It was an epic adventure!  Many thanks go out to the awesome crew that got us to the finish line!  As an added bonus, they also got Shannon Campbell to the finish line with a win in his class.  SCORE listed us as 18th Trophy Truck and 42nd overall in the 4 wheel class.  Looks like about 240 starters and 125 finishers.  28th in points for the year with just the one race and finish.

Things started off way better than last year, even with Chase 2’s new engine showing up a few days before we were scheduled to leave.  Thanks for building another great engine, Robbie McCabe, you are now officially a Duramax builder too.  Thanks Nick and Matt over at A&E for pulling off the install in time.  Andy, Kevin, Jimmy, Colin, Ricky, Jose, Alex, Fish, Lucas, Will, the Mayor, Trevor, Erik, Eddie, Jerry, Gordy and even my mom and dad all pitched in to get us ready for departure.  We left the shop at a record time the night before our trip, everybody actually got a decent night’s sleep for a change.  Getting to Phoenix was smooth and relatively problem free, only real item of any concern was that we had 4 trucks and trailers with only 4 drivers.  Fish, the Mayor and Eddie were all on point though.  We made it in good time and were able to have dinner with Shannon, Tammy, Wayland, Bailey, Randy and Sabine there in Gilbert.  The trip from Phoenix to Mexico was not as easy as it usually is, there seems to be something strange going on at the border these days.  They turned us around in Tecate and Otay Mesa because we had too many tires, they even gave us a hard time about there being used ones.  They were also unhappy about the fuel that we had, which is always a crap shoot.  In fact a racer passed by us while they were giving us the business with fuel and tires, they never gave him a second glance.  Oh well, we finally got through in San Ysidro, after Charlie made a trip down to help unload a couple of fuel drums, thanks Charlie!  So our plan to get to the ranch by dinner time was shot, we ended up getting there around 2am.  But we made it, the first, 1400 mile leg complete!

 Contingency

Pre-running started out rough, there were a couple of crazy problems that kept us from getting through our section twice like we had hoped.  First, on day #1, we lost the magnetic pick-up inside the distributor after about 50 miles.  The guys at On Track here in Denver, Tony and Lee had a new distributor.  Jose, and Ricky teamed up, got that handled and delivered it to us at the ranch in Ensenada.  We were able to use the down days to get ahead of pit equipment and repair one of the fuel towers.  We also got a start inspecting the race truck, there was a shock leaking so we put a new seal kit in it and took care of a  few other minor items.  Once parts showed up and we repaired the distributor in the pre-runner, we picked up where we left off on the course in Santo Tomas.  We were making up time and looking good when the air filter stud broke off in the carburetor.  Luckily, we discovered that in San Quintin where we had made a friend last year.  After a few hours in his shop we were back on our way.  Unfortunately we didn’t get as far as we were hoping before dark, so the consensus was to stop for the night in Catavina.  We would then backtrack the next morning.  That night it rained, and rained, and rained.  It sure made for nice, dust free pre-running, however, it disguised some of the silt beds that would greet us on race day.  It was a good, fun day, we made it to rm470 and back to Ensenada without any problems.  The next day we were able to run from Ojos to Camalu, our first scheduled pit stop, a second time.  Then the day before the race, we were able to run the start to the Hwy 3 intersection 3 times.  All in all a pretty successful pre-run for Fish, I and the team.  Spencer and Ryan were able to run their section of the course, rm470 to the finish, several times.  Ryan had some awesome rally style notes that we got to go study with him.  It’s sure nice having him as an addition to the team, we are gaining some very valuable skills from his experience.  On top of that, he’s an awesome team mate.  So finally, our focus turns to race day.   

Tech and contingency went well. The usual lost, valuable time, at a critical juncture, yet fun stuff for everybody none the less.  We were able to have a decent shake down with the race truck, the new Patton engine feels awesome!  Chris Patton and Donnie Christianson, with American Wiring Harness, met us and dialed in a few of the electronic details remaining from the engine swap.  They also set up the speed limiter for the highway sections, what a treat that was.  There were some spring changes we made in the shop, and there wasn’t time to adjust the shocks to match, but other than that the truck was in great shape and ready for race day.

Racing in the Desert

We didn’t make the trip to Las Vegas for qualifying so we started at the back of the pack, 32nd.  There was actually one truck behind us and then the rest of the 150 or so entrants in their various classes.  Including Shannon and Kirby, who were starting behind the 6100 trucks.  A Mexican celebration was taking place the same time as the race so the start was delayed a few hours.  We ended up leaving the line around12:30pm.  Things were going smooth for us on the way out of town, we passed the truck that started 1 minute in front of us after about 5 miles.  Everything was as we had pre-run until Ojos, then for some reason the course was changed from what we had marked.  It was very tight and twisty, over and through the mountains, which slowed us down quite a bit.  At about rm65, a few of the class 1’s had caught us.  We moved out of the way to let them by, but one of them got into our truck and tore things up pretty good.  It ended up puncturing one of the tires, we had to stop and Fish got out to change the tire.  We were on our way again after a few minutes.  Jose met us along the highway near Santo Tomas and put a new spare on the race truck.  Off we went, heading for the coast.  The next 80 or so miles went well, we were keeping a decent pace and didn’t have to dice it up with anybody.  We got to Camalu, the pit crew looked the truck over, gave us 60 gallons of fuel and sent us on our way.  Shannon made it there shortly after us and they did the same for him.  On the next leg things got tougher, there was a long stretch we had to drive in the fog along the coast, that was pretty scary but it cleared up after about 10miles.  Then it started getting dark, and rocky, and silty.  Oh the silt.  It was horrible, rolling up over the hood of the truck for what seemed like minutes at a time.  I got the truck stuck around rm290 and it took us a while to get the truck ready for an attempt out.  Well we needed 30’ to get to good ground, we only went about 29’ before we were stuck again.  A few minutes passed and here came Shannon, thank god for 4 wheel drive!  He gave us a tug and we were on our way.  The silt was relentless, especially in the dark, the lights reflect off of it and you just can’t see.  There was one section that was really tough pre-running, even after the rain.  In that area we were trying to stay off of the course, bush whacking, when we popped out into a small clearing and the Whitton TT was stuck in our path.  They were on a large tree, stuck good.  We helped them, they helped us, and eventually we both got going again.  The worst silt bed was still to come, Fish and I both agreed that we weren’t sure if we had another recovery in us.  The throttle had started to stick really bad so we stopped before dropping into it to try and free it up.  The silt had gummed up the bronze bushings so bad that the linkage wouldn’t move.  I sucked water out of the camel back and spew it onto the linkage while Fish kept it from going in the engine.  Finally it started to free up, we buckled back up and headed for the silt bed from hell, literally.  After the race was over, we found out that another racer from Colorado had been killed there after we went through.  We must’ve had some help from above, because we were able to get through there without having to dig again, whew.  From there it was another 40 miles or so to where Spencer and Ryan were standing by with the Chase 1 crew to relieve us.  It was about 3:30am when we got there.  Shannon was there, and along with the rest of the crew, we got Spence and Ryan buckled in, the truck fueled, the rear tires changed and a new air filter installed.  Off they went into the dark!

Spence and Ryan made some great time, they had to add a few quarts of engine oil along the coast.  Then stopped for a quick once over and fuel at 640, the crew there had to scramble to get a good fuel tower but pulled it off!  By this time Wayland and Terry had already left and were about an hour ahead of them.  Fish and I were on our way back towards Ensenada with Eddie and Raul to try and meet them at the finish line.  It was looking like they were going to beat us there but at around rm800 they ended up getting a flat.  That was heart wrenching at the time because we didn’t know that it was just a flat.  All kinds of thoughts go through your mind, tranny, engine, rear end, in a ditch.  Thankfully it was just a flat and they were up and going after a short while.  It was just long enough to allow us to get to the finish line before them.  When we got there, Wayland was still celebrating his victory!  What a great feeling for all of us to share that.  Then a couple of minutes later, here came Spence and Ryan around the last corner and up onto the stage.  It was about 10:30am, 22 hours after we left that same spot.

Podium Finish

A spectacular job by all of the crew!!  Fish, thanks so much, he and I have been in the truck together for several thousand miles and have never had an argument.  He is always a calming influence, he never lets me get too high or too down.  We are getting better and better at calling the race courses together.  Spence and Ryan, way to go!  And thanks as well.  Those two will only get better together with some more seat time.  Thanks to my wife, Susan, who unfortunately couldn’t make it this time, her never ending support and love is a pillar of strength for me in this endeavor.  Jose Alvarado and all of his family, the ranch and their support is a huge asset for this little old team from Colorado that could!  Raul, it’s an honor to have you come over to “the dark side”!  Thanks Ryan and Eddie for doing the full pull, getting all of the trucks and equipment down there and home safely.  There were 30 plus people who helped pull this off, many of whom were on their 5th or 6th trip down there.  My list of friends who help with this dream is long, I am truly thankful to all of you, no matter how small your contribution.  In addition to those already mentioned, Randy and Sabine Ellis, Tammy, Javier the bandit slayer, Tiny Dancer, Donnie, Jose, Alfredo, Lucas, Steve and April, Sean, Christian, Juan, Fernanda, Anabelle, Dan, Daniel, Chris, Dave the radio guy, our state side contacts for the race, Rich and Susan, and all of the other behind the scenes help it took to complete the race.   The list of sponsors who have contributed to the effort is growing as well, Nemesis Industries, Vertex Innovations (thanks for the awesome hoodies Wayne!), L&L Design, Blast Tech, PAC Racing Springs, EF Johnson, General Air and Singer Lettering.  Some people who have helped with getting the truck to where it is now, Curt LeDuc, Rick Johnson and Mikey Childress, thanks to you guys! 

This next year we are planning to do a short Barstow race on January 30th , the Slash X, put on by MORE.  The hope is to get in several days of shock/spring testing at the same time.  Mikey Childress is going to drive the truck with me at this one.  Then we’ll shoot for the 500 in June and the 1000 in November.  Please let me know if you would like to join us for any of these events.

So anyhow, thanks so much for your help and support!  A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!  Happy New Years!!

Mike