Race date 03-20-2021
What a great race. In our first at-bat in the Pro XP, we managed to run all 150 miles of one of the most brutal courses that Bonneville Off-road Racing has ever thrown at the racers. Thru wind, dust, rain, and then snow, the Off Map team came together and pushed thru the elements and brutality to land in 5th position overall and the Pro Turbo class.
Prep and Prerun. Unusual for most race teams I’ve been on, we were ready and packed almost a week early. Leaving out on Thursday afternoon to take advantage of a full day of testing and tuning Friday was the plan. Wednesday night, Mike found out his trailer had broken, so it was a scramble to get him fixed, but we made our scheduled departure times. Thursday, we managed to get set up and fed as the sun was going down, and we all enjoyed an adult beverage.
Friday, we were up early with the sun and slamming together some fantastic food.
After breakfast, we decided to finish setting up our pit and take the car for a spin thru the sand to see how she would do on the new Yokohama Super Diggers. She did great until I got a little ambitious and throttle happy and sank her to the skid and smoked a belt (lesson learned).
Belt replaced and clutch housing cleaned we headed to tech inspect. Passed with no issue as we were fully prepared and had done our homework on what is required for the org. Friday evening consisted of pit crew prep and planning our strategy for race day.
Stewart and I jumped in the car and took our start position at roughly ten o’clock. Shortly after, the flag dropped, and our 25+ competitors and we took off. In the mix to get a good position on lap one, we landed in roughly 11th off the start and began trying to pick our way up. At some point in our first 20 miles, Stewart bonked his head on the roof (still unsure how that happened) and started to get sick. His being sick slowed us down, and I asked him multiple times if he needed to stop, and he told me to keep going. A grueling 45-mile lap later and Stewart covered in vomit, and we were able to swap him out for Mike at our first pit stop.
The team worked fast and got Stewart out of the car and over to EMS ( he was told he was fine by them, but later his doctor told him he had a mild concussion) and Mike into the car in less than 8 minutes. Mike has never been in my car in race gear before, so it took a few minutes for him to become acclimated. Once he did become acclimated, we started putting in a speedy lap as the rain started to pour down. Towards the end of lap 2, Mike decided he wasn’t fit enough to get lap 3 in as he was dehydrated and hadn’t prepared properly for this. To his credit, he waited until he was out of the car to lose the Philly cheesesteaks and beers he had the night before (lesson learned).
For lap 3, I went solo. Coming across a competitor on their side, I ensured they were okay, and as their pit crew came up, I could continue in the race. A short while later, the ground had become incredibly saturated, and I was sliding a lot. One cresting hill, I slid off course and ran over a dead tree that had been burned in the past. Luckily for me, my metal firewalls from All Thingz UTV saved my bacon as they deflected one part of the tree up instead of letting it come thru the firewall and hit my leg or worse.
After clearing that log, I was able to buckle back in and continue. At some point, the rain became snow and made my life and the decision to run lap three a living nightmare. I was trying to maintain pace while being unable to see the course, let alone danger markers. I had to slow down. At one point, I stopped at a checkpoint to chat and allow the drive train tunnel’s heat to warm my hands. After speaking with them, I found out I wasn’t the only idiot still on course, so I decided to continue.
About 10 minutes of freezing to death later, two other racers came flying by and saved my bacon. They reminded me that this was a race, and the chase’s adrenaline got me back into it 100%. I caught up to them quickly and waited for a good time to pass. The whole while eating their sand and rocks that were being kicked up. Putting the visor down wasn’t an option because the snow was coming in hard enough to make it completely useless. Eventually, I got my pass on both of them coming thru a choppy section that I carried better speed than they did thru and the battle was on. Car #1U, a Pro XP, had been leading a YXZ. I didn’t get the number off the YXZ when they came by. After my double pass, the other Pro spent the next 20 min trying to get that position back. It was the most intense battle for a position I have ever partaken. We rubbed and bumped tires multiple times and traded paint once. I knew he was running faster in this dune section, and all I was doing was playing a dangerous game by continuing to try and block him. Letting him pass after one good rub let him get a reasonable distance ahead of me in the sand. Once we came out of the dunes, I could catch up, and again the battle was on. The last 3 miles of the race was me nipping at his heels right up until some trees got us jerking the wheel left and right like crazy, and his shorter wheelbase won the battle. We finished 4th and 5th with the two-seater Pro XP edging me out by only 21 seconds.
I would later find out that I was one of only seven cars to complete all the laps.
I love the finish, and the 30 minute battle for 4th was an epic one that I and Mr. Zach in the #1u won’t soon forget. We knew each other before that battle, but now we have become friends. It was a great race despite the many miles of considering throwing in the towel and contemplating what hypothermia onset felt like.
Thank you, Bonneville Off-road, and thank you, Zach, for a great race.
I can’t thank my ultra-supportive family and the gaggle of friends that enable me to chase this crazy dream enough. Our pit team was running pits for three cars, and the efforts they put in for those people we had only met a few hours prior has made the team friends for life, I’m sure. The men in the photo above and their families that joined us made for an extremely memorable weekend. We had almost 20 individuals helping out including kids who had never seen a race before!
Huge shout out to my sponsors for helping me field a car that can go the distance.