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San Felipe 250 - Race Recap

Thursday -The adventure began on clear sunny morning heading south to Mexico through Mexicali, the capital of Baja California. Also well know for its Chinese food too. I’ll stick to tacos. The trip to San Felipe is just a little over 2 hours once south of the border. The first part out of Mexicali takes you near the end of the Colorado River, across dry lakebeds, and through interesting rock formations. Once close enough to see the ocean, you can see how far the tidal change is, and how far out the tide can go.

As you continue south, you eventually come to the “Arches of San Felipe”. This is where the 240 mile race will start on Saturday morning, and finish Saturday evening within the 10 hour time limit.

First things first, confirmation of accommodations. Always an interesting adventure in Mex. As we were escorted to the house we were supposed to be renting, it was evident there was another race team already there. The owners partner already rented it without her knowing it. The beautiful weather and the record number of racers caused quite the shortage of accommodations. We eventually were able to secure a small one bedroom with one bath and a small kitchen with refrigerator. Only problem was there was no running water, no electricity, no propane for the water heater (in the event we had water). One bed, one sleeper couch, and one couch. 9 people. Let’s say it took some open mindedness and some creative “rigging”, but by the time night came, there were hot showers with the light on.

Friday started with a “pre run” of the bottom portion of the race course. The last two years we had not ever made it to the bottom portion, so we figured we would get a good look at it prior to this race. The pre-runner*(*see definitions below) can maintain speeds comparable to the race truck in certain sections of the course, while maintaining some of its practicality for an “everyday driver” and chase truck**. With its 4 wheel drive, it can compensate for “discoveries” along the prerun.

We were going to do the bottom loop consisting of Chanate Wash and the famed Matomi Wash, each over 25 miles long, filled with big rocks and deep sand. Fortunately, the prerun went great, and we got back to the highway way ahead of schedule.

Since we finished pre-running, it was time to get our registration papers so we could take the truck thru contingency and technical inspection. This has to be one of the best venues in all of Motorsports for contingency to take place. It is on a small strip of beachfront on the Sea of Cortez, called the Malecon. The ocean on one side, with the beach and the local fishermens pangas, and on the other side, all the bars, restaurants and shops that make Baja so special. Surrounding the race teams as they push the cars down the Malecon are thousands of race fans literally from around the world.

Everyone at the races has begun to recognize one of the Solar Racing members, and that would be Picasso, the Harlequin Great Dane of Co-Piloto “Nacho” Sanchez. No he’s not part horse, no he’s not part dalmation, and no, we can’t guarantee he won’t fling drool your way. Picasso is only one of the many unique and interesting sites.

The Solar Racing F-150 makes it thru technical inspection without a hitch. Time to put the hot-rod away until morning. Our hopes and expectations are high with the new, bigger, better motor just installed. Time go get mass amounts of tacos, quesadillas, and quesotacos, and call it a night.

Saturday, Race Day! I still wasn’t sure what to expect with the new motor. I had only driven down the pavement to tech. No chance to open it up yet. The chance would come soon enough. The Police have blocked off several lanes leading to the Arches so racers can stage their vehicles while awaiting their start times. The faster classes go first, and then computer draw determines place within class. The race is based on total elapsed time and start vehicles 30 seconds apart. We start 5th out 6 in the class.

The Stock Full class had two Hummer H-1’s, a new Nissan Titan, and three Ford F-150’s. In addition to the Solar Racing 1995 F-150, there was a 1972 flying the flags of Argentina, Mexico and the United States. The other F-150 was a beautiful new 2005 4x4.

As we are sitting just a few truck lengths back, we can hear the turbos and see the smoke as the H-1’s leave the line. The Hummer’s of Eric Henn and John Griffin were first and second off the line, respectively. Next it was the ’72, then the ’05, now it was our stageing.

As we get waved into place by the official timer, we anxiously await the 5 seconds to go and watch the green flag rise. As soon as it drops, so does the gas pedal... as we go through the gears, the new power was evident. The oncoming local traffic makes the wide open run down the graded road that much more interesting. As we go through the dump, we can see we already have the taillights of the ’05 in sight. Pre race discussions indicated they would gladly move out of our way, however our preferred line and greater speed got us by so quick I don’t know if they ever saw us coming. Next is was pass the ’72 that just didn’t seem to suck up the bumps like our Bilsteins did. Much to our surprise, the H-1 of Griffin was on the side with the hood open. Bad for him, good for us. We were now in 2nd place, both on track and on time by the 6 mile mark. Now it was time to go after the other H-1.

Our expert spotters from ACE Motorsports along the course indicated we were maintaining the same pace as the H-1 through the first 30+ miles, regarded as just brutal rolling bumps that just go on and on and on and on and on and on. The equivalent of 50 pages of repeating that. Probably worse.

The course finally smoothed out and became much more of a sandy wash. We were finally in a position to put some power down and close the gap and pass the Hummer. Finally, at race mile 50 we could tell we were getting close because their was lingering black smoke. That meant diesel, that meant the Hummer was close. As soon as the wash opened up a little more, we could see the headlights ahead. As we came up on it, it was hard to tell if they saw us, until we went to pass. The extra wide Hummer can make it very difficult to get by if they don’t want you too. Most vehicles we can push out of the way, they are one of the few exceptions. After a couple of blocks, we decided to fake to the left, out power to the right. It was going to work, only problem we were side by and there was only one line, his. Mine had a tree in it. Neither wanted to lift, although the tree was missed, there was an exhange of paint. Fortuantely we both run steel fender, otherwise the fiberglass would be gone.

The course finally opened up again, and we weren’t waiting around. We used every bit of the Ford’s power to out accelerate the Hummer. We knew how fast he was and wanted to start getting a good cushion. It’s off-road racing and anything can happen to anyone anywhere.

Our lead was only enjoyed for a brief time as the H-1 was able to pass again through some really bad cross grain rollers. We were determined not to let go and stayed within 20 yards looking forward to the upcoming high speed road section to make our move. Suddenly, clanging metal sounds from the rear of the truck. Without wanting to sacrifice the truck, we backed off the pace. The crew from ACE was in place for the race just up the course. We decided to bring it in there to have them look at it. The rear limiting straps had broke, and the noise was the shocks bottoming out. Quick repairs got the F-150 back on course, still in 2nd place. Travis Walser was going to take over driving just before the half way point, and if he was going to catch the Hummer, he had to have a chance.

After the driver change, Travis soon passed the H-1 who was off the side of the road doing some unknown repair. We were back in first with favorable, fast course ahead. Too good to be true. Without warning there was a couple huge backfires, then nothing. The motor was dead. Victim of shredded distributor gear. We chased the race truck down the course in the prerunner to provide assistance. On course repairs were attempted, even at the sacrifice of the prerunner, to no avail. The race truck needed to be towed to the next pit. To put that in perspective, it was approximately 20 miles to the next pit, on the other side of the mountains, across the desert terrain. Fortunately, the aforementioned attributes of the Solar Racing Prerunner were going to be put to the test. The truck lived up to its requirements and pulled the 6000lb disabled race truck all the way to next pits. In the meantime, only the H-1 and the ’05 have passed. The ’72 was seen pulling off the track while we were under tow. We were towing faster than he was able to go under his own power. I think the entire suspension system was failing. Still no sign of Griffin or the Titan.

The omnipresent chase crew of ACE had met up with the Solar Racing Pit Crew to ensure a quick replacement of the faulty parts. At the same time, rear leaf spring repairs were being made. In the meantime, Griffin comes cruising by at his normal “tortoise” pace, slow and steady.

The repairs were finally done, and the engine fired up. I jumped back in to try to make the next checkpoint before we timed out. Unfortunately, only a couple of miles down the road, big backfire again. The truck was dead again. It was time to wait for the chase trucks and call it a day.

A third attempt and a third disappointment. Next time...

Special note, the Solar Racing unofficial, but honorary mascot Picasso, suffers broken skull. After a long weekend in San Felipe, his enthusiasm to get back to the ranch brought him a little too close to one of his equine family members. Picasso would probably disagree with the “luck” of the horseshoe. Fortunately, his prognosis is good. For more info, please see picasso@tristarcapital.com.

*Pre-runner – vehicle used for pre-race reconnaissance, or a “pre-run” of the race course. At some races, the drivers have the opportunity to pre-run the racecourse. This gives the driver and navigator an opportunity to find the best lines. A NASCAR, Indy, or Formula One driver get their practice runs, on a course with as little as 4 turns to at the max 15 turns on a road course. They usually will concentrate on something like Turn 4 or Turn 15 on to the final straight away.

The Off-Roader’s focus is a tad broader, i.e. “Watch turn on to power line road, beware upside down car on left,” or the “left turn down rocky hill at race mile 122,” or the “high speed sweeping right, off camber at race mile 760” or “abandoned mine shaft 15 feet off course”. These are the types of things that a pre-run helps prepare the racer for. With current technology, we are able to use Global Positioning System to not only mark the course, but also to indicate the preferred lines, as well as any danger areas (indicated on the GPS by skull and crossbones).

The “Pre-Runner” style truck is a rapidly growing segment of the aftermarket industry. Pre-runners range anywhere from a little stock mini pickup with some extra lights and flared fenders to half -million dollar state of the art high performance works of art.

I have attached a photo of the Solar Racing Pre-Runner for your reference.

** Chase Truck – vehicle used for supporting race truck during the race. It is called a chase truck because unlike most other type of auto racing, off-road is not confined to a small lap, which even at the maximum wouldn’t exceed 3 miles. Off Road (other than the short-course races) ranges from a short lap of 11 miles at Laughlin, to two 500 +/- loops, to a 1000 mile plus Baja Peninsula run. The crew in the support truck must “chase” the race truck from pit to pit.

Chase Vehicles range from little dune buggies, to the wide range of pickup trucks (including pre-runners), to semi trailers equipped just like the stationary trucks used at the short circuit races.

Solar Racing chase team utilizes a variety of Ford Trucks and Vans, including 4 wheel drive F-150’s, F-250, F-350, Van, and Box Van. Ford is a big supporter of Off-Road racing and utilizes race proven results to make sure all of their trucks are “Built Ford Tough”.

“ We race, you win.”

TO EVERYONE THAT WAS PART OF THE TEAM EFFORT: Long time friend and Co-Pilot Ignacio “Nacho” Sanchez, Ignacio’s cousins Perrin and Chino from Mexicali, Rob Eldridge and John Camacho (they want to help us “race the truck”), and as always, the tremendous support of ACE Motorsports, led by Mike McComas, and accompanied by Travis Walser who assisted in driving, Pat Sharp, Javier and Fernando, as well as pit-crew-in-training, Cody and Parker McComas. And most importantly, racegirl Wendy for all of her support and understanding (or is it tolerance?).


Tristar Capital Equipment Leasing, Santa Ana, CA. – Tri-Star Capital is an equipment finance and leasing firm that can handle everything your business needs to run. From high-tech computer systems to press breaks and welders, allow Tri-star Capital to finance everything your company needs to ensure a profitable future. With our wide range of programs and unmatched customer service, Tri-Star Capital can help your business cross the finish line first!

SignPros Lettering, Brea, CA – Tim @ SignPros provides all the lettering for the Solar Racing race and chase trucks. No matter the requirements, being artistic or time, Tim always does a great job. Whether you need a custom logo or to cover the side of a semi trailer, Tim can do it for you. SignPros utilizes state of the art printers to maximize the impact of your designs. They are also the official sign company for SCORE International Off-Road Racing Series.

Goodyear Tires, Dayton, OH. – Solar Racing utilizes the Goodyear Mud Terrain (MT/R) for its assaults on the unforgiving terrain of the Southwest U.S. and the Baja Peninsula. Their uncompromising durability and toughness almost completely eliminates flat tires. Although most people think of off-road racing as desert races, many of the races include sections though mountains and pine forests and/or long sections of oceanfront.

Strider Knives, San Marcos, CA. – “High Speed Tools for Hardcore
Individuals” As they say, they are “just a couple of knuckle dragging hellraisers..” They take special pride the fact that in any of their high performance tools, there is no finer material available to be used in their construction. They provide many of the knives that are used by our military and law enforcement, including Special Forces, Secret Service, Police, and SWAT. Solar Racing is proud to be supported by those who support our troops. Strider Knives has a single focus – protecting the lives of not only that nineteen year old Marine carrying the knife, but those they protect by doing so.
For more info: www.striderknives.com.

DesertRacing.com, Las Vegas, NV – Not only are they the webmaster for Solar Racing, they are one of the premier off-road racing web sites. They post a variety of the latest racing news, team info, photos and videos. In addition, they host RiverInfo.com too. If you want info about the Colorado River, they are the source. For info on accommodations and activities, See www.desertracing.com or www.riverinfo.com.


H & M Motorsports, San Marcos, CA. – Assisted in last minute prep for the Pre-runner* before heading down to Mexico. H & M is recognized as a premier fabricator of high performance suspension kits, specializing in Ford F-150’s and Rangers.
For more info, see their web page at www.hnmmotorsports.com

Contingency Sponsors – The following companies are very supportive of Off-Road Racing and pay reward racers for performance. For example, if we win and we use their products, we would get a certain dollar amount towards products. Solar Racing utilizes the following products and companies for our racing needs:

RLH Communications, Autometer Instruments, Kartek, MSD Ignitions, K&N Filters

Wish List for Solar Racing:

• Sponsors who want to be a part of an increasingly popular form of Motorsports
• Sat Phones and car kits
• Sponsors who are looking to expand their customer base and connect with existing customers
• High Powered race radios
• Sponsors who recognize the opportunities associated with targeting specific markets
• On-Board Cameras
• Sponsors who embrace the idealism of teamwork, persistence, performance, victory
• Support Crew
• Sponsors who want to be associated with a very competitive racing enterprise
• Additional support vehicles
• Sponsors to send their checks to:
     Solar Racing, 120 N. Pacific Street, Ste. L-8, San Marcos, CA 92069

For Sponsorship Information, contact:
  Mark Handley (760) 750-1905

Next Race:
June 5-7 2009: Baja 500

2009 News:
10/25: Score: We're back & Racing the Baja 500

News Archives:
10/25: BitD: HT400 Deciding Race of Season
10/24: SCORE: 18 True Grit Drivers Remain
10/20: SCORE: 300 Baja 1000 Entries Expected
10/17: Solar: Help-U-Sell Sponsorship
10/10: SCORE: Legendary Baja 1000
10/06: SCORE: Baja 1000 Draw
09/30: Solar: Bay Club Sponsorship
09/23: SCORE: 2006 Schedule Announced
09/22: SCORE: Baja 500 Prime Time Special
09/19: SCORE: NBC & OLN TV Schedule
09/16: Solar: Primm 300 Race Recap
09/16: Solar: Nevada Desert Takes Its Toll
09/15: SCORE: Point Leaders after Primm
09/13: Solar: Prime Synthetics Sponsorship
09/12: SCORE: Collins Captures Overall
09/12: SCORE: Primm 300 Notes & Quotes
09/07: BitD: Vegas To Reno Letter & Updates
08/24: Solar: Lincoln Electric Sponsorship
05/27: SCORE: Final Races to Appear on TV
03/25: SOLAR: Another Magazine Appearance

News Archives



For Finance Information, contact:

Mark Handley (760) 613-3122

For Sponsorship Information, contact:
Mark Handley (760) 613-3122

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