KOH 2018 Race Week:
First and foremost, we were stoked to be setting up our pits in the Lasernut Laser Town hanger. We arrived at Laser Town and got the Turtle set up in the hanger and set up all our camp stuff. We did a little last minute shock tuning on the Rock Krawler shocks to get them dialed in for race day, then headed over to get registered for the race. Monday was our qualifying day and in practice we discovered that the motor was running not so peppy. We learned that we had to shift to 4-Lo just to get up the hill climb and then shift back into 4-Hi to finish the lap. It hurt our qualifying times a bit but we were still able to get an 11th in class start for Thursday’s race. We also discovered that we had a melted coil pack and spark plug that were causing the engine to run poorly. We were able to get in a run around Lap 1 of the KOH course and mark down some trouble spots on GPS as well as set up our lines to get through the new “Notches” area that Ultra4 added to the course this year. We were feeling pretty good about the course of Lap 1 and the car was running well. We headed out for a pre-run of Lap 2 and got through a couple trails but unfortunately cracked the oil pan on a couple big hits and that caused us to call the pre-running extremely short. A big part of our pit support this year was provided by Dust Junkies Racing and they just so happened to be near where we broke down and gave us a helping hand to get back to Laser Town. We spent the rest of our pre-running time hunting down an oil pan and making repairs to the rig and studying the course map.
KOH 2018 EMC Race Day:
Let’s just start with, the green flag dropped and we were off and running! Darin was behind the wheel and ready to attack the desert lap. The first few miles had us on edge, knowing that race nerves can cause you to overdrive the rig and/or potentially suffer flats. As we clicked off the early miles we passed many rigs that had suffered exactly that, and a couple others with some quick driving decisions. We were able to maintain a good pace and cruise through unscathed. As we passed by RM12 we felt the rig was doing well. We radioed to Dust Junkies at Remote Pit 1 that we didn’t need a tire change and opted pass through without a stop. They responded with “Well done. We’ll catch you on the flip side at RM48”. We waved on the way by the pits and were feeling great about the rig. We kept clicking off the miles, passing other racers along the way. As we arrived at “The Notches” a little ways past RM24 we followed a couple other rigs into the banner area. Again, we passed a few others that were floundering in the rocks not knowing where to go. We stuck to our pre-planned route and managed to maneuver around a couple more. As we exited, we were on the tail of a 4800 rig and we decided to go for the pass in a whooped-out section to the drivers left. We made the pass, but we also went for a good ride when the front end got bucked pretty high, and we were reminded that we needed to tone it back.
We got back on our pace as we rounded the half-way point at RM32, and we continued carrying a good pace, picking our way through the tight desert section before reaching RM47, where we again needed to radio to the Dust Junkies at Remote Pit 1 what our plans were. We chatted for a bit about how the rig was doing, we were not hearing any strange sounds, and we again didn’t need to stop for a tire change. We hit the pit zone and again gave the big thumbs up as we passed by. Heading out crossing the base line we knew the speeds were going to pick up as we rounded the big bend at RM52. Around RM54 we had a close encounter with a bird — this bird was about 20 feet off the deck and clocking us for speed about 50 feet off the front passenger corner of the rig. At least it seemed that close. So we mashed the gas to pick up the pace and see what they would do. We gave them the applause and enjoyed the camera man hanging off the side of the helicopter. Let’s hope it makes the cut into some footage somewhere.
We reached the intersection at the baseline exit and headed out across the dry, dusty Melville lakebed. At times we couldn’t see much more than a few feet in front of us. Picking our way up into the top of Resolution, preparing for our drop down it and Backdoor, we knew we had just a couple more miles before we were back to Main. We had a bit of a close call at Backdoor — we got in a little bit of a hurry to prevent another rig from passing us and did a great nose pose with the rear tires straight up in the air. We hit the gas to prevent the roll-over and hit the rear bumper hard on the rock wall behind us… BUT we were down and all four wheels and the rig was still moving. We called in to pits that we were down but took a hard hit and would need to look the rig over really well. We made the last of the little climbs before hitting the short course and the Main Pits. At this point we were pretty stoked Darin just had a VERY clean run on Lap 1 and suffered ZERO flats with our Falken tires. We had a feeling that we were sitting in a pretty good position and it was time to change drivers.
And so the race continues… Lap 2 — Randall is now in the driver’s seat and ready to take on the rock sections. Before we got there, we had to run through the first 8 miles of the Lap 1 again, and then around the desert for another 9 miles before reaching Remote Pit 2A. Again, we kept a descent pace intent on not overdriving the rig. As we reached Remote Pit 2A the rig was feeling pretty good and we called in to let them know that we would just be passing by. We headed into the first rock trail, Boulder Dash, and made pretty quick work of it. We headed down Upper Big Johnson and continued across the valley and around to the bottom of Wrecking Ball. While we were in Wrecking Ball we had a few difficulties leading up to the waterfall but cruised right up the bypass line and continued on. At RM85 we headed over to Fissure Mountain to run across the top of the range and down to Sledgehammer. Another new thing for the Ultra4 race this year was the addition of two trails at RM90, Idle Issues and Her Problem, two trails that I did not get to pre-run nor even see. As we approached the trail we saw the trail markers but the terrain looked untraveled and there were no obvious lines. There was no stopping us on this trail we picked it apart, as if we were cutting a new trail. We had a little trouble getting through Chocolate Thunder but were able to keep our cool and get back on track.
Once we got over into Jack North we felt something strange in the steering and decided we should stop and take a look. What we discovered was the mount on the axle for the Hydro Assist Ram has been torn off and the Ram was just hanging there cycling left and right. We also discovered that all of the drive flange bolts on the rear axle (BOTH SIDES!) had backed out and we were leaking a ton of gear oil. We tightened up the flange bolts, removed the hydro-ram and capped the hydro lines so we could continue the race. We wheeled up to the crux of Jack North and, like a replay of last year, Darin got out and spotted the rigs through and then got us through and we headed for Jack Hammer. The problem with not having Hydro Assist is that every rock the tires come in contact with will jolt the tires one way or another and that makes it very difficult to steer and stay on the line that you need to get over the rocks. Coming down Jack Hammer we made sure to plan way ahead and keep the car on the right line. Heading up the sand hills at RM93 was pretty fun with the new motor screaming as we made our way. We got around to Hells Gate and continued to struggle with the ability to steer and stay on the right line. Thankfully we had a new ZEON 10 winch from Warn on the rig to get us quickly un-stuck when necessary.
We cruised down Devils Slide and headed over into Sunbonnet Pass. We came upon a few other rigs in the trail and made passes when we could but also got stuck a few times, and again had to use the winch to get unstuck. Somewhere in Sunbonnet we got lodged between two big rocks and had to use our jack to get out, which cost us a significant amount of time. At that point we also discovered that we had cracked the oil pan again and it is was dripping. We took some time to look at the leak and see if we could spot the crack. We debated continuing the race with the leak but the concern was, if we cracked the oil pan even worse, we could damage the motor and possibly be stuck in a trail until the race is over. We agreed that we would make our way out of Sunbonnet and then reassess the condition of the rig. It’s always a hard decision to make but we had to make it. We decided to make our way to the stock bypass split at RM100 and call the race. We didn’t want to risk severe damage to the motor and didn’t want a late-night team recovery after the race. We got in touch with our pit crew at Remote Pit 2B and had them relay to Race Ops that we were out of the race at RM100.
We finished our race as the 1st place DNF, putting us officially in 4th place by progression. Yes, you read that right — There were only three 4500 class rigs that finished the race, and only another nine rigs in the 4800 class. This race was a difficult one — Not because of the number of rock trails or a difficult desert lap, but because Mother Nature has not rained on the Hammer trails in some time, and that caused the dirt to be very dusty and the rocks to be covered in dust, and some holes to be extra deep.
We would like to give a special thanks to several sponsors – To Off Road Development for providing the shop space for us to get ready for KOH. To Sucuri Security for stepping on board to support the team this year. To Warn for going above and beyond standard customer service to solve our winching issues. To Dust Junkies Racing for providing pit space and pit support at the race. To Lasernut for providing us space in the Laser Town Hanger at KOH. To Rock Krawler for their continued support in our race program. To Falken for providing ZERO flats this year on the Wildpeak M/T tires. And to our DTR team… Without them we would not be able to do what we do. We are a team that is more like a family and we are all in it together. Even though we did not finish, we did not lose. We come away smarter and stronger. We are still a young team and we continue to learn at every race.
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