Race day came on like a bonfire. Scorching sun, baking sand, and a hot breeze. Who wants to put on a race suit and helmet and drive on a day like today?
Dad and I had spent the previous day with Andy from Major Performance Engines, doing a last minute wiring job on the coil. It looks like we have a mess of bad wires from the coil to the distributor, but the clock was ticking so we just direct wired it and called it done. Well…Andy recommended making it a little more secure, but we just didn’t have time. The car was starting that was good enough for us.
Race morning was spent rustling up a new antenna, changing out the old Super Diggers for a new set with beadlocks (this will figure prominently in this report), affixing our new Radflo jack (again, this is important), zip tying down everything that needed to be zip tied down, and generally tending to all the last minute crap that comes up on race day. When Martee and I got in the car at 3:30 for a 4:00pm start, we were all feeling good.
The worst part of a race for me is waiting to start. I don’t mind seeing the competition all lined up, since we race to JFF* anyway. No, what kills me is the anticipation. All I can think about is how much I have to go to the bathroom, how I can’t move/see/breathe, how I may possibly die in the next few hours. But then the green flag drops and all that goes away. Suddenly I am just concentrating on the road ahead.
And I was concentrating so hard that I didn’t notice we had gotten a flat tire! Well, that’s not exactly true. This was our first race with the new beadlock wheels. For those not in the know, these kinds of wheels lock your tire on to the wheel, so you can drive on a flat. Previously we had regular wheels. You could baby it for a bit on a flat, but not drive.
With a regular wheel, it is very obvious when you have a flat. The car gets out of sorts right away. Not so with a beadlock. The car handles just fine. You can drive on a flat but the engine will bog down because you’re basically dragging one whole side of the car, right?
So Martee and I weren’t sure if we had a flat or if we had a motor problem. We kept going because frankly it was faster to drive to Pit A than for us to get out and change it. New team members Chris and Art Saenz and Chad Krieger had come from their jobs in Vegas and literally were pulling in to Pit A at the same time we were. Thankfully my pal Alvin Dimalanta was there with a helping hand. They changed the tire and we were on our way.
For about 5 miles.
Something was wrong with the same tire! We got off the track and Martee climbed out, only to find our new hydraulic jack had come out of its “secure location” and was wedged between the frame and the ground. Oh Lordy. Well that was a nice $400 out the window. I’d already killed $700 and we weren’t even half way around the course yet!
Martee got the jack out and left it on the side of the track to be retrieved later and we were off again. Off to some of the roughest terrain I have ever experienced. How rough? The radio came out of its “secure location” and Martee had to hold it for 6 miles.
We pulled in to Pit B where Josh Leon and Chris and Ashley Ives pulled the radio from the dash in one minute flat. Martee and I were now incommunicado with the rest of our team.
College Hill loomed above us. If you’re not familiar, this is a section of the course with huge whoops over 4 or 5 twising camelback hills. There is no good line through it, only lines that won’t kill you as quickly. At this point, Martee and I were vocalizing our discomfort. Each whoop was met with an, “Ooof,” or “Ugh,” or “I’m going to kill whoever set this course.”
Coming down from College Hill you can almost see Main Pits. We thought we were home free but NO! The course snaked around for another 5 or 6 miles. Those sneaky guys at MORE just wanted to torture us!
With all the problems we had, our first lap was two hours. Our goal was one and a half hours, so we had our work cut out for us. Tony and Chad G. did some welding on the caliper in Main Pit and we were out within 10 or 12 minutes. Our second lap, thankfully, was clean and we turned in a time of 1:42, which included our pit stop.
Getting out of the car is always bittersweet. I want to keep going because it’s fun but at the same time I’m just knackered, especially on this course. Martee had it worse though. Co-driving is tough on your body. Martee got out and got some water and the next thing I knew, she was throwing up. Yes, I made her throw up.
Mark and new co-driver Dustin got in the car and got a flat in no time. Pit A fixed them up but later they had fuel delivery problems. While under load it just wasn’t performing well. He got her around in about two hours and the crew in Main went to work. The distributor was checked, coil was checked, everything looked fine.
Off they went. Oh wait, no…here they come back. What?
The car had stalled and wouldn’t start. BUT WE SHALL NOT GIVE UP!
Tony pulled the fuel filter and therein found the problem. The foam in the gas tank had chosen this exact moment to disintegrate. We switched out the filter, cleared the fuel line and the jet in the carburator, but what else can you do? We couldn’t very well start pulling the foam out, so we sent them on their way and prayed they could make it around so we could finish.
Alas, it was not to be. The race ended at midnight and at 11:30 Mark and Dustin still had about 30 miles to go. They came back on the road so as not to stress the car or themselves.
It’s always sad to time out, but she was still moving and even with all our problems we ended up 5th out of 9 entries. We averaged 33.9mph and 4th place averaged 33.6mph. We were keeping up with him just fine.
The winner spanked everyone with average lap times around 44mph. In addition to being a more experienced driver, they obviously had no problems and probably didn’t do a driver swap.
Our goal is always to JFF*. While we didn’t succeed, we had a great time and I certainly did learn a lot. I now know how to wire the coil directly to the distributor, how to clear the fuel line, and what a flat feels like on a beadlock.
Race day ended at 1:30am, with most of the team enjoying a beverage and swapping stories of the race, under the moonlit sky of the beautiful Mojave desert.
It was a good day.
* Just Fucking Finish
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.