On September 12th, 2020 we competed in the Mojave Off Road Racing Enthusiast PCI Radio 300.
We finished the 300 miles, but not in the allotted time. The start / stop closed at 6 pm, and we rolled in at 6:40 pm. Technically, under the rules it is a DNF, but for me and the team it was a big finish. The rest of this article will go into the details of the race.
Thanks to those that help make it happen…
Before I get into the details, it’s important to give a huge shout out to those organizations that contribute in some way to helping us get to the start line. We are a small, self-funded, team, so every little bit helps.
If you have a minute, give these folks some love.
|CleanBrowsing||This is my main sponsor. It is a technology company that helps you protect your business and home internet. If you have kids, or employees, you want to protect on your internet, this is the company to partner with.|
|PRP Seats||We’ve been running their suspension seats for the past few seasons, even before we acquired the car, and they are a god sent in some of the stuff we’re putting them through. Their speed straps are also smooth and reliable when caked with dust; nothing worse than not being able to get whatever you have strapped, off.|
|Raceline Wheels||These are the wheels we have been running for a few seasons, and have been extremely happy with. We’re putting them through hell in the rocks, whoops and everything in between and they are standing the test of time. We’re slowly moving our entire fleet to their wheels.|
|JE Reel||Have yet to have any issues with our driveshafts. These things were built to take a pounding and continue performing. No one likes having to change out the drive shafts mid-race, and these help ensure we keep moving. Couldn’t be happier, and also something we’re moving our entire fleet too.|
If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor, we would love to talk to you. We are not for everyone, but we are for some. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE PCI 300 – Race Recap
They have a saying, “That’s racing for ya..” when it comes to any issues you experience while racing. This race was no different. As always, the issues started early for us.
It started 4 miles from the house with our Seneca.
While making a turn, our 40′ Seneca skipped a curb and right next to us was a box truck that almost ripped our entire rear end off. What a mess, but nothing a little duck tape, wood screws, and card board (Thanks Torco) wouldn’t fix.
Once we got that dialed in, we set off again. Slight 4 hour detour..
The total race was 5, 60 mile, loops. We registered as an Ultra4 car, instead of a sportsman. In hindsight, the Sportsman would have probably been better but I really hate not running the same as everyone else. I hate getting a handicap. This, however, will make it one of the toughest race so far with our 37’s and short wheel base because of the terrain.
Mind you, this isn’t our first long distance desert race; we did the Vegas to Reno in 2019.
That being said, we quickly realized this was going to be a brutal course during prerunning. Prerunning went fine, nothing remarkable outside of getting our feel for what the race was going to be like. So we’ll skip right to the race.
Start your engines…
We lined up at 7:45, and were situated behind the 6100’s and Class 10’s and 5’s. Man, those rigs are fast.
The start was freaking tough. We had no more than 5 feet of visibility with zero wind. We took off into the abyss and hoped for the best, working to feel the ground the best we could and hoping there was nothing in front of us.
Flapping in the wind..
Somewhere between mile marker 6 and 15 we lost both our spares on lap 1. We only realized our spares were gone when the whole car shut off around mile marker 22 (right on the backside of a g-out).
Clayton jumped out, looked back inside and yelled, “Uh, our spares are gone.. it’s all gone..”. WHAT!?!?!
The straps were flapping around and crushed our battery relay, which is in the rear with the batteries.
Well, that was unexpected.
So we took it off the relay and hard wired it to the battery. Our positioning was horrible as anyone coming over the berm would run right into us. So I popped up on the roof with my reflector trying to push folks over while Clayton quickly rewired things.
After that, we were off again. We had our pitboss, Jason, and Jim, waiting at mile marker 38. They quickly, I used the term quickly very loosely for these old guys, removed the straps, which we actually forgot about after rewiring, and we were off to the pit.
On the backside of the lap we experienced sand washes. Technically, these shouldn’t be a problem, but as the trucks started to rip through them we could feel the affects as we sand blasted our diff covers. The result was our motor and trans doing some serious heavy lifting. It was here we started to get a bit concerned about the temps as they quickly rose to 250 / 260.
First lap we finished in about 1:40 minutes
Curious fuel cell…
We decided that we would pit every lap, use that as an opportunity to refuel and gather ourselves. We did learn, however, that these FuelSafe cells need to settle a bit after being filled.
Every time we would fill them, it would take a minute for the foam to soak it in. It would read 100%, but as we took off and it settled it’d drop to 80%. Need to think through this a bit more. Should we remove the foam?
Lap 2 was as brutal as lap 1 in terms of visibility, but it was made more brutal as the 6100’s began their 2nd and 3rd laps. Holy smokes, when these guys would blow right past us and we’d disappear in their dust and rocks. That was a whole new experience.
All I can say is wow, our speed was mostly dictated by a) the cruelty of the course, and b) our inability to see.
We paid the price taking a turn and hit something hard enough to bend one of our Raceline wheels..
We knew we hit hard, but we were still rolling so I kept going. Clayton called it while we were in the dry lake bed. Quickly looked, but all was fine. With trucks zooming past and the visibility concerns, we had to get out of the path.
Not too long later, we paid the price as the front passenger tire ripped apart and sent our nose into the dirt like a back ho… We pulled over, and began the process of replacing the tire.
Not going to lie, this part was rough. I jumped out to help, and quickly regretted it. My arms and legs were jello from the continuous beating we were taking on this course. It took everything I had to help move and help was extremely grateful that the Savvy Offroad 8 car was in the area. They were out there testing and pitting for Dan Fresh in the Vision truck; they saw us, pulled over, and offered to lend us a hand.
I owe those guys one red lug nut! And a case of beer!
Getting out was a very big lesson to learn. I didn’t realize the beating we were taking until I took a pause, and unstrapped. It all hurt, it was like getting whip lashed for hours on end.. it was on this lap that I started singing the following Biggie inspired song..
I wish a little bit longer… I wish had bigger tires… I wish I measured my travel in feet…
Lap 3 – Lap 4
Lap 3 was pretty uneventful, everything did its job and the field started to thin out. The trucks were already finishing, only a few stragglers, but their finishes were bringing us clear skies and visibility.
The biggest issue on lap 3 was the affects of the continuous beating, both on us and ole girl, Sparky. We were a bit concerned about the heat, and we started to hear and feel the motor getting heavy. But she stayed together.
Starting in Lap 3 we really started to pull it back.
On one hand we wanted to preserve the car and finish, and on the other, every bump started to feel like a baseball bat to my chest. It’s hard to say if this was smart or not, but I do think it helped preserve the car while also costing us the time.
Going into Lap 4, we switched Co-Drivers. I could tell it was taking a beating on both of us and proposed the idea. Clayton was a trooper, but I don’t think either of us were prepared for the brutality of the course, he made the decision to switch with Jordan.
We did come into the pits hot at the end of lap 4 with a flat, but that was easy enough for the team to crush.
This lap was going fine, we knew we could complete the lap with the way things were. We knew where the gotcha’s were, and felt confident ole girl would push through her aches and pains.
We put it into cruise control, figuratively speaking, and just pushed on.
Then we hit mile marker 30 and she died. I was in gear, I could feel the gear, and I could hear the engine going but nothing was happening. No power. This was mile marker 270. Temps were at 280 / 290. We crawled out and shut everything off.
Shit! Did I just lose the trans?
Nothing made sense, things weren’t cooling, power wasn’t transferring. Was it the torque converter? Did we lose a line? Are the fans working? Yes, everything is working. What the heck?
So there we were, distraught, thinking we had to call it in. We reached out to our chase team, told them the situation. We shut ole girl down to let her rest.
Out of sheer curiosity, after 5 minutes, we turned it back on to see if it was still heating up.
Nope, she was holding steady. Wow, wow.. is she good? Let’s keep moving, I’ll crawl this thing home a 1/4 mile at a time if we have to, I told Jordan. We’re finishing this fucking race.
MORE chase pulls up behind us.. “Hey boys, you’re the last ones on the course.. how’s it going? Doesn’t look it’s exploded, you good?”
“Yes sir, think we can make it..”
“Well, keep going, I’ll be behind you sweeping the trail so go on!”
We jumped in and took off to the next road crossing. It was quiet as a mouse and ole girl was back with us. Our team pinged us to tell us we were five minutes from the time, they weren’t going to let us finish.
To which I told Jordan, “they might not record our time, but we’re finishing this fucking race. I don’t need a trophy for a class with no competitors. If they want me off, they will need to catch us.”
And that’s what we did.
We strapped back in, and we took off down the course. Again, on the last mile we got a flat but we drove her to the finish line nice and hot and leaning like a cholo.
That was our race!
Lessons and Observations
This race shined a light on a lot of things, but the most important one is heat. We were actually very lucky, it was not as hot as it was the previous weekend and the amount of dust, and lack of wind, helped keep the outside temps reasonable, relatively speaking.
I am convinced this was our saving grace.
Our #1 focus as we head back to the shop is to figure out the heat problem.
In our post-race diagnostics we’re pretty sure that what we experienced at mile 270 was possibly a loss of fuel to the engine from it being converted to vapors from the heat. We pulled the spark plugs that night and we are relatively confident on this diagnoses based on the state of the spark plugs, ran them extremely lean. This told us fuel wasn’t getting to the engine, which would also explain why it felt like it was loosing power and choking.
Our best guess is we had a vapor bubble in the lines. When we let it sit for a bit the air got out. When we turned it back on and pushed fresh fuel in, we were back in business.
In hindsight, we’re probably very lucky we didn’t vapor lock the engine and cause serious problems.
The heat isn’t too much of a surprise, however, when we swapped the engine in 2019 we spoke about heat and knew that it would be a wild card moving forward.
Well, now we know. It’s a problem.
To help with this, we have a laundry list of improvements that include:
- Single, large, Trans fan that will be moved to the rear;
- New headers that will be run outboard and along the rails under neath instead of over the engine and over the fuel lines and rails;
- New aluminum containers to hold and push the heat of the internal coolers out, instead of inside the engine bay;
- We’re also going to run more temp gauges, we’re running hot, but probably a lot hotter than we realize because of where the gauges are set.
If we can get this heat situation figured out, we should be able to capitalize on the rigs full potential. Right now I am pretty sure we’re not performing anywhere near to it’s real ability.
Minor Fixes and Improvements
Outside of that, we have other minor things to fine tune.
- Power Steering is leaking, so we’ll take that apart and send it back to PSC for review;
- Pretty sure our shocks are done, so we’ll get them to AccuTune to revalve and rebuild;
- Our engine bay frame was cracking from the abuse, so we’re going to go with a different, more modular setup, with better gussets to help strengthen the corners;
- We’re going to look at a different air filter set up to help, switch to a setup used by a lot of desert rigs to help with collection of dust particles and introduce better air flow;
- We’re going to cut out our dual spare setup, and go with a single. Our goal is to introduce more space in the rear and better protect our batteries and relays;
Things we need to remember for next time..
Although we had a good prep, we did forget a few things, they include:
- Power steering fluid (whoops);
- The Savvy guys had a good idea about zip tying extra lug nuts to the chassis, that’s happening;
- Verifying all our circuitry is loaded, we left our backup for the battery relay at home;
Huge Thanks to The Team
It was an amazing experience. Again, we learned a tremendous amount and we’re only getting better.
We actually signed up for the race with no team. I told Clayton, we’re racing this thing even if we have to pit for ourselves. And he was down to tango.
I didn’t realize that for MORE you actually need a pit boss, and that practically, and physically, it would not have been possible.
Thankfully, that didn’t matter, Jason Dahl quickly volunteered to help on the race and was our Pit Boss. We were also lucky enough to get Jordan back out with us, he’s been around this rig for a while and was instrumental in getting it to where it is today.
We also got a few new comers to help with Jim (an encyclopedia of desert racing) , and his two kids Blake and Justin, and his friend Ryan.
All in all, I could have not been more grateful for their help. Most of them barely new us, but were quick to jump in and help. It’s because of them we finished, and I am indebted to them.