News

2021 BITD Cal City Desert Challenge ends in Controversy

Story by Jason Stilgebouer
Photos by Art Eugenio / GETSOMEphoto

You have to give credit to those when recognition is deserved. And that is for the race promotors who continue to strive to keep us racing despite the many challenges we have faced since 2020. Those challenges include relocating the Bluewater Desert Challenge to California City, Ca, for the season’s final race to announce the Maxxis Triple Crown Series champion. The endless quest for the championship would end in Controversy and a tire left in the middle of the desert.

The last and final race of the Best in the Desert Challenge had originally been planned as the Bluewater Desert Challenge announced on October 13 that the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) would not allow the event to run as planned due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in their local community. Fortunately, that didn’t deter BITD from continuing on with the race and moving it to California City, Ca; thanks to Lou Peralta and the Peralta Ranch, they had over 80 acres of off-road terrain at their disposal.

With the race still on it was go time. Racers and fans attended the California Desert Challenge where the course consisted of a 28-mile loop around Peralta Ranch for four days of racing.

Time Trials took place on Thursday for  Classes 1500, 1000, 6100, 6200, and 7200, and Trick Trucks. The reward? See who would be starting up front and would likely have  less dust to deal with. No dust equals a clear path which means faster lap times. Bill Apgood would qualify first in his Trick Truck with a time of 5.37, a nearly two seconds faster than Kevin Thompson.

Saturday and Sunday were race days for majority of classes the winners would be determined of combined results from both day. Classes 1100, 1200, 1700, 2700, 3700, 7100, 7300, 2000, 3000, 4400, 4700, 5000, 6000, 8100 taking off first thing in the morning and early both days.

In Class 4700, Jeff Harmonson in his Dodge finished in 1:50:48 while Troy Grabowski took Class 5000 in his Bug in 2:20:46. Class 6000 in Pro Limited Cars and Trucks was won by Joshua Cobb over Greg Bragg and Luke Knupp.

Next up on both days were the Motorcycle and Quad Classes. After three grueling laps around a challenging course both Saturday and Sunday, the Open Pro MC racers finished in this order: N1 Hayden Hintz, N51 Zane Roberts, N45 Joseph Wasson, and N3 Jeff Trulove. While Hintz took the lead on Saturday, Roberts won Sunday but not by enough to take the overall, finishing in 3:00:15, a mere tenth of a second behind.

Next up in racing order were the UTVs. With two days of hard and fast racing in the UTV Turbo Class, and racers finishing on wildly different spots on the podium both days, Vito Ranuio ended with the best combined time of 3:08:23 over Best In The Desert veterans Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Ryan Piplic.

In other UTV Classes of note, the UTV Pro N/A was led by Austin Bolton, even though he finished third place on Sunday, over Zachary Kinsman and Dallas Gonzalez. In UTV Unlimited, Jim Beaver came out on top leading both days and finishing in 3:18:35 over Trey Gibbs and Chris Blais who made up time after finishing in the fifth position on Saturday. Finally, the UTV Rally Class saw some incredible racing and tight competition. U977 Tanner Currier came up from the fifth position after Saturday’s racing to blow competitors out of the water with a first-place win on Sunday and an unofficial overall best time of 3:36:54 over Colin Miller and John Koltura.

6100 win was taken by Dustin Grabowski over Sterling Miller and Ray Griffith. Which these drivers were battling it out all day long in one of if not the most competitive classes. Spec Trucks. Class 6200 saw Bill Semak overtake Nick Carolan while Peter Hajas took Class 1000 over Wheeler Morgan and Scott Christensen in second and third place, respectively.

Now finally, Trick Trucks, the big trucks that created such a controversy. After two days Kyle Jergensen finished the race with a time of 2:54 after finishing 4th with getting a flat tire on Saturday. But on Sunday he drove hard to make up that time out racing drivers such as Harley Letner, Bj Baldwin, and Kevin Thompson.

This is where the controversy starts: Kyle was given an hour penalty due to his tire being left on the course. This is a rule that is stated in the rule book that is not so black and white and left a lot of room for interpretation. This penalty would not only affect his race win and affect his Best in the Desert Championship, but also leave us wondering for weeks who had won.

Kyle Jergensen had a flat tire at approximately mile marker 22. After changing the wheel he proceeded back onto the racecourse. About a mile later at mile marker 23, the tire strap failed and the tire fell off the truck onto the racecourse. Thus implemented the penalty by Best in the Desert and costing him an hour and his championship.

BITD Rule 19 is shown on the 2021 Cal City Desert Challenge Final Information Packet (FIP) and the “Special Notice to Driver “19. Special Note CT/UTV Entries: If you leave any wheels and tires out on the racecourse you will receive a mandatory one-hour time penalty.”

This rule leaves no room for interpretation, if the tire is on the course it is an automatic penalty. Fortunately, Kyle and his team had no malicious intent to leave the tire behind and did everything possible to ensure they reracked the tire. There were eyewitnesses and video to prove that he did indeed rack the tire and after viewing that BITD did not impose a penalty on kyle thus rewarding him his championship.

A statement from BITD: We completed an extensive review of all available information including but not limited to: numerous verified videos, GPS-supplied locations from on-board diagnostics, “on-the-ground” investigation by BITD staff as well as numerous phone conversations with multiple teams and drivers.  BITD has decided NOT TO IMPOSE A PENALTY per Rule 19 based on the findings showing the wheel/tire was not intentionally left on the racecourse.

Similar to other racer’s penalties earlier this year they were only inflicted because there was video proof. If there had not been people standing there nor had there been a video to prove it I am sure things might have been a little different.

It has been a wild ride this year for Best in the Desert but the racing had to continue on congratulations to all those season champions.

Click here for race results.

Click here to read BITD’s race results PR.

MTPyle

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TT's raced in the dark for a lap. So that hurt the TT overall times.

Many of the TT teams did not have light bars with them as there was no plan to race at night. We loaned our light bar to RST and they made it fit their truck. LOL Some teams only had front lights and not all of them. So with that course and the dust at night it was a huge disadvantage.

Mike
 

JOSH

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Failed straps on spares and jacks have cost guys more than race wins and championships....