine's. Blaine put the motor together by 2 pm (he's done that once or twice!) and off we headed for home. "We" being Fireguys teammate Jason Hutter who was to ride with me for the first time in the VW, and Josh, all around shop help and fellow desert racing fanatic. We tightened the final bolt on the skidplate and were off for Primm with car in tow behind Jason's H3 by 6pm, 14 hours before the race starts. We arrive at Primm and in our motel room by 2:30 am, 4 hours before late registration and tech. After a couple "quality" hours of sleep we got through tech. and then found everyone in the pits getting the Class 8's ready to rumble. Big Tyler helped me off load the car from the trailer as usual.  After a few adjustments on my car Jason and I strapped in and headed for the start line- We made it!!

10 of us Stock Bugs made it to the Start line, the minimum needed for the bonus prize money to the winner of the featured class, and even more cash and prizes courtesy of JR Nichols sponsoring the "Stock Bug Cup II". SNORE likes to showcase our class with the ever popular landrush start at BAP, the first race of the year. Here they started us 3 wide. King Dave requested a rear start so was the odd bug out, by himself behind my row of three. At the green flag my car decided to let the other two cars go while taking the length of the CORR track to clean itself out and start running better. 

Meanwhile on the radio we heard Mike was in the Class 8 lead after starting 3rd and running well up the wash. James was likewise rattling off mile markers and running strong, having started 5th. 

A few miles into it we came upon an 11 car stopped behind a 5-1600. We couldn't get by and had to stop, of course getting stuck. Jason got out and pushed. Once the drivers of the broken 5-1600 came over to help we got going again. I settled into my conservative 1st lap speed, the only excitement being following the #1121 Leavitt car for too many miles before getting around it.

The very strong winds were great for the racers, blowing the dust away, but not so good for the pit crews. The head winds were so strong I couldn't pull 3rd gear going across the dry lake bed but it did help me at the other end of the course hit a top speed of 73.8 mph! 

I pulled into the pits for a dump can of fuel and a gator-aid. The car looked good and off we went. Thanks to the entire SIMCO / VIGIL pit crew for the service, and of course Big Tyler!

As Jason said later, I "flipped the switch" and we set off at a higher rate of speed for our competition. The car was feeling good and Jason was doing a great job of calling out the faster class cars as they caught us. It is a sight to see the fast Trophy trucks and unlimited buggies blow by us, makes us feel SLOW even though it feels fast inside the car!

While closing in on the 4th place #1194 Sebastian car midway around the 2nd lap a CLANK noise started getting more pronounced. I stopped at the lava rocks for Jason to diagnose the broken rear shock on my side. With 30 miles to go, we set out for the finish at a much slower speed, just trying to get a finish at this point.  The #1107 Palasik car went by us, taking over 5th place.

James was broken down in his #835 truck near rm 51 with no way for the chase truck to get him another fuel pump. We were able to deliver the care package to him. Unable to stop in the sand wash, we made a slow speed handoff. I hoped he'd get up and running and catch us at the dry lake bed- that would be awesome to see him blow by us like the space shuttle landing! He finished lap one just after we limped in but a fuel delivery issue prevented him from continuing. He and Dean had a big smile on their face, I can only imagine the ride!

#828 Mike and Carrey's race ended midway around lap 1 with a busted rear end. Running in first place and having fun till then! They spent the rest of the race cheering us on as we went by, unable to retrieve the truck until the race was over and the course open.

In front of us #1158 Dave Hendrickson won a close and exciting battle over #1111 Felipe Neri Sanchez with #1102 Cory Vandemark 7 minutes behind for third. King Dave averaged 34 mph, a blistering pace for this course, finishing with blown shocks in the rear. Stock Bugs had a 90% finish ratio, pretty amazing!

A huge thanks to Blaine for a quick turn around on the motor, literally at the last minute. Without his willingness to drop everything and help us we would not have made it to the start line. And of course once again the SIMCO / VIGIL MOTORSPORTS team for pitting for us and sharing the camaraderie with a group of good people that just plain love desert racing and the adventures it curtails.

See ya at the next one, 

Mark

2013 Baja 1000

The Fireguys Class 11 was happy to be back in Baja for the longest, toughest loop race in its history. Maxtrax came on board and gave us the boost to make the 46th running of the Baja 1000 a reality. Our adventure started the week prior to the 1000 with a trip to the SEMA show in Las Vegas.  Tortuga was sporting a whole new look, wearing Maxtrax black and orange and  4 "new" fenders for the occasion. The '69 bug with TONS of race character looked somewhat out of place at SEMA, sitting behind a little green BMW and next to a Rally x-games looking ride. I did get a lot of positive comments regarding the car all week!

After SEMA half the team headed to Baja, more specifically to our rental Casa south of Ensenada, arriving Sat night, 5 days prior to the start of the race. We had time and rigs to do a little pre-running for the first time ever! Paul and I headed out in his Rescue Ranger for the section from Colonet, up and over to Mike's Sky Ranch, and on to Hwy 3. In this 70 mile stretch was roughly 10 miles of brutal tight, rutted, silty, rocky, climbs that by race day would be virtually impossible for Tortuga to make under it's own "power" (or lack there-of). We'd have one of the 4wd chase trucks in this area for assistance.  The Mitsubishi with J. Harvey and Roger pre-ran from BFG #5 to Hwy 1. In this 100 mile stretch they encountered 2-3 silt hill climbs that also had potential to be problems for the bug. We'd have Gary's Mitshu, a stock mini Baja 1000 class winner a few years ago, be in the neighborhood during the race. Due to SCORE allowing Class 11 and a few other limited classes, to bypass the miles and miles of DEEP siltbeds at the south end of the course, we had the luxury of pre-running and seeing the worst sections of the course prior to the race.

Team Maxtrax meeting  was Wed night prior to the Fri. start of the race. Jason, Canadian Paul, Tara, and Handcrank Film guys Chris, Erik, Jim, and Diego all arrived, along with Maxtrax KC and Melissa. Maxtrax Brad, as it turned out, had border crossing issues and wouldn't make it for the start of the race so Paul would co-drive the first 209 miles. The final race plan was penciled in our team binders and the BFG "bibles."

Thur. morning the team got the car in line for the 10:00 Tech/Contingency start. Jason and I took his Raptor from the Start to Ojos  in the pre-run parade. Afterwards I joined the Tech/Cont. party while Jason and Jason went back to work on the Mitchu's 4wd issues. Tech/Cont. is always a crazy busy congested atmosphere in Baja, something you gotta experience!

Race morning! Paul and I staged in our 2nd rear start position, with 4 Class 11's in front and 1 behind us. A boat load of sportsman and UTV cars started behind Class 11's this year, more reasons to watch the rear view mirrors the first few miles. We took the green flag at 10:40am, squealing the tires on the pavement. We dropped into the dry wash (nice!) and settled into the technical start of the 830 mile race.

We felt a loss of power pulling 2nd gear around RM 12. A spectator gave us the flat tire sign and Paul determined we were close to our chase Raptor at RM 15. We pulled the bug over and started to change tires when Jason, Tara, and Chris pulled up and took over. Tortuga doesn't get flats too often, hopefully this was it for the race! We took off again, hearing the Raptor was pulling up to the course at RM 20.5 just as we rounded the left hand sweeper. The car quit sweeping and kareemed into the burm in front of a group of startled spectators. The Raptor pulled us off the course where we saw the upper right side torsion arm had worked it's way out. The crew and some eager spectators assisted in the repair as Tara tended to my bloodied finger (due to an eager spectator helping me take the wheel off). Nothing was broken on the car so we tightened and checked all the arms, then went on our way. All right, a flat and a mechanical issue right off the bat, I was hoping for smooth sailing now, for a while anyway. We had that, settled into a Baja pace through Ojos and across Hwy 3. Spectators were heading home, towards us on the course so we had to expect oncoming traffic around every blind corner. Urban racing for sure untillwe got further out of Ojos.  A few miles later the steering went away.  We pulled off the course and discovered the long side tie rod had broken in half. We put the spare on and adjusted it close  to where both front tires pointed the same general direction. 

Around RM 60 was the first steep hill we didn't make on the 1st try. Second attempt was good with Paul pushing, then smooth sailing onto BFG #1 at RM 75. We gassed up with good smelling SUNOCO and took off for the next leg up and over the summit area. Unique Baja country here, scattered Jeffrey pine trees, steep rocky canyons. We plugged along up and down the rolling hills, then started up the biggest final hill.  300 yards from the top we lost momentum at a big rock. Paul pushed, used the Maxtrax as a bridge between rock gaps, winched (an experiment for this race), worked his butt off in this section. A fast buggy squeezed by to our inside, horsepower and suspension making it easy. One more push, pull, and Maxtrax on the final climb and the bug was at the top. I pulled over far right to gather everything up and let Paul catch his breath. the noise of another buggy was climbing the hill behind us. I fired up the car while Paul waved at the buggy to stop while I moved forward.  BC1 ran over the rear of Tortuga as I moved forward, not wanting to wait 5 seconds. Fortunately the damage was cosmetic and a broken tail light, scars of the adventure.

We slowly banged and clanged down the other side, finally hitting the flats and silt around RM 150. The Raptor was waiting for us, assisting a broken race truck in the silt beds. We made it past them and a few miles later got stuck. The Raptor pulled us out and we got stuck again. Raptor pulled us to the next hard surface and unhooked us. Got stuck again in the sand and Paul Maxtrax'd us out. I kept going to the next hard surface at RM 165 while Paul hitched a ride in the Raptor.

With all the issues, we were pushing the closing time of checkpoint #1.  We left the silt/sand and back to slow rolling whoops, loosing more time getting to CP1. Crossing Hwy 3 CP1 was not to be seen, having closed a few minutes earlier. Not as big a deal now that CP's don't stub, since the GPS tracker magically keeps track. We raced on down course 17 miles to BFG 2 that was staying open for us. A ticking noise started but with no loss of power I suspected an exhaust leak. The noise got louder the closer we got to BFG 2, but still no loss of power. RM 209 we pulled into BFG 2 and after gassing up, diagnosed the noise as being a rocker arm wave washer/clip issue. KC swapped out our spare rocker arm, strapped in the drivers seat with J. Harvey now navigating. Paul and I hopped in the Raptor as the car headed down course. 

We heard "1108 at RM 215, AOK", "1108 at RM 220 AOK", then "oil light is on". The motor locked up and we were done. The Raptor towed it to San Felipe and we retrieved it the next day with the trailer back to Ensenada. 

We had a good plan in place with the Team Maxtrax resources available. A great group of enthusiastic people with the same goal of getting the bug around the course to the finish line. The car had other plans this time from the get go, but that's Baja! I felt bad KC and Harvey had a short ride,  Gary and Roger never got to get in the car, Melissa and Brad and Canadian Paul didn't get an opportunity to get in the car. But we'll be back!

Mark

 

 

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2009 Caliente 250                                   May 9  2009  

SIMCO MOTORSPORTS raced last weekend in the BORE series and were unable to make it out to Caliente, so Pete and I borrowed Deans truck to tow "Tortuga" and headed for Caliente Friday noon. We arrived in plenty of time to register and get the car inspected. Richard Palasik (#1107 Team Desert Dingo) said they would pit for us, so we were set!

We pitched our tents under some big Cottonwood trees and I had sweet dreams of high speed AND technical course. We didn't pre-run this year so I wasn't sure about the first 10 miles, but the rest of the 60 mile loop looked to be the same as the last two years. 

Sat. morning drivers meeting was short, then strangely enough no last minute things to do to the car- it was ready. Unfortunately our pit brothers in the #1107 were having issues with their car. I loaned them my spare distributor and coil, but still no run...then Victor Torres (another good engine builder) tapped the carb . with a screwdriver and she ran. Lucky for #1107 the start was delayed 20 min. so they were able to start on time. I requested the rear start, #1107 was third, Johnson was 2nd and Sanchez was first off the line, with 45 second intervals seperating us.

The Caliente start is kind of like ice-racing. The green flag drops and your race adrenaline sez GO-GO-GO but the 25 mph speed limit through "town" keeps the adrenalin suppressed. We got around the #1107 as Richard stopped for a drivers change (He started for the points as Driver of record). The water crossings turned out to be shallow. Not having seen them prior to the race I was a little concerned so hit them slow, sorry to all the photographers for the boring pics!

We screamed up the sand wash for 3 or 4 miles, then at race mile 10 back on the course I was familiar with. At Pit B, race mile 20, I pulled into the RC Trans. pits for a visual on our left front fender. I had pulled over a few miles earlier to let a truck pass and drifted back into his line. I heard the fender crumple and hoped it wasn.t rubbing on the tire. The RC guys said it was fine and off we went. (Ed Mahoney wasn't racing this race, but took one of our spare tires to the RC Trans pits and said use 'em if we need anything- Thanks Ed!)

 We crossed under the RR tracks and started up the 3 mile wash that always concerns me at this race. The car can pull it fine, but if/when a faster class catches us in this stretch it's difficult to get out of the way and let it by without getting stuck. If ya stop you're stuck so gotta keep rolling... We made it up without incident. The lead car, #100, caught us shortly after. I was predicting Rob Mac. would be next in his 1600 car, fresh off his amazing 7th OA at the MINT.

We turned left onto the fast hardpacked road after Pit C. This road is fast even for us! Uphill, still climbing in elevation through the pine trees and grassy meadows. We enjoyed some 60 mph plus sections in here...The #1101 Johnson car was stopped in the middle of the road, both driver and co-driver were out of the car. I thumb-up / thumb-downed them as we slowed. Got a thumb-up so sped on by, now in 2nd place with a very good running car! The fron suspension issue from the MINT was fixed and the car was taking the bumps nicely! The new power band from Blain's motor was nice too. We zipped on through the 5 mile rough section on the south end of the course and made the right turn onto another hardpacked but windy road at pit D.

We started to hear the tick of an exhaust leak, but still had good power. Making a left hand sweeping turn the car felt like it broke in half and had very little brakes. I managed to stop it on the right side of the road out of the racing line. We bailed out see see what happened and saw the left front brake plate dragging in the ground. The spindle had sheared off just outside of the inner bearings. The rear of the fender was ripped out from the tire/wheel/drum blowing through it. Now, where was the tire?? We looked around only to find it in the ditch right next to the car. My spare spindle was in our pits and we were on the far corner of the course, of course. I radiod through "weatherman" SNORE relay and Richard found the Spindle, Ed donated a bearing, and gave it to #1581 to deliver to us as. About 300 ft. around the left hand turn and down the course from where we were broken was a nice pull off, a much safer and cleaner place to work on the car. We took the spare tire out of the front of the car and set it on the rear bumper. I stood on the rear bumper for balast and Pete drove the car on three wheels down to the work area. Pete and I got the car torn down ready for the spindle, Pete headed off in search of the pits and some grease (I forgot to put grease back in the car after the MINT). The spindle came (that's way faster than a FedEx delivery), we pounded out the dent in the spring backing plate so the drum would fit on and off we went. Two hours down, #1111 Sanchez had passed us on his last lap, but we had plenty of time for a finish. the car was running good again, but the exhaust leek was getting louder. We made the right turn and started up the backside of "Oh my God Hill". This section always amazes me how we can make it to the top; big steep uphill woops and a load of fun! Just hang on for the ride! We scooted down "Oh My God Hill" into town and the end of lap one.

I pulled into to pits to make sure the left front fender wasn't rubbing on the tire and for 5 gall of fuel. We could make it on one Fuel Cell, and if we had been in a race after lap one I wasn't planning on stopping, but since the race turned into a goal to finish, I stopped. Team Desert Dingo took car of us, gave me a gator-aid and we headed outwith the tickety-tickety of the exhaust leek getting louder.

We pretty much had the course to ourselves now, just a few stragglers still on the front half of the course.  There were 25 mph signs up on the paved section just after the start. Pete and I had a conversation about these not being up on the first lap (we hoped,'cause  we sure didn't do 25 in this section on lap one!).  We were powering up the sand wash and just before race mile 8 the exhaust blew out and the motor made some weird noises and lost power. I pulled over to the middle of the wide wash, we got out for a look. I opened the hood, burning my hand on the latch and smoke pored out from the oil leak. Oil was all over the inside back of the car but no visible leaks from oil lines or coolers?? I pulled the valve covers to take a peak, everything looked good in there...

Besides the exhaust tube blowing out a piece the size of my thumbnail, I'm not sure what happened but I do know Blaine can take a look and fix it for the next one.

We radiod in to relay once again and waited for "our" guys to come get us after the course was closed in another hour or so. there were no SNORE retrieval vehicles like there were at the MINT (Jamie, we need you!!).  Team Desert Dingo's retrieved us and towed us in to the pits, which was especially nice since their car had finished (3rd) and they were ready to head home. Thanks guys, I owe you.  Congrats. to #1111 Felipe Neri-Sanchez on his win and #1101 Robert Johnson on 2nd place. 2009 is now a two car race between those two strong running teams. I'll get these"brakes" over and get back to a strong finish, soon I hope.

We enjoyed the Caliente VFD fundraiser BBQ in the middle of Main St. and enjoyed bench racing with fellow racer Thomas High and his family. A nice evening for sure.

See ya next time,

Mark

 

 

2009 MINT 400                            March 26-28         race 2 of 6

I felt good about the car and the upcoming adventure as Gary and I headed west from Grand Junction for Vegas in his "Stock Mini" truck. The Pre-run Thur went well and it was nice to see the whole course. Almost 45 miles of the 100 mile loop was the same as the SNORE 250 the previous 2 years. Roughly 20 miles of fast powerline roads and 80 miles of all sorts of rough; silt at the start, deep gravel/rocks, tight canyons, cross-grained gotchas, and loose hills.

Mike and his whole family, James and his daughter, Dave, Alex and my wife Jennifer all came out to be apart of this year's MINT. The 7s FIRE GUYS RACING Toyota also entered after their great finish at BAP. The Colorado contingent continued with Andy Schifanelli in his Class 8 and Larry Schumueser's Class 10 also making the trip out.

After registering Friday morning we got through Tech. by noon! Much better than last year's 2 day adventure getting through! Did a couple last minute things to the car and were ready for the race.

I requested a rear start, so was to be the final starter of the race. After talking with a couple competitors Gary and I strapped in and headed for the start line. We were warned by a SNORE official of cars stuck in the silt at the start. Soon after taking the Green flag we slowed, getting around the stuck and crashed cars, all related to the poor visibility and 15 second starting interval between cars. There must have been 15 cars and trucks in the first couple miles we got around. Around race mile two we crossed a silty ditch with a couple other cars stopped in it and BAM, no gears. I was hoping it was a CV that broke but it was real obvious it was the pass. side tranny side gear, sheared off at the flange. The same thing that knocked me out of the Midnight race last year. I had spare parts in our main pits, but we were in a bad spot for access. With all the other carnage around us, the SNORE officials were busy towing them off the course. What turned out to be the next 10 hrs was filled with multiple hikes across the desert to the freeway where Gary met with James, Dave, and Jennifer to get parts. Dave hiked back to help with the fix, then back for parts/repairs...We finally got a tow a couple miles down the course (thanks Jamie!!) where we finished the repairs and restarted our first lap. At this point I just wanted to get a lap in. The car felt good and it was good just to moving again! 

We pretty much had the course to ourselves, the trophy trucks were finishing their 4th and final lap, so the good thing was not having to get out of everyone's way- a big concern with a rough course and lots of unlimited (FAST) cars/trucks. We motored on around to about race mile 33 where the little hill we drove up in the pre-run now was much bigger and softer. The car struggled repeatedly trying to make this hill.  Gary walked to the checkpoint down course aways and we eventually got towed up (Thanks!).

We proceeded on past pit A, race mile 43 and got a pass. side rear flat. This was due to airing down the tires earlier, trying to get up the hill. We changed it, got going again and about 5 miles later the motor sounded really bad and lost power. Turned out to be a busted clip and wave washer on the rocker arm. I pulled the arm and put on new washers and clip. We took off again, hearing our 7s teammates on the radio with problems of their own just a few miles in front of us, limping along on their third lap. About 5 miles later on the fast (and fun) power line road, BAM!- and no gears . This time it was the CV, pass side inner. This was directly related to the tranny problems we had earlier. The CV was out for hours collecting dirt, and the 90 weight from the tranny was leaking out through the cv, contaminating the grease. I enjoyed the bright stars as I lay under the car with hot 90 wght. that dripped down my arm as I  pulled the CV's. I bolted the spare on and we took off again. At this point it was 12:30 pm and we were going to time out just after 1:00am. We wouldn't get a lap in but our main pits were just another 4 miles down the course, at race mile 63. We continued on for that destination and at the PIT B road crossing met our crew and the 7s truck. 

A long day with an amazing amount of breakage, all of it non related to the difficult course. Stuff that just decided to break. (I guess we weren't meant to do the MINT this year!). A huge thank you to my crew who stuck with me and helped us get going after the long down time!  Congrats to Robert Johnson on his win, 2 in a row this year. He's wearing the target now!

Next race, the much more low key and laid back Caliente- I won that one the last two years so maybe my luck will turn around there!

Mark

Also check out Gary's account of our very short but very long race from RACE-DEZERT.COM (scroll down to #52)                Gary's MINT story

2009 Battle At Primm                Feb. 14-15               race 1 of 6

The SNORE 2009 season opener is a popular race for both spectators and racers judging by the record number of entries. 12 of us took the start in Stock Bug class and my FIRE GUYS RACING teammates Jason Hutter and Paul Blangsted (along with some 50 other trucks of all shapes and sizes) would be racing their toyota in Class 7s as well as the 1450 class .

After enduring a near freezing rain Fri. night during Tech/ Contingency, race morning Sat. was blue sky! Mike Sims would ride with me, to experience another side of racing. After racing his Class 8 truck (fast and smooth over the rough) for many years, he would get to experience the thrill of the Stock Bug! Some would say he was crazy (okay-everyone said he was crazy). Thanks to Mrkulic Motorsports Photography, Acceler8ing.com, for the photo - proof Mike was in the VW!

The 7s raced before us and had a flawless run, winning easily with Jason driving. Paul would drive later in the afternoon in the 1450 race and finished very respectable against trucks that were ($$) made to go much faster!  Great day for the FIRE GUYS Toyota!                                                    

Our increasingly popular land rush start was a two row start and I drew dead last so was in the back row. We couldn't see the flag man but it was pretty obvious when the green flag dropped! The entire pack was in front of us as we funneled down to 1 and 2 wide prior to the spectator friendly Dike Jump where even we can hit it wide open without fear of a hard landing. Our close call occurred when a competitor got stuck going into a right hand turn and the 9 car following it (and right in front of us) got stuck trying to get around it. Mike said "Left" and we got around them both but had to run through a rope fence to avoid the same fate as the other two cars stuck in the turn.

We never saw the lead pack of bugs but heard stories afterwards of King Dave's #1158 new black car doing things that most folks couldn't believe a Class 11 Stock Bug could do! He was happy with how the car performed. Unfortunately for him the fuel consumption was likewise unheard of for a Class 11 and he was sitting in the middle of the course as we went by on the last lap. We finished 4th for the day, the car ready for tomorrow.

I loaned my spare transmission to #1194 Scott Sebastian after his developed problems from a hit by a flying black bug. Happy to help a fellow racer out and figured the Karma couldn't hurt either.

Sunday was another nice day. A little colder with high clouds but no rain. The mud puddles from Sat. were mostly gone (watch out for that "lake" in the infield). I never had to wipe mud from my visor like I did Sat. numerous times, and the in-car camera stayed mud free. It didn't fare so well Sat, taking a hit early in the race by a mud clod.

This time Paul drove the Toyota in the 7s race with the same 1st place results as Saturday's race! Jason would drive in the 1450 race and once again finished very respectably. Results showed a 12th place and the first leaf sprung truck in 1450! That's about a perfect weekend for the FIRE GUYS RACING Toyota.

Dave Mippes would ride with me today and like Mike the day before, this would be Dave's first ride in the bug. We started on the front row of the Land Rush Start but with similar results as Saturday's start. A few cars were behind us as we hit the Dike Jump and a bunch right in front of us. The in-car camera shows some excitement the first 5 min., then the pack started to thin out.

We were pretty much by ourselves the last two laps, midway in the field. Pulling over for a Class 9 buggy, I got a drivers side rear flat on the last lap. We were close to where my friend Dave was working the course and he just happened to have a spare tire for me. By the time we got to him we were only 1.5 miles from the finish so decided to drive it in the rest of the way flat, figuring it would be quicker than stopping. The flat cost us a few minutes; the power loss is pretty substantial!  We ended up 6th place for Sun. and 5th for the weekend- missed 4th place by 3 seconds!  Congrats to #1101 Robert Johnson and Eric Solorzano getting the win. It was good to start the year off with a finish. The MINT is coming quick and the car will be in great shape (with a little more power- Thanks Blaine!) for the rough endurance run. My favorite race of the year!!

Mark

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2008 KARTEK Western Desert Championship          Nov. 15  race 6 of 6

The final race of the season was in a new location for a SNORE race, in Ridgecrest, CA.  This turned our normal 8 -10 hr. tow into a 13 hr. trip, but Mike and James made the trip towing the car out and pitted for me again. Dave came along this time, and Big Tyler was there too! I couldn't do it without their incredible dedication! Pete rode with me this time, in fact Pete and I left Colorado early in Pete's truck, towing our loaner pre-runner Rhino.

After overnighting in Primm we unloaded the Rhino and set off with map in hand. It didn't take long to figure out a stock Rhino is a rough ride! But it was faster and easier than Pete's truck (which we were taking to Baja after the race, while James towed the race car home).

The 35 mile loop consisted of woops, some bigger woops, medium woops, then more woops...It didn't have silt or "that one spot every course seems to have that would be ugly when the faster classes catch us 'cause we can't get out of the way," no grueling uphill..., just a lot of woops and a very straight and fast downhill/uphill road section for a couple miles thrown in.

Five Stock Bugs pre-entered, and three of us showed up. Richard Nichols Jr, fresh off his win at the SNORE 250 would lead us, Pete and I were next 30 seconds later, then Ed Mahoney in his customary rear start. 58 other vehicles started in front of us.

I had been chasing Ed in the points race all year, and if I was to stay Class champion for another year I needed to win and have Ed finish last to make up the 89 points I needed.  After pre-running the course I decided to stick to my usual strategy of starting with a "survival" pace and pick up the pace as needed. I also secretly hoped Mahoney and Nichols would have a battle like last race, pushing each other hard from the start.

Beautiful sunny day, almost hot for a Nov. day! We took the green flag and by mile 3 Ed was around us. The car had a fuel delivery issue (not again!) which forced me to pull over, but it cleared up after turning on the electric fuel pump and never resurfaced. The car felt good after I settled into my racing groove, the motor, tranny, suspension... everything was right.

We closed up on the #1102 Nichols car and got around after he let us by, alright - now we both need to get around Ed...Our pits were right before the Start / Finish line and I decided to pull in for a 10 second visual. Mike, James, Dave, and Tyler gave us the thumbs up and we completed lap 1 in 1:39:53, eight minutes behind the #1189  Mahoney, 2 min. in front of #1102 Nichols. 

I picked up the pace as Pete kept an eye in the rear views for the faster classes. The smaller total entries in this race made it easier on us with not as many cars to watch for. The course was easy to pass on and fairly easy for us to get out of the way. Still, there were a few cars that just appeared in the rear view from out of nowhere - sorry if I held anyone up, I got out of the way as fast as I could.

At the end of lap 2 we came into our pits for a scheduled gas stop, 8 gallons of Sunoco smell-good fuel! Pete made an"emergency" stop and go, I had a gator-aid to supplement the water in my camel-pack, then we took off for our final lap. We made up 4 minutes on the #1189 and #1102 was another 3 minutes behind us. The last lap may be a little racy!

About mile 10 we saw the #1189 and as soon as they saw us Ed picked up the pace. I did the same and we stayed about 1/4 mile apart for miles. We would gain a little in some of the faster sections so I speculated Ed only had 1st / 2nd gear. We'd get them on the fast section after mile 30...  We rounded the right hand turn onto the fast section and could barely see the dust from #1189 (apparently the tranny was ok). Our guys radio'd us we were 1.5 minutes back, "time to hike up the skirt".

The last 5 miles was a blur with images of double jumps and blown corners and the car every which way but "normal". It was truly a 5-mile accident that ended at the finish line. Pete said there's no way to describe that to anyone. Wish we had video or still shots of the final 5 miles! We finished physically 24 seconds behind Ed with the fast lap of the class at 1:30:54. Nichols finished 25 minutes behind with a very beat up car. It was a fun race with both Ed and Richard.  I always seem to wish for one more lap!  My car continues to amaze me at the abuse it will take (Dave Hendrickson builds a heck of a car).  Congratulations to Ed Mahoney and team on the well deserved victory and class championship.  Battle At Primm is Feb 14 when it starts over again...

Thanks for listening,

Mark 

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2008  SNORE 250                                        Oct. 4        race

I drove my Jeep out early to pre-run the course Friday morning. James, Mike and Tyler picked up the race car and towed it out again. I broke a shock mount on the TJ while pre-running at rm 38 but saw enough of the course to know it was a rough one. The first 20 miles were technical and brutal, although the big silt hill that gave us problems last year was in good shape (and stayed in good shape during the race).

We teched the car Friday evening in the parking lot of the Boulder Station and got a side bet going among the 4 of us that showed up in Stock Bug class. Victor was my co-driver for this race, first time in the car so I gave him the run down on what to expect and do. 

Race morning (Sat) we left Boulder Station for the Start/Finish main pits in the Apex area. We set up our pits in the area I flagged off yesterday and ran through the pre-race checklist (although I forgot the checklist in the motel). Nichols and Krumm started side by side. 30 seconds later Mahoney and I started last. Ed immediately set off to get in the lead. He ran on Nichols' back bumper for a few miles, both cars setting a blistering pace from the start!

About rm10 we passed Ed as his co-driver was looking at the back of the car. It looked like he was getting ready to get back in the car so I anticipated seeing him in the rear view shortly.  We made it through the spectator area around rm18 with no issues, Mike and James radioed from the jeep the car looked good and the lead class 1 car was behind us. We got out of his way and enjoyed the next few miles of smooth and fast graded roads after 20 miles of 1st and 2nd gear rough.

The 9 mile section between Pit A and Ck-7 seemed to go forever, dual lanes where which ever one the car was in the other looked smoother. 3 miles before Ck-7 Victor and I discussed the car felt different, we might have a rear flat. My friends Kathy and Dave MacKenzie were working CK-7 (AKA, remote pit for us). I radioed them we were coming and might have a flat. I couldn't reach them but when we got there the first pit waved us over and changed the tire for us. I didn't catch what team you were but Thanks guys! The MacKenzies and friends rolled our good spare over and put it in the car. Good timing- a flat and we didn't have to get out of the car!

We took off the fence road along Pit B and the car sure felt better with 4 good tires on it! We endured the next 12 miles till the power line graded road that I call the "rally road". Fun section with hills and tight corners with burms and drop offs, no suspension needed! I didn't get this far in yesterdays pre-run but I remembered a few drop offs from last year so I didn't push it too hard this lap. A few more miles of rough and the end of lap one was in sight. The half mile prior to the finish line was the roughest with staggered woops-brutal.

Our pits were on the second loop, which was rm 7ish. We passed the noisy gravel wash where my ball joint let loose last year (I did hold my breath till we got by this time). Made it up the hill at rm 5 no problem and pulled into our pits for a scheduled 5 gall of gas. Just as we pulled in the throttle was sticking. Tyler waved us in and gave us a Gatoraid while Mike and James gassed us and gave the car a once over and wd-40d the throttle. We took off in 2nd place roughly 12 min. behind #1102 Nichols. 

The rocks on the 2nd lap are always bigger, the ruts deeper, the silt siltier, the sharp corners hang on and enjoy the ride...We had a relatively dust free start to the 2nd lap so we could see all the previously mentioned challenges. Victor was doing a great job in the passenger seat, ready for another lap. The rocky area where I got the flat on lap one I slowed down a little for- didn't want another one. By CK-7 there was clear sky, dust miles ahead of us and miles behind us. I had a few conversations with myself and Victor, my main goal was to close the gap in points between myself and Ed. If I pushed the car chasing the leader Nichols I could break, get a DNF, and be out of contention. I didn't know Ed's fate, but knew I was ahead of him at this point. I continued on, driving a fast finishing pace (don't DNF!). The "rally road" was fun this time. Pushed it a little faster sliding the corners and riding the burms.  I pulled over to let a truck past after he eventually closed in on us, then ate his dust for the mile of the "roller coaster" ride.  I held my breath as we passed the dip where my ring and Pinion grenaded last year...

Mike, Tyler, and James were waiting at the finish line. We finished in second, 7  minutes behind the leader, with a car and driver ready for another lap. If we went one more we may have caught the #1102. At the finish line Nichols car was pretty spent. Congrats to RJ and his team on their first win. He drove the wheels off his car and it held up. #1189 Ed Mahoney came in 3rd about 50 min. behind. Congrats to Ed for the finish, #1165 Derek Krumm DNF'd the second lap.

The final race in Ridgecrest will be exciting! I've got to finish 2 positions in front of #1189 Mahoney to take the class points for the season and keep my #1100 number. Regardless, I look forward to a fun race in an area I've never raced before.

Mark 

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2008  KC Midnight Special             Aug. 9                  race 4 of 6

There were 13 Stock Bugs that showed up for the SNORE Midnight Special, a huge number thanks to the bonus $$ thrown in by the #1102 Nichols team.  Starting at 8:30 pm meant it was dark from the drop of the green flag (It was cool to get the send off from Judy Smith!), and starting one every 15 seconds meant it would be dusty from the get-go. My Fire Guys Racing #1100 started 4th with Ed Mahoney starting 30 seconds back in 6th, and King Dave Hendrickson got the unlucky rear start. I knew I'd see these two cars sooner rather than later.

Once we started I really didn't see much of anything but dust. In fact the first time I saw #1189 Ed was out of his car. I asked my co-driver Pete how/when did he get around us! No time to worry about minor details like that-gotta stay focused...(Reading Ed's race report, he got around us in the zero visibility dust near RM 3...I hear tell that's also where the Queen Mary, the marching band and a heard of desert tortoises got by us. Might be , I couldn't see! - link over to Ed's site for his adventures)

This race ran up Beer Bottle Pass, a tight steep road where I hoped we wouldn't run up behind a bottleneck-this being the worst place to have problems. We zipped up just fine the first lap, even got around a broken down buggy somehow. Saw "Wicked Gravity Videos" Doug shooting video near the top and Pete gave a thumbs up.

The second half of the course we didn't pre-run and I was surprised it was rougher than the first half. The front suspension was a little soft through here and a couple cars got around us. We pulled into the main pits in 3rd place. My buddy Jeff came out from Montrose for his first race and he stepped up to handle the pits. He got tremendous help from our pit neighbors, the teams of  Licari #808 and Big Bob #1811. Paul, Jill and the entire team helped us all day and night- Thanks guys! They topped off the car with the good smelling Sunoco and changed a belt that was shredded. Jeff adjusted the KC's a little higher and off we went.

This time there was no one in front of us kicking up the dust, so we could make up a little time. Going around the hairpin left turn at CP1 I was ready to power up the soft woops when the car stopped. Car was still running but no gears. I hoped it was a CV but no such luck. The shaft coming out of the trans-axle sheared off at the flange. End of race. Fortunately we were right in front of the CP1 crew and got towed to the road crossing where Jeff could tow us back to the pits.

#1199 Jeremy and Jason started 2nd and had a great race, smoking all of us with the run I pictured having. After 2 flawless races (mechanically) I felt good going into this one, but got bit by a part that wasn't on my "short list" of weak links. There're two races to go and I'm still running 2nd in the points. Ed, who's leading the points, had troubles this race as well so we'll see how it ends! Stay tuned,

Mark   

  

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2008 Dusty Times   Caliente                   May 10       race 3 of 6

 

I knew the Dusty Times Caliente SNORE race would be a sprint race for us, the Stock Bugs did two 55 mile laps for a finish.  So unlike the 300 mile MINT race-there would be no settling into a survival pace-it would be fast!

 Mike Sims raced his Class 8 last weekend with the B.O.R.E. series but still found the time to tow me out to Caliente and pit for me. Big Tyler (5 yrs old) came along with dad Mike to handle the Crew Chief duties. Aaron Nelson managed the right side of the race car again.  We managed to load both the race car and my TJ into the enclosed trailer (thanks Lindsey for loaning us the trailer!) so we all fit in one truck. 

I was armed with about 120 8x10's of the car and a couple of Sharpies for the Meet & Greet at the Caliente Elementary School Friday morning. The school kids served up a pancake breakfast first, then a couple hours of autographing pictures, T-shirts, and arms!

Aaron and I took the TJ around the course during the Fun Run, pretty much looked the same as last year (Fun!), the bumps were a little bigger and the ruts a little deeper. After Teching the car we had hamburgers over the campfire...Caliente is such a laid back atmosphere, very relaxing!

Sat. morning after the drivers meeting we staged 5th of 6 Stock Bugs. Ed Mahoney requested his normal rear start, 30 seconds behind us. It's a 25 mph speed limit through town and over the first old RR bridge. I didn't have the GPS this race and ended up going under 25 mph. This and Ed's very fast driving enabled him to catch us pretty quickly. I pulled over to let him by and then was in hot pursuit. We caught a couple cars a few miles later, followed their dust for a while and eventually got by. Eric Palacio pulled over at Pit B with a hot smelling car.

The 3.8 miles of the course that concerned me the most was coming up. We crossed under the RR tracks at Ck 2 where Mike and Tyler were waiting for us. Then up the sand wash with very few places for us to get out of the way. I never want to hold up a faster class (all of them), but I also didn't want to pull over and ruin my race by getting stuck like I did at the MINT. Hopefully we could make it up this section before the unlimited cars caught us. Mike would wait at the RR crossing and radio us when and how many cars were coming.

We scooted along, so far so good...the sand was looser than during the Fun-Run, as expected, but no problems. Near the top we come around a right corner and saw #1189 Mahoney stuck behind a truck. I did NOT want to lift or we would be stuck behind them. Fortunately Ed pointed us around and someone else pointed to the bypass. A classy act! Thanks Ed. We got around and once back on course the sharp left turn drifted the car into the loose sand and we got stuck. Aaron hopped out, said it wasn't too bad so he got the carpet out to put under the rear tires for traction. I had zip tied the carpet roll and he couldn't unroll it (note to self: use duct tape next time). Aaron hopped on the rear bumper and I was able to rock back and forth and get going. I drove 1/4 mile or so untill we got out of the wash and onto firm ground. Aaron hopped in the car as Mike radioed the first unlimited car was coming up the wash. We took off hoping to get to the downhill section where pulling over to let cars by is much easier and less likely for us to get stuck, something about gravity...

The #100 car zipped by in a blur and as it turned out he had a huge lead. We were now in second place, #1111 Garey Leavitt was in front of us. I knew we wouldn't catch him unless he had problems. A few miles from the end of the first lap we caught some dust and got a glimpse of Leavitt. At the start of the nasty uphill , the backside of "Oh My God Hill", we came around a right corner and Garey was coming to a stop. I saw an opportunity to get around him on the right. Stopping would have meant backing down the one lane rocky hill. I stayed on the gas and as I was next to him my car started to slide towards him (darn gravity). I held my breath and listened...nothing, we made it around clean! (After the race the rear drivers fender showed a little dent in it-not quite a clean pass, sorry Garey.) We were now in the lead! We bounced the rest of the way up the hill, across the top and started down the infamous "Oh My God Hill" into town. 2/3rds of the way down a buggy showed up in the rear view mirrors. He wanted by and there was sort of a wide spot. I turned right and my car grabbed too much right. Oh great, now we're going to pill bug roll down the hill into town. Dramatic but not something I wanted to do. Fortunately we straighten out and the buggy went by.

photo courtesy of Christine Zwicker                           [email protected]  

I pulled into our pit for a quick visual by Mike and some drinking water from Tyler. Everything looked good and we took off for lap two. We started with a full fuel cell so didn't need to stop at all for gas.

We had a lot of dust free running now; I was surprised at how few cars caught us the first lap. Mike radioed us when second place came by our pits, Mahoney was 20 min. back. I knew Ed would be driving hard to catch us so I couldn't slow too much. The bumps were bigger and the silt deeper and longer now. Mike and Tyler were cheering us on at the RR crossing. We started up the sand wash and Mike radioed us a 1600 was coming, then another and another. Not the place I wanted to get caught by anyone. The first one got around clean, and by the time the second on caught us we had just gotten out of the wash! The worst was over. The hard packed "rally" section was a blast after pit C! Mike radioed us we had a 15 min lead at Ck-2.

We got to the last obstacle, the uphill where we got around Leavitt on lap one. It was WAY more chewed up, wooped out, and loose! I hung on and was along for the ride as "Tortuga" bounced up and over the top. We fell down "Oh My God Hill" one more time and into the finish- 1st place! As Mike was pulling the plugs for the post race tear down Ed came in, 28 minutes back. He had problems with 1st gear at the top of the last hill and lost some time. No other Stock Bug made it 2 laps, but I enjoyed racing against everyone. A fun race!!

Mark 

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2008 MINT 400                March 29                          race 2 of 6

 

 photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com

As soon as I first heard rumors of the MINT 400 coming back, I knew I had to race it and I knew it would be the biggest race of the year for me. This WAS a big event, not just in historical significance but it was the roughest 300 miles I’ve raced. The 2006 Baja 1000 was longer  (we made it to mile 349 with our broken tranny), but these 100 mile loops were much more difficult.

 SIMCO MOTORSPORTS came out in force this race with plenty of support, including a loaner enclosed trailer to keep the car safely in. My FIRE GUYS teammate Jason brought his new H3 for remote pit support and pre-running duties. Larry Schmezer raced his Class 10 and we pooled our resources so had plenty of support at all 4 of the pits. Jason and Merissa moved from Pit A to Pit C each lap. Mike and family, James, Alex, Dave, and Jennifer were at Pit B (Primm), and the 10 cars main pits were at the Start/Finish if we needed help there.

Tech./Contingency was on Fremont Street East.  We rolled into town on Thursday in time to get the car unloaded in staging and push it threw contingency-sort of. We were in contingency line at 6:45pm, picking up various prodects from the venders as we rolled by. A SNORE official told us we’d have to come back tomorrow at 9:00 ‘cause Tech was closing. Oh well, at least we were already there for the “Meet and Greet” (7:30 to 9:30 pm). I had a bunch of  8x10’s to handout and even got my Walker Evans sticker on my dash autographed!

 

 Aaron and I pre-ran with Jason and Marissa Fri. morning while the SIMCO crew did Tech, round 2. We were the first car in line at 9:00, (‘cause it didn’t open till 10). Then found out a few Tech. items failed that were perfectly fine the previous race…(I think they do that just to keep my adrenalin pumping). The crew got it all fixed up and met us at Buffalo Bills after our shortened pre-run. I’d seen enough of the course to know it was a lot rougher than when we raced on it last year.  We had a few things to do to the car before our 7:05am staging call.

We started 4th out of 11 Stock Bugs. My original strategy was to get out front early, before the Trophy Trucks started lapping us. After seeing how rough the course was I changed that to “survival mode” from the get go. I stuck to my speed and let the guys that wanted to run harder go, knowing this was going to be a race of attrition.

We got the hole shot on #1103 Robert Johnson and passed another Stock Bug stuck in the silt above the nasty ravine crossing. A few miles later we got around a  stuck buggy and watching the WICKED GRAVITY video Doug Hayduk shot I see there was a Bug jam behind us that didn’t get around as easy.  I lost track of what position we were in, who all got around us and who we passed the first half of lap one. I do remember #1111 Garey Leavitt and #1199 Ed Mahoney went by us like a bullet early on the first lap. I stuck with my plan and didn’t play rabbit.

 We caught a Class 3 Bronco about RM 10 and after the 180 left turn into the multi-lane uphill wooped out sandy run we got around him. Shortly after the Collins Trophy Truck flew by, thankfully in a multi-lane section so we didn’t slow him down and he didn’t cause us any grief.  I pulled into Pit A at RM 15 for a quick visual of the rear tires and a tug on my lap belts (forgot to tighten them at the start-oops). The Bronco got around us while doing this and we left the pit in his dust.  Just around the next left hand corner a mini-truck that had stopped earlier caught us and I pulled over to let it by, getting stuck in the process. Aaron hopped out to push us back on the course and we took off. I was thinking this was going to be a long day if we got stuck pulling over for the first truck that went by and there were about 250 cars/trucks out there that were faster than us!

 The “Battle At Primm” infield section prior to Pit B was a lot rougher than the actual BAP race 6 weeks ago! Pit B was our main pit so we pulled in to top the fuel cell off and give everything a quick visual. We were running 6th at this point. Next comes the section of course that concerned me the most, between RM 40 and RM 44ish  there is no room to pass and if I pull over in this uphill single lane loose rock/dirt/sand there‘s a good chance I’ll get stuck.  Aaron, as always, was glued to the rear view mirrors as we scooted up and around the corners. All of a sudden I smell something burning and hear a terrible grinding sound. I pull over quick thinking the car is having a meld down but quickly figure out it’s the pumper unit. After shutting it off all is well, except we’re stuck. Aaron gets out and pushes us back on the course, hops in and we take off again. Relieved it was just the pumper but knowing we’re going to eat a lot of dirt and hear every rattle and rock hit for the next 250 miles.

 We pass #1199 Mahoney while they were getting their car unstuck around RM 44 (remember this location on our 3rd lap!). We scoot on around the back side of the mountains and down to RM 55 and a sharp right turn onto a smoother road. We see a Stock Bug on its side off to the right and I recognize Cory Vandemark and see some other folks milling around. I wondered how a Class 11 rolled at that location (later heard he had a lot of help from a Class 1 that crashed into him, destroying the Bug but thankfully no one was hurt).

We have an uneventful trip up the course to RM 60 where it makes a sharp left and comes back downhill towards Pit C. #1199 Mahoney re-caught us at the corner and I let him by, he was still on a pace faster than my “survival” pace.  Aaron blasted the horn as we sped threw Pit C. Jason radioed we were in 4th place.

 The rest of the lap we didn’t pre-run yesterday but the map showed it to be roughly the same as last years Dash for Cash race so I has a good idea what to expect. The notable areas were the short but rough lava rock (Big rocks) and sand section at RM 70, the fast loop between RM 75 and 80, and the “slow as you can go” section of Big rocks past RM 80. (Doug Hayduk videoed us bouncing threw there on our last lap in the dark). And then the grand finally, silt sections beyond RM 85 and some single lane silt at the loop around the Start/Finish pits.

 We entered the silt at RM 85ish on the right and had to clutch/gas to keep from bogging down and burying the car. As we headed for the left side we passed a Stock Bug stuck on the right side.(note to self-stay way left next lap!)  Happy to get through that one we blazed through the Spectator Section (Aaron on the horn), across the road and up to the 3-way downhill. We picked the middle option and hit a pretty big hole at the front side. (note to self- try another line next lap).

Entering the Main Pits we plowed threw some more nasty silt. Car was finding its route through and I was hanging on to the steering wheel. We almost got stuck right in front of our fellow Colorado driver Larry Scmezer pit, which was also our emergency pit. Hit more silt shortly after on the way up the loop above the Start/Finish. This area kind of reminded me of Baja with the narrow road and small canyon next to it. On around to the finish line and the start of Lap 2!  We were in 4th place, about 10 min. behind #1199 Mahoney in first, #1107 Krumm in second, and  #1105 Cote in 3rd. #1103 Johnson was just over 3 minutes behind us and the last car to complete the 1st lap was #1102 Nichols who was over 3.5 hours back.

It was nice to have radio coverage all the way around the lap, support in every pit, and no problems with the car (except the pumper) going into lap 2. I was pleasantly surprised with how little traffic caught us the first lap, and hoped for the same the last two laps.

We cruised around lap 2 with no stops or delays, car running strong as we pulled into our main pits for gas and visor cleaning. What a difference clean glasses and visor make! The guys swapped out our front tires, the passenger side had a huge dent in the rim, a smaller one on the driver’s side. (Aaron always hits the bigger rocks!)  We were running in 2nd

position now, about 13 min. back from Mahoney.

                                                    photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com

 The leaders of the fastest classes were done with their 4 laps as we were starting our third so I was feeling better about the prospect of getting up the backside of the mountain above Primm without seeing a lot of cars in our rear view. Besides, four cars caught us here last lap and they got around us uneventfully. Around RM 44 a General Tire truck caught us, Aaron signaled we saw him and I pulled half way over at a wide spot. I have to come to a complete stop as the truck hesitates while passing us. When I get on the gas the car buries itself. Aaron tries pushing, then we both shovel dirt away, then we jack up the car and fill the holes with big rocks, then we jack up the car and push the car off the jack a few times to get the car back on the course. We get strapped back in and when I get on the gas to leave it buries again. Back out with the jacking process…Aaron pushes as I give it some gas and we’re free. Problem is Aaron isn’t in the car and I can’t stop to let him in. I finally find a spot I can safely pull over without getting hit or stuck. By the time we get going again  the #1102 Cold Forged and #1105 Pump Gas cars pass us, but #1102 is a lap down.

About 10 miles later we catch the dust of the #1105, they obviously are having major issues with the front of the car so I stay behind them until we get to a place I can get around them without tearing up either of our cars. While waiting to pass a truck catches us and as I pull over to allow it by, we slide into each other and crunch the drivers side rear fender (It looked a lot worse than it sounded!).

 At Pit C Jason pounds the fender away from the tire and pulls our light covers off.  We head off for the final 43 miles as it’s getting dark. The silt bed a few miles from the finish was interesting in the dark!  And somebody’s got a funny picture from the loop above the Start/finish. I saw the flash just as I was getting a silt facial (visor up from the pumper not working!).

 The crew was there waiting at the finish and we celebrated our 2nd place finish. #1199 Mahoney/Torres ran an impressive pace for the 300 miles to win. #1103 Johnson finished 3rd ,19 minutes behind us and #1102 Nichols was the last finisher at 15:56:38 (with a 16 hour limit!). The MINT was a heck of an adventure! Next race – Caliente.

Mark 


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 2007  FILTERMAG 250                   Nov.10                   race 6 of 6  

*

 photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com

 

The 2007 SNORE Filtermag 250 was eventful for us!

 

The SNORE volunteers earned their “pay” moving the race to Primm just days prior to the start due to complications with the County not allowing the race to be held in Nelson Hills. KUDO’s to SNORE!

 

Aaron and I were able to pre-run this time, thanks to my neighbor Pete bringing his Nissan Titan out. The three of us came out early to check out the course while Mike, James, Alex and Big Tyler towed the race car out.

 

Race morning we went through the “Pre-Race” checklist, made a few tweeks and lined up for staging.  We started second, behind Garey Leavitt and in front of Brandon Benson while Ed Mahoney requested a rear start. Benson and Mahoney got around us early the first lap, and we passed Leavitt while he was changing a flat. Around RM 25 we caught Mahoney and passed him in the slight uphill sand, later found out he had a flat as well. A few miles later we pulled close to Benson but didn’t see him again untill the end of lap one when we passed them in the pits as they did a drivers change. We pitted for gas and Benson got back around us.

 

As we left the pits we were told

over the radio to stop at the next available pit to have an oil leak issue looked at. I pulled over at the “overflow” pit area into Leavitt’s pit. His guys taped up the oil fill tube inplace of the missing oil cap and sent us on. We heard on the radio Leavitt’s car was about 5 min behind us. A big thanks to Garey’s pits for the help!

 

Half way around the 2nd lap Aaron said Leavitt was in our dust, but faded back after a few miles.  A few miles later around RM 28 we passed Benson, his co-dawg was out changing a tire. We were in the lead, but I knew we’d be seeing the red car of Benson’s before the finish! I aggressevely tiptoed down the back side of the course, the rocks bigger this lap, counting the miles down over the radio to our pits, while watching the rear vie

 

 photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com

 

Just after the silty “photo”  turn at RM 40 Aaron said there he is, in our dust. We stayed in front untill the multi-lines past Pit A where he passed us.  We stayed close and caught him back in the wide power draining silty woops

going into visual check point 6.  We were about even, us on the left and Benson on the right with the nasty single line right sweeper coming up. I was thinking the checkpoint workers at the corner are seeing some racing!  We came out of the corner and Benson was already a couple hundred feet infront of us!  We stayed in his dust, hitting what must be maximum speed for my car on the super fast section past the  stop and go checkpoint, slowing when the dust from Benson was too thick for me to risk not lifting (I kept thinking about running into the back of the stopped Pro-Truck in the Baja silt last year...)

 

We pulled into the finish line  21 seconds behind Benson, but later were awarded the victory after Benson was DQ’d for missing the visual checkpoint 6.  Mahoney finished second 11 min later and Leavitt 3rd,  28 min. behind Mahoney.

 

While telling stories in our pit after wards, one of the guys noticed the right front looked a little strange...the locknut that holds the balljoint in place was gone and the ball joint had unseating itself...how long was that going on?? I think We cashed in on that Karma from the last race! 

 

Mark 

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 2007 SNORE 250                      Sept. 29              race 5 of 6     
 

 

 

photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com 

 

The 2007 SNORE 250 was eventful for us! The plan was to “Pre-run” the 60 mile loop the first lap since I didn't have a chance to see it prior 

to the race. That went well, still in the tight battle for 2nd, 1st 

place (Benson) didn't have any problems so was pulling away. Lap 2, time to pick it up a notch! Upper ball joint shears off at RM3. I pull the 

torsion arm and hike to the pits a couple miles or so to get a new ball joint 

installed. I had great support with SIMCO RACING - Mike and his 

family, James, Alex, Roger, Andy Schifanelli and his family. By the 

time I hiked back to the car and got going again we were down 2 

hours, but going again! We went about a mile and smelled something 

burning. Pulled over quick and discover the painted flames on the 

front fender was boiling hot!! The front suspension wasn't working so 

good (went from 4.5" travel to about 1") the fenders were rubbing on 

the front tires and getting a little hot... We limped to the pits 4 

miles away and the guys removed the fenders for clearance and we 

still had 2.5 hours to get around for a finish before our 8 hr time 

limit.

 

We pretty much had the course to ourselves at this point, which was 

good since we were going slow even for class 11 standards. The first 

lap was rough (it lived up to the "roughest course of the year" 

billing). Our second lap was crazy rough - the first 15 miles anyway. 

We made it up the first silt hill (barely), and had no chance on the 

second hill. After the dust cleared we were able to dive over the edge and 

tip toe up a set of tracks next to the hill (no helicopters filming 

our "alternate line"). We met a fellow class 11 driver at RM 25, Ed 

Mahoney. He was broken, there for over 3 hours. A 1600 driver was 

there too (Benson), borrowing Ed's jack for his car a mile down the course. We took the jack in our car so he wouldn't have to carry it, and gave Ed our spair coil. Delivered the jack to a happy and surprised co-driver and kept plugging along, nervous about the time.

 

Ed passed us a while later (the coil apparently worked for him) and he 

went on to finish 3rd, with 20 min to spare. The 1600 driver got the Dusty Times award for the last official finisher, beating the 8 hr. limit by less than 

a min. We made up some time on the smooth rally section (FUN! even 

with no front suspension) and thought we would get a finish till 

BOOM, tranny busted 1.5 miles from finish and 10 min to go...no 

forward or reverse. At this point I guess I say, "that's racing"

 

Had fun though, and was glad I could repay Mahoney who gave me the 

valve cover the race before, which enabled me to get a finish at the 

Midnight Special. Karma...didn't work this race but I'll bank it for 

the future.

 

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   2007 KC Hilites Midnight Special         June 29       race 4 of 6           
 

 

 

 photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com

 

The 2007 SNORE KC Hilites Midnight Special was eventfull for us!

Squid (Phil) pulled the car out with his new 4-door superduty, James, Aaron and I were passengers.  Lindsey loaned his enclosed trailer so the car could arrive in style (and protected). That night (after too many beverages?)Squid figured we could pre-run the next day in his superduty. We set up a pit and ventured out for the 45 mile lap pre-run. After the BIG rocks between RM 20 and 24 we hit the access road back to the pits and town for tech/contingency, no need to push our luck with a new truck and big rocks!

Race morning we arrived at the pit we flagged off, but someone elce had taken it. No worries, there was a spot next to Big Bob and Paul Bailey and the girls. They helped me out at my first SNORE race, the Battle At Primm, when the car had a variety of issues.

Eric Palacios and Garey Leavitt started side by side, and I followed 30 seconds later. About RM 5 the car shut off with a coil wire issue, I plugged the wire into a neighboring terminal and the car fired up. Problem was it died in the sand and we couldn,t get going, fortunately it died next to another broken car and the driver gave us a push to get going.

 

Running good now, playing catch-up and wondering when the fast classes would catch us - hopefully not on the rocky narrow uphill past Pit B!  We headed up that streatch when a driver, out of his car, waved us to go around. I didn’t see him in time to go where he was waving and he threw his arms up as if to say “you’re screwed...”. I turned a hard left behind his car and bonzied up, threw, and over (somehow) a big berm and BIGGER rocks. We made it around!! After congratulating ourselves on that move about a mile later an unlimited buggy was in our rear view. We were still in the nasty streatch with difficult passing but I pulled half way over and stopped. The buggy pulled even with us and stopped - broke something. I couldn’t move (after backing into his rear tire) and we had a nice little bottleneck for the cars that suddenly had caught us.  He got out of his car and Aaron got out to push. I climbed back in and we were able to get my car going. I drove up a ways till there was a better wide spot I could pull over and wait for Aaron. He ran up and confirmed the buggy was broken so we headed on.  

 

The rest of lap one was uneventfull other than getting dark and seeing how good the KC HID’s work! A couple miles from the pits the oil light flickered once and stayed off. We had radio commo with the pits till we were almost there, but Aaron gave James and Squid a heads up to check the oil.  We arrived and after a few quarts of oil was poured in Paul, who came over to assist, said shut it off - the drivers side valve cover was gone.

 photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com

I didn’t have a spare so we split up looking for one. After making the rounds through everyones pits, I came across Ed Mahoney in Corey Torres’s pit.  They had exactly what I needed; a cover and clip! James put it on and added oil while Aaron and I got strapped in.  After being down for over an hour, we headed out for two more laps and a finish.  We had no more problems other than leap frogging a 5-1600 for most of the last lap. His dust would slow us down for miles, then we’d get around him for a few miles,,, back and forth till the finish.  

 

I was happy and amazed to get to get a finish (2nd place, 1hr. 5 min behind Leavitt) and if it hadn’t been 2:30am I would have called Blaine and tell him his engines are amazing!  The steering box was making a popping noise every time the steering wheel moved, but it made it! And our radio issue wasn’t a radio issue at all - it was an antenna issue (laying on the floor of the trailer). I’ll add that to the pre-race check list!  A Huge thanks to the Torres pit for the valve cover! and James and Squid for staying up all night in the main pit!

 

Mark 

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  2007 Battle At Primm        Feb. 17/18                     race 1 of 6           


 

 photo courtesy of acceler8ing.com

 

The 2007 Battle At Primm was my first SNORE race, and it was eventfull!

Doug Hayduk (Wicked Gravity Video) pulled my car to Primm as he was going anyway to shoot some video of the races. Mike Sims from Glenwood Springs and the SIMCO MOTORSPORTS gang were present in full force with Mike’s Class 8.  My FIRE GUYS RACING teammate Jason Hutter said SIMCO would take care of me, and he was right.  What a great bunch of guys!  We pulled into Mike’s pit, flanked by the pit of Big Bob’s Champ car and the limited Sportsman car of Jill Rootring / Amber Bailey. 


Doug rode with me to check out the course during the Fun-Run lap: “This IS gonna be a fun 9.2 mile lap!”  I asked Mike if he had anyone who might be interested in riding with me during Saturdays race; I didn’t have to twist Aaron Nelson’s arm too far!


Unloading the car from the trailer race morning Saturday was not a good omen, it didn’t start. It eventually did but didn’t run very well - it had a big miss... Thanks to everyone in the neighborhood (SIMCO guys, BIg Bob, Paul Bailey, et al.) it ran, sort of. We started the race next to Jason Gutzmer and he immediatley pulled away as my car was missing badly in  2nd gear.  Seven class 11’s started, two at a time every 30 seconds. The first lap we managed to get around 2 or 3 cars. Jason was done with a blown tranny, another slowed with a flat... The laps went quick and midway around the 3rd and final lap my car died.  I coasted off the course to check it out. Out of gas? How do ya run out of gas in a 30 mile race? Answer: start with a low tank (to save weight) and have a poor running car sucking gas faster than normal.  Course workers towed us back to our pits. Congrats to Ed Mahoney for the victory. Looks like the side bet money will be staying in Vegas.


Gary Helming drove down from Grand Junction for the Sunday race. I explained the car was sick but I’d ride if he wanted to drive. While staging for the Sun start, SNORE had the great idea to do a “Land Rush Start’ for the 6 of us still running!  Even with a sporadic running car it was fun, and Gary got us into 3rd place as the course narrowed to two lanes. Al things considering we had a fun run. Gary did a great job nursing a sick car one second and hauling the next.  Brandon Benson finished in front of Mahoney and we came in 3rd a minute and a half later, happy to get a finish.


My first SNORE race was very enjoyable and I was impressed with the organization and “family” atmosphere. Aaron said he’d be happy to keep riding with me and James promised to get me to the next race, the Dash for Cash at the end of March.


The electical gremlin turned out to be a loose set screw holding the magnetic sensor in the distributor. The carb had a few issues as well. Every race this car teaches me something!!

 

Mark 

 

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