This update is a little late. It’s been a little crazy what with preparing for Gazelles and completing projects at work. At any rate, we had a great time at Battle at Primm February 21-23. We decided to do qualifying trials this year, so I took off for Las Vegas Thursday night, happy to leave my heavy coat at home in DC!
Based on what we learned last year, we decided to lighten our load a bit by not running a spare and by running smaller tires in the rear. While we were getting ready to get in line to qualify, we asked Dad how much gas was in the car. He assured us we had 4 or 5 gallons, plenty to get us through the 2 1/2 mile qualifying run…or so we thought.
As we were in the infield about 20 cars back from starting, we ran out of gas! WE RAN OUT OF GAS, PEOPLE! Mark jumped out and pushed me out of the way, then took off running to where Dad could meet him with some fuel. Meanwhile Dad isn’t answering the radio so I’m calling him on my phone (luckily I had it on me) and yelling, “WE ARE OUT OF F***ING GAS!” So Dad comes tearing across staging, trailer still attached to the truck, spare tires bouncing about, Mark grabs a pail of fuel and jumped in the official SNORE UTV to make his way back to me waiting in the car.
We were able to get refueled and not lose our place in line. We later learned that Dad forgot he had traded 3 gallons of gas out of the car for the use of the smaller tires. This is what happens when bartering goes horribly wrong.
We took off for qualifying and she sputtered for the first 1/4 mile or so, but then came to life and was going great. This was the first time I’d driven with these tires and they were great! They made the car, already nimble to begin with, much easier to turn. It’s like the steering ratio improved by 25%. Wonderful!
I drove on Saturday and had a great race except for losing 6 minutes when I put the car on its side. I came into a corner pretty hot and started sliding on the hard packed clay, then we hit the loose dirt and BING! Over we went! Other than that, Saturday was great, but we ended up towards the end of the pack.
Mark took over on Sunday and we ended up in an epic battle with three other cars for 3 laps. We would keep up with them in the technical stuff but in the straights they would pull away from us. We were pinned but they just had more power. Fortunately there was enough of the rough stuff for us to catch up and we’d get back in the fight in the infield. In the end the leaders finished way head, but we finished in the middle of the pack with the other guys.
We think we have a few problems figured out. First of all, we were able to weigh the car at she’s WAAAAAY too fat. We have to lose 250 pounds at least. Second, the engine has 1000 race miles on it. If we had money we’d get a new one but we don’t, so she’s getting the top end worked on. Third, the tranny must have the wrong gearing. Other cars should not be pulling away from us like they do in the straights. So the transmission is apart already and in Ensenada, getting worked on.
Next for me is the Gazelle Rally in Morocco. We’ll have the 1600 out again hopefully in April or May.
I have some GoPro footage, but Dad somehow ended up with one of the SD cards, so I’m waiting for him to ship it to me. In the meantime, check out the highlight reel from Race-Dezert. I get an interview!
What’s worse than one flat tire during a race? How about three? Or how about three flat tires AND NO JACK?! That is what happened to us this weekend at the MORE Freedom 250.
I arrived Barstow late Friday night (side note: sometimes I feel a bit like Robby Gordon…I just fly in/fly out for races. Good thing the team is on it!) and fell into instant sleep. The next morning we got out to main pits, did a quick tech, grabbed our gas from F & L, and set off on a quick pre-run. I have a bit of an advantage as my clean up driver, Mark, usually helps MORE lay out the course. He also knows every inch of that desert like the back of his hand. It’s kind of awesome.
Sammy the Bull from Dezert Outlaw Motorsports was pitting right next to us and wanted to pre-run the 29 mile loop with us in his class 1450 truck. We stayed together until the Mile of Danger, which is really more like Three Miles of Danger, when Sammy had to slow down. We stopped and waited, radio-ed back to make sure he was okay, and continued on when we heard all was good. Mark guided me through the course. We did a few turns twice as they were a little tricky, and got back to pits in about an hour.
An hour after that, Sammy still was not back. Here’s why:
Yep, broke the whole damn spindle off the truck. Needless to say, he didn’t race (or did he?) and the Lady Bri is still out there waiting for her knight in shining armor to come rescue her. If anyone has a winch, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with The Bull.
I was off the line at 4pm with the Russian in the co-dawg seat for the first time. We picked off a competitor before race mile 2 and had the leader in our around race mile 16 or so. We chased him for a bit until BAM!! Flat driver’s rear tire. We pulled over, Russian got out, and…no jack. What the WHAT? All I can think of is we lost it in the Mile of Danger somewhere. It’s never really fit all that well in the car and that section was really rough.
So….what to do? No jack, big flat tire. Russian lifted the back end a bit and I stacked some rocks. Then we dug under the tire but it was so rocky there we couldn’t dig deep enough. As luck would have it (for us, anyway), Nick Tonelli picked that moment to have electrical issues (I think) about 100 yards from us. We limped over, borrowed his jack, shared a tool, and were on our way. All told though we lost about 20 minutes.
Lap two was clean. Unofficial time was 48 minutes, which is an average speed of 36 mph, with a quick pit. The good family team of Bradley Racing was there to guide us safely into pits and lend a hand. Lap three brought another flat, again lucky for us near a chase vehicle. Not OUR chase vehicle, mind you, just A chase vehicle. Big thanks to team 1280 chase who jumped out of their truck, impact wrench in hand, and changed the tire for us.
Lap 4 was clean, but at this point, I was toast. I was not feeling well. In fact, I was pretty sure I was going to barf. I had wanted to try to stay in the car the whole time, moving over to co-dawg for Mark for laps 5-8, but I knew I was spent. I radio-ed back to see if back up co-dawg Pepper, whom I knew was coming late from work, was there yet. The answer came back negative.
I came in just before 8pm and look who was all suited up and ready to co-drive?! None other than Sammy the Bull. I literally fell out of the car and stumbled over to a chair, willing myself not to throw up. Martee is always on hand with a cold bottle of water and this time was no different. I eventually laid down on the trailer until my body stopped humming. It took about an hour for me to feel back to normal.
Mark and Sammy had a bit of trouble with a loose distributer cap on lap 5, but he had a fast 46 minute lap 6. Alas, the Mile of Danger took it’s toll on lap 7, with another flat. This time there were no strangers on whom to rely on their kindness. Chase was called out, but by the time they got to them, we had timed out.
Official results aren’t posted yet and I’m not sure if we’ll get a DNF or just a low ranking. I do feel very proud of myself for the clean laps I drove. A former Gazelle told me that after going to Morocco I would be a better driver, and she was right. I was definitely more comfortable and relaxed. I was better at picking lines and fixing mistakes when I made them. Was I perfect? Oh hell no! I picked the same damn wrong line every lap in this one section! But, overall I felt very good. We were on the pipe quite a lot in 4th gear and I felt very much in control of the car. There are still times when I am cautious; downhill and sharp turns being the worst. Much of that is seat time. Practice practice practice!
So what’s next? Well, I need many new tires, the transmission could be re-geared a bit, the motor has a bit less than 1000 race miles on it, and I noticed one of our limiter straps is wearing. Plus we need new bushings, the shocks always need work, and goddamn it I want a new race suit! I wanted to run the Chili Cook Off in September but I don’t think we’ll have the coin. We may just squeak through Powder Puff in October and then do a complete tear down in November/December. We’ll just have to see where the $$$ is.
Thanks to everyone who showed up to help, including Dawn and Andrew, Pepper, Jesse, Chris, Steve, Russian, Mark, Dad, Martee, Dale, Gary, and new pals Bradley Racing, Big Sam, Pirate Hooker (I swear that’s her name!), Carly, and some guy named Rut with a great red flashy light.
And PS to all my female racers: Check out how you can be in the 2014 Women of Off Road Racing calendar!
We had such an awesome time at Battle at Primm this past weekend! SNORE Racing put on such a well organized and safe event. They had over 200 cars there but everything ran smoothly and on time, with plenty of volunteers and an awesome staff.
There were 26 cars in our class, and AAAALLLLL the big dawgs came out to play. Many of them had their single seat 1600 cars, which probably weigh about 10 pounds over the minimum. They all had their win faces on too. I knew this was a place to sit back, learn, and JFF.
As we pulled into staging on Saturday, I was shaking and my stomach was in knots. Just seeing all 26 starters there and knowing I’d be out with them on those short 13 mile loops was enough to get me super nervous. I needn’t have worried though. Since we were unable to attend qualifying we started in the back and I am not kidding when I tell you I saw only two cars that first day. What I thought was going to be some kind of epic wheel to wheel experience was more like any other desert race where you often find yourself out there alone for long stretches of time. I’m sure the guys in the front didn’t have that same experience, but for me I was rollin’ solo.
After the first day, it became obvious that the leaders had me in just flat out speed, to say nothing of drive experience. BAP is all about fast straightaways and dangerous turns. I’m sure I lost some time in the turns as my entrances were pretty timid (there is a limit to the whole slow in/fast out theory after all) but I was pinned in all the straights and the highest Mark saw for me on the GPS was 72 mph. Mostly we ran those sections in the high 60s. I am sure the other guys had at least 5-7mph on me in those straights. It’s a combination of gearing, weight, and let’s face it, money. I can’t afford a new engine or a complete tear down every race. So I guess we will continue on our quest to JFF and know that we are doing the best we can with the resources and talent we have got.
Mark took over driving duties on Sunday. Everyone turned in slightly slower lap times since the course was chewed up a bit from the day before. The fast speed I saw for him was 75mph, but there was a wicked wind and we may have been pushed a bit! At one point on the dike jump we could both feel the wind push us as we were flying through the air…not a good feeling!
We ended up 14th out of 26 overall so that isn’t too bad. I learned about the car, I got a lot of practice in dangerous turns, and hell we even got to drift a bit in the stadium section of the course! Next up for me is the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco March 19-28th. In a week or so I’ll have info about how you can follow my team as we navigate our way through the dunes using only a compass and an old map.
OMG I ALMOST FORGOT ALMOST THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED OVER THE WEEKEND! Fellow Gazelle Julie and her hubby Ben drove out from Vegas to say hi…IN A RALLY FIGHTER!!! I was so not expecting them to show up in a freaking Rally Fighter!!! And get this….BEN LET ME DRIVE IT!!!!!!!! It’s way bigger than I thought it would be and feels quite ponderous. The hydraulic steering is a bit twitchy but nice and heavy and the torque is just clean and available through a wide power band. I drove it on the highway and off road and while I was nervous because, hello it’s not my Rally Fighter, I did go fast enough to feel confident in saying that this car is a beast! AND Ben is hooking us up with a set of pink MaxTrax for the Gazelle Rally. Thanks, Ben!!!
Hola, race fans! We had a good time out testing this past weekend. The Mr. Miyagi of shocks was on hand to dial in our baby. It’s always a balancing act; a tweak done on one component effects the other and it’s all about finding that correct edge. It’s a very tricky process and it means a lot of turning something 1/2 turn, then running up and down the test track for 2 minutes at flat out. Then come back, turn something else 1/2 turn, back to the test track…lather rinse repeat.
After testing we headed on over to the Slash X, or /x to those who know. Always a great time to be had. Sabrina, my navigator for Gazelles, was able to join us and she just fell in love with the place. There are always motorcycles, quads, and buggies parked outside as families come out for a day of wheeling and always stop at the /x for lunch.
The next race will be Battle at Primm with SNORE Racing, Feb 22-24. Truth be told I’m scared shitless. There are at least 30 1600 cars entered (we’ll be running #1611 as our number has already been taken) and ALL the big dawgs will be there. The format is 2 days of racing with your class, and we will do 5 laps of 13 miles each. There will be a ton of wheel to wheel racing and I’m in my head about it a bit. I’m always scared before a race though. I think you’re an idiot if you’re not scared. Hello….you could die!! The trick is to push through that fear.
Because there are so many cars they will do qualifying runs. I won’t be able to get there in time for that but it’s just as well. My plan is to let the big boys battle it out and break down. My strategy is always JFF.
Just Fucking Finish.
What a great way to end the season! I got to go out to Los Angeles for 5 fun filled days of cars, complete with the LA Auto Show and a spin in the new VW Beetle Convertible. Then I capped it off with the MORE race, where each participant brought some toys to donate to Toys For Tots.
We saw some great cars at the LA Auto Show. My faves were the new Abarth cabrio, although to be honest I’m not sure how much of a true convertible it really is. I adore that car and really wish it were offered in AWD and a true drop top, but if you’re down with FWD and want some fun, definitely check it out.
I also got to say hi to the head of SRT, Ralph Gilles. We talked Challenger and Viper and all things SRT. I really like how they have brought back some great designs, but never lost the original feel. Design evolution as opposed to revolution if you will.
And though I will probably never ever buy one, I was pleased to see the redesigned Honda Civic. Everyone pretty much trashed the 2012 Civic as being, well…boring. Honda responded quickly with a 2013 refresh that I think is quite successful, at least from the rear.
Friday I found myself driving the new Beetle Convertible. They had many different engines/transmissions to try and I got behind the wheel of the TDI manual and the turbo manual. Both are fantastic, with the TDI offering excellent mpg and torque.
Along the way they had some vintage VWs for us to drive. Honestly I was more excited about this 1979 bug than anything! Funny but it drove just like a class 11!!
A highlight for me was watching some journalists try to get the Beetle out of the soft sand. They were so cute! I was tempted to tell them to lower their tire pressure, but decided it was more fun to just sit back and watch.
That night I hightailed it out of Los Angeles and made my way up to Barstow for the MORE Toys For Tots race. It honestly felt a little odd; like I was just kind of dropped at the race with little prep time, which I guess is not far from the truth. Mark and Dad had been out with the Mr. Myagi of Shocks the week before and had the car dialed in as much as they could. The engine had been gone through down in Mexico and everything was good to go. They had even bought gas. It just feels odd not participating in any of the pre-race stuff. I never pack up the truck or do any of the leg work…I really want to get back to CA. Being this far away from everyone is killing me. I’m just so lucky that I have good people helping me. Very very lucky.
At any rate, we ran a pretty smooth race. I dropped to fourth after the first lap (hey, I didn’t pre-run…gotta take that first lap slowly) but came back to second by the end of the second lap and held it the rest of the race, thanks to co-driver Pepper keeping me at a good pace and boosting my confidence with phrases like, “That was so much better than on the last lap!!!” The format of the race was pretty cool. We ran 6 laps of 19 miles, then 6 laps of 13 miles. Sometime on lap two I separated the tire from the rim a bit and had a flat. Best flat to have if you ask me, as the guys just popped it back on the wheel and it holds air just fine. We stopped again at the end of lap 3 for one minute as the guys had missed a lug nut during the tire change.
When I gave the car over to Mark, we were 6 minutes behind the leader and 4 minutes in front of third. Martee hopped in as co-driver but we had a bit of a fuel spill while she was getting buckled in. I’d like to say that making sure this won’t happen again is Priority Number One for next season. A fuel spill is absolutely not to be tolerated. It’s unsafe and we won’t have that.
Mark and Martee took off and put down two great laps, but the spill took it’s toll on Martee. She was smart enough to take herself out of the car so she could get out of her suit and clean up a bit. I was the only one still suited up, so guess who went into the car for another 50 miles? Yours truly. I was happy to do so, honestly, as I got to ride with Mark who has more 1600 seat time than I do. He kept a steady pace and took us the last 4 laps and on to the podium.
The guy who won said his team were sweating us a bit. They found our radio channel and modified their pit schedule when they heard our chatter. It’s nice to know I made someone worry a bit.
So now it’s all about Morocco and raising the money to get to the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles. It’s nine days, off road in Morocco with no GPS. Points are awarded for shortest distance, not fastest time, making this a rally that is won by navigation and decision making rather than speed. We need about $18,000 just to register. You can donate via the link at the top of the sidebar. Anything raised above and beyond our entry and rental fees will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
And of course, don’t forget about our awesome Women of Off Road Racing 2013 calendar. We are on our second printing so be sure to get yours NOW. www.teamcouragegazelles.com/calendar
I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was to place first in class after all the bad luck and poor driving decisions I’ve made the past few months. But it was a whirlwind weekend, let me tell you.
It started off with me not going to sleep at all on Thursday night, and getting on a 6am flight from DC to LAX. It was just easier to not sleep. I was lucky enough to secure a Dodge Charger SRT8 through my RoadflyTV contacts, so I had some wheels while I was out there. Good thing too because I had to hightail it out to CBS to do a quick interview on KCAL 9, and then bust a move for tech up at Barstow.
This was a race I did as a part of Courage Girl Motorsports. The MORE Powder Puff Race for the Cure features all female drivers and co-drivers, with all proceeds going to Cedar Sinai Breast Cancer Research Center. Each year the race raises over $100K through team donations, a raffle, and our entry fees. It’s one of the best races of the season and it was great to be doing it with my Courage Girls Michele, Martee, and Pepper. You can read more about us at www.teamcourageracing.com
While at tech we talked to people, handed out calendar pre-orders (have you ordered yours? you should), took some photos, and did a few interviews for a DVD coming out about the Powder Puff. But really all we wanted to do was go to bed so we could get up and RACE!
The next morning Martee and Michele took off in Grace for the morning race. Grace is emblazoned with over 400 names of breast cancer survivors, fighters, angels, and previvors. Such a sight to see her racing across the Barstow desert. She finished 3rd in class with an average speed of 24.7mph.
My co-dawg Pepper and I got in the car, now named Christine because she sucks you dry and tries to kill you, for the afternoon race around 11:45. It’s always so nerve wracking to be sitting there in staging, waiting to start. All I can think about is how much I have to pee, how my helmet is too heavy, how much I’m already sweating. And then magically…we start and there is nothing but the road ahead and the wheel in my hands.
Pepper was fantastic in the car, calling corners and cautions, encouraging me to throttle down and pass (Trophy Trucks! We passed Trophy Trucks and Class 1 cars!), and telling me patience when Christine’s rear end started kicking out. And the end result? First in class and the car was still running. Holy crap! And I was so close to getting a 40mph average but alas 39.5mph was all that was to be had.
So what is next? I need to take stock of money and schedules and see if we can squeeze in one more race. We are really focusing on raising money for the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a 9 day all female rally in Morocco with no GPS. You can buy a calendar or donate at www.rally.org/teamcouragegazelles
What a great time we had this past weekend out at Lucerne Valley. This was the first time we had the car out for a race since we got it earlier this year. Yes we had the car out for the Mint 400, but honestly I never felt like we were truly prepared for that race (at since we only made it 36 miles, I think it’s fairly obvious that we weren’t). This time, the car was in good shape, we had excellent pit, chase, and driver/co-driver crews, and I had a TON of moral support since all four of us from Courage Girl Motorsports were together.
Westy had also brought out some fabulous people, 2 of whom were out chasing and I didn’t even meet until after the race was done! Keith Stewart of Pit Works and his pal Adam, Kenny the Russian, Dale the Welder, Bill and Gail, Shelly and Ryan, and awesome driver/co-dawg Mark and co-dawg Brent…everyone came out to help me get in the car and I will be forever grateful. Dad and Dale had been working on the car everyday for weeks and basically all I had to do was show up. I don’t know how I got so lucky!
The weekend started a little rough though. Dad and I were holding down the pits, waiting for Dale and Westy. Their truck wouldn’t start! It took them a few hours to diagnose and fix the problem, and as a result we had a really late tech over at the Slash X. But it gave Michele and I a chance to catch up with pals, so neither of us really minded.
Since this was a night race, we had until 3:30pm or so to get all the last minute stuff on the car done. Mark and I took her out and we both thought the back end was too soft, and it was tracking right a bit. We checked the shock pressures, looked at the tire pressures, clicked the rear torsions a few times. It was really all we could do at that point. It wasn’t running badly, but the back end was getting away a bit. Had my goal been a win I would have really flipped out. But my goal was to just get her around and not do anything stupid, as I usually am wont to do.
I had 2 really solid laps. Not too fast, not too slow. I met my goal for average mph. I passed a few people. I was passed by more. I was focused. I was consistent.
I was pleased.
I gave the car over to Mark who busted out a great 40 miles until the alternator took a huge crap. No GPS, no radio (well we didn’t really have a radio to begin with if I’m being truthful), no lights, no power. No go. They were able to get another car to radio back their position, but it took chase a while to find them. At that point they were able to switch out to a new battery to get the car to the road where Dad was waiting with the trailer.
And that was the end of the race for us.
So it sucked that we didn’t finish, but for me personally it was a victory. It gave me more confidence behind the wheel and 146 miles of seat time in some very rough terrain.
Next will be the MORE Powder Puff on October 6th, benefiting Cedars Sinai Breast Cancer Research Center. It’s one of the most fun races of the year, with over 200 entries and nearly 20,000 people out in the desert. Last year the race raised over $100,000 and I hope we can raise more than that this year. Hope to see you at tech!
PS On the way home Dad had a flat on the trailer, but Slime saved the day.
Living in Washington DC and racing in California poses some shall we say, logistical nightmares. I can usually only come out for 3 days to race, getting to actually work on the car is a luxury, and don’t even get me started on all the money I’m spending on plane fare. Fortunately I have an awesome team that helps me out, and I wanted y’all to meet them!
First, there’s Dale. He’s our go to guy for welding. He’s made us a trailer (A WHOLE TRAILER!), repaired the floor pan of the 1600 car, and is making a new skid plate. He also sometimes stores the car in his shop and his wife makes the best iced tea this side of Las Vegas.
And what team would be complete without a logistics person? This is actually the hardest job in racing, as you are basically trying to predict the future while herding a bunch of unruly cats. No…worse than that. Unruly wild mustangs. See racers can be like unruly wild mustangs; they are smart but damn do they want to do their own thing! Your logistics guy has to figure out who is chasing and who is pitting, where they will be, when people are arriving, where they are sleeping, what they are eating, when you’re going through tech…I could go on and on. And now, for this race at least, I have my very own Logistics Luminary. And we call him westy (no capital w, he sez).
westy has run logistics for the Baja 500 and 1000 as well as events stateside and he’s also a racer, so I have no problem turning everything over to him. I know I’ll learn a lot with him running the show and if it all goes well, maybe he’ll join us permanently. He’s bringing some awesome pit/chase people out to the race and I am so excited to meet everyone. It always floors me when people I don’t even know step up to help me. Sure, they are getting the thrill of being on a race crew but still. Sometimes sitting out in the desert for hours on end waiting for the car to come through can be a nightmare. Fortunately the car is in great shape and our goal is just to finish. It would be great not to finish last, but honestly this is the first race with me behind the wheel of the new car AND it’s a night race. I am doing this more for experience than anything else. I want to drive well, not break, and finish.
So when is this next race? I return to my native CA for the combination MORE and SNORE KC Hilites race on September 8th. Tech is on Friday September 7th at the Slash X so if you’re around, come say hi. I have no idea what color my hair will be, so just look for #1617!
What a race! The USA 500 proved to be epic in every way! I was driving for Desert Dingo in their class 11 bug. To the uninitiated, that is basically a stock 1969 VW bug. Sure there is a roll cage and the car has a bit more clearance, plus all the safety gear, but you are still running a standard 1600cc engine, drum brakes, and one shock at each corner. No bypass, no coil overs…nada. It’s the slowest class of off road cars and probably the roughest (although the class 9 cars are pretty bad too), but just because it’s slow doesn’t mean you can’t get into trouble. As I found out.
I was scheduled to drive the second lap of the day. Crusty, yes that’s what we call him, and Ryan were in the car first. They turned in a pretty good lap time. Crusty told me, “Course is great! Car is working! Go for it!” Newbie co-dawg Toby and I got in the car and well…we went for it.
We took off and the first thing I noticed was all the play in the steering wheel. It had been a year since I had driven 1107, and had forgotten about this trait. But I didn’t have time to think too much because oh my stars what is that up ahead? It was competition! 1142 was just a quarter mile away! What could be the best choice to make at this moment? Should I settle down and reacquaint myself with the car or should I try to pass?
I chose poorly.
Oh my. Look at that. On our side. We had been having radio troubles all day but were able to call and text back to pits for some help. Toby and I were there for a good 1.5 or 2 hours before truck 707 came by and yanked us right side again. By then the cavalry had arrived in the form of the boys from Project Baja, so they helped us check everything out and we were on our way.
For about 2 minutes. Because I rolled the car. Again. Listen, I can’t make this stuff up people. I was not able to compensate for the steering and I over-corrected. Fortunately our chase was still close by and they came back to give us a hand. I should have in car video of that soon.
I want to give you a little insight into the Project Baja boys. They are sarcastic. They like to dish it out. They loooove pushing your buttons. But every single one of them gave me encouraging words. They did not make fun and they did not laugh, and for that I am immensely grateful.
I’m sure that will last until they read this post. Then there will be no mercy.
Needless to say I slowed it way down. We got going and were doing fine. Not fast, but fine. And then we got to The Hill. Never in my life had I seen such a hill. And we never saw the top of it, but not for lack of trying. We climbed that thing 5 times and got to the same spot each time, just 10-12 feet from the top. Toby was out there moving rocks around, we got the carpets out for traction, nothing mattered. First we backed up from the hill a bit, then a toss, then by a lot, then by about 1/4 of a mile. I approached that thing flat out in 2nd gear, then downshifted into first and kept it pinned. Wasn’t going to happen. What the hell? We had to get up it! We had no radio communication so we were on our own. We backed up one last time. 1/3 of a mile, when we noticed a trail going off the the left. We hadn’t seen it before because we hadn’t ever backed up this far, and the course is the only thing marked on the GPS. Toby and I looked at each other. He said, “Should we take it?” I said, “Hell yeah!” It dumped us out on to a public grated dirt road for about 1/4 mile, until it crossed the track again. There was an official there who said it was okay we cut the course, that a lot of the class 11 and 9s had done it. And he warned us about the next hill. “It’s pretty bad but we’ll look for you. If we see that you don’t make it, Big Chad here will tow you up.” Big Chad nodded his agreement.
A mile later we saw it. I approached flat out in second, tried to downshift into first, and it was like slamming the gearshift into a brick wall. We had nothing. Well, we had reverse. Oh, and it wouldn’t turn over either. We backed down and waited for Big Chad. At this point our GoPro had run out of juice and it’s too bad because that Chevy pickup of his towed dead weight of 2200 pounds up this hill that was soft and at least a 10% grade.
At the top we bump started 1107 and were off. It was all flat or downhill from there into the next pits. And by downhill I mean sudden drop offs of, oh three stories or so. But all we had was second gear. So on a road that should have allowed for flat out, I was stuck at 35-40mph.
We limped into pits and after a going over by the guys at ProPits, car owner Jim decided it wasn’t worth fixing and we were done. Far be it from me to argue, since I had just rolled the car twice and burned the clutch up trying to get up that hill. Chase was called in from the other pit and I thought we done. Until Dave.
Dave came in from the other pit and gave what can only be called The Motivational Speech of the Century. He convinced Jim that we could still get the car back out there and earn some season points. We had plenty of people to make it happen and we all wanted to do it, and I can’t tell you how awesome it was to hear Jim say, “Okay go for it.” We descended on 1107 like flies. Crusty and the ProPit guys started pulling the motor. Dave started welding where the A pillar had broken, and Project Baja was on the lights. I helped where I could, handing tools, holding things in place, and flipping switches when asked. It’s very frustrating to me to not have the knowledge to help in these kinds of triage situations, but I am educating myself as much as I can.
Dave suited up to drive and Toby went with him. They took off…and went the wrong way. They missed the right turn out of pits to take the loop and instead headed towards the finish line. We were still having radio trouble so I immediately started texting Toby, “Come back! You missed the right hander!” Their lights disappeared over the hill and we all knew if they didn’t figure it out they would add 70 miles that we could not afford to add. But then…Lights cresting the hill! They figured it out! Hooray! They came back towards pits, took the turn and were off for real!
Now I can’t say for sure what happened while those two were out there. They told me at one point they lost all lights (but were able to get the HIDs back but one was pointed off to the side), they lost dash lights and the GPS, the weld broke on the A pillar and the metal sun visor came loose. They also lost the alternator for a bit, but got it back and crossed the finish line at 4:07am.
Unfortunately 1107 was DNF, as we only did 2 laps, instead of 3, but we were able to earn some points for the season. And I learned a few things: I need to keep my cool when I first get in the car. 2. Look for a work around when in class 11. and C: People will rally when you ask them to.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Crusty blew a tire while hauling 1107 home on his 1951 Chevy flatbed. He’s fine but the truck lost two tires and a fender and 1107 hit the median and busted the driver’s side trailing arm.
Well, okay not really, but a week or so ago I met Dad up in the high desert for a little bit of seat time in the car that may just turn out to be known as MA’AM (Mean Ass Angry Monkey. Either that or Rooster. What do you think?) Up until this point I’d had a total of 7 minutes drive time in her, and 36 miles of co-driving.
Thursday started off toasty and windy! We settled in at Stoddard Valley and found a few other people out testing as well, most notably COPS Racing. I wish I could have gotten a picture but their damn Trophy Truck went by so fast I was lucky I had enough time to jump behind a bush so as not to get *totally* dusted out.
We were finally able to break out our care package from Slime. They sent us a healthy supply of tire sealant, tire pressure gauges, a few plug kits, and a much needed portable tire inflator that connects right to the battery. Our old one was…well…old. This one by Slime is super fast and much quieter.
I spent the first day just getting a feel for the car. It’s similar in width to the baja, but the wheel base is much longer, so it’s a totally different ride. It has a puck clutch, which is either engaged or not (read: it’s kind of easy to stall). The transmission, however, shifts much smoother than the baja, which I always had to force into 2nd gear a bit. The front end behaves differently and there are bypass shocks and a little bit more travel all the way around. The baja runs a 2180cc motor whereas MA’AM sports the stock 1600cc. However, she’s much lighter. How much lighter I’m not sure since she hasn’t been on the scale, but I can definitely feel it. I keep telling people that any co-driver will have to be 170 pounds or less so we can keep total passenger weight down to 300 pounds or less. I’m not really joking.
Unfortunately, something was keeping my baby down. She was sputtering like Tom Cruise does when reporters ask him if he’s gay. It was most pronounced at the lower rpm range, like when starting out or turning around, but sometimes when going uphill, even if the revs were still high. Hmmmm….a carburetor issue of some sort. We were meeting fellow Courage Girl Motorsports team members Pepper and Martee that night for dinner, so Pep stopped off at Mohr Performance and picked up a fuel filter, new jet, and a carb rebuild kit.
You know how if you live in a small town you run into people at the best and/or worst times? That night at dinner was one of the best times. Martee was telling me about her secret weapon when it comes to shock tuning, the Mr. Miyagi of Shocks, if you will. Well we walked into Chili’s and who is having a beer at the bar? Monsieur Miyagi! It was agreed upon by all parties present that we should meet the next morning for a little go around. Of course, that night we still had to address the carb issues. I changed the fuel filter and helped the guys take off the carb. They went to work rebuilding it while Pep, Martee, and I ran out for supplies…namely zip ties and beer.
Next morning bright and early we were at it again. But still with the sputtering! The carb was totally clean, we had a new jet, new fuel filter. We decided it was the float. I can’t tell you yet if we were right, but the engine is currently at Major Performance getting a going through. But I digress. Mr. Miyagi (I would like to note that Mr. Miyagi is neither a karate master nor is he Japanese. I just like calling him that because he is a miracle worker and the Annie Sullivan of Shocks doesn’t sounds as good.) met us out in Stoddard Valley and the testing began.
We got in the car and he told me, “When I tell you to get on the pipe, you get on the pipe!” Uh..sir, yessir! Most of the session was him and I in the car for a run, him yelling at me, “ON IT! ON IT! ON IT! NO LIFTING!” and me thinking, “This guy is going to kill me today.” Then he’d be out of the car, adjusting things which I don’t even pretend to understand, then back in for another run. And I could tell with each run that something was different. And holy crap I could go faster! A lot faster! Now he’s telling me to stand on the throttle and I have all kinds of confidence! Taking the whoops in the baja at those speeds would mean my back end would get away from me. Now MA’AM leads with her nose BAM BAM BAM right over the whoops and the back end just follows, easy peasy. Of course, we didn’t get a super accurate tuning since the engine was not running at full potential, but it was a good start. Once we get the car back together we’ll go out again and fine tune.
So what is next? We will be running the MORE/SNORE combined KC-Hilites race in September, where I hope to have a fundraiser for Gazelles. We are also running the Powder Puff in October of course. That race will mean a lot as it raises money for Cedar Sinai Breast Cancer Research Center, and it will also be the Revenge Race for Grace, the official truck of Courage Girl Motorsports. Her front driver’s wheel has fallen off two years in a row and we are really hoping that doesn’t happen again. Pepper and Martee will be in Grace, and I will be in MA’AM for that one. I’m also working on an awesome calendar of bad ass female off road drivers. More info on that as it becomes available!
Next week I’ll be part of the drive team for Desert Dingo in their class 11 at the VORRA USA 500 out near Reno. Tech is on Friday July 14th, so come on down and say hi if you’re in the neighborhood. If not I’ll be tweeting as much as I can @MMMotorsports and using #USA500.
Even though I’ve been around air cooled Volkswagens for most of my life, I am still woefully under prepared to ever have to fix one out in the middle of the desert. I mean, I’ve been out there and watched guys replace a tie rod in a class 11, or adjust the jetting on our class 5 unlimited. I think the only two things I would trust myself to do in a pinch would be changing a tire and replacing a belt. And let me tell you, that ain’t right. I’ve got this new 2/1600 race car (see previous post) and I owe it to her and my team to build my skills.
I’ve looked at junior colleges and trade schools within commuting distance (read 100 miles) from DC and come up empty. There are plenty of places that teach automotive tech, but I haven’t found anything that focused specifically on air cooled VWs. So I started researching actual repair shops. I figured there has to be SOMEPLACE around DC that caters to, or least services old skool VWs. And finally, I found one. Metric Autohaus.