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V2R, 2014 A View of the Race as a Chase/Pit Crewman.

brent tttow twlight chase cont crew dusk finish fix goates leaving pit monica pits purdy sgart

I have never really been one to document or write trip reports. I’m not really sure why. I believe it’s because when I go on a trip I mainly just soak everything in and that simply satisfies me.  I’m not a big talker when I am with groups I mainly just listen to what others say. The ones who truly know me know that I am a one on one kind of person.

Before I went to the 2014 Vegas to Reno race I said to myself I would document this trip. I’m not sure why but perhaps because it is something I really enjoy doing. So this is not a perfect report perhaps I missed something or it’s a little out of order but its what I remember.

I went to V2R last year with Canguro Racing to chase Mathilda. I had a hell of a time and should have written a report on it. So when I was asked to come again it was a no brainer.

Canguro Racing had purchased a new race vehicle that I kind of heard about through the grape vine.  About a month ago I was texting Dave Connors and I asked if they were running V2R? His reply: We are running V2R. Want to come chase a Land Cruiser through the desert? My response, A Cruiser! Badass count me in!

Soon I was texting Darren Webster about details on the Cruiser only to find out it’s the Lexus that has been running the Baja the last few years, which is just freaking awesome.

One thing that truly amazes me is Dave’s gift of writing up an itinerary of what each member of the team will be doing. I look forward to it each time and study the crap out of it so I know exactly where and what I should be doing.

Fast forward to August 13th, a day that I have looked forward to for over a month. I find myself at Wendy’s in Nephi with my beautiful wife waiting for Dave, Darren and Jason Goates to pick me up for the ride to Vegas. As we were loading up the truck Ryan Davis, Adam Tolman and Steve Davis pulled into the parking lot with the new Land Cruiser in tow. After drooling all over Monica (Land Cruiser) I said farewell to Kelsey, and we were off to Vegas. Soon we arrived at Ryan’s brothers house. Matt Davis and his wife Celeste are super nice to let us take over their home for 2 nights. Soon we were in bed looking forward to contingency the next day.

The next morning we all gathered and set off to contingency. This is where the racers register and get inspected for the race. Since every racer has to be there you get to see all the badass trucks in one area along with lots of venders with the latest cool gismos to put on your truck.

While the drivers went inside to register I stood guard of Monica only to soon be in the driver seat pretending to race. I got a few odd looks as passerby’s walked past.

After a hot stand in the parking lot we went for lunch to Raising Canes. If you have not been there you are missing out! We went back to Matt’s to hang out and then found some dinner at a great Mexican place. Dave and Darren went to the airport to pick up Will Carroll and Matt Russell in the meantime. After we went to do some final prep to the chase trucks. Goates is always providing a laugh.

Once we got back to Matt’s house we had a team meeting. We went over safety, who goes where and what to do. The Canguro guys are always prepared and are on top of their game. There was nothing to worry about because it was all covered and everyone was on the same page.

Friday, race day! Here is some insight for those who don’t know how we run for this race we had the following set up for chase/pit vehicles/people.

200 Series/Monica: Canguro Race

Ryan’s Tundra: Chase 1- Steve Davis, Ryan Davis, Adam Tolman

Dave‘s100 Land Cruiser: Chase 2- Dave Connors, Darren Webster, Jason Goates

Marc’s Duramax: Chase 4- Marc and Matt Van Tassell, Matt Russell and Brent Childs

We drove about an hour out of Vegas to the start line with Monica in tow.

My assignment was in Chase 4. I drove most of the race, with Matt Russell navigating and running the radio for half of the race, then Marc Van Tassell after he had driven Monica. We also had Marc’s son Matt on board also.

We got Monica, Marc (Driving) and Dave (Co-driver) all prepped for take off. I then went over to the start line to watch the trophy trucks take off from the starting line. There was a good hour of watching trucks and buggies blast off. It was awesome!

Soon Monica made her way up to the start line and Marc and Dave were off.

We made our way back to the trucks and started off for pit 1. The truck was running strong and going pretty fast too. There was a truck in front of Monica that would not get out of the way, so Marc gave them a nice get the hell out of my way hit. They got worried that the lights on the front of Monica got damaged from the hit so they had us check them out at pit 2. I stayed out on the highway with the truck and trailer so I did not have to find a place to turn around. But I snapped a picture of the truck coming into the pit. With everything in order and not harmed they took off again.

Matt, Matt And I took off for pit 4 to monitor the radios and be there in case something happened. While we went there the others went to pit 3 to do a driver swap in the race truck. Now we had Dave Driving and Will Carroll Co-Drive.

We lost radio contact with Monica after pit 3 as they were on the other side of a mountain range. In chase 4 Matt Russell and me were playing the get to know you game, as we had never met. Matt is a solid dude and fits in well with the crew and team. It was nice to meet you Matt. After a while we received radio contact. They were 2 miles from pit 4 and they had some engine codes show up that they were concerned about. We were once again on the highway since the truck was not supposed to stop. So we bolted into the pit and there was Dave and Will waiting for us. We did not have the scan gauge with us so they read us the codes and then took off. We headed down the road to the next pit relaying the codes to the other chase trucks. A quick Google search and we had found out the codes had to do with the exhaust and one with the air intake. The results were relayed to Master Tech Will whom said there should not be a problem running with those codes on. Dave and Will thought that a rock had hit the exhaust and decided to stop at pit 5 for a quick look. They got to the pit and an inspection was underway when all of a sudden water started leaking out from under the truck. Steve Davis Ryan’s Brother a chaser/pit man was trying to detect where the water was coming from as it splashed on him. Well it turned out it was just Will taking a piss. We all had a good laugh and sent the truck on with no damage to the exhaust.

Our next stop would be pit 6, where we do another driver change.  Will takes the wheel with Ryan as co-dawg. While they were switching drivers, I was checking engine oil and fluids. The other members were dumping fuel and going through the rig. With everything set they were soon gone.

The next 3 pits are pretty close together so Marc and I went to what we thought was pit 7 ended up being pit 8. After hearing that the race truck had passed pit 7 we were all sorts of confused because we never saw the truck roll by.  After a quick check of the truck at pit 8 we set off for pit 9 on our way while listening to Ryan name off race miles and their speed he started naming the miles off rather quickly…. 78mph…86mph…92mph…Everyone Will just topped out at 109mph! Holy shit I thought as they were hauling ass, they are going to be hard to keep up with at this rate.  This was a big motivator as everyone’s spirits raised at all the excitement they were having. A moment I will not forget. We got to pit 9 and watched Monica pass through and head off to pit 10 with no problems at all. Will, Ryan and Monica were on fire! They were doing some serious ass kicking.

At pit 10 there was once again another driver change with Ryan driving and Darren as co pilot.

Things again went very smooth throughout Ryan’s drive from what I can remember. I guess I can embark now about driving Marcs Duramax. I find it a rather badass truck. I like driving diesel trucks and Marcs has awesome power all over while cruising down the highway. Pulling a trailer does not even bug me. I feel really comfortable in that truck. Perhaps one day I will be cruising it around Baja for them.

Fast forward to pit 13. Darren takes the wheel and Ryan co-drives. After adding another few cans of fuel it was time for Monica to head off into the sunset.

Our assignment was now to head to pit 14. If everything went according to plan Monica was to just pass by pit 14 and go for the finish. I was going to jump out and snap some pictures while they went by.  We were out of radio range with the race truck but we had Adam Tolman in chase 1 relaying what was going on. Soon there was a crackle over the radio. We lost a tire and we are getting out to fix it. Marc and I though ok easy, we will dig out a spare to put on Monica and send her off. Soon Adam started relaying that it was more than a flat tire. It turns out while cresting a hill 2 rocks were in the course, Darren swerved to miss then but ended up hitting a shark tooth shaped rock. It sheared off a bolt that holds the coil spring and the bypass shock in place on the A-arm. The bypass shock went through the tire and got torn all to hell. Adam who was in connection with Darren and Ry ry relayed to me that when they get into pit 14 they are going to need a 5/8-diameter 9 inch bolt with a nut. I said we would see what we could come up with, while in my head I was saying where in the hell are we going to find one of those? Marc was outside getting the spare off the trailer. I walked back and told him about the bolt. He started unloading the truck saying he has a bag of bolts but who knows what kinds? Marc pulled out an ARB bag reached in and like it was meant to be he pulls out a bolt and said you mean one like this? I was in awe I couldn’t believe it. It was the exact bolt we needed. I quickly relayed we had found a bolt surprising Adam and his crew. By now chase 1 was close to pit 14 and the race truck was limping in. Ryan requested we find a welder to help with the repairs. Goates quickly located one and we were set for the injured Monica to limp in.

Once Monica made it, tear down began. The tire was pulled off and the assessment began. In the picture it shows everything repaired except the limiting strap for the suspension. I did not get a broken picture.  If you look at the bottom of the blue shock there is a bolt holding it in place. That is what sheared off when it got hit.

Ryan took charge as the lead mechanic. Its cool to witness Ryan work under pressured conditions. He handles it really well. We got multiple Jacks and straps in place and everything lined up to where Ryan could slip in the new bolt while pushing out the old. It went really smooth I thought.  We forgot to put the limiting strap on that bolt but decided to run the truck without it. We buttoned it all back up and sent Darren and Ryan off.

We reloaded the trucks and headed for the finish line.  We again lost radio contact. Marc Matt and I made it to the finish line. It was now about 4am. The rest of the chase vehicles trickled in soon after. We all went and stood at the finish line to see Monica come in. We stood there for a while, finally we could here them over the radio. Once again Monica got injured. The shock that previously broke had now broke at the upper mount. We assumed it had gotten weakened from the first incident. When the upper mount broke the shock took out some coolant lines and Monica started getting warm. Ryan and Darren dumped the water from their camel backs into the radiator to help cool her down.  They were able to once again limp her down the track stopping every now and then to let her cool off. After a bit Monica had made it! She coasted right into the finish.

We did it! 534 miles, we once again completed the longest off road race in the USA! It’s a very cool feeling looking back at all that had happened. There were quite a few trucks that did not finish but through the teamwork of Canguro racing we were able to get this new race truck to the finish.  After we got everything loaded up and a few pictures taken we went off to the Casino. After being up for 24 hours we were all tired and ended up in bed at about 5:30am

It was a true Honor to be selected again by Canguro racing to be apart of the team and help them fulfill their dreams. They also allow me to fulfill part of my dreams by exposing me to the racing world. My goal one day is to be behind the wheel myself of some sort of vehicle racing the Baja 1000.  These groups of friends are the key to their success. I know they know that but they really do have something special that links them together so well. One of those links for the drivers and the chasers that started everyone’s relationship together is because of our love for the Toyota Land Cruiser. And now to be racing and chasing one professionally is just straight up badass. Thanks Canguro Racing, I hope to be there again with these fine gentlemen.

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2014 Vegas to Reno

Vegas to Reno 2014 was the dawn of a new day for Canguro Racing and we couldn’t be happier about the way the day unfolded for us. Was it perfect? No. Was it awesome? Absolutely.  As most of you know this was our first race with our new race truck. Our Class 5 is still for sale but her replacement, a 2010 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser, is an amazing piece of machinery and a well-built, race proven truck that fits the team far better than our beloved Trophy Beetle.  We are all friends because of our love of Land Cruisers, as well as our membership in the TLCA and Wasatch Cruisers.  With Monica (yes we name our race vehicles) we are getting back to our roots but also taking a huge step forward as a race team.

V2R was not only a test of the new truck but with Kurt out of the country we were racing with new co-drivers as an attempt to learn from each other and understand if there are better ways to communicate/drive/navigate. We settled on a plan of rolling teams. Marc and Dave would start, then Dave would drive with Will co-driving. Then Will driving with Ryan etc. etc.

As this was the first race with the new truck we decided to run Sportsman’s class to not put any pressure on ourselves and ease our way into the race and understanding how Monica performs. Truth be told outside of Marc none of us had more than 20 mins or so behind the wheel.  Then a funny thing happened. Everything came very naturally. Because of the high COG and underpowered brakes the truck behaved very much like an 80 series Land Cruiser. A more powerful, capable, awesome version of an 80 but still similar enough that our team of former and current 80 owners could very easily drive Monica quickly down the race course.  Running Sportsman meant we were at the back of the pack. And by back of the pack I mean the second to last vehicle off the line.  Marc and Dave saw this as an opportunity to pass 299 teams.  Within 3 miles they had already caught the first vehicle. A few miles later after plenty of lights and liberal use of the horn they decided it was time to nudge the truck in front of them to get around.  They were obviously faster but the driver refused to yield. Normally at the back of the pack nerfing is not needed as we are all privateers that want to preserve our equipment but in this case we were being held up.  Marc eased up to the back of the truck, and gave a noticeable but safe bump. They didn’t move. They didn’t speed up. They just stayed put.  They held us up for the next 15 miles, while both passing numerous other race vehicles, until we finally had a chance to get around in a silty 90 degree high speed corner. After a few miles we caught up to that truck’s teammate. This time Marc was a little less subtle in his nerf, frustration having got the best of him, and the truck was quick to move over.  Marc and Dave ran quickly for the next 75 miles or so, passing a dozen on course vehicles and another 20 broken down in the process.  During a 25mph speed/no passing zone they got stuck behind a slower car with a flat tire that allowed the field to catch up to the back of us. Once around the flat tire car Marc made really good time to distance himself from the stack of cars behind him with only a Class 1 and Trophy Truck getting around. He pulled into Pit 3 and hopped out. Dave moved over to the driver’s seat and Will climbed in to co-drive. Lug nuts checked, 5 gallons of gas added (not sure on the race fuel economy yet) and they were back out onto the course.

Dave and Will made really good time (despite some GPS and radio issues) for the first half of their section passing a dozen broken or stuck cars in the process.  Then after a noticeable back fire in a 90 degree turn the motor started to stumble. Will communicated to the pits that we had a ‘power issue.’ Somehow this was received as an ‘electrical issue’ by the chase teams.  He passed codes to the teams to check out.  Intake and exhaust was discussed, bad fuel, elevation, heat, all options.  After a quick stop at pit 4 to pass codes, they took off. At Pit 5 the exhaust was checked for damage/restriction. Still they made good time just with a little less low end power.  They continued to pass broken and stuck trucks taking the total to about 45 over the first 40% of the race. Then a funny thing happened. About 3 miles from Pit 6 the power all came back.  Dave took the opportunity finish off his leg very aggressively with full power at the ready.  Pit 6 meant 32 gallons of fuel, Will to Driver, Ryan as Co-driver and GoPro card swaps. Then the truck was back out on course. Awesome work by our chase crews in the pits all race.  The motor ran issue free until the end of the race. A text to the former truck owner confirmed he’d had a similar issue at a very hot Baja 500 and we kind of dismissed it at heat related and to look into it after the race.

Will and Ryan found some very good speed over the next 120 miles. They peaked out at an easy 110 mph after coming down out of the mountains.  Monica has a significant speed advantage over Mathida.  We would have been pushing hard to make 85 through the same area with the old car.  Will and Ryan ran incident free and had the pleasure of racing into the sunset. For those who have never raced there is something special about the sunset (or sunrise in the case of the Baja 1000) during the race. All the dust in the air magnifies the color and the whole race course begins to take on a different feel as the powerful HIDs take over the night.  Another quick stop at Pit 10 with Will hoping out, Ryan taking the helm and Darren finally getting in the car.  At this point our average speed was around 45mph and we were easily 5 hours ahead of where we were the previous year. The chase teams had spent the majority of the race to this point leapfrogging each other and joining together at the pits went off in three separate directions.

As darkness fell Ryan and Darren settled into a rhythm they would follow the next few hours; brutally slow course while playing leap frog with the same 5-6 cars.  They’d get us in the twisties, we’d get them back in the straights, whoops and silt.  Overall the going was slow but consistent.  At pit 13 Ryan and Darren swaps seats, the truck was topped off with fuel and out into the darkness they went to the finish.  Then our night took a turn for the worse.

The speeds had picked up and we were 2.5 hours ahead of the next car in class when Darren came over a rise and had to choose the best way around 3 rocks in the middle of the road. It was a lesser of two evils choice as there was no way to get around all 3 cleanly and a rock on the right got him. It was a hard hit but neither thought much about it at first. Unfortunately it was a well-placed hit that broke the lower shock bolt.  Not huge deal but the shock then took out the tire.  They swapped the tire and limped to Pit 14. At pit 14 a bolt was sourced and the shock reinstalled without the limiting strap.  Darren and Ryan took off again but a more controlled speed.  They made good time through pit 15 then up into the mountains and the last 30 miles to the finish.

The last 18 miles to the finish are brutal. For anyone who has driven it I don’t need to explain. For those who haven’t just imagine a road full of bowling balls, but they are sharp, now climb the side of a mountain on that road. It’s slow, it’s monotonous and it’s harsh on the vehicle. A finish at Vegas to Reno is well earned to say the least. In the middle of this boulder strewn road the top shock mount broke. It was obviously tweaked earlier and finally succumbed. Even worse it took out the tranny coolant lines in the process. This left Darren and Ryan with only one plan of attack.  Drive til the truck got hot. Stop. Let it cool. Dump in some water. Drive some more. Wait to cool. Over and over. It took them an hour to go 6 miles before the long coast down the hill to the finish line. Awesome patience and work by both of them. It’s hard to keep your cool in those situations.

We fell from first to third in class but we were still ecstatic with the finish. We’d raced fast and we’d also overcome some legitimate adversity and still managed a podium with the new truck. Not only that but we finished almost 5 hours faster than the year before.  We have high hopes for the Baja 1000.