Doherty Race 804


Well-Known Member
Sep 20, 2001
Orange County, CA
TT’s call on the tips sheet for the Doherty team turned out to be quite
accurate. “37’s A Question”.

First, the end, then the beginning.

We timed out at race mile 182. (OK, 181.99). at the end of Matomi Wash. I
suppose it could be said we timed out at some point earlier, but that is
entirely too much math for me. We drove it to that point, met with the rest
of the crew, consoled them, and slowly drove back to San Felipe in caravan.

So, the report.

This was supposed to be a last fling for a 14 year old Class 8 truck. The
idea started with “Change the oil, fix the ball joint, and go racing”. It
became quite a bit more on the prep side. The only thing not to come out of
the truck was the seats. Lots of new stuff in front. Ball joints, bump
stops, fresh motor, shock service and other little things. Rear end housing
out and sent to get straightened if needed. New gears, new wheels, springs
re-arched and new hardware for all of that. Bump stops serviced. New tire
size. Up to 37” projects from the 35” Baja’s.

Into contingency and out by noon. Truck back to the hotel. Fiddle and fawn
over the truck doing little stuff. Mostly me setting up shop for the right
seat. The radio, the gauges, the belts… Stuff like that. In the evening a
team pow-wow to set out the chase plans. Who goes where, with what, and
where to next. Just like every other team that day.

Race morning we warm it up, have more of our little driver/co-driver chat,
drive it to the start line and inch to the green flag. We know we are not
the thoroughbred of the field. We also know that if we use all that the
truck gives us, and no more, we will get the best possible result. The truck
will tell us what it likes and what it does not like. We will pay attention
to that.

The green flag drops and we leave. The big picture plan is to drive for no
down time. At a short race like this, making up lost time and positions is
much more difficult than in a long race. The truck tells us it does not like
the whooped out section up to three poles. The rear shocks are way off. The
bump stops seem weak. So be it. Mike keeps his head and does not over drive
the truck. We see TT with the radar gun. We are passed because we are slower
than the other guys through here. We see Joe Giffin along the course too. He
is cheering us on. As we move forward we see class 8 trucks parked off to
the side. We are moving. We zap the right front tire. Our good luck was
having Eric Record right there to change it with Mark Stein. Thanks guys! We
are in 4th place at this point.

We go through the Borrego area and down toward Diablo and the truck is now
pretty happy. The whoops are mild, and the motor is wild. We go as fast as
the course will let us. At about mile 55 we make a right turn in front of a
photographer on a little hill and just barely avoid runjing over a
motorcycle laying in the dirt. “Wow!”, says Mike, “that did not look right!”
Little did we know.

We are now used to the difference in how the 37” projects feel versus the
35” Baja’s. They are a little crisper on the initial steering, but push
more than the Baja’s. Good to know now that we are at considerably higher
speeds along the dry lake than we were going up to Three Poles. Things open
up and we see Jim Ober on the left. He is at the entrance to the silt beds.
The 37’s power us through the silt. We are blind for a bit, but we keep
going. On the way to Morelia we call Tom Wimberly to take the flat tire off
the rack and put the spare project on the spare tire rack. We see the Los
Mocos pit. We stop to see if they have any nitrogen for the rear bump stops.
CO2 yes, nitrogen no. CO2 it is. The get about 150 psi in and it makes a big
difference. Wow! Lots more control now. We can go faster, so we do.

We get to Morelia Junction, get our spare replaced, and hot foot it down
Morelia road. The radio tells us we are now in 3rd place. Mike is doing a
terrific job of getting the best the truck has to offer, and not getting
frustrated because he wanted to offer more. On Morelia road going down to
the left turn that takes us into Huatamote Wash we feel the truck wanting to
skate around on the hard pack. Every time he rolls throttle in the truck
wants to go the right side of the road. I thought it was the tires. I was

We make the left to go up the sandy hill to Huatamote and get about 200 ft.
when the truck yaws to the right. Mike steers left like mad and gasses it
because we are slowing down in the soft sand. He gasses and steers left, but
the truck goes right and creeps to a stop. We’re stuck. Lots of people there
to help and one lets us know only one wheel is spinning.Broken axle. Looking
back, it must have been at the silt bed, about mile 65 or 70 or somewhere
passed that when it broke.

So there we sat. For Mike, it was like getting kicked in the nuts. The race
plan was working. We thought we were now in 3rd place. He was doing a good
job, and he had not lost an axle in years. He also had no spare at the race.
We talk things over. A plan hatches. Tom and Bill Wimberly are on their way
down Morelia Road to get to their next chase location. We think they may be
willing to follow us into Huatamote and snatch us out if we get stuck. If is
a big word there. Of course we would get stuck. 5000 Lbs of Class 8 with one
wheel drive is not what most people would willingly drive into the 90 miles
of sand wash ahead.

Mike says to Tom, “I’ve got nothing better to do for the rest of the day”.
Tom says to Mike, “I don’t have to be back to work until Tuesday”. We get a
run from the hard pack and we are on our way into the wash. We get about 4 ½
miles in and get stuck. Eventually Tom and Bill catch up to us, hook up the
strap and yank us out. His little Toyota is shuttering and chattering, but
we get going again. We get about another few miles, and plant it. Again Tom
and Bill to the rescue. A pull of about 100 yards and we are on our own
again. We repeated that scene several times. Then there was the last time.
We swerved to miss a 1600 car in the course with a broken stub axle and
parked the nose of 804 into a small tree. Sure enough, Tom and Bill got us
going. We made surprisingly good time after that. We re-passed a Class 8 who
drove by us when we were stuck at one of those spots. Then another. We got
to the BFG pit. Cummings had this funny look on his face. Like, “Are you
nuts?” “You’ve got 70 more miles of wash ahead of you!” We got our fuel and
left. (Kinda sideways) Chanate was next.

I’ve never been so glad to see grey rocks. Chanate was full of rocky stuff.
We got great traction on that one tire almost all the way through. We did
get stuck again, and had some mechanical issues. But we built a small road
of rocks, and drove it out. The truck and mike were really doing quite well.
. Along the way we went by Trey and then I think Wally in a jeep.

We made the transition to Matomi wash. We had some close calls, but kept the
speed up we needed to have in order to not time out. This was about 3:15 PM
I think. Then it happened. The sand got us. And held us. The crew had a
tough time finding us because we were in a low spot, below the main line in
the wash. Eventually they found us and we got unstuck. On to Puertocitos
road. But too late. Timed out.

Baja beat us. I think 90 miles of sand wash in one wheel drive was worth the
effort. You just cannot quit. Let Baja beat you, but never quit.

804 Race gave it everything.

"Life Is A One Lap Race"