NORRA 1000-1200

NORRA 1000-1200

What does it take to finish a race like this?
• Patience
• Attention to detail
• Concentration for hours at a time
• Automotive background
• Friends & family
• Luck, prayer, and determination
• Overcome change quickly
• Navigational skills
• Logistics: Food, water, gas, tires, radio, etc.
• Faith in vehicle and knowledge of what it can handle.

You can rearrange this anyway you what but if you’re missing one item you are not going to finish.

Click on the photo above to see a full slideshow.

Day 1
After leaving the bullring in Mexicali I knew we were in for a long four days. The steering was terrible on the asphalt, changing lanes without notice. The motor was branch new, only three hours and the break in oil was still in it. Jeff is going to keep the RPM’s down to day. But the car is running great. Already, I notice the noise from the body is driving me crazy. I keep looking back to see is the rear of the car is still there. We are headed to the Bay of LA and would like to be there before dark.

Day 2
I will drive today giving Jeff a brake, I soon realize that this car is not going to handle one mistake. A zero tolerance driving is now in effect, I will keep it under 80 mph and on the road at all times. I need to complete 408 miles today. We arrive in Loreto Bay around 6pm. The taco bar is open, the pool looks great, and Sarah Palin is upstairs in the suite we had last year (no kidding.) This year we are staying at La Luna behind the Mission Inn, the owner here takes good care of us.

Day 3
I am up at 5am taking pictures again then some maintenance on the AMC. Change the air cleaner and fix the door locks and we are ready to do it again. Today will be the hardest day. 400 more miles to go. I ask Jeff is he wanted me to drive again today and he could drive across the finish line tomorrow. Just after the start, both latches break on the rear hatch. We are not stopping, maybe we can make it through the stage. 30 miles later, the hinge breaks and the hatch is in my rearview mirror, swinging. It is now a General Tire monument on top of a 3000’ mountain in Baja. We should have left the hatch at the start line. The car feels lighter now and it’s cooler inside. It’s a long day but we pull into La Paz on time with no penalties. We are staying at the Marina Bay Inn in La Paz. After a quick swim and a great Bloody Mary we are off to dinner with Mom, Tony, Jeff, and I.

Day 4
I am up at 3am, the Edsel is pulling into the parking lot. I think they broke down yesterday. Today starts with a 56 mile transit section then a 140 mile race to the finish in Cabo. At the end of every day people ask what’s in our car. Today my answer is a grenade and I already pulled the pin. Jeff is driving today, it is a very difficult course, no mistakes allowed. We drift wide and there is a ditch in front of the car. I started yelling, “stop!“ and the car stalls and won’t turn over, the starter is hot. Jeff probably would have missed the ditch, I was being overcautious. Ten minutes later, it starts and we’re off again 50 miles to go. Where is the fuel stop? The GPS isn’t tracking mileage and I don’t know where we are, Mag 7 has 22 gallons of fuel for us but they are not here. We eventually run out of the gas just past checkpoint 12. I am going to run back to the road for gas one mile. There is no gas here but someone will drive me into town to pick up five gallons of fuel. By the time I return Jeff has the car at the road and a motorcycle also needs gas. We both fuel up but because we don’t have a GPS with mileage we have to drive back into town again and top off the fuel cell. One hour later, we are back in the race. We soon realize we are only miles to the finish line. Police on every corner and we are here. Three trips in the AMC Hornet and three finishes. 2nd in class. 19th overall.

Mint 400 Part 2

Trying to race three cars wasn’t the best idea.  We ended up going in too many directions.  Since two of the cars were in the morning race we were up early getting Derek and Jeff started then we were off to pit #2 but we also needed people at the main pit to prep the 7200 truck,  It worked out fine but some things were sacrificed.

Derek completed the race in 14th overall and 1st in class.  The class 9 prep by Doug, Stewart, and Butch paid off.  Derek drove at a conservative pace which paid off and still finished 14th.  Jeff and the AMC Hornet were off to a bad start, leaking through a bad oil cooler behind the seats.  I think they could have finished the race but would have probably finished the car.  We weren’t aware  of it but the motor was seizing.  1 ½ laps or 150 miles and they are out.  The car lived to race another day.

At noon it was time to race the 7200 truck pre-stage behind the railroad tracks.  We were set to race around 1:30 pm.  It was a side by side start.  Our truck locked up quickly by the 1st turn and we were out front by three truck lengths.  As we made the last turn to go out into the desert we hit the soft sand and our 5700 lb truck turns into a bulldozer.  540 HP going to waste in a truck that is too heavy for this part of the course.  We were passed up quickly.

Back on the hard pack we were picking up speed but something is different about the truck.  What is this? At the top of every roller there is a sharp jolt going right through our backs.  What is this?  Never mind, just man up and race.  Sort the same mentality as not asking for directions when you’re lost.

The truck is fast and we passed vehicles already while making our 5th pass in 20 miles.  We clipped one of the trucks with the front end.  It mostly filled the engine compartment with rocks because it rolled the power steering belt off the pulley and turned the belt inside out.

We needed to change the belts on a very hot engine including the alternator belt which was in the way.  It took 30-45 minutes to fix then we are back up to speed again behind a white truck at 40-50 MPH.  The truck in front of us clips a large rock and spun it under us taking out two tires only 10 minutes later.  You can see where this day is going.

Changed two tires and were off.  This was still lap one and three more to go.  The truck tops out at about 115 MPH and the adjustment Stewart made to our cooling system is working great full throttle and we are hitting 210 degrees on lap two.

Something was still wrong with our set up and my back felt it.  But I hadn’t figured it out.  The rear end lets go on lap two.  We snapped the locating arm bolt.  To fix this under load we needed to lift the rear end of the truck off the ground.  We stacked up two tires under the rear bumper and placed our jack under that to raise up the whole rear end and put in a new bolt.  We were going to drive into pit one and fix it again.  After asking everyone for parts fixed again with the right bolts and misaligned cams.

At this point Stewart was already done keeping this truck together, it’s becoming a full time job and without any finishes no one cares if we go.

We are off to the main pit to finish lap two and the rear end breaks again for the same reason.  We rolled into the main pit and got out.  We are done now, the arm is also almost through the fuel cell this time.

What did we change this race?  The compression on all four corners too loosen up the suspension and use every inch of travel we have.  It was the wrong choice for the track and both the truck and I paid the price-  my back locked up on me and I couldn’t stand up straight for two days.

Why didn’t we stop and fix this during the race??

Our next race is the NORRA 1000 in Baja.

 

 

The Mint 400 Photo Gallery


Click on the photo above for a full slideshow.

Mint 400 Part 1

I have always liked racing the Mint 400, it’s a chance to meet real off road race fans. Thousands of people came out Wednesday before the event to watch the pit crew change on Fremont St. On Thursday afternoon 10,000 fans walked down Fremont Plaza to see every race vehicle up close and to meet the drivers and crew. There was standing room only and we handed out 600 posters—what a hit with the kids. Check it out:

On Friday afternoon it was time to tech our vehicles. The AMC Hornet is center stage at the General Tire press conference where they announced that they will now be the official sponsor of the Mexican 1000 (NORRA 1000.) Jeff McCullough’s AMC is the only vintage car to race the Mint 400.

We entered tech at 9th St. and head towards the Plaza Hotel. We started pushing at 6th St. uphill. There were plenty of people to help since the Plaza was still full of people. There were vendors on both sides of the street, there must have been 80 different companies there.
It’s a lot of work getting three vehicles through the tech inspection but we finished around 4pm. But we weren’t done yet we needed to pick up race fuel at the race track 45 minutes away. Chris and Larry volunteered to pick it up.

I could write an entire story on the helmet we gave to Casey (owner of Best in the Desert) but not today. It arrived in Vegas at 8pm and the driver’s meeting was almost over. I really didn’t think it was going to make it. Derek walked in with the helmet and we took it out of the box where no one else could see. I think there were 2,000 racers at the meeting. The helmet was perfect. Eric Wilmer pulled it off. It was a totally custom helmet to commemorate the first Mint 400 to be led by Best in the Desert and Casey Folks. Eric, thanks for all your hard work. You should have seen the surprised look on Casey’s face.

Wait a minute, I almost forgot the party! Now on to the hot laps with General Tires’ VIP’s. The details on this party are a little… fuzzy. You may be able to piece together the whole night by getting each crew members’ account of the evening. It was held upstairs in the Gold Digger Bar. We spent the night with our own table overlooking Fremont Plaza with free drinks all night and off road videos playing. Last call was at 1:30am and it was time for bed.

Race Day- Started at 4am. BLM’s estimate for spectators was over 25,000 for Saturday alone.

It’s a long drive to Primm and the traffic starts as soon as we hit the dirt going to the Start. Derek and Jeff were in the first race with a 6am start in the dark.

Jeff Marciano and I got fuel for everyone. The AMC gets only 4 or 5 miles per gallon but the 9 car can run all day. We didn’t get to see the start but were getting reports back saying the track is full of large rocks like someone placed them there. But after one lap they’re gone.

Stay tuned for part 2.

2011 Mexican 1000 Rally

NORRA Day 1:

Click the photo above for a full slide show

Parade start from the bullring in Mexicali.  A wild ride through the streets in rush hour.  We re-staged just off the highway and are going to start 40th or 50th, just behind Rick Johnson.  Right off the start we are all lost.  Rick Johnson is just ahead of me and I hope he knows where the course is.  GPS is not loaded correctly and the course is not showing up.  Thirty minutes later, we are back on course.

The rear suspension is not working at all, the shocks are too stiff.  And why did I use three shocks per side?  It takes the whole day to loosen up the rear end.  Carlos, Lisa, and my Mom are at the end of the first section.  I am going to stop for fuel.  Carlos spots oil around the rear tire.  After a quick check, the valve cover is broken.  The first person over to help has an extra engine in his truck and gives up the valve cover.  I wish I knew his name so could thank him.  I am ready for section 2.  Just before the start, Jeff and Betsy are towed in to the staging area with no gas.  The AMC is not getting very good gas mileage.  We had changed the ring and pinion just before the race.

Day 1 ends in Bay of L.A..  The AMC is not here, Jeff shows up later with a broken upper control arm and a massive exhaust leak.  It’s a couple of hours to fix it but the welder isn’t working and I don’t think it will hold.

I can’t sleep so, I get up early at 5am to take pictures.

NORRA Day 2:

It’s an early start, 8am and  Jeff decides to start the race then return to  repair the arm again at a local repair shop.  It takes a couple of hours but they are going to take a DNF for the day.  I am off to a rough start, also something is clicking in the rear end and half way through the day, all three shocks break off the right side.  After a long stop at Mag 7 pit support, I weld them back on with a welder that doesn’t work again.  Just down the road all three left side shocks break off.  I stop during a transit section and weld them back on with an arc welder and $40 later, I am back on the road.  I am now at the last section with 120 miles to go for the day and all the shocks on the right side break off again.  I am going to finish the day with three shocks in my lap.  Rear suspension now works too good and the car is going metal to metal, with 120 miles to go I can’t keep this up and must slow down.  It makes for a long day but I finish.  I got to the finish line just before dark.  I will spend the next 3 hours fixing shock towers at a local repair shop.  Another $40, a bottle of Tequila given to a local for his help, and I am ready to race.

(insert pic 7797)

NORRA Day 3, Loreto Bay:

Just out of town the road turns to asphalt and goes straight uphill with blind turns, no lines, and a long drop off the edge.  The shocks are working but why did I put three back on again?  Albert Einstein said “Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  The sections are getting harder to run fast, rocks everywhere, and small whoops take me out.  And the hard pack!  Every bump is transferring into the car.  I have hit my head at least 100 times today on the roll cage.    This was a brand new helmet.

Almost to the end now and I hit the silt beds full speed.  It’s 3’ deep but the Hi-Jumper keeps going.  It’s 1 mile to the finish then it’s all over.  Two trips to the Mexican 1000 and two finishes.  A long transit section to La Paz and 2nd place goes to Lost Boys Racing.  The AMC is not far behind, he’s having his own issues throughout the day but completes the race just after me.  Even after taking max time for day 2, he is still  awarded 2nd place in his class for making it to La Paz.  Jeff and Betsy did the best they could, this car really took a beating in 2010 and the prep time almost 4 months.  It’s amazing just how much damage these cars can withstand, but this may be the AMC’s last year.

The awards are tomorrow at 10am then poolside for the rest of the day.  At dusk we are off at Papas & Beer then a nice drive to the Marina Hotel.  Dinner at Guillermo’s overlooking the bay, a great evening with music, Jeff, Carlos, Lisa, and Mom.

What next?  A 30 hour drive to San Diego with 6 people in an F350 Crew Cab.  How do you spell relief?  Well, it doesn’t start with “Ford.”

NORRA 1000 Tech Day

A Day at the Pomona Fairgrounds

Click the image above for a full slide show.

We had a nice day at the Pomona Fairgrounds for the AMC Only car show.

After the show we took a short trip through the NHRA Museum at the Fairgrounds.  This month was dedicated to Mickey Thompson.  He truly has incredible vision, a man far ahead of his time.

Off Road Expo Photos

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Click on the photo above to see a full slide show.

Off Road Expo

Lost Boys Racing will be at the Off Road Expo Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Pomona Fairplex.  Come see our 1973 AMC Hornet at the NORRA booth!