2021 CODE Off Road La Tetera Night Race -- 1st Place Class 1900 -- Textron Wildcat XX #1993

Sdracer

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Please enjoy the (very detailed) Post Race Recap from the CODE Off Road La Tetera Night Race from a couple weeks ago. Feel free to skim or simply watch the YouTube Video and check out the photos.

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

You Tube Link

Coming out of a 3rd place finish at the first CODE race of the year, the plan was to land on the podium again and keep chasing the Class 1900 CODE Championship. MG2 Race Prep (Mario Gutierrez Sr/Jr Race Prep) was a pretty simple prep for the Night Race. We found and reinforced some cracks which were at the front of the chassis, repaired the damage from getting crashed into at my pit from the last race, as well as got all the new Baja Design lights installed with Axia Alloy roll cage mounts and wired by my good friend Bobby Olimon of Racewire. Another big part of the preparation for the Night Race was the new full body wrap. I’ve had this design in my head since I bought the car in 2018. I knew I wanted to take the classic PPI Ivan Stewart layout and add a bit of a flare to it. The chrome red definitely helped make this design POP. Couldn’t be any happier with the work Damian of JD Designs was able to knock out as well as the patience he had with me through the entire process.

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My dad, girlfriend and buddy Scott LeSage got to Laguna Salada around 4:30pm the Friday before the race with the race car and my XX prerunner. Scott and I usually ride with each other when one of us races. We have a great chemistry together in the car and know what each other wants to hear from the navigator while in the driver's seat. He had prior obligations on race day, but offered to come help me make notes prerunning as my registered navigator wasn’t going to arrive before sundown. Scott and I unloaded the prerunner and got started on my first lap around the 65 mile course. It took about 2.5 hours to do a lap, taking our time, running numerous lines and finding new lines. We got back just before sunset, did a little photo shoot with the race car and continued to prerun in my head. My navigator Nick Almada showed up shortly after and we started getting our plan together to make sure we were ready to run another lap in the morning.

Saturday morning Nick and I went and shook down the race car to confirm all was well and then quickly got registered and the race car through tech inspection. The CODE Off Road Organizer Joaquin Rodriquez, kindly greeted me with my 3rd Place trophy and winnings from the Grand Prix. It’s always awesome to receive anything in return for the hard work we put into racing in this industry. Very fortunate to race a series like CODE, where their best interest is the racer themselves.

After getting through tech, Nick and I hopped in the prerunner to go see another lap of the course. Nick has a unique way of taking and calling notes but he’s been very successful in that right seat so I was interested to learn his different approach. Again, we took our time and found some very effective lines that helped us maintain momentum and many that were smoother than the marked course; which also helps preserve the car for the length of the race. We finished our prerun and I was pretty confident that we would be in good shape when the green flag dropped. I later learned that some of our local competitors had seen the course as many as 12 laps. Which is quite an advantage, but I didn’t let that get into my head and affect our strategy.

Nick and I relaxed and got a little bit of rest before having to get suited up for the 7PM race start. We woke up and had more of our pit and chase team arrive. I led a quick pit meeting with the team and dispersed my spare tires and fluids/parts boxes and sent them on their way to their positions on the course. My dad was the pit boss with my buddies Gil and Will Salazar and their wife’s Bobbi and Cindy helping my dad in the pits with my girlfriend Janelle taking notes on doing corrected timing.

Nick and I headed to the start line, and the nerves started kicking in. We began to stage and after counting our starting position, I learned another car entered our class for a total of 11 Naturally Aspirated cars. I was starting 10th, due to picking a rear start at registration. From seeing the cars starting at 30 second intervals ahead of us, I can see the wind is blowing the dust pretty strongly. Hoping that also works in our favor, next thing I know the green flag drops, we put the pedal down and all the nerves are now gone. At a comfortable but slightly aggressive pace, we start picking off cars that started ahead of us within the first few miles. Working our way through the field on alternative lines that were found during prerunning, we were in the top 5 before race mile 10. With the sun setting and all of our Baja Designs lights now turned on, the #1999 car that started behind me was getting closer. With his lights behind us getting brighter and brighter, we moved off of the main line and let him by. Knowing he was one of our strongest competitors, I knew we couldn’t let him get too far out of our sights. We maintained our 70% race pace and stayed within 30-60 seconds of car #1999 the entire first lap. Nick was doing outstanding keeping us on our marks and we came into the pit at the end of lap one for a full tank of fuel and a look over on the car. Still running the OEM fuel tank, we knew that we would be at a disadvantage to our competitors with larger capacity fuel cells. However, we came into the pit a minute behind the leading #1900 car and had just passed the #1999 who was in his pit as well. After leaving the pit, the #1999 car got out back in front of us by about a minute and the #1900 car did not stop to pit so they put another 2.5 minutes back on us.

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Starting lap 2 we were in a good position and racing hard against the leaders. We upped the pace slightly to 80% and made sure not to make any mistake that would cost us any down time. Again, Nick was calling a great race and the car still felt as strong and healthy as it did on lap one. However, we were now catching lap traffic from the slower limited classes and the wind had stopped a bit so the dust was getting bad. We were still chasing the amber colored tail lights of the 2 cars in our class who were ahead of us so I knew they were dealing with the same challenges on the course that we were. We were holding our race pace until about race mile 45 on the dry lake bed when the dust was stagnant. In a spot where we should be doing well over 75-85 mph, it seemed like we were crawling at 10-15 mph. We could not even barely see the hood of our car! In situations like this we turn off the higher mounted lights and turn on the lower mounted amber colored lights to help increase our vision through the dust. With this, we were able to pick up about 5 mph to keep moving forward. The dust was like this for about 8 miles before it finally cleared up enough to jump back into our 80% race pace for the last 10 miles of lap 2. We were not sure if the 1st and 2nd place cars had the same issues with the dust on the lake bed like we did. So we questioned how much time they put on us while we were crawling. To our surprise, we again passed the #1999 car in his pit and pulled into our pit right behind the #1900. Slightly after stopping for fuel and water bottles, the #1999 went by both us and the #1900 car in his pit ahead of me. The #1900 car then leaves his pit and we follow with a full tank of fuel about a minute behind him. We know we have to just finish within 2.5 minutes of the #1900 car who started third, to beat him on time. But we would have to catch, pass, and then put 30 seconds on the #1999 car who was now leading the race.

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Something snapped starting the last lap and I was confident in the car, confident in the lines Nick and I were running and knew that we just had to do it one more time. I put my head down, and was on a mission! We were now running a 95% pace and even a 105% pace in some sections and we were catching more lap traffic cars and can see the tail lights of 2nd place. We catch and pass the #1900 car cleanly around race mile 10 and kept the foot to the floor hunting for the 1st place car on the road. I told Nick, “Dude, you’re doing an amazing job! I’m having a blast!” He replied with “I’m glad I could be of your services” we both shared a laugh and then went right back into hunt mode. We just passed the 15 mile marker and I can see the rear amber lights of the leader getting closer and closer. I’ve shared before, that there really is no other feeling in life that compares to catching another race car's dust, at night. The adrenaline that kicks in is such a surreal natural high. I explain it as being similar to how a shark reacts when they sense blood in the water.

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Next thing we know we are right on the #1999 car and he moved right out of the way without putting up a fight at all. He must have thought we were a vehicle from another class because he let us by with ease. I drove by as fast as I could just to get that jump and make up the 30 seconds I knew we had to gain in order to win. I could see that we were losing his lights behind us but I still maintained the 95% pace because I knew we were getting to a rougher section of the course, where the #1999 car would be able to make a bit of time on us due to how much longer his car was than mine. Sure enough, we get to that section and I can see his bouncing lights getting brighter and closer and I begin to push the car harder because I knew if I can keep him off through this section, I would be able to make my 30 seconds back in the last 30 miles to the finish. I was blown away by how well the FOX Factory Race Series Internal Bypass shocks were continuing to soak up all the whoops, rocks, and holes that we put it through at speed through this section. The shocks didn’t show any signs of fading or any harshness, this cat is dialed!

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We made it to the high speed graded road at the furthest south part of the course before heading back north, this was my race! We stayed on the throttle and Nick was still on point by calling all of his notes off the iPhone and we were passing dozens of baja bugs and limited Volkswagen classes as we made our way to the lake bad at race mile 45. I knew that we needed to be in clean air to have a chance at gapping the 2nd and 3rd place cars. And in our favor, we were just able to get around another baja bug before opening the car up and hammering down the lake bed at 79 mph. We made it to the last road crossing with 7 miles to go, and I radioed out to my chase supporters to please give me a split on the 2nd place car. They got back to me a minute later and said I had a one minute physical gap on the #1999 car. Knowing that information can be favored a few seconds short of one minute, I kept the charging pace to the finish and physically finished 1st place in class as well as 1st physical UTV after passing the leading Turbo UTV in the last couple corners of the race.

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Nick and I were super excited to make it to the finish line in 1st, but knew that it was going to be very close on corrected time. So be it, the #1999 car finished 17 seconds behind me and beat us on time by 13 seconds. But after CODE looked at the transponders, official results showed us winning the race due to the #1999 car missing a VCP (virtual check point) and receiving a 10 minute penalty. But not only did we win our class, we beat all of the 14 Turbo UTV cars and ended up 4th Place Overall 4 Wheel vehicle only getting beat by a Class 10 buggy and two unlimited V8 buggies!

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I cannot thank my family and my friends enough for coming down and staying up all night to help support my efforts at this race. I thank my dad for always giving me a hand in the garage to help with prepping the car. There wasn’t a single prep related issue with the car whatsoever and not a drop of oil anywhere. The car held up incredibly! Thank you dad, for all your help and sharing your many years of Baja knowledge down. Thank you to my girlfriend Janelle Belzer for doing the timing in the pits and riding it through the windy night and supporting this crazy passion of mine. I have to thank Nick Almada for coming down from Los Angeles to ride with me last minute without any hesitation when I asked him if he was willing to navigate for me. His talent in the right seat played a huge part in the success of this race. I hope we can make it happen again at the next one! Another thank you to the Salazar family for helping hold it down in the pits for their first time helping my team. Our two pits were flawless and they really didn’t show that this was their first Baja pit helping me. Naturals!! And thank you to my chasers; (Steve Bruton, & Raul Gutierrez; Alberto Duran; Romulo Gomez, Anthony Guzman, Richie Brugger; Cesar Preciado & his father) who took their vehicles on the course to be there in case of an unscheduled stop. I saw all of you, every lap. The split times at the road crossings were so clutch! I am so thankful for the support!

The #1993 Wildcat XX would not be as competitive as it is without the support of every sponsor that plays a part in this program. FOX Factory simply has the best shocks in the off road industry, hands down. The prototype internal bypasses on this car never hiccupped once. We were on rails all night and never once felt like we were out of shape or out of control! Thank you to all my boys at FOX who help tune and service all of my shocks on all of my vehicles! #RideFOX. I am very grateful to have sponsors who are like family to me as well. Bobby Olimon and Cameron Anderson of Swift Powdercoat bend over backward to help with not only my Powder Coating needs, but sharing their knowledge and their own connections in the industry to help me out. is above and beyond! I have to give a shout out to Fernando and Nate at Team Alba Racing. They are the reason we have one of the quickest N/A cars out there. Super fortunate to have #AlbaPower in my corner! Coby Herzog of Herzog Automotive, who is the best mechanic in North County! Thank you for all of your support Coby! There is no competition for the Baja Designs Lights! We were able to turn the night time into day light with the Squadron XL80’s up top and break through the blinding dust with the Squadron Pro’s with Amber lenses down low. Thank you to Axia Alloys for holding those lights in place as well as for their very useful rear view mirror - sun visor combo. The sun visors were a lifesaver before the sun fell over the mountains and the darkness came. Thank you to Luke McMillin for all of his logistical support and driving tips and secrets that are shared pre and post-race. It means a lot! Racing for 200 miles in the Laguna Salada takes a toll on drive train components and it can be chore to keep temperatures down when driving hard across the desert. That is no issue for the Cryoheat drivetrain and CV axles when paired with Maxima Racing Oil fluids and lubricants! This course had so many exposed as well as hidden rocks, I know we hit a couple but the Tensor 33” DSR tires paired with the Vision GV8BL Invader wheels, we didn’t have a single flat! And we have yet to, in over 2000 hard desert miles on this tire/wheel combo! I thank Casey Jefferies and Robby Gordon of Speed SXS for all of their support with my Wildcat XX and for always answering the phone to help me out! The suspension and axles on this car are bullet proof! I have the best transaxle mounts in the industry thanks to Gilberto Ramirez of GForce Dynamics! Thank you to Speedwerx for more go fast parts and PCI Race Radios for being the leaders in Off Road Communications for DECADES! And of course thank you to San Diego’s leading off road retailer, Off Road Warehouse. I can always count on Josh Nichols for having what I need when I’m in a crunch for time!

The Gutierrez Racing #1993 Wildcat XX should now be 2nd in the CODE Off Road points race for Class 1900 and only a few points out of the lead which is an awesome place to be going into the 3rd race of the 5 race season. We are already prepping for the Hechicera Grand Prix which will be held just East of Tecate, Baja California on July 24th. Hope to see you there!!

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Mario Gutierrez Jr.
 
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