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BAP 2016 - a new racer's story

kyle_pc_75

Well-Known Member
Battle at Primm 2016

Prologue – To make a long story short, Tim Seward had been goading me for a while with this idea. “Let’s race the Baja 1000 in Bajalites with a race or two previous to get us into the groove of racing Baja” with trucks that we had never even driven before. I was in almost immediately. It sounded like more of a good idea than a bad one. It was decided that Primm would be our training ground, and that Pistol Pete would be our enabler. Tim had found a sponsor in Golden Leaf Holdings, the nation’s leading manufacturer of cannabis oil products. Cool.

The next few months were spent working out logistics, saving up money, securing vacation time and the like. Primm would be practicably easy next to any race held in Mexico, and we considered it our training ground for any event held south of the border. Pete proved to be a consistently reliable resource in prepping the trucks and offering advice. If you didn’t follow his advice, it wasn’t his fault…so we did. As Primm neared, we decided that Tim would pick me up in Park City, and then we would continue on to Vegas to pick up our two drivers/co-drivers, Andy and Chris. I had never met either one before, but Andy was the brother of Tim’s wife Michelle, and Chris was a friend of his. I figured that was good enough.

Long story short, it was.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 – Today was the real start of Primm for me. Tim was to spend the night at my house so we could leave Park City early in the morning and reach Primm at a reasonable hour. After going through my pile of racing stuff for the umpteenth time, Tim showed up with a toothbrush and a bottle of Glenlivet. We had a few drinks, reminisced about races past, and fantasized about races future. We would get up early, head to Vegas, pick up Andy and Chris, and then get settled in Primm.

For the first time, I was feeling more excited than nervous. Tomorrow would be the beginning of a true journey. For someone who had been involved in desert racing for so many years, this would be something different. Not only would I be involved in the race, I would really be part of the race in a way I never had been before.

This was not my place to be Race or Timing Director, not Co-Driver, but DRIVER.


Thursday, TRAVEL DAY – Despite the single malt, Tim and I successfully got loaded and on the road by 8 AM. We had woken up to rain in Park City, and I hadn’t felt bad about missing a weekend of skiing in the first place, but this sort of cemented the fact that I was doing the right thing by racing Primm. We got an early start so we could make the trip down to Primm a fairly casual one. We stopped at the gas station to fuel up and get some snacks for the road and then we were off.

The drive went fairly quickly and smoothly, with some intermittent rain and high winds. Apparently the winds were all over the American West, and my parents’ flight was delayed due to weather and I got word from the Water Department that it was knocking power out left and right and knocking down communications antennae. I then severed my communications ties with work knowing I had amazing staff to figure it all out and knew my parents would get off the ground soon. It was time to focus on racing.

We considered stopping at Toquerville to get a souvenir for Andy (get it?), but decided it was too far off the highway and kept rolling. At about 3 PM, we rolled into Vegas and made our way to the Encore to pick up Andy and Chris. I had never met either one, so I was a little nervous. I had no idea what to expect from the guys who we would be racing with in two days.

Turns out, personalities meshed quite well. Andy is a super smart guy, and Chris is way laid back. We heard rumors about the night they had spent in Vegas, but didn’t really pursue the details. I figured we were already friends, and that demanded respect for the whole “Vegas” thing. The plan was to stop at the last grocery store south of Vegas, which Jarad and I had successfully visited on several trips to the Mint 400.

Unfortunately, we missed the exit. I searched on my phone for another store before or in Jean or Primm. Despite the suburban sprawl, nothing came up, so we decided to drive through suburbia on our way back to Albertson’s because we knew there must be something. A couple miles in we came upon a small market. We walked in, picked up some beer, and also some simple makings for sandwiches for dinner and later lunches. It was then on to the road to Primm.

Between Vegas and Primm, all four of us really got to talking, and I began to feel more comfortable with the team. Andy and Chris talked a lot of ****, but they really both seemed down to earth. I was especially glad to hear that they were really interested in learning from the experts (as was I). We arrived in Primm and walked through the pits, checking out the few vehicles that had already arrived. It was Tim and my goal to give Andy and Chris as much of a taste of the desert as possible.

As the sun dropped, we decided to walk through the pits as usual to check out who had rolled in so far. We spied the usual green and black of the Bonehammer, (Brian Bonham), and several other vehicles whose owners we rcognized. After a quick stroll, we ran into Brian and crew and talked for a bit. They had spent some time tuning with TJ Flores, so we were excited for the chances of the Bonehammer. He had had a run of bad luck and we all wanted to see a run of the good stuff.

It was time for dinner. Unfortunately, we had underplanned. Sandwhiches would have been fine, but I opened the mayonnaise to find it severely separated. If you know what I mean, it means that there’s a gelatinous mass of egg white and whatever else sunk below a layer of oily whatever else. That seemed like a red flag, so I checked the date on the lid. Yes, three months expired. The packaged turkey was even further far gone. The processed cheese was ok, and the bread, despite being slightly expired, was not quite ready to be processed into croutons. Bread and cheese sandwiches it was for that evening.

Well, we didn’t starve, and Tim caught up with Pete, who said he’d be rolling in to town at 2 or 3 AM. We wouldn’t be waiting up. Around 10 or 11 we met up with the 936 team, the Blackleys, but we were all tired. There was a silly BroFight at the Tree Bar, and we all knew that since it was the first night, there’d be plenty more to witness without sticking around to see this one. No need to start the chaos early, we all knew it would come soon enough.

It was time to get into a racing frame of mind.


DAY 3 – TESTING DAY – We all agreed to gather at the trucks around 8:30 AM for a shakedown run. To be clear, we weren’t really going to be testing the trucks, but the drivers and codrivers. We knew the trucks were solid, but none of us had ever raced in them before. Tim was the only one with any off-road racing experience, while I had driven many fast vehicles off-road and codriven a handful of races. Andy had lots of on road racing experience. Chris? Well, he was just plain excited.

The team, minus Pistol, met at Denny’s for breakfast. The first thing we found out was that apparently the Baja Sur 500, the race we were prepping for, was cancelled. Tim had seen it online and shared it with the group, and after confirming on SCORE’s website, it was deemed legitimate. After some discussion, we figured we’d find an alternative, and the NORRA Mexican 1000 seemed like a good candidate. However, we had bigger things to worry about today, namely, getting comfortable with the BajaLites.

We headed out to the parking lot of Buffalo Bill’s and found the BajaLites right away. The advertising for Golden Leaf Holdings gave them away pretty quickly. There was a guy scrambling all over the trucks, so we introduced ourselves and met Jameson, Pistol Pete’s main prep guy and mechanic. Pete would be there in about a half hour, so we spent the time familiarizing ourselves with the trucks as best we could.

Pete showed up shortly thereafter. Now, keep in mind that this is the second time I’ve met Pete, but the first was an extremely brief handshake at the inaugural BRT race in Texas. He has quite the internet persona, but no intelligent man judges another man based upon a forum presence. Pete was no different. He doesn’t shout all the time, he’s a very shrewd businessman, and he knows what the hell he’s doing. He’s very down to earth, no BS. The hair is real. We all immediately liked him.

After some brief discussion, we decided to head out to Jean, NV on a portion of the Mint course for some testing time. Pete seemed really grateful that we had some actual experience racing in the desert, albeit widespread among the group. It was still different than what he was used to with his clients. It was agreed that we would wear all of our safety gear to get used to the trucks in a real racing situation.

We, the drivers, thought we might get some instruction from Pete on the specific trucks we’d be driving, but he just sent us out with some basic instruction:

· Full safety gear

· Don’t hit each other

· The rev limiter is your friend

OK, good enough. Tim and Chris headed out in one truck, Kyle and Andy in another.

After a few miles, Tim had some electrical issues, so they pulled over back at Pete’s truck. Andy and I did the same, and suddenly the oil pressure dropped. That’s never good. We tried to troubleshoot the pressure gauge, but that wasn’t the problem, so we decided to call it quits on the second truck before killing it. We would all take some laps on the first truck (3042) and get used to it. Pete and Jameson would pull things apart later that evening.

Well, we all felt like stellar drivers. I hit the top speed of 81 mph for the group, which made me feel good. I codrove with Andy for a few laps, and he was an incredible driver. I felt the team was solidifying for sure.

Later that afternoon, we headed back to Primm to get at least one of the trucks through tech. Pete and Jameson were working to find the oil pressure problem on 3022, while we were headed over to get the registration paperwork finished up. We ran into Joe Cammans and team there, including Lance Nielson of course, and caught up for a while. They informed us of the Bonehammer’s bad luck involving his head gasket failing during testing just before the race. We were all disappointed that Brian wouldn’t be racing, but knew that was part of it. We finished up our paperwork and headed back to tech.

By this point, my parents, who insisted on watching their son race in person, had made it into town from Iowa, so I introduced them to all my racing friends as we rolled 3042 through tech. My parents are pretty damn cool, and so are my friends, and I was so happy to see the two worlds come together. It was a moment for me.

Sometime while rolling through tech, I start hearing rumors of what was causing the oil pressure issue. Apparently, a rag was sucked up into the oil pickup. This sounded far fetched, but then again, Pete uses junkyard 2.4 Ecotec’s in his cars, so it’s not completely out of the picture. The junkyard pulls an intake, stuffs a rag in the head to keep debris out, you get the picture…I blame no one. It was just one of those weird things.

But hell, Pete’s an awesome guy, and they spend the better part of the evening getting the bits of rag out of the motor, get it running again (it sounds awesome), and we’re able to squeeze it through tech before the evening ends. It’s running strong at 65 psi of oil pressure, so we’re happy for the time being. Pete, being the honest guy, doesn’t believe it’ll last all weekend, but instructs us to run it until it does. That’s what we’ll do.

We attend the drivers’ meeting, which is a bit too conflicted for my tastes, but it is what it is. Thereafter, we have a nice steak dinner, courtesy of Andy. Time for bed and dreams of racing.

I’m feeling extremely relaxed at this point. I wasn’t expecting this.

DAY 4 – RACE DAY 1 – I slept very well, but was also very excited and woke up around 6 AM. I turned on the news, made one final check that all my gear was in order, and pulled on my race suit. The troops gathered around the trucks early when Jameson and his helper showed up. Pete would be there in a few minutes. Everyone was excited, but the air was unexpectedly calm.

We all got completely suited up and loaded in the two BajaLites. By now, we were all comfortable with the various layers and types of new safety equipment and got loaded up pretty quickly. We then drove over to staging, Andy and me taking the lead with Tim and Chris right behind me. We were talking to Pete the whole way, him giving us last minute tips and advice. At one point he said, “You guys both sound very calm, that’s good.” He was right, and for Tim, I wasn’t surprised, but me, I was. I didn’t have an ounce of nervousness in me. I felt like I was just sitting on my couch, waiting for a screen to load in the old Xbox game “Baja: Edge of Control”. Andy and I would talk back and forth a little, but it was easy conversation.

Soon enough, we were staged, Tim’s car and my car in the second row. We watched the countdown to start and the first row took off. We inched forward to start, and before we knew it, were given the green flag. We were off! Myself, being a green driver, instantly felt the pressure, and felt the inside and outside cars were squeezing me off, and backed off a bit to let them have the lead. As soon as we reached the first corner I felt I was back in the game. My plan for Primm was to get to know the truck, to practice for Baja.

The day before, I had tried a little left foot braking, you know, right foot on the gas, left on the brake, but decided I wasn’t going to get that down well enough for the race to really utilize it and decided on just driving it like a regular car. The thing is, racing on dirt is a LOT different than driving around town, something I quickly realized as I was losing ground to those in front of me and watching cars and trucks start to catch and pass us from behind. About five miles in, I decided to hell with it, I’m going to learn left foot braking NOW!

Andy was giving me a few pointers and directions, as he has lots of road racing experience, which was actually very helpful. Each lap felt a little faster than the last. The truck was amazing and Andy and I did a lot of hooting and hollering. He kept pushing me to push myself and the truck and I was just amazed at what it could do. It felt as easy to drive as the old Chevy Utah on the interstate. Corners felt effortless, and the huge travel combined with just enough power made us fly over the jumps and land as if we were on a gigantic feather bed. Pete had designed one hell of a truck.

About the 3rd lap, Andy really started giving me driving pointers. Pete was very encouraging over the radio, and it was fun to hear how well Tim was doing, not that I was surprised. I think it was on the fourth lap that Andy told me to run on the rev limiter, which surprised me, because I thought I had heard Pete say to stay out of it. Apparently I misheard. I think it was at this time that I started to feel really fast. We had been passing some 5 and 9 cars, even a 3000 at one point. I was completely happy with my driving, still feeling completely relaxed.

It was on the 5th lap that we started to notice the oil pressure drop again. I remembered hearing Pete tell it to run it until it blew up, but I didn’t feel comfortable with that as Andy needed to drive tomorrow, and I was hoping maybe the situation was salvageable. About 50 feet shy of the finish of lap 5, after consultation with Pete, we pulled off the track and called it quits. There would be no placing at Primm with a Day One DNF, but I felt it was the right decision for our dreams of Baja.

Andy got out of the car, the officials pulled us back to our pit, and my mom and dad were there to greet and congratulate me. It was so cool. I had finally driven in a desert race. When I attended my first Bonneville Off-Road Racing event in Wendover in 2010, I never dreamed this would have happened. When I codrove for a few different BOR races, I figured racing was too expensive and time consuming to do without a team. When I started organizing and running BOR races, I figured that was what I was good at and happy doing. This day had changed my whole perspective.

To be honest, the rest of the day was pretty much a blur due to the feeling of accomplishment and euphoria. I remember getting cleaned up, hanging out with my parents and friends, answering all of my mom’s questions about what was going on, finding out that Tim got 3rd in class, enjoying spectating the rest of the heats, Pete calling it quits on the motor, and sleeping REALLY well.

At some point, we had decided that Andy would drive the remaining truck on the next day with Chris codriving. Chris, like me, really enjoys codriving, and according to Tim was very good at it. We really needed Andy to get the driving practice in. Tim and I would offer pit and spotting support from various points on the track.

Race Day 2 would turn out to be quite a day. But isn’t every day in desert racing?

DAY 5 – RACE DAY 2 – Today, as I was not racing, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought we might be helping out in the pits, spotting on course, or who knows what. Turns out Pete and another assistant, Christian, had the pits handled, so Tim and I would monitor the CORR track, infield and dyke jump. We had brought our handheld radios so we could communicate with Pete in the hot pits and Andy and Chris in the race truck.

We headed out at the same time as Race Day 1 to help Andy and Chris get settled into the truck, get the GoPro rolling, and everything else. They were ready to roll. We watched the start, saw the dyke jump from a distance, and then waited for them to roll into the infield, which is just shy of the start/finish. We were excited, they were just 11 seconds behind the two 3000 buggies that beat Tim on Day 1. However, we knew that the track got so beat up by the Unlimiteds that our truck would have an advantage through the rough terrain over the rear engine buggies.

He went through one corner, two corners, and then not quite three corners, before he slowly rolled it onto the passenger side. No worries, we thought, there’s a recovery truck right there. They’ll get him righted quite quickly. The SNORE truck gets the tow strap hooked up and are ready to right them when a 9 car drives through the tow strap, snapping it, causing the recovery crew to start all over again. Long story short, we lose five minutes on the first lap. Word on the radio was that the 9 car was to be heavily penalized for reckless driving, but that wouldn’t help our standing in Class 3000.

Tim was super supportive and giving good direction over the radio. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the rollover had snapped the radio antenna on the truck, so they couldn’t hear much. The recovery crew was also giving them direction on how to start the car safely after a rollover without hydrolocking the engine. Big props to SNORE on that, later witnessed on the GoPro footage.

Andy had lost a bit of fiberglass, but was driving well, and making good time. After some point, we heard that they had rolled over again, but with no radio contact, we weren’t sure. It turned out to be true. In the process and confusion, they rolled through Start/Finish just in time to start their 6th lap. They were absolutely bare of fiberglass at this point, meaning there were no numbers on the truck. S/F wasn’t even sure they had made it through on time, but they became the last official truck on course.

From here, it was all hopes and dreams that Andy would hold it together for one more lap. In all desert races, once the course is closed, checkpoints start calling out when the last vehicle on course has passed through. Funny thing is, with no numbers, none of them knew quite sure how to announce Andy’s passing. Announcements started coming through of “Truck with no numbers, is that the last truck on course?”, “Clothing Optional Racing through Check 4”, “The Streaker through Check 9” and so on. There might, just might, be some audio recording of the radio chatter….

Anyway, Tim/Andy and Chris finished the race, and can stand on a 5th place overall out of 9 entries in Class 3000. I got last in class, but could’ve gotten 8th if I had pushed that last 50 feet to finish lap 5. All in all, I think we were happy to get to know the trucks in preparation for Baja. I had an amazing time.

In the end, we hurried to load the remaining 3000 truck on the trailer, as Pete was going to replace the fiberglass and race it in San Felipe the following weekend. They took off right away, while the rest of us enjoyed the remainder of the racing at Primm. Tim, Andy, Chris and I then headed off to the Hard Rock for one night in Vegas, where all of us (except maybe Chris) rested and slept hard.

DAY 6 – TRAVEL DAY – Tim needed to be home by about 5 PM since he had to work a long shift in Pokie that night, so we woke and headed out around 3:30 AM. We stopped at McDonalds and bought breakfast for ourselves and a dude who looked like he was down on his luck, and headed straight for Park City. We traded driving duties and naps, drove through some slight flurries and arrived at my house. I unloaded most of my gear (apparently forgot a camp stove that we never used and some other minor stuff), and basically collapsed on the couch.

Tim made it home and through his shift without incident.

EPILOGUE – What a fantastic experience. I have to thank Tim, Andy, Chris, Pete, my parents, all my fellow BOR racers, SNORE, and everyone else who made this happen. We are now planning for the NORRA Mexican 1000, which is quite a different experience from the desert racing we’re used to. It’ll be a ten day trip to Mexico, including racing, resort life, and a small stay on the beach at Cabo. Looking forward to it, and to sharing it all with you.

Until Baja!!!
 

BANNED4LIFE

Well-Known Member
just for ACCURACY: yes, I ONLY use low mileage wrecking yard engines EXCEPT the engine in question that failed.....it was a "NEW" engine that was given to me because it was in a 3000 truck that had the bolts from the torque converter come loose and cut a hole in the rear of the block through an oil galley....I pulled the pan and checked the rod bearings: they were perfect so we welded it up and installed it.....but obviously there was a rag/blue shop towel actually that was inside the front cover and got into the chain and shredded and went into the pan and clogged the oil pickup .....we disassembled the front of the engine in the parking lot and got all the debris out but obviously there was some bearing damage even though the oil pressure was 65psi at an idle....%#it happens....
 

_TimS

Well-Known Member
One hell of a story, Kyle. Can't wait to read the NORRA experience.

Shtuff happens on the motor, and Pete more than made up for it by offering up NORRA as an alternative to Baja Sur.
 
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