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
July 11, 2014 – Ladies who race, start prepping your professional photos for the 2015 Women of Off Road Racing Calendar! Emme Hall, driver of the Mega Monkey Motorsports 2/1600 is calling for submissions for the third annual fundraising calendar.
Hall makes it clear; this is not your average pinup calendar.
“All my female friends that drive are incredible women, who can do so much more than just wear a bikini and pose. They drive, they wrench, the co-drive…they are badasses! I knew I could do something cool to feature them, their rides, and their partners without relying on their sexuality.”
The Women of Off Road Racing calendar features the ladies in hero card style poses with their cars.
“It’s a calendar that you can give to your young daughter as inspiration, or to your grandmother to hang in her living room,” says Hall.
Professional headshots are required to enter. Photos are due August 13th to email@example.com, with voting to begin Hall’s Facebook fan page on August 15th. The calendar will be ready in time for the MORE Ladies Race for the Cure on October 25th. Proceeds will go to the Cedars Sinai Breast Cancer Research Center and to help Hall’s team reach the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco.
“The past two years I have accepted non-professional snapshots, but I really want to up the ante this year. Professional photos will place the ladies in their best light. I hope that in the future I can provide these headshots for free, but for now I recommend Dezert Wife Photography or Phil Kaos Photography. Both businesses have been very supportive of the calendar and they produce great photos.”
Hall is currently organizing a group photo session. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for details or to submit. Women of all ages, shapes, and sizes are encouraged to submit. All classes of cars, UTVs, and motorcycles are eligible. All-female teams are welcome to submit as well. Women can be drivers of record, secondary drivers, or regular co-drivers.
About the Cedars Sinai Breast Center
At the Breast Center, patients receive comprehensive care from a team of experts. Our physicians are highly experienced at treating common as well as rare and complex cases of breast cancer. During weekly multidisciplinary Case Review meetings, patient cases are discussed from multiple perspectives so that patients are provided with a wide range of treatment options. This review facilitates ongoing communication among your physicians and specialists to track your progress and help lead to a successful recovery. Our specialists also work on clinical trials to develop new treatment options for addressing breast cancer and many of our patients take part in clinical trials that test new options for diagnosis and treatment. More information can be found at http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Breast-Center/
About the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles
Now in its 25th year, the Gazelle Rally is the toughest all female motorsports event on the planet. Women battle the grueling Moroccan desert for 9 days using only a compass and a map. No GPS, no cell phones, no chase crews. Points are awarded for shortest distance between checkpoints, not fastest time. Whether in a 4×4, a crossover, a quad, or a motorcycle, the two-woman teams must work together to drive the fewest kilometers possible, using their outdated maps to pick a route. More information can be found at www.gazellerally.com
About Emme Hall
Driver, review, rabble rouser, Emme is the principle driver for the trophy winning Mega Monkey Motorsports 2/1600. She has also been on the podium in class 11, 5u, and ultra-4. She is one of only 17 American women to participate in the Rally Aicha des Gazelles and was the driver for the top North American team in 2014. She is a video host for TFL Car, reviewing everything from compact economy sedans to trucks to muscle cars. She is the proud driver of a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata and she autocrosses with the SCCA whenever she can. More information can be found at www.emmehall.com
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!
It wasn’t all technical driving while on the Gazelle Rally. There were times where we were driving on roads. Of course, we couldn’t go faster than 50 km/hr, so we had a lot of time to kill. Sabrina is a professional singer and I have dabbled in musical theatre, so we often sang. We sometimes rapped.
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!!!
Well, we have paid our rally fees and we are definitely on our way to the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles!!! Our final fundraising push is a silent auction, open until February 4th at 11pm EST. Lots of cool stuff is up for bid including some gift cards from SDHQ Off Road, Off Road Vixens, RSK Clothing, and Mary Kay. Plus a discounted pro entry to a MORE race, a photo package from Dezert Wife Photography, a co-driver seat in a few races with Dezert Outlaw Motorsports, and more!! Check it out at www.32auctions.com/tcg
We are now deep in the depths of finding a rental truck…in French. Here’s how you communicate via email to French rental companies:
1. Frantically search the internet for “French truck rental”
2. Realize that there are contacts listed in your Gazelle packet
3. Feel dorky
4. Attempt to write an email in French
5. Proof read it with your terrible French but think, “This sounds good,” and hit send
6. Remember something called Google Translate and run your already sent French email through
7. Laugh at the pathetic translation and rewrite email
8. Resend email with addendum: “Ecrit avec l’aide de Google Translate”
9. Receive email from said French company
10. Reverse Google Translate process
The map has gone up, giving us plenty of time to check out the terrain via Google Earth. It seems I owe a lot to Google Inc, lately! At any rate, here’s a glimpse.
So we now have lots of things to take care of: getting the necessary supplies, a new pair of boots (yes!), tools, a tent…everything we’ll need for 9 days in Morocco. One thing we will NOT need is a navigation unit. Remember, Gazelles navigate with a compass and an old map and nothing more. It’s what makes the Gazelle Rally FULL OF AWESOME!!!
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!
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.
Editor’s Note: I was recently informed that I may not use the phrase “H@ll Ass Racing” in any post or in any announcement about my name change to Mega Monkey Motorsports™. It seems a little overkill to me but frankly, I can’t afford to be sued. Thank you to all my fans who have been so supportive through this transition time. I hope this is the last change I will have to make.
I’d like to spin a tale for you. One full of legalese, a few expenses, a bit of frustration, and a healthy dash of ignorance. In short, a cautionary tale.
The upshot is that due to a trademark violation, I am changing the name of my team to Mega Monkey Motorsports™. Back in February I got a phone call from a lawyer who informed me I was in violation of a trademark, but that the owner, who operates in California, would like to meet me to work out a licensing agreement. I was nervous, but I was going to California anyway, so Dad and I met the owner and agreed to work out a licensing contract. I came home thinking it would all work out.
The next week I spoke with the company and we discussed what the licensing agreement would entail. I was not entirely satisfied with the agreement and I started doing a little research. Big mistake. My first stop was the US Patent and Trademark Office website. I did a search for their trademark and there it was…and it said PENDING. Further, it was pending in the category of Automobile Parts and Design…nothing to do with racing. “HA!” I thought. They don’t even own the trademark! I immediately registered myself as a Motorsports Team and wrote an email explaining my position to this company. In my mind, the matter was done.
It was not. I got an official cease and desist letter from the company. I got an email copy of it the weekend of the Mint 400. I saw it in my inbox and just couldn’t bring myself to open it. I was already so stressed out with our first big race, and I knew if I opened it I would break down and I had to remain strong and positive for my team. I let it lie until that Monday and I immediately dove into my rolodex. I called my two lawyer friends. I called people who I thought had lawyer friends. Then I called those lawyers…anyone who I could get a grain of free advice from. If you haven’t ever contacted a lawyer for a trademark violation case, a simple resolution will apparently cost upwards of $5ooo.oo. Now that may not be a lot for a big company, but it’s a lot for me. So I just grilled lawyer acquaintances until they begged me to stop.
I’d like to preface this next part by saying that if you find yourself in this situation, my only advice is to get advice. As it turns out, trademark law is really complicated and the following applies only to my situation. Okay? Good. There are a few ways a trademark can be established. First, by common law. This company had been using the trademark since the mid 1990s. The fact that their official trademark was still pending didn’t really matter. It’s the common law that trumps all. The official trademark can only strengthen your case. There is also the issue of confusion. Would a consumer think that my racing activities were associated with this company? Since this company was involved in auto and motorcycle design and custom fabrication, the answer from every lawyer I spoke with was yes.
I would like to go on the record that this entire process was nothing but professional on both sides. This company is family owned and produces really cool custom vehicles for law enforcement, SWAT teams, and just for fun. I was disappointed that we couldn’t come to a licensing agreement, but its called off road racing, not off road friends. And so Mega Monkey Motorsports™ was born.
Why Mega Monkey Motorsports™? Well, because Dirt Monkey Racing was taken! I also toyed with Trademark Violation Racing, but when I ran it by some people that had no idea of the back story, they didn’t think it was funny. (To me, it’s hilarious). I paid $700 for a company to do a thorough common law, business name, internet, and trademark search. Why not just do a google search and be done with it? Well, a company could be out there that has no internet presence whatsoever. Remember a google search will just turn up information that’s on the internet, and there are still plenty of folks out there who have no web presence. Hence, $700 for a search company. Then I paid the $500 or so for the official trademark, which is now pending.
So I am attempting to rid the internet of all evidence of THE TEAM WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED BY PENALTY OF LAW, although it’s difficult. Google never forgets, but fortunately the company has acknowledged that. I can only hope they start generating press of their own since when you google “THE TEAM WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED BY PENALTY OF LAW“ I am the only thing that comes up for pages and pages (note: not anymore. this company has recently added a racing page to their website and it now shows up third in a google search, but then it’s all me again) I also hope I can generate as much press as Mega Monkey Motorsports™ as I did before. You can help by sharing this blog, tweeting about my name change, subscribing to my new YouTube channel and in general being the awesome fans that you are. And remember, if there is one lesson to be learned from all of this it’s this:
Trademark yo’ shit.
Just a quick update as I literally have to get up at before the ass crack of dawn to get to staging for the world famous Mint 400. Thank you so much to everyone who has wished me and Sammy well today. You can follow us LIVE tomorrow 3/24 at 6am PST at www.racetheworld.net We are car #1817 and we are racing for TeamTracie.org
The folks at Roadflydug up some older footage of me testing the 2011 Range Rover out in the mud. It just proves that I am the textbook example of dork. An entertaining dork, but dork nonetheless. Enjoy!