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The Snowflake 150 - My first attempt at Desert Racing.

Front Left Front Right What a killer hood! No fires allowed!

I got to ATV on Wednesday afternoon via an INSANE cab driver & ride from the airport. I was NOT going to pay 60 bucks a day for a Geo Metro rental! I was stoked about the upcoming weekend. The last time I'd seen the car, it was still in its skeleton phase. No body work at all. Today, there sits an absolutely beautiful hand made aluminum hood and Neil is working on the front panels. There were still a few things to be done before we were race ready, but everyone was thrashing on the car getting it all ready.

On the trailer, ready to rock!The original plan was that we would get to test the new shock valving on Wednesday night or maybe Thursday, but there was too much to do to let us get it out. Over the next couple days, we finished the car up, making sure everything was just right. On Friday night, we were race ready, so the car was loaded up and we all headed to Aripine. I was actually going to get to race!

On Saturday morning Jay and I headed out for some testing. Right off the bat, the car was not quite like it had been in Phoenix. The track is at about 6000 feet above sea level and the jetting was way off. This also put the clutching off too. We made a couple runs down a test road and came back to the pits to see what we could change. Needles were dropped, jets were changed and clutch weight arms and spring were changed too. The car came alive, but still wanted to burble on the bottom end and mid range. We tuned a bit more and the car was race ready. It was still rich in the bottom and mid, but we had done all that we could for now.

Jay and I took the car to tech, passed with only one snag - "Where are your window nets or wrist restraints?" - two sets of tie downs later, we had wrist restraints, were given the okee dokee and we were put in staging for the race.

At 12:30 p.m. the first car in the staging line left the starting box. One car every thirty seconds left the line. We were the 14th car in line and at 12:37 off we went.

My first victim - I actually passed this guy!Through the morning and during staging, I had been wandering around checking out the other class 12 cars (Unlimited Sportsman) and was feeling pretty intimidated. Here I was in a 1000 pound, short, twin powered car and everything around me is full blown buggy size. Ever other car looked like it would just squash my Taz and I figured that out on the wide open areas that they would be capable of running 100+. Boy was I mistaken! We left the starting line and the little DezTaz started to sing.

Whoop SectionFrom the starting line, we went down a straight for about a quarter mile, made a sweeping 180 degree left hand corner, ran down another quarter mile straight, made a fairly tight right and then launched into a set of rhythm jumps. If the low end and mid range jetting had been a bit closer we would have pretty much been able to keep the throttle pegged, but instead, I had to go through pretty much on and off the gas. Still, it soaked everything up like it wasn't there. After the jumps, there was another sweeping left hand corner that headed back to check point four, which was also the finish line. From the check point we headed out into the desert. The pits were all along this section and as we passed our pits, we were probably running close to 70 and still gaining speed. Later I were told that we were easily one of the top 5 fastest cars through that section.

The plan was to take it fairly easy the first lap, get some seat time in and then start pushing. I still had a fear of having one of the larger cars come blizting up on my back end, but before I saw the two mile marker, I was starting to see the dust from the car in front of me and was closing in on it quickly! I had already gained 30 seconds! We made the pass and set our sites on the next vehicle. The little Tazcar never missed a beat and sucked up anything and everything that came our way.

Along one straight we had to have been running close to 80 and as we would hit the launches and dips and bumps, all I had to do was feather the throttle to set the chassis a bit. This was AWESOME!!! Here I was worried about being run over by the competition and it turns out that I was flat running away from them! We passed a car along the side of the track so that meant that I'd gained two places. I was still fighting the rich carb settings, so I wasn't able to get the snap and drive out of the corners like I wanted to, but even so, we were able to smoke the bigger cars through the tight stuff. We passed another car on the side of the road, and started seeing the dust from the next victim. Mile marker 8 had just gone by and my sites were now firmly on the dust cloud in front of me. I was going to be able to pass this guy before mile marker 10. I still wasn't pushing the car hard either.

Just as we went by mile marker 9, I could see the back end of the car in front of me. I was going to get this guy by mile 10 (check point #1) - this would put me two minutes ahead of my starting position at only 10 miles! Then it happened. I started smelling gasoline. Suddenly Jay started pointing to the side of the track, giving me the stop signal. He's already started to unbuckle and crawl out of the car and we're still running 60! We pulled over and Jay went bailing out of the car! I couldn't figure out what was going on, but Jay knew exactly what to do - GET OUT! It ended up that we had ruptured a seam in the fuel tank in a tight left hand corner and each time we would hit a bump, the fuel would spray on Jay's back. It then sprayed on the exhaust pipes once and that was enough. We had to stop. The last thing either of us wanted to do was go Kaboom! What a bummer! There was Check Point One about 200 yards ahead of us too.

After we hopped out and started looking around the car, we realized that we were done. The race was finished after a mere 10 miles - 1/12th of the way. Sportsman class ran four loops on the 30 mile track, Pros ran 5 - hence the name 'Snowflake 150' - originally I'd heard that it was to be either 200 or 250 miles. Guess not!

Dejected, with our bottom lips hanging low (yes, Jay and I were pouting) we slowly drove on to one of the access roads that lead us to the highway. We hopped on the highway and started heading back to the pits. The little DezTaz was done for the day. I must say that the car works great at highway speeds. We pretty much just cruised on down the highway with traffic! I kept waiting for the police to see us, but we made it back without incident.

Nothing friendly out here!Everyone was pretty bummed. The last thing in the world we expected to take us out of a race would be the fuel tank. But as harsh and rugged as this type of racing is on equipment, anything that's not up to the task will probably fail.

I must stress that this is NOT the fault of ATV Racing This particular fuel tank came from an outside source. The tank is quite thin and the seams are just butted up against each other instead of being overlapped. The fuel sloshing back and forth against the walls of the tank were just too much for it to take and the seam let go. (try taking 10 gallons of fuel and sloshing them around in a 15 gallon container - that's a lot of force to stop.)

Neil is quite stressed that the tank failed and to add insult to injury three of the five finished cars have this same tank (for the record, mine is Tazcar #4 and #5 will start for the first time this week). Because of our "find", for reliability and safety's sake, the other three tanks will have to be replaced and the other fifteen tanks that they have in stock for up and coming Tazcars will have to either be modified or sent back. The only cars that don't have this particular style of tank are the original orange 800 triple and the 600 twin.

As they say, "This is racing" and I fully understand (read any of my racing stuff and you'll see that I'm quite used to not finishing). The ten miles that I did get to do were probably the most awesome I've ever done before. With the exception of a completely unforeseeable defect, the car worked fantastically. Once I get some more seat time, I'll be able to tune the car even better, go faster, and hopefully finish the next race. So far the Tazcars have proven to be very reliable and pretty bullet proof.

On the lighter side, my car will become a reliability test bed for ATV Racing. No sand car will ever see the harsh environment or punishment that mine will see, so if it survives in the DezTaz, it will certainly survive out in the dunes! All in all, it's a good thing. :)

This week we'll fix the tank, clean the car up and get it ready for painting. Hopefully I'll get to go play in it a bit more before I leave, but I'm not sure.

Plans are already being made for the Whiplash race in Mexico on December 8th. I've had a taste of a life long dream and even though it only lasted a few short miles, it was even more than I expected. Yes, I'm HOOKED!!!

The headless ArdenI really want to extend my thanks to everyone that burned the midnight oil getting my car ready for this weekend and also to all that helped out this weekend at the race. The crew at ATV Racing went way above and beyond call on this project! So, thanks to: Neil, Paul, Dottie, Johnny, Gary, Taylor, Jeremy & James. Thanks to Arden, Barb, Woodman, Greg and Tony for the being there at the race too. Also, a special thanks to Jay Largo for coming back down to the shop to help out and also for being such a great co-pilot. Jay has a lot of desert racing experience and was an invaluable assets to my first time out. He was able to help me stay on the course, get around people and I don't think I scared him too bad either! I hope that everyone's looking forward to the Mexico race as much as I am.

124 Miles of Fun! I Are A Desert Racer Now, I Is!

Funny how things work in your head and then pan out in reality.

Okay, I'll admit it. I was a bit timid about it all. Here I was in Mexico readying for my second Desert Race and I was actually nervous. I don't get nervous at races - I've fallen asleep twice in staging when I was doing the stadium stuff. But for some reason, this particular Saturday morning, I had butterflies, and they weren't from the previous night's enchiladas. I was nervous about the race itself! Was I gonna finish? Would the car go the distance, would my body go the distance, would I find my pit crew? Crash? What lay ahead?

My first race (if you wanna call going 9.99 miles out of 120 a race - hey, I could SEE the first checkpoint) was pretty much a disaster. The car was stiff, I got horrible arm pump about 2 miles into it, hand cramps soon joined in, no communications and then there was the fuel tank problem. Not to mention some other things that were found that would have killed the car. I'd headed out to Phoenix the week before the race. I wanted to go thru the Taz with a fine toothed comb before it went out to do battle. I wanted to get the ignition problem figured out, I wanted to get the carburetion and clutching dialed in, I wanted to be ready! I was gonna conquer this terrain of thorns, rocks, dirt and cacti. At least that was the plan.

The biggest problem I was having seemed to be ignition related. The culprit? We figured the throttle position sensor (TPS) was out of time. If it was saying that the throttle was not open as far as it actually was, the ignition timing would not be advanced enough for the motor and poor performance would be the result. Mine was off - quite a bit. Hmmm. Seems better, but still, the motor's not acted right since my trip to the Imperial Dunes. Jetting - seems huge. I was running 560 main jets while all the other 800 twins were running 430 to 450 mains. Still, my EGT screamed LEAN! Made no sense. We tried to get some timing measurements, but the motor vibrates so much at the revs that you're supposed to check that you can't read the marks on the flywheel consistently. Something was just not right. I kept seeing exhaust gas temps that were oddly high too. Nothing added up to make any sense. I'm not sure what made me decide to check, but we pulled another EGT out and checked against the one installed in the car. Well, what do you know? The one in the car read consistently 100 degrees hotter! Wow - I'm jetted WAY rich! 450 mains and check out the smoking donuts. As long as I kept the wheel turned and the go peddle pushed to the floor, the Taz would just pivot around a front tire, boiling the rears. This was cool! I think we'd found the problems.

I spent the rest of the week going over the car, finding loose bolts (finding holes where two bolts used to hold the motor to the motor mount - yikes!), adding some stuff, and getting the Taz prepped. I was race ready - so I thought. We left for Mexico on Friday afternoon.

Saturday morning - almost late for the race! Instead of camping at the start, Jay, Taylor & his wife Jess and I decided to head on down to Rocky Point. It was about an hour from the start. We'll just get up early and drive back. After all, the Sportsman class didn't launch until 12:00. We get to the pits, unload and head over to tech. It's about 10:30 a.m.. They're just closing it and people are gathering for the driver's meeting. I beg and plead and get the tech guy to look the car over while the driver's meeting is beginning to take place. He takes a quick look and says it's good. Then from over my shoulder I hear "We've done some class switching. Blah, blah, blah will now leave the line at 12:00, blah, blah, blah will go at blah, blah and Class 12 will leave at 11:00."
We're not even finished unloading! Jay and I run around in the proverbial headless chicken manner and make it to the staging area just in time. Nervous? Me? YUP!!! What a way to start out - almost late to my own race. Not good.

Getting ready to leave the lineOur class rolls to the line about 11:15. There are five or six class 12 cars ahead of me - one leaves every 30 seconds. Pull up, wait. Pull forward, wait. It's our turn. "5,4,3,2,1" the starter flags me and I step on it. "Buuuuuurrrrrrrr" Motor's nice and loaded up. Great, not the way I wanted to leave the line - like a slug! Then, about 100 yards down the line, brrAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! WOO HOO we've Initiated Launch Sequence! This was gonna be FUN FUN FUN! The trail is narrow and weaves back and forth thru the cacti and mesquite trees. Jay an I are clipping along probably somewhere around 50 or so. It feels nice and comfortable. Steering seems nice and light and the suspension feels good - in fact, it feels great. This is gonna be FUN FUN FUN!

The races are marked with little pink ribbons hanging in the bushes, tied to trees, fence posts, shrubs, cacti, stapled to sleeping bystanders and glued to the occasional turtle. They're pretty much everywhere and it's hard not to see them. This is a good thing. Along with the pink ribbons, every now and then you see the bright orange 3x5 note cards with black arrows on them. These are how they mark bad things. They are usually seen in clusters of three, but that number varies on the degree of bad - well, most of the time. Oh, they also always seem to point down at a 45 degree angle - right to the middle of the track. Sort of like "LOOK HERE STUPID". These little cards are our friends. Desert Races are laid out by sadistic people (who wouldn't be having to tie pink ribbons on everything in sight for 180 miles?). "Here, let's make this a fast section. We'll end it with a nice flat straight and then put the biggest tree in the area right in the middle of the trail and then make sure that the trail goes around the tree on the side with all the bushes."

I think this is the car that was on it's roof - or it's the one that passed me not long afterwards.This corner was about 1 mile from the start. We come flying up on it. I see the down arrows and get on the brakes pretty hard - in fact, overly cautious hard. I'm gonna make it past that ten mile marker this time, damn it. Jay kinda glances over at me like "are you gonna pull over and stop?" Good thing that I did! Here, in the very first corner, a left hander that's deeply rutted and sandy, is the car that left the line two before me. He's upside down and pointed the wrong way! Spectators are already on the way to flip him back on his wheels and he gives us the thumbs up (when ever you pass someone that's not moving, you look for an okay signal). I throw the pedal to the metal and we head on down the lane. Don't you know that was an ego blow? Flip/endo in the very first corner - ouch. The guy that left the line right before me has pulled over and is just about to the inverted racer. I'm now two positions ahead of where I started in only about a mile.

By this time the car is starting to come up to operating temp. Motor's humming along at 8400 rpm, throttle response is good, the suspension is dialed in beautifully, and I'm having a blast. Then it started to happen. The rpm started dropping. What's going on? Water temp was 185, throttle response started getting mushy and we were down to about 8 grand. Water temp to 200, throttle now close to wide open, 7700 rpm. This went on until the water temp stabilized at 225. Now I have the throttle stuck to the floor, the motor has NO response - heck, my new diesel box van has better throttle response - and the motor's turning 7300 rpm. Great. The motor's going south - and I'm not even to the 5 mile marker! The EGT now starts flashing. I have the alarm set to 1440 F - that would be an actual 1340 so we should be safe to displayed peaks of 1500 F. Temp keeps climbing - now it's steady at 1480 - too hot, so I pull the choke to cool the motor - it works and the temp drops to 1420 - and the motor bogs and complains.

The DezTaz is otherwise just about perfect. The suspension is beautifully plush and the car is extremely easy to drive and steer. Not a hint of arm pump or hand cramps. I'm gonna deal with the motor and get as far as I can. Off into the great beyond we head. There goes the 5 mile marker. Yea, that feels good. Half the distance of my first race. I'm now starting to get a feeling for dealing with the motor. There goes the 10 mile marker! Jay looks at me with a big grin - which I'm also wearing. A quick high five and now we have a goal - marker 15!

Could be the truck we passed - It was neat to watch the suspension working as we went thru stuff.So far, the course has been fairly tight and technical - it goes around a small mountain. Probably averaged a speed of 20 mph or so. Lots of switchbacks, tight flipper turns - we saw another guy on his lid in one of these corners fairly early in the race. I get passed by a black class 12 car (I think it may have been the guy on his roof in the first tight corner) and decide to step it up a bit and see if I can hang with him. I'm getting comfortable with the terrain now also. Sick motor and I was able to keep him in sight for a little while. I'm having a blast and there goes mile marker 25! I've passed a truck and I'm closing in on a Jeep Cherokee. This guy was TOUGH to get around! I could get right up to him and when I would get ready to tap him, we'd hit a really dusty spot. It's SCARY! You can't see five feet in front of you, you know the guy's there and you don't have a clue when that next tight corner's gonna happen. I'd reel him in in the tight stuff, but he'd pull me out of the corners onto the longer straights. After about 5 miles of chasing him, I finally was able to make a run at him and passed him in the weeds. There goes maker 45. Man, this is awesome!

We come out of the tight woods stuff and get to run right along the highway for about 10 miles or so. Just after we get on this section, something starts vibrating really badly - like a tire chunking tread. Suddenly, no more forward drive. Ah, we've lost a belt! Jay jumps out and with the precision of a pro has the new belt installed in just a couple minutes. I have no electric starter now. Well, that's not good! Jay pulls the rope and the motor lights right up. We're back running and there goes marker 50. Only 5 more to the first pit. We're cruising along, I'm trying to keep the car on the harder packed terrain so we can carry our speed and then there's a surge. The motor coughs and surges again. Well, the EGT had been screaming at us and the water temp was up around 230 - darn, the motor's gone. We roll to a stop and get out. I'm thinking "Oh well, I made it five times farther than last time." Jay gets on the radio and finds Taylor in the Box Van to tell him "come get us". Then I hear from Jay "Hey, I don't think that anything's wrong - we've just run out of gas!" 14 gallons of fuel and we only go 53 miles??? Boy, that motor's NOT happy! Taylor rolls up in the van, we fill the Taz up and get going on our merry way. Whew - that turned out all right.

The next twenty miles SUCKED. Soft silty sand - for miles. This stuff is like flour. It poofs when you touch it and it eats horsepower. Foot glued to the floor, motor holding a constant 7200 rpm and we're moving maybe 20 miles an hour in a section that we should be running 80 - in fact, we were moving slow enough that Jay was able to light a cigarette! Oh what fun it is to drive in a silty sand all day! (sorry, got Christmas festive). I'm thinking belt. We have one spare belt left and this one's not gonna go 30 miles. I do everything I can to find the hardest part of the trail, but that's like trying to find Osama Bin Ladin - very elusive indeed. We come to a bunch of the little 3x5 cards all pointing to the right and guy standing in the middle of the trail waving his arms wildly motioning to turn right. It puts us on this nice three lane wide, straight, HARD dirt road. We're now running 60 or so. This is SO much better! By this time, Jay and I had pretty much decided to ignore flashing EGT. If it hadn't blown up after that last section, it sure wasn't gonna do it now. We moved the alarm temp to 1500 degrees.

This may have been the culprit - it's yellow and fast!Each marker passed was like a notch in our bed posts. This was great! We were back in the mountains, following a wash between two of them. I'm concentrating on the trail pretty hard. We're moving fast and there's not a lot of room for error. The sides of the wash varied from a foot to about 5 feet. It twisted and worked its way back and forth around large boulders and ridges. Then, about the time that Jay started shaking my shoulder and pointing to the right, I saw yellow in my mirror. I had just enough time to think "Hey there's a car behind" - WHAM, WHAM, WHAM. The guy's just hit me! Now I'm thinking "Great. This guy's gonna pound the back end of my car and I can't get out of his way!" Luckily things were on my side. The wall on the right side of the wash dropped down to about 18" and I headed on over to it. I got out of the guys way and off he went. By the time I was able drop back down into the wash, the guy was gone. I don't have a clue what class car it was - all I know is that it was yellow and hit me. Mile 80 or so has gone by. I was now beginning to think that we were going to make it to the finish line. I was completely relaxed, didn't feel a bit tired, didn't have arm or hand cramps and was actually thinking that it would be fun to take the Taz to the beach after the race.

The sick motor was a bummer, but I'd learned to deal with it. But there was once particular section where having it down on power was just killing me - from the fun point of view. Miles 90 to 100 were these big rolling whoops - like the little zero "g" sections on roller coasters. They were smooth, hard packed and very consistently spaced. It KILLED me to just drive thru them. Braaa Braaa Braaa Braaa Braaa as we went over each bump. If the thing had been running right, it would have been awesome! I think that with the right speed, we probably could have double jumped them. If nothing else, the car would have just floated over them. Still, we plodded on. The next pit was in about ten miles and I was worried about the fuel. We'd already spent 20 miles in full throttle sand and the next ten were the same stuff.

This time we had another motor glitch added in. The temperature was now up in the 235 range. The thing is, the Polaris 800 Twin has an over temp sensor and a limp mode. When the temp gets to 235 or higher, the ignition is cut back and the motor only runs on one cylinder. So, we'd be cruising along and suddenly Brawww. I'd have to back out of the throttle and just barely move along for anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple minutes. What a pain! Somehow, we managed to make it to the pit. We'd also covered 110 miles - 100 more than my previous race.

When we got to the pits a flurry of activity descended on Jay and me. Neil was asking Jay about the suspension, Jim Wood was telling me that we were first in class and probably in the top 15 overall. The fuel tank was being filled and the oil tank, which was dry, was filled back up. By the time we got going again, the water temp was down to about 175. They started the car and off we screamed at 8400 rpm.

Just about the time we got out of the pit's hearing range the water temp was up to 200 and we were back to running slower. Temp to 230 - here comes a turn. Brawwww. Temp 238. Motor? Motor? It wouldn't even spin enough to engage the clutch! Crap. Three miles out of the pits and we're once again looking like we're done. Braww, brawww brraaaaaaa BRAAAWWW! Hey, 7200! I turn the car back on the track and enter the newest torture section: Whoop Dee Doo Alley. Deep Sandy Whoops. NO hard pack ANYWHERE. Just DEEP SANDY WHOOPS. 10 MILE OF DEEP SANDY WHOOPS!!! We start passing dead cars. Three, I seem to recall. The motor does its little dance in with the limp mode on and off and then suddenly the EGT starts flashing - but this time it's water temp - 240! The motor is also trying to die. We pull off the track and discover that the fan isn't working. Great. Now we're farther from the pits! Turns out it was the sensor in the radiator died. Jay bypassed the switch, the fan came on and the temp started heading down. We were back underway. Somewhere in the 10 miles of deep sandy whoops Jay had an idea. The area was very dust free (heck, car free) so he took the hoses from the fresh air system and pointed them right at the radiator. The water temp stabilized at 227 and the limp mode never reared its ugly head again.

Marker 115. Make it quit Mommy, make the whoops go away! This was getting very wearisome. The car just plodded along singing it's 7200 rpm note and moving about 15 miles an hour. There goes marker 120. We make a sweeping left hand turn and there in the distance, probably two or three miles, I can see dark road. We're OUT OF THE WHOOPS in a few minutes!!! Life was good again! We hit the hard pack and start to pick up speed. This was great! No more soft stuff - it was good road from here to the finish line! I'm once again having a blast and fired up about making it to the end of the race!

Then came that moment of fate - Brrrrrraaaaak klkk kchk crunch, ping, crunch. FLOOR IT! Damn motor! If you're gonna give up NOW, I'm gonna ride you until the rods come out of the cases! The motor makes a few more nasty grinding metallic sounds and then gives up. We were done. We roll to a stop just a hair below the crest of the path between a pair of hills. Our day is done just about a quarter mile before the 124 mile marker.

We get hold of Taylor in the Box Van and inform them of our situation. After about an hour and a half, the crew arrives. During this time we see one truck, one buggy and one other class 12 car go by. I was a full hour ahead of him too! Darn. We start inspecting the car and discover the reason the motor went south. Lack of oil! A thirty five cent piece took me out. The little piece that holds the cable into the end of the oil pump arm had worn out. When it wore through, the cable fell out and the oil pump arm returned to the "zero" position. Plain and simple, two strokes don't work without lubrication. No oil pump, no lubrication. No lubrication and you get pretty noises from your motor and it quits working. They towed us back to the Box Van, we loaded up and headed back to Rocky Point. It was decided by the crew that I was officially now a Desert Racer!

Three things are going to happen to the DezTaz before the next race.
Fuel Cell - more capacity and quick fill setup
Radiator - move from behind seats up into the air
Motor - Round File the 800 twin. We're sticking a 1000 Triple in it - There's just no substitute for horse power!

Oh, for the record - (yes, I'm telling on myself) - I've run out of fuel in the Big Blue Beast (BBB) twice now (it has over 10K miles on it already). As we headed home from Rocky Point, Mexico, I knew that it was going to be close on fuel. I'd filled up just before we entered Mexico and with Taylor chasing us between pits while Jay and I raced, along with going back and forth between the start and finish of the race twice, the fuel was used up. We stopped in the little border town right there before you cross back into Arizona and I was sweating it - even mentioned to Paul that I thought that it was gonna be close. Right at the 1 kilometer marker the BBB coughed and then died. Fortunately Neil was right behind me. He took a fuel jug from me and then came back with 5 gallons of Pemex Diesel. It was enough to get me past the $1.79/gallon pump right there across the border and on to Ajo, AZ where it was a lot less expensive. So that's twice! Hope that's the last time...I keep this up and I'll just have to carry a spare 5 gallons with me - DOH!

When there's more to report, I'll start right here.
Happy Holidays to All!

(1/13/02) An update: I managed to take 3rd in Class 12 (see Whiplash's results page under Sportsman Unlimited).
The guy that passed me an hour after I broke took second, but he didn't finish either. Guess he made it to the next check point, though.
The car that won class 12 took 7 hours and 15 minutes. The guy battled with a slipping clutch from the starting line!
We left the starting line at about 11:30 and broke about 3:30. That averages out to about 31 mph. Even at that rate, we should have finished in about 5:30. Had the car been working correctly, I'm guessing that we could have averaged closer to 50 - 55 mph and we could have done it in less than 4 hrs. Next year! For comparison's sake, the Class 1 Overall winner did it in 3:04 which is an average of about 60 mph.
If you happen to get 'Southwest Offroad News' (Whiplash's monthly rag), on page 28 of the Dec, 2001 issue, third column from the left, there's a picture of that jeep that I had such a hard time getting around.

"They Passed Us Like We Were Chained To A Post!"
What Second Place said about the Deztaz at Mexico's Rock to Rock Race.

Thru the Starting WhoopsUh, yea....This time we were ready for Mexico's track. A new motor that RIPS, I had an idea of what to expect and the car has proven to be very reliable during playing and testing. We were all pumped up and ready to race. A few things had been added or changed too. A steering damper was added, a new cv boot guard was added, a new alternator coupling, some shock mods and a few other small changes were done, - oh, I also put a bullet camera and microphone in the car too so we could video the race from inside. The Dez was loaded into the BBB and we were headed for Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) and the race.

For the Sportsman (amateur) classes, the race was one time around the 110 mile loop. It started and finished at the Oasis Motel. It used about two thirds of the same trail that the Point To Point race that I did back in December, so I knew what to expect. It also ran the opposite direction as the Point To Point race. We set up our pit strategy - one stop at 25 miles to give us a good idea of fuel mileage and one stop at the 70 mile pits. We knew that the car would go at least 50 miles, so a quick pit at first would make it just right for the spacing at the end of the race.

The LineupStuck truck underway now... Unlimited Sportsman class was one of the bigger classes - nine entries. I was third in staging. We sat in line, waiting our turn to launch. One car every 30 seconds. Off go the Trophy Trucks - first gear, loads of wheel spin and no traction, digging trenches in the soft sand as they left the line. The last truck off the line managed to go down instead of forward - what a way to start the race, stuck at the starting line! The staging continued around the poor guy and they let the class 1 cars leave - once again, the big V-8 high horsepower, heavy vehicles just dug down before starting to move forward. After about 15 minutes, the guy in the truck was on the move and headed out. Our turn came about an hour and a half after they started the race. I had been watching the sand get deeper and softer as the racers left the line and when itturn, I pulled up way off the line - on a nice hard gravelly patch in the sand. (it even had a bit of a down hill slope to it - a bonus!). The first in my class leaves the line - he tried to get up on top the sand as soon as possible, but his car just didn't have quite what it needed. The car behind Mewas my Front Two off the lineSecond in line leaves - nice trenches, fighting the deep stuff on out of sight. My turn.

The green flag dropped and I dropped the hammer. The 1000 triple took a deep breath and let out a shriek. The back end sank about four inches and then hooked up - we were off like we'd been shot out of a cannon! The first part of the course was whoops. They started at the line and went for about two miles. Deep sandy, no rhythm whoops. Most of the cars were struggling to get going in them. Not me! I was up on top the whoops leading out of the starting area within 150 feet of the fence and gaining speed. Around a nice left hand sweeper, a short straight section, a sweeper to the right and hey, what's this? Second place in my class already? The sweeper lead to a straight section and I just pinned the throttle - We passed the guy with at least 20 mph more than what he was running. Cool! Less than a mile from the start and I've made 30 seconds and taken second place!

The first part of the race - the first 25 miles - were pretty much just a shake down area. Not a lot of stuff to work through, just flat open area with pretty hard ground. We passed a couple other class 10 cars - very easily, I might add. Hmmm... driving in the dust is different - I didn't have to deal with it much that last race, now I'm coming up on cars quick and I have to deal with this inability to see. Even though I can't see, I have a descent idea of where the course goes. Ah, there's the dust light of the car in front of me - I have a target to fix on now. We work up to the back of the car just as the course opens up a bit - off in the weeds and another car goes down. So far, this stuff's been pretty fast - I'm guessing we were running 50 to 60 mph. Somewhere around mile 10 - 15 we suddenly had something start vibrating. At first it felt like a belt starting to shred, but it suddenly got better. Hmm... wonder what it was? Hey, why's the alternator light on the dash lit up? Jay says "I think we lost the alternator drive coupling." Rats. Now all we had was the power left in the battery - and only 100 miles to go. Not good. We turned off the Parker Pumper, deciding to only use it when we were in the dust. The radio would be the next to go if need be. The intercom and the dust light would be the last turned off. The water temp had yet to get over 170, and the fan doesn't come on until 185, so no worries there. We'd be all right, just down on a few things.

Somewhere around mile 17 to 18 we get to run right along side the highway. This was killer! On one side of the telephone poles is the course, on the other is the shoulder and the highway. On the way into Rocky Point, Jay and I studied the road side (you could see the course), looking for passing areas, hazards and such. We had a plan. Run on the course, but if we had to make a move, the area between the telephone poles and the road looked perfect. It was.

We came through the fence out of the desert, made a sharp right and started tearing down the course along side the hiway. We were also closing in on another car, class 10 I think. We followed for about a mile and then we made the move - a dart left between the poles (we're running at least 75 mph) and well what do you know - there were two cars in front of me and then another about 1/4 mile ahead of them - and hey, what's this? The car out front just happens to be the guy running in first place in our class! This was gonna be nice - three for the price of one. I made it by the first two and then thought about dropping back in on the course until we closed in on the guy out front. It didn't take long to realize that we just needed to stay out on the spare line. We made the pass and had clear sailing on to the first pit at mile 25.

Five gallons in twenty five miles. Okay, we know what sort of fuel economy. 13 gallon tank - that lets us make it to the 70 mile pit with fuel to spare. A quick check on the alternator and sure enough - no more coupler. Oh well. We spent four minutes in the pits (about 3:30 too long) and all my passing on the road side was for naught. The guys I passed went flying by. We left the pit and headed back out into the technical section of the track. This was from mile 25 to mile 45.

This was one of the areas that I was really looking forward too. This was the same section of the course that I got hit and passed by the yellow "thing" (still don't know what it was). I wasn't gonna get passed again. We made the pass on the first of the three cars and dropped into the tight twisties. This was fun, but scary too. It wasn't very long before I was on the back bumper of the second of the three. The dust would be kind of light and then suddenly the visibility would drop to less than 20 feet - or worse. I finally figured out, it wasn't the car in front of me accelerating that made all the dust, it was the car in front of me BRAKING and TURNING that made the really thick areas. Ah, I'd just learned a desert racer trick. Light dust means on the throttle. Heavy dust means FEAR and on the brakes! We got to an open area and I passed the guy again. Being that this was the area that I got bumped in last time, I really wanted to return the favor - and also wanted to find out what it was like to do - We came up on a Jeep - very nice looking Jeep - I had my victim in line. Just as we started to make the bump move, the guy came to a big open area and pulled out of the way. Drats - I was forced to miss. Oh well. (:

So far we'd only had two incidents. One time in the tight stuff, right after passing a guy, I got into a corner a bit too hot - I'd been over driving to get around the guy and hadn't quite settled down yet. I blew the corner pretty badly and had to dodge a couple trees/cacti and such. I got back on the course and got my head together. Back into my rhythm, ripping thru the trail. The second incident (about 40 miles in) was an indecision on my part. We came out of a sweeping right hand corner. The inside line looked shorter and more traveled, but whooped out. The outside line was faster, smoother, but quite a bit farther out from the inside. I decided to run the outside line, but I was just a bit late and the front right wheel nailed a large hump between the two roads. It bottomed out the front end extremely hard - in fact, hard enough to bend the grade 8 1/2" bolt that holds the shock on. Not a lot, but it was bent. The hit hurt - tore the wheel from my hand and shook the car. Still, the Dez just ripped along. When we hit the hump, it also knocked the car off line a bit. Jay and I were now sliding along somewhere around 50 - 60 mph and we had a nice sideways view of a very large cactus that looked hungry. Fortunately, I gathered up the car, got it pointed the right way and we were back on the gas. No real time lost, a good scare and a lot of fun. This is what it's all about - WOO HOO!

As we're cruising along through the trees and cacti, I suddenly hear Jay over the intercom "Hey, where'd you come from?"
He held up his right hand and sitting in the middle of the palm of his glove is a Choyo bud - about golf ball size and Jay's making a funny face. "Jumping Cactus. It came in and landed right in my crotch! I decided that wasn't good, so I touched my glove to it. It came off my suit easy, but now look, it's stuck to my glove!"
I wanted to look, but I was busy driving. I quickly glance over and see Jay trying to wipe it off the glove on the side of the car. Nope, didn't work. Now it looks like he's trying to throw away his hand. Jay was able do dispense of the ball of hooks and needles by whipping it off his glove and I hear over the intercom
"Whew - I hate those stupid things! I got lucky and that one came off easy."

On the GO Pedal!Not long after Jay was able to get rid of his passenger, we came out of the tight twisty stuff and into a section known as Gopher Hole Trail (mile 57 or so), just in time to battle with another group of cars - these three guys were going after it tooth and nail. Two class ten cars and hey, what's this? The leader of my class! We pulled up on the pack and the dust was horrible. I kept darting out to the left looking for an open area. Nothing. I hear Jay on the intercom "This side, NOW!" I slid over to the right for a look - we were in a long right hand sweeper and I could see where the course was going. I pulled off the line and out into the creosote trees and small sand bumps. We were on the move!

When I go for the pass off the course trail, there are three things that I try to stay concentrated on. 1) Avoiding anything nasty that could crash us or tear up the car. This can be a bit scary and you have to stay very alert, otherwise stuff can come up and bite you big time. 2) Try to hit the small sand bumps with only one side of the car, if I have to hit them at all. It keeps the chassis a lot more settled and often the bumps are tall enough that the car would bottom out on them. Not good. 3) When running over a Creosote tree, wave to the tree that is about to be hit and center the car on the tree. A Creosote tree pretty much just shatters like it's made out of glass, so they're actually sort of fun to hit.

Anyhow, I go for the pass on these three cars. I'm hanging it out in the desert beside the trail and we're moving. Over a few bumps, down goes another Creosote tree and our heading has us lined up perfectly to drop back in right in front of the lead guy, before the trail tightens up. I look over at the three cars and I can see the passenger in the second car in line looking over at us like "What the??" We've cleared the first guy, get next to the second car - passenger still looking at us like we're insane for being off the line and running as fast as we were, and then just as the trail tightens up, I make the pass on the first guy, who just also happens to be the leader of my class and we're now leading. Cool! This is where I made my last good screw up too. Just as we get back on the trail, the course makes a sharp left and I'm still moving fast. I blew thru (over) the corner and try to get it all gathered up. I can see the car that was leading in my rear view and he's made the corner correctly. I stomped on the go pedal and managed to gather it all up and keep him from passing me. Most of the time, I drive pretty cautiously, but for some reason, when I get near another car, I start driving over my head. If I'm able to reel them in so quickly driving nice and easy, I should be able to just go right on around them, running the same way. I need to work on staying a bit more relaxed in the heat of battle.

Gopher Hole Trail is very well named. The area is not as sandy as the majority of the course, it's very rough and has these little mounds that drop away. Quite often, just after a drop away, there's a corner to deal with. I had to try to go as fast as I could without getting in over my head. Some of the dips and drop offs were close to four feet and wouldn't have been any fun at speed. This section of the course starts at mile 57 or so and ends around the 66 mile mark. As we leave Gopher Hole, we come out to an area that looks familiar. Hard small rocks, small mountains, Hey! This is where we broke last time. That means that we're close to the pits - oh and Whoop de Doo Road.

The Dez is awesome in this rough stuff. As long as I keep the speed up, the little car just dances across the top of the bumps and whoops. We kept the speed up and railed on through the rough stuff, taking a bit of a breather on the smoother parts. Then it happened.

Right around the 69 mile point, I notice that the car's starting to crab to the left a bit. Hmmm... Flat tire? Haven't hit anything to cause that. Did I bend something? Nope, haven't hit anything recently to cause that either. I think I'm hearing something rattle as we hit bumps, but I'm not sure. You hear lots of things during a race and wonder what each sound is as you put the miles behind you. We can now see the pits. I'm over on the right side of the course by a fence (it had sort of opened up into two lanes). Suddenly in front of us is a ridge that's about two feet high and almost square faced. It was just the right size that you're not sure whether to throttle on and hit it hard or hit the brakes and roll it. By the time I decided to slow down, it was a bit too late. As we got to it, I nailed the throttle to get the front end light and it just sucked it up. Then the back end made contact with the face of the ridge. BOOM! Jay and I were suddenly looking straight down at the sand in front of us. I'm just guessing, but it must have kicked the rear of the car up about four feet. When it did, the rattle was now a distinct clanking sound and the car was crabbing to the left even more. It was obvious that I'd broken something in the suspension. The reaction from the crowd in the pits was also another hint. People were pointing and waving arms trying to get us to stop. The car was still moving and I could see our pit, I wasn't gonna stop before we got there.

As we pulled up to Johnny, James, and Taylor, they're looking at the back of the car like "Dudes, you're done. The rear a-arm's been torn off". I forget who said it, but someone said "Kill the car and hop out. Day's over." Damn. 70 miles without a problem (okay, I did loose the alternator, but that was 60 miles ago and the car's working great). I got out pulled off my helmet, looked at the damage and agreed, we were done. Bummer.

We all wandered around for about five minutes or so trying to figure out how to get the Dez back to the van and loaded - it was about 100 yards away from the pit - and about then, Neil and Bruce show up in Bruce's truck. Johnny explains to Neil what's happened and then he says "Man, I wish we could find someone with a welder". Well DUH!!! I HAVE ONE!!! I'd forgotten that I'd packed it for this trip! I tell them that the welder's in the truck and then the flurry of "we can fix it" panic set in.

We used Bruce's truck to pull the Dez over to the Big Blue Beast. I started up the generator in the BBB and everyone started getting ready to repair the Dez. The damage was pretty good. Both the inside tubes on the right trailing arm were broken clear through, the cv boot was gone and the trailing arm had twisted over so that all lower shock mounts were bound up. The CV was also in a serious bind with the axle and full of sand. Not good.

Naturally, nothing ever goes smoothly. My generator likes to run for about ten minutes and then mysteriously shut down. Of course it decided to do this just as we start welding. Wait five minutes, try again. It fires, and quits. Wait another five and fire it up - and hey, whaddya know? It decides to run. Good! Now the problem is every time they start to weld, the gas gets blown away by the wind. We drape a towel under the car and around James and he's now able to weld. Suddenly I hear "FIRE, FIRE"!!! Seems that James has managed to catch the towel on fire! Johnny's trying to pull the towel away, but it's caught on something and he almost pulls the Dez off the jack and down on James - and Jay who's crawled under the car by now. Johnny got the fire out and then rehung the towel. James started welding more. When it was all said and done, they'd welded it back up with some extra bracing, which included a couple 1/2" grade 8 bolts and a couple tire irons. One of the tire irons didn't get welded completely, though. The welder ran out of wire! While the welding was going on, we used Bruce's truck to recharge the battery in the Dez so we could start it, Johnny filled the CV with grease and then Neil wrapped it with about a mile of duct tape. An hour and twenty minutes later we were charged up, had a fixed arm and ready to run again. I can't thank the guys from ATV Racing enough for being my pit crew. They always come through!

As we left the pits, we entered Whoop De Doo Road and the whoops started. Great. Miles and miles of deep, sandy, unrelenting whoops. Fifteen miles of deep sandy unrelenting whoops. Oh goody.
All I wanted to do now was finish. I knew that we didn't have a chance at the leaders anymore, nor the over all for that matter. Now all I wanted to do was make it home. That meant keeping reserved, no more pushing it, and driving very easy. So, for as much of the next fifteen miles as possible, I kept Jay's side of the car up on the side of the road, out of the whoops while I got to bounce and pitch through them. We would climb up on the side of the tracks every now and then when we could find a smooth section and then we were forced back down into the tracks.

Why is it that this section of the race has kicked my butt both times? Last time I didn't have the hp to stay up on top of the nasty things, this time I had a car with a cast on it's right rear leg. Damn. There's always next year, I guess.

We came out of Whoop De Doo Road and turned right and started following the rail road tracks. At first I thought that this was going to be pretty cool - finally out of the whoops, boy was I wrong. The section that followed Whoop De Doo Road wasn't that much better - in fact, I think it may have been a bit more harsh! It was silty chopped out whoops. Little short suckers that pounded us. These little nasties were nothing like the deep sandy whoops. Sand whoops are usually round and smooth, just rollers. But not these things. They were about a foot to eighteen inches deep and very peaky. And to add to it, you could only see about half of each one. The silt was quite deep and covered the hard ground very well. I had to step up the speed to stay on top of them. This made me pretty nervous too. The last thing I wanted to do was break. As we started to get our rhythm in them I noticed that on the road just off to our left, was a truck following along. It was Bruce, Paul and Neil. They stuck right beside us and started giving us info over the radio.
"You're running about 60."
"Car looks really good - suspension looks like it's about perfect."
"Why'd you just stop???"

Why'd we stop? Well, maybe because all of a sudden, the motor just revved up and the car quit moving forward. Here we were, only fifteen or so miles from the finish and boom the car quits moving. Jay and I figured it was the belt. After all, the belt had not only the race on it, but two dune weekends and a bunch of test time too. I purposely didn't change it before the race because we wanted to see just how far it would go. But guess what - it wasn't the belt. Of all the silly things, the car had fallen into neutral! Yes, the lever had worked its way back to neutral. I still don't know how or why, but what a relief. They jump started us from Bruce's truck and we were off again.

We continued along side the rail road tracks for about another five to seven miles, up over ridges, around things along the train tracks and such and then we came to the final section. More whoops, but these were nice, big rollers. I could also see where the trail headed on to the finish line. If the Dez's broken leg lasted through that last section, then it would surely be able to handle this next and last part of the track. I stepped on the throttle and Jay and I started ripping along the top of the whoops like we should have done through Whoop De Doo Road. The Dez just floated over them like they weren't even there. The road snaked back and forth, with a large deep turn about every half mile or so. I'd set up wide, dive down to the bottom of the turn and nail the throttle. The front end would come up off the ground just a touch and not even notice the next five or six rollers. This was a blast. There was one short straight section where the whoops got extremely deep and I had to let off a bit, but for the most part, the car worked awesomely through these areas.

When we got to the Oasis, it was almost a let down and also a bit confusing. Gee, this IS the finish line, isn't it? Just where is the finish line??? We turned right at the fence and headed back towards the start line, but there was nobody with a flag or indicating that we were done. Hmmm... I turned around and headed back to where we came out from the desert and then I saw it. There by the fence was the checkered flag stuck in the ground. Yup, we'd finished. Wait, we finished??? YES!!! WE FINISHED!!! I found our crew and shut the Dez down.

It turned out that the pop up awning there at the finish line was also the finish line check point. We went over to check and sure enough, we'd taken third place. From Whiplash's results page: First Place - Todd Elam, #1252 finished in 2:26:35, Second Place - Dave Cookman, #1233 finished in 2:56:11 and I finished in 3:35:41. Consider that we spent at least an hour and a half from the time we rolled into the pits with the broken leg to the time we left the pits and then that I ran Whoop De Doo Road at about 50%, that's not too shabby! I'm guessing that we would have finished in about two hours if we hadn't broken down. The in car video camera shows us in the pits at the 70 mile mark in a time of 74 minutes, so that's close to an hour and fifty minutes for 110 miles.
Now take this into account: The overall winner finished in just over two hours. Yes, we had a serious shot at winning the overall. I'll say it once again - There's Always Next Year!!! (And Snowflake on August 31, 2002)

I have to give Dave Cookman credit for the opening line of this section of my web page.
After the races, Whiplash always holds an awards ceremony. As we entered JJ's in Rocky Point, a guy walked up to Paul and asked "Are you with that 1202 car?"
Paul said "Yeah, why?"
"Cause he passed us like we were chained to a post!"
Thanks Dave - that's probably one of the best compliments I've ever been given.

This race was a blast. I learned more than I ever would have imagined, discovered that I have a car that's capable of running with the big boys and that I have a pit crew that's down right awesome. I've been so used to racing as a solo effort, that it's been pretty hard to allow myself to depend on having others help me. Boy, what have I been thinking??? This is GREAT!!!

Can't wait for August!

A side note on the rear suspension problems and some upgrades.
When I went out into the desert that fateful night for testing the new 1000 cc triple, the rock garden that I managed to find as speed really did some major damage. I wiped out two rims, bent the two lower frame tubes that the tranny attaches too, bent the skid plate, smashed a small brace tube, smashed part of the right nerf bar and also tweaked the right trailing arm too. Big rocks at 60+ mph in the dark are just plain bad. Throw in the twenty or so major launches at the dunes (the ones that bent the front upper shock mounts) and you end up with a set of trailing arms that are bowed, tweaked and bent.
Neil and I discussed changing out the trailing arms before the race. We gave them the once over pretty close and then decided that we'd do it "After the race". Guess we should have done it before the race, eh?
Once again, part of the problem goes back to the original thinking for this chassis. It's a sand car. Light, spindly, thin tubing. The trailing arms are made out of 1" x .063" wall chromoly tubing. In the sand they'll never see anything nasty like rocks or things that will tear them up. Not so in the desert. The next set of arms will be made out of 1.125" x .095" or .120" wall chromoly and then they'll be boxed in. They'll be extremely tough. For what it's worth, the front arms are already beefy units and are not going to be something that needs to be worried about.

Two other things that are going to happen before Snowflake are:
1) Paint! Yup, the Deztaz it going to get a paint job. The car will be stripped to the bare bones and the frame and suspension are getting the powder coat treatment. Colors you ask? You'll have to wait and see.
2) New fuel tank. The thirteen gallon tank is too small for the car. We got about five miles per gallon (yikes!) and thirteen gallons just isn't enough range. The new tank will be a lot closer to twenty gallons and we should have a range in the sand of closer to one hundred miles - even more in the dirt.

As soon as I get my video camera fixed - it's not happy with a belly full of sand - I'll get some video clips pulled and post them here. The camera worked pretty well for the first twenty five miles, but then the connection between the bullet camera and the camcorder started to fail and the picture goes bad. It was still recording right up to the point where we started working on the broken trailing arm - I turned it off and pulled it out there. If you look carefully, you can see the bullet camera between our heads, under the D of Dog.

Got the camera back yesterday (5/30/02), along with a note from the repair tech "Cleaned sand, a lot of sand, out of camera and realigned." Wonder what he would have said if I'd not already taken the camera apart and removed 95% of what was in there? (:

These videos are ancient and done with a poorly pointed old Sony digital camera.

First Pass of the race

Third Pass of the race

Highway Running

Mexico Point To Point
We Were Fast For 76 Miles - Too Bad It Was A 166 Mile Race...

Well, what can I say - this race was fun, action packed, adventurous and shorter than the planned distance. Bummer
Sorry, no pix or video this time. It just didn't work out...

Jay and I got lucky - well, sort of, we were the first 12 car off the line. That alone put us in first place (even though we run against the clock). The only problem was that they'd let at least 30 other cars leave before us. Including, right before us, the Class 5 cars - in other words the SLOW GUYS!!!

We caught up with the last 5 car in about three miles. By mile four, I'd dropped off to the left side of the track and made the pass, in the weeds. One down, many to go... What's this? Suddenly the rear of the Dez starts to seem a bit squirrelly. No, it can't be - I have a flat left rear! Don't know what I did to kill it, but it had to have happened during the pass. Crap. Our first pit is scheduled for mile 76! Jay immediately got on the radio and informed the crew of our situation. Even with the flat, I continued to catch and pass the Class 5 cars, and now some Class 10 cars too.

The flat tire wasn't that bad, from a driving point of view. I had to be a bit more careful in right hand corners, as the Dez wanted to slide into and through them. It still wasn't anything that was unbearable. The big issue was that we were running in the nasty rocky section of the course. Very rough terrain indeed. I'd lost about four inches of ground clearance and the tail of the Dez was slapping the ground through the small whoops and g-out sections with great regularity. I had to work very hard to take it easy on the car. There were a lot of rough choppy sections that I normally would have just flown over, but not now. I had to slow down a lot. Still, I managed to keep passing people with great regularity and I kept waiting to see Todd Elam (1252) in my mirrors, but he never showed.

The last time Jay and I had seen this section of the Mexico course was last year when we were running with the sick 800 twin. Last time, the Dez was barely able to get out of it's own way. Now we were flying. Speed made the course drastically rougher! We laughed about it on more than one occasion. Horsepower's GOOD!

Thank goodness for the two way radio. The course came along side the road at mile marker 26. We were able to update our pit strategy and get the crew to be ready for a tire change. The tire managed to stay on the rim right up to about 3/4 of a mile before the pit too - when it shredded, wow, what a vibrating, shaking nasty situation. We got very lucky that it held up for 20+ miles.

As Jay and I sat in the Dez, the crew went to work on the tire. We had a couple small issues, but over all the change went very well and pretty quickly. I did watch three class 12 cars go by, so that meant that we were now one and a half minutes down, but I didn't see this as a problem - it took them about five minutes to catch up to us. A splash of fuel and we were off again - this time heading along side the road. We passed one of the 12 cars within a couple minutes. Only two more to go to take the lead back. I was amazed at how much faster we were able to run with good sneakers on all four corners! I'd gotten used to the flat rear and didn't realize how much it had slowed us down.

The course went right along side the road for about 10 miles or so. This was fun! We ripped along, passing most of the traffic that was parallelling us. There was one little bronze colored Ranger Pickup truck that was having fun staying right beside us. I'd slow down for a dip or obstacle and so would he. I'd pull him as soon as I'd get back on the throttle and then he'd finally show up beside us as he caught up. It was pretty neat. We finally came to the point where we went back out into the desert and into the sandier part of the course. Time to let the Dez shine!

I'm not sure what point (mileage wise) we came to the dirt road, but man oh man were we moving! We had been in the dust behind second place 12 car for a bit and as we turned onto the dirt road, he blew it and went wide. Made for a nice easy pass. Now we just had to catch Todd. I was able to keep the Dez's throttle stuck to the floor for somewhere between ten and fifteen miles. We were ripping! Then came the sudden vibration - poofkaboom. We'd lost a belt. No biggy - just pull over and let Jay hop out and do his thing. Of course, it couldn't have gone completely smoothly - what was left of the belt had wrapped around the CV, but with a bit of work, Jay was able to clear it all and we were back running. There goes the 2nd place 12 car, though. No big deal - I had about 10 mph top end on him and we passed him back in a couple minutes. It was along this road that Jay and I suddenly smelled the faint odor of gasoline.

The course came back out along side the highway again. Once again, we were able to scream along the road, having a total blast and really enjoying the race. There's that smell again, though. Why are we smelling fuel? We were getting ready to find out.

We came to mile 76 - our originally planned first stop. A fill of the tank and we'd be off. So far, not counting the flat and belt, the race had been very good. The rest of the course was gonna be perfect for the Dez - deep sand. The other cars would have to push their way through the stuff - not the Dez, it sits up on top of the sand and isn't slowed down a bit. To make things even better, as I pulled up to our crew, guess who was just pulling in for his pit stop? Yup, car 1252 - first place! The crew started fueling the car and then I heard the dreaded words "Hey, we have a leak! - Gas is pouring out just as fast as it's going in!"
Oh no!
It seems the fuel tank had an issue. Sometime along the line, one of the seams had cracked and was now flowing quite freely.

The crew pulled a couple body panels and there it was, right by my left hip. Sure enough, the end cap of the tank had cracked. We were done. 76 of 166 miles. Still, we'd had a blast over those 76 miles. Hey, you can't finish them all!

In the end, I had a wonderful time. I had a few snags - flat, blown belt, cracked tank and I didn't manage to get the video camera turned on, but this is Desert Racing and it's BRUTAL. The tank rupture has been traced down to the flat. The chassis was slapping the ground hard, and I'm sure it flexed just a bit too. With the mounts being out on the end of the tank, it was just going to take time before it was stressed out enough to crack. The new tank will have a fuel cell inside the aluminum box and it won't be mounted on the ends - it will be strapped in. The lower left nerf bar mount will also have to be reattached - big rocks literally tear things off a car. Bummer! (:

I want to thank the ATV Racing crew again for doing my pit work. Neil and James were great as usual. I'd also like to thank Doug G and his buddies for helping out. Doug supplied a place to sleep the night before the race and also helped in the pits too. Thanks to my friend Jill for tagging along and helping with the radio too.

Not quite sure when the next Dez race will be. I need to check the schedule. I'll keep everyone posted when I find out.

12/19/02 - Quick update from Whiplash's web page - I took third even though I only went 76 miles! There were, I think, 8 entries in the class.

See ya in the Desert!

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