FiberwerX Racing: Race Notes
2008 SCORE Baja 1000
The Race plan was to set a conservative pace, and stay out of trouble with out giving up any positions or time to the competition behind.
Start / Finish
- Pulled off the line in 18th position at approximately 10:48am Saturday morning.
The 1st 140 mile consisted of a technical mix of windy trails and tight corners. The typical Baja Scenario began to unfold, dodging a variety of obstacles like giant boulders, water crossings, spectators, and locally created obstructions.
Somehow Pfluger and the Vanderway Trophy Trucks both got hung up and stuck in a ditch. The #4 Truck of Tavo Vildosola was on hand and had them both out clearing the jam in less then 5 minutes. They both took off once freed from the tow straps and before Tavo’s co-driver could get back in. Jason McNeil unable to find a way through the holdup, waited for his turn.
Close racing in the thick dust kicked up by Vildosola who was fighting to lead the battle, Jason charged hard into a corner and saw a rock bed hiding on the inside, but it was to late. The truck slammed into the sharp edge of rocks with the passenger side rear blowing out and the front tire went low shortly after.
The FiberwerX Inland Chase Crew was on hand for a visual at a high-speed left hand corner. Jason McNeil maneuvered through the corner with precision, carrying his speed as fast or faster than any of the other competitors. The spectators went absolutely wild and it was evident who they thought was the crowd favorite at the point.
On both occasions the tires were changed out by the co-driver Brandon McNeil and 3rd passenger /on board mechanic JuanCO while Jason remained in the truck to focus on calming down.
Back to back flats with in 10 miles and no spare tires in the area for the next 85 miles demanded smart & cautious driving. That pace did not impede overtaking the Zorro trophy Truck before entering the “La Rumorosa Trail”
Finding a quick little groove the FiberwerX Race Effort began to chase down the traffic that managed around the #50 Truck while they were down and make back time. Making a flawless run down the mountain, Jason entered the desert floor and floored it aiming for clean air and an open line which was not easy due to thick dust trails, and 4 way trophy truck battle between FiberwerX, Vildosola, Vanderway, and rookie Jim Bult.
Before entering Laguna Salada Alex Almaraz, FiberwerX Trophy Truck Prep Captain John Tripp A.K.A Hawaii, and Simon from Shock Pros were scheduled to assume driver and co-driver duties at the 1st pit stop. Two new volunteers out of sequence made for a les then ideal stop, but after the driver change, 60 gallons of fuel and two fresh spare tires the truck was back on the move.
This was Alex’s 2nd time behind the wheel of the #50TT and he brought the truck up to speed with no hesitation powering down to take on the opposition. Almaraz is quite familiar with this particular stretch of the Baja Desert and at RM-145 had no problem creating an open line and closing the gap on the competition that raced out in front of him. On the lake bed at RM-150 Alex caught up to Pat Dean and continued down course and soon over took Vanderway and nerfed up on Jim Bult to let him know who was behind.
The race had begun its toll on the field passing by Letner who was down near the course. The crew noticed a scent of what was thought to be smoked gear oil but all things were functioning properly so they pushed forward with little concern.
Alex holding it wide open came up the #16 TT of Cameron Steel and the Desert Assassins near RM-200. The Driver waived the FiberwerX Truck to a stop ran up and requested a fire extinguisher. Alex Almaraz pointed him to canisters mounted on the back of the truck which he quickly grabbed. Less then 10 seconds after rolling to a stop the FiberwerX TT took off.
The FiberwerX #50 passed by one of the T-Force Trucks who was down fixing a flat BFG.
Speeding off the Lake Bed, Alex got sideways ripping through a rocky corner and hit a big rock with the right rear. The whole truck was jarred hard back to the left. The impact destroyed a Walker Evans Beadlock wheel and also took out the brake rotor. Shock Pros Simon noticed that while swapping out the damaged wheel the bolt pattern of the new replacement was not lining up. Somehow at the 1st pit stop, one of the new volunteers loaded the spare from an Almaraz Racecraft customer’s 7 truck race effort that was utilizing that particular crew. Apparently the 7 truck was also using a 37” Toyo and 17” Walker Evans Wheel combo. Looking past the mistake Hawaii quickly grabbed the good spare while Simon loaded the destroyed wheel & Toyo which was still solid and the 1 wheel that did not line up. Again, we were out of good spare tires for another 50 miles.
Approaching the 2nd pit stop at RM-280 a rock was kicked up damaging the shifting linkage and locking the truck into 1st gear. Almaraz made his way into pit lane communicating with the FiberwerX chase crew who had just arrived and was mobilizing a temporary pit site. Several exchanges on the radio pinpointed where to find the pit when the Mastercraft Trophy Truck decided there was not enough room to safely get by in the 3 lane track and blasted the #50 TT from behind. It was just passed dusk and the wall of HID Lights informed FiberwerX’s drivers of the traffic coming behind so Alex attempted to pull to the side and clear the way. We were not racing just looking for the pit.
FiberwerX Racing operates with a skeleton crew compared to most of the other Trophy Truck Teams. The chase crews strategy was all business and to skip the start/finish festivities, heading directly to a visual in Ojos Negros near RM-40. From there the crew headed down towards Checkpoint 2 but not before stopping for lunch in Valle De Trinadad.
Timing was perfect and had just allowed for the FiberwerX Chase Team to negotiate with another crew to use their pit lane, make friends with the neighbors, and set up all the gear and equipment. We had just set up the light stand, fired up the generator, rolled out the welder, laid out the pit boxes, and organized a table full of tools when the #50 truck arrived. With no rear brakes the truck rolled all of the way through the pit lane so out of nowhere it seemed like a dozen pair of hands jumped in and pushed the truck back into the pit setup.
The team went into action:
- Repaired the Shifting Linkage.
- Repair and Welded front Limit Strap tabs.
- Plugged rear brake lines with hammer.
- Rear differential skid plate was ripped off and Hawaii tightened up the 3rd member bolts.
- Installed extra front Light Bumper equipped with two LightForce XGTs and Amber Filters.
- Dumped another 60 gallons of fuel
- 2 new spares replaced the busted wheel and 7-truck wheel.
The pit stop was pretty makeshift but we were able to work with what we had available. When all was said and done, we were down about 45 minutes when Alex Almaraz, Hawaii and Simon continued out towards Checkpoint 3 near San Felipe.
This part of the course was thick with dust, a blanket of fog, and even more dust. Racing with caution the FiberwerX Truck encountered many Quad & Motorcycle Racers.
Zoo Road made for a fast pace of nearly 100mph pounding of upstream whooped out straight-aways. Nearing RM-380, the #50TT soaked a couple of consecutive hard slams, stalled out and rolled to a stop. Hawaii switched over from the #1 MSD Ignition Box to the #2 MSD Back up and continued on.
Getting back on pace, Hawaii sitting in the 3rd middle Mastercraft 3G when he notices the passenger side Amber Light was getting hotter & brighter. Alerted to the situation out of the ordinary, Hawaii realizes that they are on fire and warns the rest of the crew. Almaraz slams the brakes and brings the truck to a stop. All 3 Driver quickly removed the DJ Safety 5-point Harness & Custom Window Nets and exited the vehicle in record time.
The fire had engulfed the most of the rear section and was on its way to consuming the entire vehicle. The fuel cell, fuel lines, and primary & secondary fuel pumps were all compromised and in danger of going from bad to worse. Already down one extinguisher that was donated to the DA-Cause, and the other was directly in the flames on the passenger side. Alex dove back inside to kill the master switch to cut the power to the fuel pumps and grabbed the extinguisher mounted inside while Simon and Hawaii were tossing loads of sand. Hawaii fought through the flames and grabbed the last extinguisher mounted on the rear of the truck when several spectators came running through the desert in the middle of nowhere. They helped with more sand tossing and flagged down any race traffic coming their way (no amber light and stopped in the middle of the course). They finally put down the flames and according to the spectators “OH MAN! You should have seen it! There must have been a 15’ ft. flame for what seemed like a mile before you stopped.”