2021 CODE Off Road Hechicera Grand Prix -- 1st Place Class 1900 -- Textron Wildcat XX #1993

Sdracer

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Better late than never! It’s been a busy past month but please feel free to enjoy my CODE Off Road Hechicera Grand Prix Post Race Recap from last month. Feel free to skim or simply watch the YouTube Videos and check out the photos.


Thank you for your support!
Cheers,
-Mario Gutierrez Jr.
Gutierrez Racing #1993


Youtube Links:
Gutierrez Racing #1993 Hechicera Youtube Edit

Raw Helicopter YouTube Footage

With momentum and a bit more confidence from our previous Win at the CODE Off Road 200 mile Night Race in May, Team Gutierrez Racing wanted to keep the fire alive. I honestly wasn’t looking forward to the Hechicera Grand Prix because I knew it was going to be very dusty and a course that is hard to pass other cars and slower traffic on. However, I also knew it was going to be incredibly rough and have a fast pace because it was a 2 Heat style Grand Prix. Which luckily, is the environment that my car and myself excel in.

After finding and repairing some pretty decent cracks on the front chassis of the race car during the prep, as well as a faulty ignition coil and clicking rear axle after going testing only two weeks before the race. I was confident in our equipment and pleased to catch these issues early, rather than panicking the week of the race.

My dad, navigator Nick Almada and AGS Racing team of Cade Garcia and Evan got to Rancho Hechicera (20 miles east of Tecate) around 8:30am Friday morning. Nick and I hoped into our Wildcat XX prerunner and went and viewed the 22 mile race course. We did one lap and Nick already had over 200 course notes in his phone. The guy is incredible!

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This event was interesting because on Friday we had qualifying for starting positions for the first heat. I had never qualified before so I was excited and kinda nervous as well. Nick and I went and preran the qualifying loop, which was the same first ~4 miles of the race course, and then the qualifying course cut to the last mile of the race course. It was just less than a 5 miles qualifying loop. I knew that the fastest qualifier of our class did not necessarily have an advantage. Because they would be starting right behind the slowest cars in the turbo class.
With that said, I had a strategy to try and qualify right off the pace of the first 2 lead cars and land in 3rd. I wasn’t too sure how that strategy was going to play out, but I also knew that I didn’t want to destroy the car in qualifying. As the first 3 miles were huge whoops that the car could go through, but I would be taxing the car and the equipment. Which also wasn’t worth the “bragging rights” to me for qualifying on the pole.
Nick and I ran our qualifying lap at a conservative but strong pace and finished without any issues. I was happy with my run but wasn’t sure where we would end up.
Luckily, once results came out. I was right where I “tried” to be. 3rd place in Qualifying.

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Nick and I got back to camp. Regrouped and ran a few more prerun laps in the prerunner to help memorize the course. Toward the end of the day, I wanted to finalize the tune of the race car as well as have my dad follow us around the course in the prerunner. My dad won this race in 2003 in a 5/1600 Baja Bug when the Grand Prix was on the other side of the highway at a ranch called Jacume. However, CODE moved the Grand Prix across the highway to Rancho La Hechicera in 2015. My dad had never been around this course so I asked him to follow us. Nick and I ended up getting so comfortable in the racecar and flowed off of the notes being called, we ended up running near a race pace and having an absolute blast! After running one last flawless lap, we were ready for race day the next morning and I was even more confident that we had the car to beat.

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Race morning I knew that to compete for the win, we would first have to finish the first heat. We have to make it to heat two.
The green flag dropped minutes after 8 am at 20 second intervals between us and the #1900 car ahead of me and 40 seconds behind the #1999 car ahead of him. We took off and we were immediately in dust. We ran a safe pace to get around lap one and see where we were. We were at about race mile 8 and we can already see a freight train of bumper to bumper turbo cars about a mile ahead of us. This is why I had my qualifying strategy. The 2 cars ahead of me in my class had to get around these turbo cars while I was reeling in my competitors.
We passed 3 turbo cars on lap one and at the first mile into lap two I was just about on the bumper of the #1900 car and he dove out of the way. I could barely see the dust trail of the car now ahead of us and we picked up the pace a bit. The car felt amazing!
We were having a great 2nd lap and we’re making time on the dust trail we were chasing. At about the 12 mile mark of Lap 2 we noticed the leader was pulled over and pulling the rear tire off. I figured they had a flat and would be back on the road soon behind me. So I upped the pace a little more to try and make more dust and increase the now lead I had on 2nd place. We made it to the start of our 3rd and final lap and it was over 8 minutes before the 2nd place car came by. And it was the #1906 car, not the #1999 car.
Learning this information already over 8 minutes into our lap, I knew we had a very comfortable lead and slowed the pace to 70% and just safely got the car around to finish heat one in 1st place with over a 6.5 minute lead over 2nd place.

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Relieved and happy with our results, my team and I started looking over the car. We noticed a rear CV boot had fallen off of the CV housing and that the steering had a little slop. My team and I swapped out the rear axle, cleaned up the beautiful CV grease mess and got the back of the car all buttoned up and looked over. I made the decision that the steering slop was strong enough to make another 3 laps so we left it as is and looked over the rest of the car before TOPPING THE CAR OFF with fuel.
The car was ready for heat 2, which didn’t start for another 6 hours at 3:15pm.

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The start of Heat 2 came around and because we won Heat 1, we started first in the 1900 class. And still 20 seconds behind the last place finishing cars of the Turbo class. The green flag dropped and I knew we just had to get around the course 3 times and have zero issues to pull off the combined time win. Even with that mindset, we still caught a few turbo cars ahead of us on lap one. Given the split times from my guys, I knew that the 2nd and 3rd place 1900 cars were not too far behind me at about 15 - 25 seconds. We were in dust the entire 1st lap but we were able to drive conservatively and still hold the lead. We stayed out front until about race mile 7 of Lap 2 and I made the decision that I didn’t want to jeopardize the overall race win, by driving hard through the dust ahead of me and trying to keep the cars in my class behind me. I pulled over when I saw the headlights of the 2nd place car less than 10 seconds behind me, and 3rd place came by right behind him as I pulled to the side.
I was now sitting in 3rd place and just hung out there just behind the dust trail of the first and second place 1900 cars for the rest of lap 2 and the last lap as well. Nick and I ended up finishing less than 2 minutes physically behind the leader, but we pulled off the overall class 1900 win by over 4.5 minutes once official times were released!

It was very exciting to pull off back to back CODE wins and now be leading the Class 1900 Points Championship with only 2 races left in the season!

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I give so much credit of these last two finishes to Nick and his killer notes and skills he brings to the passenger seat. He’s calm, we laugh, he keeps me in check and let’s me know that the pace is where we need to be running.
My father (MG2 Race Prep) is the biggest contributor to my success. He allows me to use his own Wildcat XX as my prerunner and helps with the logistics, transportation as well as the long nights in the garage getting the car buttoned up or helping me troubleshoot issues that develop prior to race day. This race was on his birthday this year, and I dedicated the win to him! How’s that for a birthday present?
This was also the first race of the season my mother was able to attend and it was so great to see her cheering us on in pit row and see her hands in the air when we got back to the pits after the finish of heat two!
I’ve got to give a shout out to all my friends and family that came down to support us this race. We got the Cuzins by the Dozens back together for the first time since the 2017 Baja 1000 and even my 91 year old great uncle Ruben Gutierrez Sr. (who is a big part of why my family even races in the desert in the first place) came down to support my 14 year old cousin Eva Malabanan (#1919) and myself.

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The car is currently enduring a full chassis up prep for the next CODE race October 16th. The next race up is the Mexican Logistics 500. It is scheduled to go from Mexicali, to San Felipe, and then back up to Mexicali. A true endurance race that I am looking forward to as I believe we have the car, team, and the logistics to pull off another strong finish! I will be splitting driving duties with someone I’m excited to announce as we get closer to the race and a course map is released.

#GutierrezRacing
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#1993
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Last edited:

notime

NTR Films media guy
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Awesome recap as usual

Heads up the Mex500 will be 300
3-90 miles lap on laguna salada
 
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