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Old 09-06-2009, 08:49 PM   #1 (permalink)
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4435 Race Report Day2

Day 2:

Doug and I got to impound with plenty of time. We started looking over the buggy as much as we were allowed to before the start. We noticed that the jam nuts on the link ends were not tightened the night before, and also the transfer case vent line fell off and needed to be re-attached. We let our crew know so they could fix at pit 1. At least at the start on day 2, we had our helmets on and our window nets up! That was a much better way to start.

Going over some of the terrain that we’d been on the night before, except now we could see it was interesting. Sections that we didn’t think were all that bad at night appeared much more torn up. Just like the day before, the first hour of the race proved to be the craziest. Everyone is jockeying for position and trying to get around dust clouds. Eventually, we ended up in a canyon filled with silt which turned into a total black out. Everyone was trying to get to the outside of the dust kicked up by the car in front of them. It was a surreal experience as there was the sound of vehicles on every side of you, but you couldn’t see a thing.

I eventually saw an opening to my right, and I could see daylight. I decided to go for it and picked up speed hoping to get out of the silt cloud that covered us. The light only lasted a few seconds before another wave of silt washed over us and we couldn’t see anything. The next thing I know we slam into something hard and I’m thinking we destroyed the front right. I could feel the tire losing pressure and the vehicle beginning to lean but the steering still felt right. It appeared at a minimum we’d damaged the tire.

Pit 1

We were 3 miles out of pit when this happened. We decided to limp it in. We turned on the ARB lockers to help keep the vehicle controllable with a flat tire in the silt. We made it into pit. One of the other issues we noticed on our way to pit 1 was that 3rd gear started popping out, so we asked for a bungee to support the shifter. They were waiting with the bungee, tightened the jam nuts, replaced the tire, and inspected the damage done to the caliper by the wheel being crushed in. It didn’t look pretty but it wasn’t leaking fluids and we didn’t have a spare caliper so we continued on.

After leaving pit 1 I tried to slow down and keep a steady pace for a bit. The first 50 miles of the day were always the most treacherous. This part of the course was where we experienced the least visibility and also the most congested number of vehicles broken down on the race course. On the way to pit 2 there were several steep descents and inclines through these washes. We reached a section where there were 3 or 4 vehicles stuck and waiting for a 2WD vehicle that couldn’t make the hill. I realized the dust cloud in front of me was 4454 and they went blasting up the side of the hill bypassing the congestion. I liked their approach and followed them. Being able to bypass sections like this in 4WD definitely had its advantages a few times each day. While we never shorted the course, we were able to bypass through terrain where most vehicles couldn’t or wouldn’t go.

This was also the section where we finally encountered the dreaded underpass. This was something our crew had been worrying about for weeks. BITD said that the underpass was 84” high and our buggy is 81” tall. When we called BITD to confirm this height they told us it was either 8’ or 10’ tall not 7’ and that even the tallest trophy truck could make it. We still had our doubts, especially after seeing how much taller we were than most trophy trucks during contingency. Fortunately, because we’d broken our antenna the day before, and remounted it on the back instead of the roof, we had a little bit more wiggle room. It was still way too close for comfort. There was a cameraman there that I’m pretty sure thought we were going to get wedged in the tunnel. We made it through with about a half an inch to spare.

As we dodged a big rock in a silt bed we came up on the back of 4454. They were stopped but both drivers seemed to be OK and were standing at the front of the vehicle with wrenches in hand. I thought that the rock we’d just avoided must have taken out something in their steering. They didn’t seem to indicate they were in distress at that point. It wasn’t until later that we heard about this car catching on fire. I’m not sure how soon after we passed them this occurred, but the car was not in flames when we drove by.

Coming into pit 2

What I didn’t realize between pits 1 and 2 was that Doug’s push to talk button failed and was stuck permanently on. Our pits could hear Doug, but we couldn’t hear the pits. This was problematic in pit 2, as we thought our crew wasn’t there. They could hear us talking, but they couldn’t respond. All they could do was watch us drive by. I caught sight of them as we passed and realized there must be something wrong with our communication when we weren’t able to communicate with our crew from 50 feet away. Doug realized that the red light was on in the ham and that his microphone was stuck on and disconnected it.

It was a good thing that we realized this problem when we did. About 2 miles after pit 2 we encountered a rolled vehicle. Another car had already stopped to assist, but we radioed our crew asking them to let officials know about the situation. They were able to get a hold of BITD who had not yet been made aware of the accident. The vehicle was completely blocking the road, and bypassing it was, again, something most vehicles wouldn’t have been able to do, but our rock crawlers were able to do it with little difficulty.

Just after that, we were racing parallel to the 95 and glanced over to see two of our pit crew driving up the freeway. The big red dusty Sportsmobile being followed by a silver Jeep could only be our crew members Jason Leaf with Shelly Williams following. As they did 65 mph up the road we kept pace with them for a little while enjoying the type of banter we usually have when we’re all off-roading together.

We passed through pit 3 without stopping. The morning was moving along smoothly. We could feel the temps were rising, so I backed off the throttle to keep the temperatures in check. We cruised into pit 4 to take fuel and lunch. Dave Cole was there as I exited the vehicle. He asked if we needed anything, and then asked if he still had a vehicle. This was the first I’d heard that something might have happened to it. The last time we saw it the guys were out with wrenches. I had no idea that there had been a fire.

Pit 4

We were pretty relaxed at pit 4. Doug and I got out and had some lunch while the team re-fueled the vehicle and checked over the rig. Our crew had a dump can ready with 10 gallons for us. Unfortunately, when they went to use this dump can we realized the nozzle on the can was larger than the opening to our tank. The good news was that we had an additional 10 gallons of fuel, what we’d later realize was the bad news was that this 10 gallons of fuel had been sitting in a black box in the sun in 110 heat all morning. The crew was focused on getting us fueled and back on the race course. It didn’t dawn on any of us that the temperature of the fuel would cause us problems later in the day.

After pit 4, we hit a massive expanse of nothing but silt beds that never ended. It was working the vehicle to the max. It was around 2 p.m., so we were in the hottest part of the day. About 8 miles outside of pit 4 the silt beds finally ended but I could hear the engine sputtering from time to time. It seemed like the engine was almost going into limp mode, from overheating, but the temp gauge said we were fine. Eventually, the vehicle sputtered and died. We went to start it back up again, and it wouldn’t start, so I switched over to the secondary fuel pump and it roared to life. We started blasting forward, thinking that the race had finally taken it’s toll on the first fuel pump. We were a little shy of half way through the race, and didn’t have a spare so this was a bit unsettling for me.

It was probably another 10 miles later that the 2nd fuel pump started acting up and shutting down. I switched back to the first pump, and it came back to life and was working fine again. We only made it about another half mile before it gave out, and I switched both pumps on simultaneously just to give us enough juice to get off the road.

We sat and let it cool down for a minute. Doug and I were trying to think of what could be causing the issue. Was it the crazy silt beds that worked the engine harder than anything else prior? Was it the fuel pump or bad fuel? We got out and tried to clean the fuel pre-filter, thinking maybe foam came loose and clogged the filter, because it seemed to be a flow issue. The filter was clean so that wasn’t it. Next I checked the fuel rail and had excellent pressure. Something was causing the pumps to crap out. I just kept limping along until we got into pit 5, and by that point the lead we’d had on our class in the morning was gone. Everyone had passed us.

Pit 5
Our crew was already working on finding a spare fuel pump for us by the time we got into pit 5. There wasn’t much we could do without a spare fuel pump but continue on as we had. Driving 4 – 5 miles then stopping for 5-10 minutes letting the fuel pumps cool down and continuing on. It wasn’t looking good for us to finish the day at this pace.

We left pit 5 trying to continue on to pit 6 and had more of the same. The day was still hot, we were still at high elevations, and nothing seemed to keep the fuel pumps going for more than a few miles at a time. When the pumps were running, I was pushing the speeds as hard as I could to make up for our down time. At some point, while going about 60 mph I looked over and saw Doug had his helmet off. Without it on, I had no way to communicate with him to figure out what the hell he was doing. He put his helmet back on, and said he felt much better now that he’d puked. Apparently the temps, the hot water in our vehicle and reading the GPS in a constantly moving vehicle had finally gotten to him.

As we limped into pit 6, I had a sick co-driver, and 2 fuel pumps that didn’t want to work. I wasn’t sure if day 2 was going to happen for us. I radioed into our pit at 6 and told them were 12 miles out and we wanted them to get the trailer ready, we weren’t sure if we were going to make into pit 6, so we might just try to get to highway 95 and have them pick us up. It seemed like we might have to DNF.

As we got closer to pit 6 the fuel pumps were lasting longer between dying. Our pit crew also radioed back strongly encouraging us to make it into pit 6 so we could discuss options. They were worried we were going to just go to highway 95 and call it a day. They had already dispatched someone to Tonopah to find us a fuel pump and they also knew that we were the only vehicle that had a chance of finishing 2 days. They didn’t want us to give up prematurely. Pit 6 seemed more likely with every mile, and the vehicle seemed to be running better with every mile. It went 14 miles on one pump into pit 6 and things seemed to be improving, but I still wasn’t sure.

When we got into pit 6, we were emotionally and physically exhausted. We still weren’t sure if the pumps could make it. We didn’t like the idea of the pumps dying on us in the middle of no where and with 134 miles left to go, we debated between risking it and continuing on, or dnfing, repairing the vehicle and being able to start day 3 which had always been our goal.

Pit 6 was probably the hardest part of the race for everyone who was there. I wanted to try, but I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of the desert til 3 am and still need to repair the vehicle before it could start in the morning. We still weren’t sure if we could even get a replacement fuel pump. While we sat at pit 6 the temperatures began to drop. The crew pulled the panels off the fuel deck and removed our spare trying to cool the fuel system.

I was worried about the next 50 miles, they took us completely away from the road and further from help than I was comfortable with. The crew was also checking with teams that had DNFed two days to see if they had an extra pump. This was when we learned that some teams had been through almost a dozen fuel pumps already and that while Travis Carpenter had 2 extra, they weren’t compatible with ours. The offer was greatly appreciated though.

With only 4 minutes before the pit closed, the debate still continued among the crew and within me. I wanted to go on, but Doug wasn’t feeling good, I had a sick vehicle, and I didn’t want to be selfish and ask my crew to have to come find me in the middle of no where because I didn’t want to give up. But my crew seemed to be on board and they were willing to do whatever it took. It meant a lot to see that they were there for me no matter what. Shannon said that we were being tracked via GPS and if we stopped for more than 10 minutes they’d assume we were done and come find us. Jason said that his van could tow us from wherever we were. With 3 minutes before the pit closed, I still hadn’t made a decision, finally I said, “fuck it, let’s go” Doug and I jumped in the vehicle. Looking back, it was probably pretty comical because I think we stalled 3 times before we actually left pit 6, that couldn’t have instilled much confidence in my crew.

Leaving pit 6 the vehicle seemed to be running perfectly fine. But as soon as I would let off the throttle the fuel pump would start to fizzle out. If I accelerated it would be just fine. I had to keep the throttle wide open. After about 25 miles of going faster than I should have been going to keep the fuel pump from dying, it finally gave out on a downhill section where I could not keep the throttle open. So, without stopping, I switched to the secondary and the engine roared back to life and continued to haul ass.

We got into pit 7 with about 12 minutes to spare. We fueled, replaced another bad ham antenna, and the crew had traded a bottle of Crown for a fuel pump with bipolar racing. It wasn’t an exact match and the crew knew they wouldn’t have time to replace it in the pit. But they gave it to us as a spare along with the tools we’d need to make it work if we ended up having to use the fuel pump on the course. With no time to spare again, we blasted out of pit 7 with the hope that we might actually finish the day.

The secondary fuel pump continued to hold and we were making great time. On the way to pit 8 there was a section where there was a broken down rig blocking the road. At this point we couldn’t stop for fear of the fuel pump dying so we took a right and dropped off a ledge down into a wash, bypassed them and climbed back out onto the road ahead of them. Again, something only an ultra4 could get away with.

We blew through pit 8 as the time was still pretty tight for us to make it to the finish before the end of the day. Any small issue and we were done. It was clear cruising up until race mile 691 when we dropped down into a wash before a hill climb. There was about 7 – 10 vehicles scattered everywhere, stuck, trying to tow each other or waiting to be towed out. We had no time to spare if we were going to finish the day. We dropped a gear and started climbing up the side of the mountain zig zagging through the congestion.
That was by far the gnarliest hill climb we’d encountered, it was a little cruel that it was 8 miles from the finish of the longest day.

Once we crested that hill climb, being able to see the lights of Hawthorne in the distance was a great relief. Just as we had done the day before, we ended up making it into the finish line with 15 minutes to spare. We got out of the vehicle and Charlene was there to interview us. That was when we learned we were officially the only vehicle to finish the first 2 days. This was bittersweet news to hear. It was nice to know that our hard work had paid off, but I knew all the other teams had worked just as hard as we had, and I felt for them.

Finish Line Day 2
Our crew was ready for us, just as they had been the day before . We got all the work done on the vehicle within the hour. Even after cleaning the silt out of the clutch as best we could, it still was barely working. I really didn’t feel comfortable asking one of my co-drivers to take on the task of driving the rig with no prior seat time and a clutch that wasn’t functioning properly. We put the rig into impound and hurried back to the trailers to get as much sleep as we could. Grateful that there was only one more day of this race.

When we got to the trailers we saw the Team United crew were parked across from us. Their crew were hard at work on 4471. Everyone was in motion even though it was almost 1 in the morning. My crew said they heard them turning that engine over til about 4 in the morning. Our team felt for them, because going into the day, they were the leaders, and we could have easily been in their position.
[SIZE="4"][B][COLOR="DarkOrange"]Team Viking #4435 [/COLOR][/B]- 1st Place 2009 BITD V2R [/SIZE]
[SIZE="4"][SIZE="2"][B]Driver: Kevin Sacalas Co-Driver: Doug Williams[/B][/SIZE][/SIZE]
[B][SIZE="3"][COLOR="Orange"][COLOR="DarkOrange"] [/COLOR][/COLOR]Sponsors:[/SIZE][/B]
Viking Offroad/Winchline | BFGoodrich | Bilstein | JE Reel | RCV Performance | Trail Gear | Griffin Radiator | Hushpower | Twisted Stitch | Blue Torch Fabworks | Livorsi Marine | Moab Offroad
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Old 09-08-2009, 12:41 AM   #2 (permalink)
The "other" Shannon
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Originally Posted by TeamViking View Post
Day 2:

I wanted to go on, but Doug wasn’t feeling good, I had a sick vehicle, and I didn’t want to be selfish and ask my crew to have to come find me in the middle of no where because I didn’t want to give up. But my crew seemed to be on board and they were willing to do whatever it took.
LOL, we wanted you guys to push on, but we were worried we were selfish for wanting it if you just didn't have it in you to keep going! The best decision of the race was when you guys decided to push through pit 6.
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