Las Vegas, NV – The General Tire ATX Wheels Jeepspeed Series took on the longest off road race in the United States, the Best in the Desert General Tire Vegas to Reno race, (V2R). V2R starts in Beatty, Nevada and travels north for 543 miles to the finish in Dayton, Nevada. The mere distances involved are daunting but Mother Nature conspired to make it even more difficult. Many times the rain is a blessing; it can help hold the silt together making it easier to get through normally tough sections. This year’s course still had silt, rocks and ruts as usual but the heavy rains in some sections scoured the ground. It washed the top layer of dirt away to expose all the rocks below. In order to prevail, teams would need determination, guts and a little luck.
Jeepspeed Challenge race winner Todd Jackson had lots of all three. “We had a good race, we had a plan and we stuck to it,” says Todd, “We started third in our Grand Cherokee and eventually got past the other trucks out front. We opened up a big lead, about an hour, so we did some much needed service at pit 14. We changed the air filter, bled the brakes and changed the right front hub. I pulled out of our pit and 100 feet later the steering arm broke. We were lucky it happened right there. The crew had all their tools available to make a quick repair.”
The team had only one flat tire the entire race. That was lucky but they got it in silt causing them to get stuck. In another bit of luck Todd had talked to the people from Maxtrax at contingency on Thursday. They liked the bright orange color of Todd’s Jeepspeed that matches the color of the company’s Vehicle Recovery Devices; short ramps that are placed under the tires for traction. They gave Todd some ramps to try out during the race.
“It took us the hour lead we had getting out of the silt,” said Todd, “The Maxtrax devices helped us to get out; I’m so glad we had them with us. George Mortis passed us as while we were stuck so we had to chase him down. We then played cat and mouse with him in the dust.” By this point in the race Todd’s brakes were gone but it didn’t deter him. He got by George and held him off for the win: George and co-rider Tom Barnett finished second.
For third place finisher Tom Richardson, the silt took its toll on his team as well. They broke a control arm and slammed the front differential at mile 180. “We used whatever we could find to make repairs,” said Tom, “We wired the arm together and stole some bolts from other parts on our Cherokee to bolt the diff cover back on. We didn’t have any gear oil so we topped it off with motor oil. Once we got to the next pit Baja Pits welded the arm and replaced the fluids.”
Like many of the competitors, the heat was causing vapor lock problems. Vapor lock is when the fuel gets so hat in the lines it turns to vapor instead of liquid causing the engine to run lean. “We should have been able to hit 90 mph or so on some of those sections,” says Tom, “We were slowed down to 40. The heat slowed us down then we hit the silt putting more heat into the engine. It seemed much hotter than it’s ever been. I had to put my helmet visor up to dry the sweat from my face.” The team, Tom Richardson, Randy Peterson, Rob Seubert and Cliff Seubert just kept going until they made the finish. They fought the conditions for 17 hours and 22 minutes to take the final spot on the podium. Currently leading in the Rookie of the year points, John Brannon brought his Jeep Cherokee home in sixth place.
In the Jeepspeed Cup race, Brandon Berge was the sole competitor in his Grand Cherokee. His arch rival this season Bob Mamer was unable to make it to the race due to other commitments. This would give Brandon a chance to close the gap on Bob in the championship standings. These two have fought back and forth all season. Brandon’s goal from the start was to take it easy and just make it to the finish for valuable points.
“We were the only vehicle in our class so we were taking it easy, driving smooth,” says Brandon, “It didn’t matter because at about mile 25, the front lower control arm broke.” They had to wait until parts could be delivered out to their location by the BITD officials which took three hours. They made repairs and got underway but the lost time had them in jeopardy of timing out. After a certain time has elapsed the pits close and nobody is allowed to continue.
They made it through pit two and then pit three where they changed drivers. The vapor lock problems bit them too; the Jeep was sputtering and flooded. The lack of throttle response caused Lee to carry too much speed into a corner. As he tried to correct, the Jeep tipped over on its side. Again they were down until help arrived. At pit 5 a brand new alternator had to be replaced; probably a victim of the deep silt. By the time they reached pit 6 their worst fears had come true, they timed out, their race was over.
Jeepspeed racers don’t have their own helicopters flying overhead. They don’t have 32 inches of suspension travel and 800 horsepower engines. What they do have is a challenge unlike any other class in the desert. They build their own vehicles for a fraction of what most others spend and then get to test their ideas, their skills and their ingenuity with a bunch of their friends. They take on a course that has already been chewed up by the country clubbers in their unlimited monsters and somehow, they prevail.
They race with a certain code that did not go unnoticed at Vegas to Reno. Andy Grider, who has excelled on bikes and in 4 wheeled vehicles from Baja to Dakar was racing in a much faster class but had problems with the vehicle all day. After the race he commented on how many of the Jeepspeed teams stopped to offer assistance. He was very impressed by their sportsmanship.
After the longest race in the United States the Jeepspeed series shifts gears, (pardon the pun) when they head to Parker, Arizona October 11- 13 for the BITD Bluewater Desert Challenge. The Bluewater Desert Challenge is a two-day heat race event that will pit the Jeepspeeds against each other in an intense short course type event. Go to www.jeepspeed.com where you will find additional info, deals on some attractively priced race Jeeps, Jeepspeed news, rules, forums, race results, videos and much more.
Photography By: Bink Designs & Mike’s Race Photo
The Jeepspeed series is a competitive, cost effective series that has pitted Jeep vehicles against each other on challenging desert courses since 2001. Unlike the more expensive spec racing classes, there is no obligation to purchase your race vehicle or parts from the series organizer. You build your own vehicle the way you like as long as it fits within the rules. Jeepspeed offers the most fun and closest racing in the desert today. Jeepspeed series is supported by General Tire, ATX Wheels, RDM Offroad, Howe Performance, Currie Enterprises, King Shocks, TJ Performance Center, Allpar.com, Sunoco Race Fuels, Baja Designs, Rubicon Express, G2 Axle & Gear, Smittybilt & PAC Racing Springs.
Visit www.jeepspeed.com for more information.