NO SUMMERTIME BLUES FOR MACACHREN
Somehow, some way, veteran off-road racer Rob MacCachren has weathered the hurricane of discontent, disagreement and recessionary blight that battered the world of off-road racing in 2008. At a time in which many of his competitors have been forced to batten down the hatches, board up the windows or leave town altogether in an effort to escape the swirling winds of economic change, business is booming for MacCachren, a veteran with nearly 30 years and numerous off-road championship titles under his belt. In fact, while others talk of a limited schedule, or worse – sitting on the sidelines altogether, MacCachren is wondering just how in the heck he’ll be able to fit all of the racing that he wants to do into his schedule. Not bad for someone who, amazingly enough, practically saw himself in the proverbial bread line at the end of 2008.
“It’s true,” MacCachren told Off-Road.com. “In December I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I just had to get out there and make lots of things happen.”
For the record, MacCachren wasn’t exactly without a ride. Part of it was just a matter of taking the wait-and-see approach with some of his current programs, but nothing, says MacCachren, was set in stone until the last possible minute. For instance, MacCachren knew that he would be racing some of the SCORE races with Mark Post in the Riviera Racing Ford Trophy Truck, but it wasn’t exactly clear how many events the team planned to enter in 2009. And with the virtual collapse of CORR’s short course racing program, MacCachren wasn’t sure what his future held with Menzies Motorsports. Talk of a Menzies Motorsports Trophy Truck desert program for Best in the Desert had surfaced in 2008 even before the final cancellation of CORR’s schedule (that talk has since turned from Trophy Truck to Class 10), but what role MacCachren would play in the development of that program was unclear.
Undaunted, MacCachren decided to make sure that he would at least keep his considerable driving skills up to snuff by building a Class 1/1600 car to race in SNORE and Pro 1600 events. He also elected to take up fellow short course and off-road racer Steve Sourapas’ offer to drive Sourapas’ Corona Class 1 car at the BITD season-opening Bluewater Casino Parker 425 in early February.
Then a funny thing happened: The phone started ringing, and it didn’t stop.
FLYING THE FLAG
Photo By Matt Kartozian/Durka Durka Photo
The first calls MacCachren received came from the Ford Motor Company.
“What happened was that in late 2008 the Ford SVT team, people with whom I’ve been somewhat associated with in the past, gave me a call and said why don’t you come down to our test track [in Southern California], run one of the Raptors around and see what you think of it,” MacCachren said. “They had been doing a lot of testing and tuning on it, and they invited me down there. Lo and behold, Steve Olliges was also invited, but neither of us knew the other guy was going to be there.”
Once he stared driving it, MacCachren said that he was really impressed by the competence of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor in rough terrain.
“On their track they have this pretty gnarly whoop section,” MacCachren said. “Normally you’d take a truck through there at about 10-20 mph and just kind of roll through them, but the engineer kept telling me to really go. He said, ‘We go through here at 60 to 70 mph,’ and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ But I just kept going faster and faster. The thing just blew me away.”
MacCachren was also impressed to see that Fox Shox and BFGoodrich tires are going to be stock equipment on the Ford SVT Raptor. “Those are also names that I’ve been associated with for many years,” he said.
After the test, MacCachren said that he then received another phone call regarding the Raptor over the Christmas holiday. This time it was about racing the SVT Raptor R (above) that Greg Foutz, Olliges and a host of others had driven to a surprising third-place finish in Class 8 at the 41st Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.
“Steve Olliges kept calling me and trying to get me involved in the [Raptor R] program,” MacCachren said. “With everything that was going on with Riviera Racing, where maybe they were only going to run three desert races in 2009, and with no one knowing what the heck was going on with short course, I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.
Knowing that there would be some measure of factory support behind the truck made it an easier decision to commit to the program.
“Obviously Ford is behind it and wants to see it succeed,” MacCachren said. “They’re going to promote the vehicle throughout the year. The truck will start to be sold at the end of ’09. They want to develop the image and the name so that when it is released, it will be a big hit.”
MacCachren admitted that he was a little too busy in Baja to even pay attention to the Raptor R at the Baja 1000. In fact, the first chance he got to even take a look at the race version of the SVT Raptor was after he picked it up from Foutz’s shop.
“I sent some guys down there to get it, and they called me on the way into Vegas, and I met them out in the desert and drove it for 10 or 15 minutes to get a feel for it and for what we needed to do to it for Parker,” MacCachren said. “Then we took it back to my shop, stripped it down and sent the shocks off to Fox to be rebuilt.”
That’s right: As if he wasn’t already becoming busy enough with his quickly mounting driving duties, MacCachren will be taking care of the Ford SVT Raptor R’s race prep at his own shop in Las Vegas.
“It’s a good deal for me,” MacCachren said. “I’ve been involved with Ford since 1991 and with Fox Shox since 1998 or so. It’s going to be fun.”
And time consuming.
While MacCachren’s decision to race the Ford SVT Raptor R in the Best in the Desert Series wasn’t based solely on speculation that the Riviera Racing team – with which he is contracted to race in SCORE events – was going to cutback its efforts in 2009, it was no doubt influenced by that speculation.
Indeed, for evidence that the Mark Post-owned, 2007 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000-winning and SCORE Championship-winning team was feeling the pinch of the current economy, one needed to look no further than the team’s effort at the 2009 SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge. Rather than roll out its familiar, fire-breathing Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Ford F-150 Trophy Truck, Post and MacCachren took the incredibly conservative approach of gathering points from behind the wheel of Post’s son Max’s Riviera Racing Ford Protruck (above).
“Mark’s team is pretty much a self-funded effort, and with the economy changing we decided to go that route,” MacCachren explained. “Rockstar and Makita are still on board – well, I’m 99-percent sure they are still on board – but you didn’t see their names on this [Protruck] because – and I’d have to clarify this with Mark – their deal is only for the three Mexico races.”
The team hadn’t originally planned to race Laughlin at all, but the last-minute decision to move forward limited its vehicle options; the Trophy Truck could not be made ready to race in time.
“We had decided that we weren’t going to do it, but this is what we do – we race,” MacCachren said. “And if you don’t come to Laughlin, you’re completely out of the points battle.”
Once the decision was made to race Laughlin, MacCachren said, deciding to race the Protruck was the easy part. Believe him or don’t, MacCachren also said that Riviera Racing actually came up with the idea of running the Protruck in Trophy Truck before the 2008 Laughlin Desert Challenge. Hard as it is to fathom, the team thought that the Protruck would be more likely to net a points-paying finish.
“You’ve got to finish Laughlin just to give yourself a shot at the [SCORE] championship,” MacCachren said. “After the ’07 Laughlin we were watching all these trucks break down and we thought, ‘What are we doing? We should just cruise around here.’ We had the Protruck in the stable, and we thought about using it for the ’08 race, but we didn’t because we wanted to win the damn race. Well, look what happened: Mark made six laps on Saturday and we DNF’d. On Sunday all we could do was try and salvage a finish. We were kind of done after the first race. It was very disappointing.”
But the Protruck plan worked. Post and MacCachren soldiered to a seventh-place finish at Laughlin while many of their SCORE title rivals, such as Gustavo Vildosola Jr., BJ Baldwin and Brian Collins, suffered DNFs one of the two days. If Riviera Racing is to regain its championship glory from 2007, Laughlin will definitely have to be considered a very early turning point in the battle.
“I know that [current SCORE points leader] Robby Gordon has said that he is going to run the whole SCORE series, but I don’t know how he could do that personally – but we’ll see,” MacCachren said. “If you look at the rest of the guys in front of us, there are only two that can compete for the championship. The rest of them are behind us. So, we made the right call. We only ended up spending about $5000 to race it that weekend whereas we would have probably spent 20 times as much to race the Trophy Truck, and the Protruck just kept making lap after lap after lap. It was a gamble, but it worked out well.”
Short Course: Unfinished Business
There’s no question that MacCachren is a huge fan of short course racing, but any mention of his 2008 CORR Pro 2 and Pro Buggy championship titles is met with a cold indifference. As far as he is concerned, it’s almost like they don’t exist.
“I don’t really figure that I won championships in ’08,” MacCachren said. “I was awarded championships, but I don’t really feel like they were ever completed.”
MacCachren remains faithful to the short course concept, and he is sure that he will be racing short course somewhere with Menzies Motorsports in 2009, although where that will be is still a mystery.
“It’s disappointing, and I know that the economy played a big part in it what happened to CORR,” MacCachren said. “Jim Baldwin has the biggest heart in the world, and he spent millions and millions of dollars to get it where it is today. All of us, as racers, really appreciate that. It was incredible being out there on the track, racing against everybody. Even up through the last race they had I was thinking, ‘My God, this is unbelievable.
“Unfortunately, with the economy the way it is, Jim couldn’t continue, and that’s a shame. I know that there are other groups and sponsors that are getting together and trying to figure out which way to go, and sponsors trying to figure out which way they need to go. And things over the past couple weeks have really been happening.”
Like many of his fellow drivers, MacCachren clings to the virtually impossible hope that all of the stakeholders in short course racing can come together and form one strong series.
“Everybody has got to get together and, with the economy the way it is, they all need to support one series,” MacCachren said. “Otherwise, it will be so fragmented and 2009 could be such a disaster that when we get to 2010 we can forget about the whole thing. We have to make the best of 2009 or 2010 won’t happen.”
Hope upon hope, but MacCachren is also a realist. While he agrees that not having to deal with conflicting dates from the various sanctioning bodies is positive, he said that he believes the racers won’t have all of the current dates to contend with anyway.
“I have a feeling that people are banding together – sponsors and drivers – and what’s going to happen is that they’re going to pick a place to go race,” MacCachren said. “I think that there are just too many egos involved to get everyone racing under one banner, so basically what’s going to happen is that one series is going to survive and the other one or two aren’t.”
And whatever happens, MacCachren said that he hopes it happens quickly.
“We need it to happen in 2009 or else the sponsors are just going to find somewhere else to go,” MacCachren said. “We need short course to exist.”
Wide Open in ‘09
While he already got off to a fast start at Laughlin in 2009, MacCachren plans to really drop the hammer at the BITD Bluewater Casino Parker 425. MacCachren said that he fully intends to honor his commitments to both Steve Sourapas and Ford at the race, in which he plans to race Sourapas’ Class 1 car for the overall win and, if all goes well, complete the race in time to finish in the SVT Raptor R truck. That’s a tall order to fill, but if anyone can fill it, MacCachren can. Beyond Parker, he is scheduled to race all of the BITD races with the Ford team, all of the SCORE races with Riviera Racing, and whatever short course schedule emerges with Menzies Motorsports.
Oh yes, and then there is that brand new Alumi Craft Class 1/1600 car. MacCachren still has plans for that, too.
“Alumi Craft has been building my Pro Buggies, and they’ve built me a couple of four seaters over the years,” MacCachren said. “We’d been talking about building a 12 car [SCORE Lite], but over the holidays, when I realized I wouldn’t be racing very much, I called John Cooley and asked him he would be interested in doing a 1600 car since I already had a motor and transmission in my inventory of parts. This was only about four weeks before Laughlin, and I intended to race the car, but we just came up a day or two short of getting it done. But to end this story, I do have a brand new 1600 car that is ready to go, and intend to race it as well.”
MacCachren wants to race the Alumi Craft at the SCORE Primm race, in SNORE and in Pro 1600 events.
“It seems as though Pro 1600 is going to come back this year and run a few events,” MacCachren said. “It’s not a real organized deal yet, and they’ll probably run a few races outside of SNORE, so I’ll probably have to go do those races, too. I’ll probably end up running that car seven, eight or nine times this year.”
Add it all up, and it doesn’t take a math whiz to see that MacCachren is going to be one busy off-road racer in 2009, and he couldn’t be happier about it.
“This is just what I do,” MacCachren said. “I love racing, and I would race every weekend if I could. There’s only so much time, and I’ve got myself pretty damn busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”