Freitas Motorsports arrived at the Best in the Desert, BlueWater Challenge in Parker, Arizona still buzzing after their overall victory at Vegas to Reno (V2R).Â V2R was 534 miles of Nevada desert, mountains and canyons. It required a smart pace that was fast enough to win but without recklessly using up the car. The BlueWater Challenge would be a polar opposite. After qualifying on Thursday, drivers would have only three 26 mile laps on Saturday and then again on Sunday to make their mark. V2R was about driving smart, the BlueWater Challenge is about flat out charging. The team qualified well in their Jimco Champion race car, netting them a sixth place starting position in Saturdayâ€™s race.
The Parker course may be short but should never be taken lightly. It has diverse features that take in the unique terrain including dry riverbeds, lava rocks, pockets of silt and deep, soft sand. Despite rain falling during qualifying and several nights of light precipitation leading up to the race the dust on Saturday was incredible. Garrick and co-driver Steve Shahan had to virtually feel their way around the course.
â€śThe deep sand is constantly shifting with each car that passes,â€ť said Garrick, â€śWhen you canâ€™t see, itâ€™s hard to drive smoothly. Trying to maintain momentum and stay on top of the bumps is tough when you canâ€™t read the terrain. We spent a lot of time driving on the front wheels!â€ť As you might know, thatâ€™s not a good thing. Despite the challenges, Garrick and Steve avoided the crashes that took others out earning a hard fought fourth place on Saturday.
The crew did a quick once over on the car after Saturdayâ€™s race and were ready to go on Sunday. Their fourth place starting position would be a huge asset as the race began. With little to no wind, the dust was even worse than the day before and a full day of racing had drastically changed the course. Braking for corners, accelerating and landing jumps all move the sand and dirt around. Sundayâ€™s course had bigger holes, deeper sand and far more gotchas waiting in the dust for the drivers.
â€śThe Python section in the infield was like polished concrete leading into some of the high banked corners,â€ť said Garrick, The rest of the course was either deep sand or silt. My General Tire Grabbers gave me a huge advantage. No matter what we were driving on or through, we had plenty of traction. The car was running great until suddenly our engine sputtered and then died.â€ť Garrick and co-driver on Sunday Trevor Freitas quickly removed the outer body panels and worked to troubleshoot the cause of the malfunction. It might have been the warmer weather or the elevated engine temperatures created by the deep sand but a zip tie holding the wiring harness had melted causing the wires to get caught in the accessory drive belt. The wires shorted out killing the fuel supply to the injectors. They repaired the wiring and got under way but not before losing several spots.
The team had high hopes they would close the gap between them and points leader Robby Gordon. Gordon was racing in his own back yard and used the home court advantage to win both days. Freitas Motorsports is not out of the championship hunt yet. They still have a shot to win but it will take a great performance and a little luck at the season finale in Henderson, Nevada Nov. 30th through Dec. 2nd. One thing is for sure, whoever wins will have earned it.
Photography By Brian Binkert