Las Vegas, NV – You would think that the longest off road race in the United States, Best in the Desert’s Vegas to Reno (V2R), would be won by a measured, conservative pace. Due to the level of competition in the Trophylite Racing Series, that wasn’t the case. After a long day of racing that included numerous lead changes, the eventual winner was determined after a desperate sprint for the finish. Known more for its high speed sections, the V2R course has plenty of rocks and silt to negotiate as it runs through the desolate landscape of Northern Nevada. In an almost cruel manner, the smoother high speed sections give way to a narrow cliff-side trail made of rocks and strewn with boulders in the final 30 miles. Four drivers at the front threw caution to the wind in this section as they vied for the top spot on the podium. As PJ Guglielmo and Ben Abatti III bashed their way over the rocks on the narrow trail, Andrew McLeod and Jeff Proctor were locked in their own battle just minutes behind. In the end, it was Guglielmo taking the victory by only 15 seconds over Abatti III in second with McLeod taking third.
“It was a tight race,” said PJ Guglielmo, “We were running bumper to bumper with Abatti, Jackson and Proctor for about 30 miles early on in the race. We were just hoping for a finish but we kept climbing positions from 5th to 3rd to 2nd and then we were in the lead.” PJ had an issue when he stopped for a road crossing and the engine died. When he re-fired the engine, the starter motor stuck on. Not knowing what the cause of the noise was, he raced towards the next pit to check it out. The spinning starter motor caused the transmission temperature to climb to over 300 degrees. They swapped the starter in the pits but the transmission temperature was still very high.
“I saw Jeff Proctor stuck on the side of a cliff but did not want to take a chance stopping with the transmission temperature so high. It took an hour for it to come back down to normal but it didn’t fail, (thanks to Maxima Racing Oil). The silt was miserable; there were some sections where we could only go 16 miles per hour as we plowed through it. Our General tires pulled us through; we never got stuck. We were running second the Abatti who had a good lead; we figured we had to settle for second. When we came up on him we saw them on the side of the course with the hood off and figured they were done. We decided to back off in the rocks and just get to the finish. We had a break in radio contact with our pit crew until they came on the radio saying Abatti was one minute behind us going 15 miles per hour faster so I went full bore; almost crashing in every corner. We had to finish but we wanted to win. We changed one tire at a pit stop but the other three were the original tires I started on. Going through the rocks I was hoping I would not puncture a tire.” PJ’s tires would be fine; he crossed the line after 12 hours and 6 minutes of racing to take the win. “If we can in the top three these next couple of races we might be back in the hunt for another Championship.”
Ben Abatti III closed a huge gap in the final miles of the race but it was not enough to overtake PJ for the win. Ben Abatti II started the race and handed the truck over to son Braden at mile 190. Braden drove the next 90 miles where Ben the third, (B3) took over for the rest of the race. “We were out front and could smell the win when our engine stalled at mile 500,” said B3, “We fixed the problem and took off after PJ who passed us while we were working on the truck. It was some of the scariest driving I have ever done. We had to push very hard in the toughest section of the course. We were slamming into rocks and running right on the edge of the cliffs. We could see his lights ahead and were reeling him in but the pounding we were giving the truck broke an axle. With only one wheel driving, we had to back off if we were going to finish. We made it on one axle and a couple of dinged up wheels but they still held air. We thought we had the win but second place gives us a decent points lead. We did some testing with FOX shocks before the race. The suspension is dialed in; we hope to do very well at the BlueWater Challenge.”
Andrew McLeod finished third. He started in 6th place in his Southwest Boulder and Stone Trophylite but was leading the race at mile 200. “We were trying to get past a competitor from another class at mile 30 and had the truck ahead come down on our front bumper crushing our KC Hilites LED pods. It was really dusty at the beginning of the race. I tipped it over on the side in a corner but it came back on all fours so I was able to keep going. I handed the truck over to Jacob Andrew who ran a section of the race. Before dark we pulled up to the KC Hilites trailer in the pits and they put on new lights for us. We had a great run; if we didn’t have to stop to change our lights we would have been right there at the finish. We can’t wait until the Bluewater race; it’s going to be all in from the beginning to the end.”
Fourth place went to Jeff Proctor and his Metro Honda/ Metro Acura team. They have had some bad luck this season and were hoping for a clean run. They got a solid run in despite losing time when Jeff tried to pass a class 8 truck in the dust and dropped a wheel over the side of a cliff. “I tried to back up but each time we slipped farther towards the edge,” said Jeff, “We battled all day in the top three. Our pit sequence was different from the other teams. It allowed us to get past some of them without fighting through their dust. Kevin Davis put in a good run behind the wheel and we were second to Abatti until we went off. The only way we were getting back on the trail was with a tug.” 6100 class competitor Carly Beal stopped to pull them out but only after they were passed by PJ and Andrew. “We caught up to Andrew but came up on a bottleneck. I went right and Andrew went left. The left side was faster, we were stuck behind him for miles in the dust. We had no choice but to follow him into the finish.”
Logan Holladay and Tyler Eubanks also lead the race at one point in the day. They started fourth but passed everyone in the opening miles. They closed in on a class 10 car that blinded them with dust; slowing their pace. “We had 8 minutes on the rest until we caught that 10 car,” says Logan, “Tyler and I handed the truck over to Gary Hymes and Les Larson at Tonopah with about a minute lead.” Gary and Les used to race with Logan’s Father back in the day. “Gary, Eric and I all work together,” said Logan, “Eric first brought it up that Gary should race with us, we wanted a good driver that could also help with expenses. Everyone did a fantastic job. A bolt broke on the rear upper link; kind of a freak thing, while Gary was driving. He nursed it into the pits and we got it fixed. Eric Norris and Matt Stowe then took it to the finish. If not for the downtime we could have won it; we had no other issues.”
A perfect race is rare; these Trophylite racers overcame issues to make it to the finishline:
6th / Todd Jackson – Cooling fan failure
7th / Jeff Mortis – Fuel line came loose, ran out of fuel
8th / Megan McLeod – Electrical issues.
9th / Larry Schmueser – Fuel Pressure and oil line problems
DNF / Brian Antle – Alternator, Crew swapped trans, Torque convertor. *Valiant effort
DNF / Keith Sato – Crash
9 out of 11 Trophylite teams finished the grueling race that saw several teams occupy the lead during the long day.
Jim Riley and the Azuñia Tequila 6100 truck had a disappointing result. They started the race second and overtook the leader by mile 11. They were running fast and clean for 80 miles. They were retired early at mile 382 when an engine fire erupted, ending their day. Everyone was OK and will be ready to go when racing resumes at the Bluewater Challenge October 10-12 in Parker, Arizona.
Despite the miles of silt beds, the K&N filters did their jobs as did the VP fuel used in the race. Last season many competitors suffered from vapor lock but the VP eco 96 from Amber Racing Services solved that issue. The competition was so fierce that the Metro Honda / Metro Acura hard charger award was split between two drivers. PJ Guglielmo takes half of the 2K prize, (The 1K bonus was rolled over from the previous race) for his run from 5th place all the way to the win and the other 1K goes to Andrew McLeod who came from back in 6th place to contend for the win and finish on the podium in third. Pj also takes the Kartek $500 bonus for winning the race.
It’s rare that so many teams are in contention for the win in such a long distance race as V2R. It is a testament to the Trophylite series that aims to put drivers in an affordable SPEC series that offers incredible competition. It’s all possible due to strong support from great companies like General Tire, KC Hilites, Mastercraft Safety, Impact, Method Race Wheels, Azuñia Tequila, Maxima Racing Oils, FOX Shox, Metro Honda / Metro Acura, Currie Enterprises, Children of the Dirt Apparel, Tanimura & Antle, K&N Filters, Baja Junkies and Kreed Eyewear by Fortress.
If you’d like to join in on the fun go to www.trophylite.com.