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!
Oh those three little letters. You know the ones: D. N. F. They stand for the most hated, vilified words in off road racing: Did. Not. Finish. But that is what we were. Let me go back to the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start, don’t you think?
I arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday morning. Sammy Navarro, my partner for the race, picked me up at the airport and we were off like a shot! Thursday was spent going up to main pits to grab our spot. The good people at Best in the Desert had a pit reservation system in place and every place was marked out and numbered, which was really nice. It helped mitigate people arguing over space and it was definitely less stressful to do it this way. We also stickered up the car a bit, found a place to park (and with a truck and trailer in downtown Las Vegas its not always easy!), met up with some friends and just had a relaxing time. The next day would be full of work…
We were up early to discuss driver rotation and to make work assignments. We still needed to get the course on to the GPS, buy gas, talk to BFG pits, register, and of course, get the car through tech. Sammy had brought Cortney on as another co-driver, so the three of us headed to registration, where we got SWAG!
Meanwhile, Dad was bringing the car around to the load off area so we could join the tech parade down Fremont Street. We got our IRC tracker sorted out (small world, the ex-wife of a childhood friend now works for IRC…I was even in their wedding!) and then it was time to push the car down Fremont Street.
If you haven’t ever been to Fremont Street, its part of downtown Vegas that used to be super duper seedy. The city turned it into a pedestrian zone, covered it with a canopy of lights, and revitalized the whole area. And we got to take our cars down this open street! People were all around taking pictures, asking about the cars, pointing at the cars…it was an attention whore’s dream! But honestly it was going by so fast, if Dad hadn’t reminded us to take pictures, I would have totally forgotten!
We passed tech with flying colors, and I headed the line of cars following the police escort through the city streets to the on load area a few blocks away. When a light turned green, I stalled the car. Now before you start laughing I would like to remind you that I have very little time in this car and it has a racing puck clutch. A puck clutch is either in or out. It doesn’t slip like the kind of clutch you have in your street car. So cut me some slack.
At any rate, I pressed the starter and nothing. Again. Nothing. It would crank, but not turn over. The guy behind me gave me a push and I dropped the clutch (oh by the way Mr. Police Officer who asked me if I knew how to do that..yes I do…jerk) and made it the on load area. As soon as I got there I turned off the motor and turned it back on again with no problems, but it would come back to haunt us at the start line.
The rest of the day was spent on last minute work on the car and some team marketing. I was able to get a great interview in with Speed Freaks and did an autograph session with one of my partners, Off Road Vixens. Then driver’s meeting, and to bed early since we were up at 3am to get out to Jean and staging by 5am. Yes. 5am staging for a 6am start time. We decided that Sammy, having helped us out with entry fee and logistics, would take the first driver shift with me as co-dawg. We lined up and as we were told to move to the start line, the damn car stalled. And it wouldn’t start. And it wouldn’t start. And it wouldn’t start.
The other cars in our class started to go around us and she finally turned over. We were racing already! We got up to the side by side start and didnt really have time to think about anything before the light turned green and we were off. In the dark. And directly into silt. What the hell? Silt at the starting line? Oh yeah. So with 2 cars starting every 30 seconds in the silt that meant dust. A lot of it. We spent at least 50% of our race in the dust. And I’m not talking a few specks here and there. I’m talking can’t see 2 feet in front of you dust. Most of the time we were just following the amber light of the car in front of us, watching it move up and down and adjusting our speed accordingly.
But there was so much for me to do as the co-driver that I didn’t really have time to be scared. Co-driving is more than just going along for the ride. You have to call corners, watch for danger signs, call mile markers back to pits, read the GPS, and most importantly, warn the driver of any cars coming up behind you. It’s all easier said than done as you are strapped in so tightly you can’t really move, your helmet obscures your visibility, and you’re bouncing around like a ping pong ball in a wind tunnel. I couldn’t get the GPS to track up, even though I had checked it before we left. Instead of the cursor remaining still and the map moving below it, ensuring that a left on the GPS equaled a call of “left turn 100 feet,” the map stayed still and the cursor was moving. So among all this I had to think, “Is this a left or right hand turn coming up?” and that is a difficult thing to do while moving at 45 mph through rocks and silt.
We made it to pit 1 at race mile 36 and made the mandatory stop. Sammy shifted into first and the tranny made the most horrible noise. It sounded exactly like it did when we first picked up the car in February. We had fixed the problem, we thought, with the new throwout bearing. Not so, it seems. We found our pits and we really only had a single truck there, as full pit crews are for teams that have, um, money. Fortunately people out in the desert are always willing to help and as soon as we pulled in the car was surrounded. In fact, at first we went ahead with the driver change as planned and as I settled into the seat there were suddenly 2 sets of hands helping me get my harness on, attaching my radio, and otherwise making sure I was safe to race.
Alas it was not to be. We had some help from the Riot Racing guys and one guy who’s tshirt I don’t remember. They pulled the motor and it seemed the input shaft was more moveable than it should have been, the clutch disc had seen better days, and the needle bearings were toast. Now I don’t know if that was really the problem or if there is more to found inside the tranny itself. I will say that we didn’t lose a gear and the noise was only heard with the clutch pushed in. Could it be the pressure plate? I’m not qualified to say.
We spent the rest of the day at pit 1 watching everyone come through and shooting the b.s. with everyone. For dinner dad and I grabbed a buffet and were both asleep by 9pm, and I was in the air the next afternoon. It’s frustrating to have spent all that time and money and then not even get to drive, but as they say…that’s racing. The desert won this time, but I’ll win next time. If we can get the car turned around in time I’d like to run the Mexican 1000 with NORRA. It would give me some awesome seat time and its a really fun time as well. Four days from Mexicali to Cabo! It’s very expensive though and some unexpected bills have come up. At any rate, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the dirt!
Washington, D.C., February 23, 2012 – Mega Monkey Motorsports™ is proud to announce their partnership with Dezert Outlaw Motorsports and Team Tracie for this year’s Best in the Desert Mint 400, March 23-25. The announcement was made on February 20th on The Down and Dirty Off Road Show, hosted by Jim Beaver.
Sammy Navarro of Dezert Outlaw Motorsports has created Team Tracie to raise money to fight colorectal cancer, which is diagnosed in over 130,000 people each year in the United States alone. Team Tracie’s mission is to help spread the word of early detection in the fight against colorectal cancer. Early detection is very important and vital, for over 80% of all cases of colorectal cancer can be prevented with screenings and follow up appointments. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the team wants to pay tribute to Tracie and encourage her to stay strong. Tracie, you are not alone and that she is not alone in this fight!
Mega Monkey Motorsports™ includes driver Emme Hall and her father, Larry Hall, as well as a team of unpaid (but highly appreciated) mechanics, welders and wrenchers. They are happy to join forces with Team Tracie and race their new 2/1600 at the Mint.
“When Sammy told me about Tracie’s story I was only too happy to help. Racing for Tracie in the Mint will be such an honor. The fact that I get to share driving duties with such an awesome driver is just a bonus.”
Sammy is excited as well. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be teaming up with such a wonderful person like Emme and her motley band of racers. Through this partnership we will be able to spread the word about colorectal cancer and honor my friend, Tracie. I would like to thank Emme for allowing me to bring along my team members Mike Jenkins and Cortney Mcrae and race with the TeamTracie.org and FightColorectalCancer.org names on the new 2/1600. Together we are going to make a fantastic showing at the Mint 400”
The Mint 400 is one of the best known desert races in the United States. The new 400-mile course is located in Jean, Nevada, and will feature a high-speed passing zone near a dedicated spectator area, as well as rocky washes, silt beds, high-speed graded roads, rock gardens, and the giant rolling jumps The Mint is famous for. Additionally, racers will start side-by-side (two at a time), making “turn one” a new exciting spectacle of the race.
About Dezert Outlaw Motorsports
Dezert Outlaw Motorsports has raced in many off road series such as SCORE, BITD, MDR, SNORE, and the recent Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. With teammates Jenkins and Mcrae, the team has had multiple wins and podium finishes. Dezert Outlaw has been featured in magazines such as Dirt Sports, OFF-ROAD, Skinnie Magazine, Dusty Times as well as in the off road video games Baja: Edge of Control and TrophyLite Rally for Play Station 3 and XBOX 360. Sammy loves being behind the wheel but also excels outside of the car. When he is not promoting sponsors and racers on live radio, at off road expos, and at race contingencies, you can find him working public relations for Mike Jenkins Motorsports. More information can be found at www.teamtracie.org and http://FightColorectalCancer.org You can follow Sammy on Twitter @DezertOutlawSam
About Mega Monkey Motorsports™
Mega Monkey Motorsports™ campaigns a 2/1600 and has been featured in Dusty Times, Dirt Sports, S&S Off Road Magazine, and Gearbox Magazine. Last year Emme helped Desert Dingo earn the VORRA season championship in class 11, and holds the record at the Buffalo Peak Hill Climb, co-driving for JT Taylor. Although sidelined for a year due to health reasons of her navigator, Michele Martineau, Emme is currently working towards running with the Gazelles in the 2013 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a 9 day all female rally through the deserts of Morocco…no GPS allowed. Emme holds an MFA in Costume Technology in North Carolina School of the Arts and is also a graduate of Yale School of Drama. She is the Costume Manager at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC and reviews new cars for Roadfly TV. During her few free weekends you can find Emme campaigning her stock 2001 Miata in SCCA autocross events. She has been aptly described as a “charisma missile.” To learn more visit http://www.megamonkeymotorsports.com, and follow on Twitter @MMMotorsports.