Since KOH we have been enjoying our rig, the Turtle, by going out wheeling a few times and also determining what we needed to do to get ready for our next race. As we worked on the Turtle we realized that we needed to spend some time better tuning our Rock Krawler shocks, in order to improve the overall ride and handling of the vehicle. We took the Turtle out for a few test runs and got the shocks dialed in pretty well. Being a couple of rookies, we know we are not going to get it perfect but we sure feel like we got it close, and none the less we are learning a lot about tuning. Race weekend came and we were as dialed as we were going to be, so we loaded up the Turtle and all our gear and headed for the Ultra4 4 Wheel Parts Grand Prix at Glen Helen Raceway. Friday morning consisted of several things — registration, drivers meeting, practice (2 sessions), qualifying, and then another drivers meeting. Saturday was filled with prelims, the main event, and then an after party.
Friday morning, we got all checked in at registration, grabbed a bite to eat and then headed over to the drivers meeting. At the meeting they covered the course layout for the weekend, some things to watch out for on course, and the break down of practice groups. After the meeting Darin and I agreed that we would share the driving this weekend and alternate each session. He would drive Practice 1 and Qualifying, and I would drive Practice 2 and Prelims. We suited up and headed out for Practice 1. Basically this was to get a hang of the track and feel out how the car was going to handle. We picked up our speed a bit and were getting down in the 5:15’s by the end of practice. We headed back to the pits after the session and made a couple small changes and then got back in the Turtle for Practice 2. This was my turn to drive and the objective was the same — Get the hang of the track and feel the car work. We were both able to get our lap times down in the 5:15’s but we noticed that our temps were getting a little too high. We took the Turtle back to the pits to discuss a game plan to try to get the temps down. We gave the car a once over and swapped out the coolant for 100% water to help keep the temps down, and adjusted our sway bar setting to try and get the car tighter in the turns. Again we suited up, and headed out to run our qualifying laps. The Turtle ran great during the session, the temps were a bit cooler, but not the best. We were able to pull off a time to get us a 9th position start in the Prelims out of 17 other rigs. For only being our second race, and first Grand Prix, we felt great with our results.
Saturday, RACE DAY was upon us, and we had to get lined up early to run our Prelims at 8:45 AM. No time to change anything on our car but we were able to finalize our plan to try and get the temps down. We got lined up in our starting order, 9th back from the leader. We went into the race with the game plan of keeping the car safe and not over-pushing anything. We were OK starting 9th in the main and just wanted to get through the race. The green flag dropped and we were on the move. We were able to pass a couple of rigs and things were going great. We came over a hill leading into a flat section with a couple chicanes. We set the Turtle into a nice left handed drift to hug the inside course marker (giant Caterpillar tire) and then out of nowhere we hit a rut and hooked up. The Turtle was sent head-on for the tire. I tried to counter steer to the right to avoid the tire but it was to late. BOOM — We hit the tire like it was a wall, it sent us up in the air on the two right side wheels. So in a corrective attempt I cranked the wheels to the right and gassed it, hoping that we would be able to drive out of it, but to no avail. Over we went, rolling on the passenger side and coming to a haul back on the drive side. We had successfully rolled the Turtle for the first time. Darin and I checked in with each other to make sure we were good. The track officials rushed over to make sure we were OK and let us know they were going to flip us up-right. They got to work and we were back on our wheels quickly. We fired up the car and began to drive slowly to see if we could feel anything wrong. While I was sitting there on our side all I could think is “There goes our starting position”. I was feeling a little bummed but knew I had to get back in the groove of the race and finish it. We had time for a couple more laps in the Prelims so I started to pick up pace again. We brought the Turtle to the finish safely and then had to wait for the race results to be posted. To our surprise we stayed in 9th place, meaning we didn’t gain or lose any spots. It would have been nice to improve our starting position but we were happy to take the 9th spot.
Now that the Prelims were out of the way it was time to do some work on the rig to try and get the temps under control. Aaron from Fleet Works Services came up with a couple good ideas, top secret stuff. He went to work getting the car prepped for our main event. He was a great addition to the team as he has quite a bit of knowledge prepping race cars and working with teams at the races.
It was getting close to time to get ready for the main and Darin overheard on the PA that our class was getting lined up for the main. We were shocked as that was 30 minutes earlier than the original start time. We went into a mad scramble to get suited up and in the car. We sent one of our team members over to the track official to let them know we were on our way and his response was “We are all lined up, you can start from the back of the field.” Oh boy — That meant we had to start 19th instead of 9th. We made it over just in time as they started rolling the field out… and yes, we were in last place with a lot of cars in front of us. Instead of getting discouraged with the officials or about being in last place, we decided to take this opportunity to work on our passing skills and make the best of the situation. There were 6 rigs in front of us in the stock class and we knew we had to get past them ASAP to be able to run down the other rigs in our class. Our first pass came exiting turn one just after the green flag, and then our second and third shortly after that. We continued to work the field, making a couple more passes on lap one. By the time we finished our first lap we had gained 6 positions. Now we knew that if we were going to catch anymore we were going to have to push the Turtle as best we could. We were hoping that Aaron’s magical prep was going to keep the temps down and let us do the work we needed to. On the second lap we made another pass and then on the third we caught up to the lead pack of 4600 class rigs battling for position. Unfortunately for them, on the third lap one stalled on a hill and then two more got in a wreck just in front of us. That moved us into 10th during the third lap. On the 4th lap we caught up to another rig and were able race him down the front stretch of the short course and stuff inside to make the pass at the end of the section. By that point the leaders had us in their sights and were reeling us in. We knew that their cars were much better than ours and we were planning to just let them by. After the start line on lap 5 the leader was on our tail and he was letting us know with a few solid bumps on the triple up-hill singles, and then we let them pass to avoid getting taken out. Towards the exit of the short course section there was a rig rolled over, meaning for us another pass. Somewhere along the line we gained a few more positions simply by other rigs being in the hot pits or breaking out. Our temps were looking good and we just kept driving our race as though we were not in contention with anyone. We wanted to make it to the finish line and that is exactly what we did. We were able to bring the Turtle home to a finish on lap 10 in a VERY respectable 6th place… after starting 19th.
Oh yeah… a little exciting moment was that our in-car fire extinguisher got knocked loose and was bouncing around between the seats. We opted to swing by the hot pits and hand it off to one of our crew. No one needs projectiles in the race car. We would like to thank all of our sponsors for helping us get the Turtle to where it is today. ProComp Tires, Rock Krawler Suspension, Axial Racing, Poison Spyder Customs, Raceline Wheels, DJ Safety, Fuel Safe, Rugged Radios, Magnaflow Exhaust, J. E. Reel Drivelines, CTM Racing, Rugged Routes, Lasernut, Currie Enterprises, sPOD, Artec Industries, PRP Seats, Luxwurx, A1 Higher Graphics