BITD Parker 425
Presented by Precision Gear, and Alloy USA
Story by Lance Clifford
Photos by Houp Photography and Valerie Douglas
[PHOTO GALLERY ]
Nice and pretty at tech... It wouldn't stay that way for long!
After our successful adventure in the 2006 SCORE Tecate Baja 1000, I was hooked on desert racing. Now don't get me wrong, my true love still is and always will be rock crawling, but there's something about blasting through the desert as fast as you want to go that gets my blood pumping like no other. After Baja, Camo and I decided to run the 2007 Jeepspeed series in a Jeep we purchased from DSI over at Shaffer's Offroad. The rig had a good track record - It was built by Jeepspeed champ Jason LaFortune, won the 2004 Baja 1000 in it's respective class, and captured the 2005 Jeepspeed series. It was a simple, but fast Jeep. I know, it almost sounds like an oxymoron putting fast and Jeep in the same sentence, but believe me, a well built Jeepspeed in the right hands is faster than you might think!
Fast forward to 2007. We finally decide to start prepping our Jeep for the first race of the season - the Best in the Desert Parker 425 held in Parker, AZ. Once we started digging into the rig, we realized that we had our work cut out for us. There was a lot more work that needed to be done than we had previously thought. Bob Roggy, Camo and I rolled up our sleeves and began burning a little midnight oil to get it ready to rock. A couple thousand dollars, a few cases of beer, and a whole lot of hours later, the Jeep was ready to race. It was looking good, and we were 100% confident in it's mechanical condition. We had gone through it with a fine tooth comb and replaced or repaired anything that was questionable.
Like Baja, a race like the Parker 425 requires considerable planning. From organizing volunteer pit crews to fuel to spare parts to communications to pre running, it's a huge undertaking if you want to be successful. Team Pirate4x4 consists of a two rig team; our rig which is driven by yours truly, and co-driven by rock star Jason Scherer. The second vehicle is our Baja winning, Rubicon Trail traveling Jeepspeed owned and raced by veteran rock crawling champ Mike Shaffer of Shaffer's Offroad in Carson City. Between all of our resources, we were able to assemble an impressive pit crew complete with service trucks courtesy of Shaffer's co-driver Bob Standage (another veteran rock crawler). It turns out that our pit crew and service trucks would be well used at the Parker 425...
Race day rolled around, and in typical desert racing chaotic fashion, it was a scramble to get everything ready to go. As we approached the start line, we turned on our intercom system, and found it was dead. Some quick diagnosing and a heart attack later, the problem was traced to a low amp fuse in the fuse panel. We "upgraded" the fuse to the 20 amp variety, and we were back in business.
And the green flag drops!
As we approached the starting line, the butterflies felt like a swarm of bees in my gut. Vehicles were starting every 15 seconds in downtown Parker. The crowds were enormous, and the excitement was insane.
"Dude, are you ready to GET IT, or what!?!?!?!" Jason yelled over the intercom with excitement.
"Hell yeah baby, let's do this! Shake and Bake!!!!" I said.
Even though it was about 45 degrees on a chilly desert morning, my palms were sweating inside my Shocker gloves. We pulled up to the start, I gave the flagman a thumbs up, and he waved the green flag. I dumped the clutch and off we went, full throttle down the paved road, while thousands of screaming fans looked on. We hung a sharp left hand turn, and made our way into the desert. Considering we had a front start in a field of 30 Jeepspeeds, I didn't think the dust would be all that bad during the first few miles of the race. Oh how I was wrong. I began to catch up to the unlimited class Jeepspeeds in front of us, and the dust became horrendous. We struggled to stay on course, as the beginning of the course was not on our GPS. In between the zero visibility dust clouds, we would make a mental note of where the course was, aim for the other side, and go. This method worked for a while. A short while.....
As we approached a massive silt bed, the visibility went from poor to non existent in an instant. While a sane human being would have slowed down, I did not want to get stuck. Until you have experienced silt, you cannot appreciate it. Think of it as the consistency of flour, 3+ feet deep. You slow down, you get stuck. Especially in a 4,000lb 2 wheel drive Jeepspeed with only 200 horsepower. So we were powering through the silt bed from hell, at about 45mph with zero visibility. Jason was freaking out, because we couldn't see. All of a sudden out of nowhere there was an Unlimited class Jeepspeed STOPPED right in front of us. Jason let out a groan, and WHAM! We hit the stopped Jeep doing about 45mph. We hit the Jeep so hard, it flew forward about 10 feet, and then drove off into the dust. What was he doing there? We assume he was either stuck, or stopped because of visibility. At this point we were now stopped, and stuck in the middle of the race course. I tried to drive out of the hole we were now stuck in, but it wasn't happening. The entire front end of the Jeep was smashed into oblivion, and coolant was shooting everywhere. The hood was taco'd in half, and sticking up about 3 feet in the middle. Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, 29 Jeepspeeds closed in on us...
1715 wasn't looking so hot after our incident at RM4.
As bad as our Jeepspeed was, the Jeep we hit was far worse.
Thank goodness everyone walked away without a scratch!
WHAM!!!! We got hit from behind. WHAM!!!!!!! We got hit again. WHAM!!!!! WHAM!!!!!!!! We were getting pulverized like road kill in the middle of the course. We were helpless, and at the mercy of the silt gods. Eventually all of the Jeepspeeds and other cars made it by us. I got out, and surveyed the damage. It was BAD, REAL BAD! There were bent bars in the shape of pretzels, the radiator was wrapped around the fan, and the front cross member was stuffed into the fan as well. The alternator snapped right off the motor, and the unibody frame rails were swung over and crumpled. The new Roundeyes.com HID headlights were busted, and dangling from their wires. The only thing to survive the accident on the front end were the Lightforce lights that were mounted on the now mangled front bumper. It still baffles me how these awesome lights survived that impact without a scratch. Simply amazing! What happened to the Jeep we hit, you ask? Well it made our Jeep look like it was in pristine condition. Pictures can tell a thousand words. Luckily nobody was injured in this accident.
I thought we were done. We only made it 3 miles, and our Jeep was totaled. The rear of our Jeep was completely caved in as well from all the hits we took. A spectator towed our junk over to the pit area, where Camo towed us back to our pit.
"We can fix it. We have the technology!"
"Dude, we can totally fix it!" Said Camo.
"Have you lost your #$&*ing mind?!?! Look at it... It looks like a destruction derby loser!" I snapped.
"Sit down and shut up and relax. You're going racing", he said.
I sat back and watched in awe as the crew headed by Camo and Bob Roggy torched, grinded and welded "Terminator" (it's new name, post accident) into a raceable machine. Jason was blown away that the rig was being fixed, and quite frankly I think he was hoping it couldn't be after that hit (I don't really blame him, it was pretty nutty!)
"Ok, saddle up, it's time to race!" Camo said after about 2 1/2 hours of repairing the Jeep. "Time to GET IT!!!!"
Jason and I piled back in Terminator and took off like we were Robby Gordon in the Baja 1000. We approached a very puzzled Best in the Desert official as if we had already completed a lap when we were coming out of the pits. I stopped to explain to him our situation, and then attempted to take off. Well low and behold, I stopped in the wrong place. STUCK. I tried rocking the rig back and forth, trying to get out of the quicksand like terrain. The 1310 driveshaft couldn't take the abuse, and exploded into two pieces. Great, we made it 1/4 mile from our pit, and we were broken again. This was going to be a VERY long race... Jason and I jumped out and swapped out the driveshaft with the spare we had on board. While we where changing the shaft, Best in the Desert Head Honcho Casey Folks came along in his truck and yanked us out of our predicament. Finally, we were off and racing....
He ain't pretty, but Terminator never let us down!
"Dude, we're not gonna win, slow the #@%* down!" Jason barked over the radio about 15 minutes later.
"Screw that. I came here to GET IT, and I want to make some time!" I said.
Since this was my first race in the Jeepspeed series, and basically my first time in our Jeepspeed other than a 15 minute prerun back in November, it took me a little while to get the feel for the Jeep. I was amazed at how fast it was. I could really pound it through the whoops and jumps. As we made our way around the 138 mile lap, we stopped at the midway pits where our pit crew headed by DSI and Jason Arnold would look over the rig to make sure nothing was going to fall off. While they were looking it over, we took a quick splash of fuel, and we took off. The next part of the course was wide open, and we we were doing over 90mph flat out. Jason was getting used to the speed, and had settled down, slowly forgetting about our encounter with the other Jeepspeed until we got to the power line road. Picture this - a rutted up, rocky, dusty, off camber 10 mile stretch of road that snakes in between telephone poles that are not much wider than the Jeep. You're shooting in between these power poles at 80+mph, trying not to clip one as the rig violently bounces side to side in the ruts and rocks. Now throw in the fact that the trophy trucks are coming up on you, and they don't want to wait around for you to move. It was a surreal feeling, driving as fast as the little Jeep could take us, with a helicopter flying beside us not very far off the deck. That meant something fast, very fast, was coming up on us.
You don't know fear till you have a helecopter flying beside you...
"Dude, I don't want to die! Slow down" Jason said.
"Just keep an eye on the mirror, and look out for 'em. I can handle it. I'm not driving too fast. Trust me" I said.
We managed to hold off the trophy truck for about 5 miles through the power line road (most likely because of the severe dust we were making) before we could see and feel 800 horsepower on our back bumper. I didn't even get a chance to figure out who it was, as I was too busy trying to get the hell out of the way before he rammed us. Once the trophy truck passed, we slowed down a bit till the dust settled, and then it was back to full tilt.
The last 20 miles of the lap was the roughest. Known as the "goat trail" because that's what it most resembles. It's a very narrow, rocky, tight, off camber, crappy trail. Our speeds dramatically slowed down for this part of the course, as I thought my guts were going to blow right out of my chest. Once we were done with the goat trail, it was on to the Parker Python. The Parker Python is a man made area that is 10 miles of twisting berms and jumps, which winds through the pit area, so that spectators can watch the show. I don't think I really ever lifted in the Python, other than coming into a couple of corners, and maybe a jump or two. As we wound through the turns of the Python, we came across Robby Gordon pulled off to the side, wrenching on his rig with the hood up.
"Dude, we just passed Robby Gordon! We rule!!!! hahahaha," we both laughed over the raido.
As we came into the final turn of the Python, it was time to pit. Camo flagged us into our pit, and asked us what we needed.
"Just fuel us up, and give it a quick look. She's running great!"
"Dude, you were fully getting it in that last corner! Nice driving, fawker!" Camo said over the pit radio.
I got the thumbs up from Camo, and we were off again. Down the straightaway, and back into the desert we went. We hit the big whoops once again, and Jason pointed out how much faster we were going than the last lap.
"We are friggin' gettin 'er done! We were running these whoops in 2nd gear last lap, now we're in 3rd! Hell yeah!" He said.
He was right. We were running much faster, but we were smoother at the same time. I guess I got a good feel for Terminator over the past 140 miles, because we were really hauling ass. We made awesome time on our second lap, and passed a ton of Jeepspeeds and other vehicles. As we were running through the wash, I got a call from Camo over the radio.
"Robby went by us a few minutes ago, and he was HAULING ASS!!!! Keep an eye out for him!"
Bring it, Robby!
"Bring it Robby!" I jokingly said. "Jason, keep an eye out for him, so we can move over before he gets on us."
A few minutes later, we could hear the thunder of a pissed off motor closing in on us, and then the black and green Monster Energy Trophy Truck flew by us completely sideways and on the throttle at about 100mph. He was doin' some drivin'!
We got a call from our pit that while we would never catch them, we were running faster than the leaders. We kept that pace for the entire second lap, and according to our pit crew made it all the way up to 9th place. We were about 10 miles into the goat trail and about 10 miles or so from the finish line when a class 1000 car came up on us and gave us a hit. I moved over to the right, and side hilled the berm to let him pass. As he went to pass, he didn't go left enough, and rammed into our rear driver's side hitting our rear driver's side tire. He lifted the entire rear of our Jeep, and went right under it. All of this was taking place at about 40mph, and I thought we were going over! I floored Terminator, and literally drove off the hood of the buggy, and kept going. Jason looked back, and said there was some considerable damage to the buggy, as he came to a stop. About 10 minutes later, the buggy came up on us, and I moved over before he caught us. Obviously he was pissed off because he rammed us at full tilt, which really didn't bother me since the entire rear of our Jeep was smashed anyhow. I'm sure it didn't help the front end of his buggy much, but I guess it helped his ego a little. He went by us, and we flipped him the bird and kept motoring. About a 1/2 mile later, the rear of our Jeep suddenly sank in the rear, and I thought we had a flat tire for a second. It quickly became obvious that it was a little worse than a flat tire, as our rear tire and wheel rolled past by us. I pulled off the side of the course, dragging the rear axle in the dirt.
"Jesus, what the hell are we gonna do now?" Jason groaned.
"I bet it was that damn buggy ramming us, which probably side loaded that wheel and broke the studs." I said.
We began the laborious task of jacking up the rear end of the Jeep with our crappy bottle jack. It was a hand crank style and would only jack the rig about 4 inches at a time. We had to stack rocks under the Jeep and jack and stack. The Jeep fell off the rocks about 4 times, and let me tell you. A sailor would have blushed with the choice words we were tossing out. Eventually we were able to jack it up high enough, and began working on a solution. Since we didn't have any spare wheel studs (newbie racing team didn't think of that!) we decided we would pull a stud out of each of the other wheels. So one by one, we carefully removed wheel studs from each of the wheels. Did I mention it was dark now? 2 hours later, and after about 4 Jeepspeeds went past us, we got the Jeep back on 4 wheels.
We took off, and took it very easy since we were limping. The goal at this time was simply survival. We just wanted to cross the finish line, and get the HELL out of this damn Jeep! Well it wouldn't be that easy. A buggy came up on us in the dark, so we moved right and got out of his way. I ran out of "road" and had to stop or I would have run into tree, or gone off a cliff. When we went to take off, we were stuck! After some digging, and pushing, and digging, and pushing, we could not figure out why the hell we couldn't get out.
"GOD $%&^ IT!!!! WE ARE STUCK ON MOTHER $%*$#&% FLAT GROUND!!!! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!?!?!" I screamed.
"Dude, the bumper is stuffed into the front passenger wheel! It's locked up!" Jason yelled from outside the vehicle.
With a little turn of the wheel so that it didn't catch the bumper, we were on our way. The bumper would catch the tire intermittently for the rest of the race, and cause the Jeep to turn unexpectedly to the right. Nothing like a little added challenge to finish the race.
At 9:00PM we finally made it to the finish line. We drove up on to the podium, and high fived each other. It was a great feeling to finish against all the odds. We finished 13th out of 30. I was hoping for a better finish than that, but all things considered, I'll take it!
Congrats to the overall Jeepspeed winner, Ray Griffith!
Congats to Currie Sponsored Ray Griffith for taking the win in the Jeepspeed class. Also huge congrats to Pirate4x4.com Team mate Mike Shaffer for pulling off a 3rd place finish despite having three flat tires! Great job, Mike!
Pirate4x4.com Racing's Mike Shaffer and Bob Standage had a great 3rd place finish!
It was a great race, and we have a ton of work to get Terminator ready for the next race. We'll see you in Barstow!
Pirate4x4 is going Trophy Truckin' with Pistol Pete and the Presicion Gear TT!!!!
So what's next for the Pirate4x4.com Racing team, you ask? Stay tuned as our next adventure begins next week in Ensenada, Mexico for the SCORE Baja 250 (formally known as the San Felipe 250) where yours truly will be riding shotgun with Precision Gear's #2 Trophy Truck piloted by none other than Pistol Pete Sohren!
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