Tavo Vildosola Wins 2015 SCORE Imperial Valley 250

Sep. 28, 2015 By Art Eugenio, Photos by GETSOMEphoto.com
Marc Burnett lost both his racecar and pre-runner over the weekend.

Hot, sweaty, rough, silty, heat strokes, burnt cars, broken vehicles all made for some epic racing this past weekend. The Imperial Valley 250 closed out round four in the SCORE International Championship series with and a dominating run by a local boy cut short, a gift from the race gods and disappointment for so many.

Starting with the pre-run, the soaring temperatures and an extremely rough racecourse plagued many at this year’s race. UTV racer Marc Burnett had terrible week losing both his pre-runner and his racecar to fire in the same day.

A very high attrition rate with only 30% of the racers finishing within the time allotted was a testament to how rough and demanding this race was.

Apdaly Lopez had a bad accident early on in the race.

Right from the start of the big race, points leader Apdaly Lopez had a huge wreck at race mile 3 ending his day just after it started.

A series of racers fell out of contention one by one on the first lap with different problems. The heat and some of California’s worst off-road terrain was taking the best racers and turning them into mush.

Steven Eugenio had a great run that was cut short just a few miles from the finish line.

With all of carnage and chaos, one racer looked to have the race in hand as he strolled away from the pack. Redemption was on Steven Eugenio’s mind coming into this race, who lead most of the last year’s race until running out of gas just a few miles from his pit due to high winds that ruined his fuel plans. Eugenio looked as though he would avenge last year’s troubles with a dominating effort. He passed Tavo Vildosola at race mile two after the side-by-side start and from there stretched his lead by nearly 25 minutes over second place. With just 5 miles to go and within sight of the finish, Eugenio lost a timing chain on his 900-horsepower Trophy Truck “Zeus” killing all chances of victory.

“The whole team was devastated,” said Eugenio after the race. “Everything went so well, we had a clinical run, the team performed amazing with excellent pit stops, it was our day. Sometimes the racing gods just deny you; there’s just nothing you can do.”

Running second overall most of the day, Tavo Vildosola took advantage of Eugenio’s misfortune and drove it home for a first overall victory over Lalo Laguna.

Gustavo Vildosola Jr. said he was fortunate to earn the win at the Imperial Valley 250 after thinking he was battling for second place.

“It was a less-than-perfect race because we had a lot of navigational mistakes,” Tavo said at the finish. “It was one of those wins that just falls into your lap. It is about perseverance and continuing to chip away. We are excited about the win and we came out here to points block for the Bud Light SCORE Baja 1000, because if we won then nobody would go further up on us in points. We hoped to go out and do well enough to win the championship, which was the goal last year and is the goal again this year. Our strategy was to beat [Eugenio] off the line and we did, but he knows this desert like the back of his hand. There was a reason he was ahead of us the whole race and that's an indication of talent and knowing this racecourse really well. He passed me right as we left the infield section and I followed him all day long.”

Tavo Vildosola was consistent all day, and it proved to be the winning formula in the Trophy Truck class.

Tavo thought he might have to settle for the runner-up spot behind Eugenio, though he expected more of a challenge from Andy McMillin, who was filling in for Rob MacCachren over the weekend.

Josh Row, riding for Javier Robles Jr., took home the win in the Pro Quad class at the IV250.

“He was putting down a really good pace so I thought he would probably take this race and we would be fighting with Andy for second place,” Tavo said. “During our pit at the end of the second lap Andy went by us and when we got on the road he was stopped so we went by him and then we got a flat. I thought he would go by us again but he never did so we cruised it in and passed Steven Eugenio who was broken down about five miles from the finish. It was really hot and the dust didn't move especially in the third lap when the sun went down and the light was reflecting off the dust particles. We couldn't see much of anything so following the slower classes made it a rough race. We came out here thinking that second place was no good for us and we needed the win because we couldn't have Steven, Apdaly or Rob win because they would move closer to us or further ahead of us in points. We called this our points blocking race and if we won it we would leave in the same shape as we came in.”

Lalo Laguna finished second in Tropjy Truck.

Over an hour behind Tavo was Lalo Laguna in the #17 Trophy Truck, who crossed the finish line second in class. “We didn't have a chance to pre-run well because our pre-runner broke down,” Laguna said. “The first few miles were really rough and we lost the front bump stop at race mile five so we took it easy the first lap. On the second lap we tried to get some time back but unfortunately the engine tried to quit on us and we started losing oil pressure and had temperature problems. We had to baby sit it for the rest of the day. We added oil every 25 miles until the finish so it worked for us.”

Wayne Matlock earned the win in Class 19.

Taking the third spot in Trophy Truck was James Bult with his best finish in class to date. “It was hot and we had problems with cooling all day,” Bult said. “We sat for about 30 minutes but fortunately ran into some SCORE guys with water and they poured three or four gallons in the radiator and we finally got it all purged right. On the last lap we ran pretty well, but on the first two laps we kept having to pull over for the overheat problem.”

Shelby Reid earned the win in Class 1.

The top spot in Class 1 went to the fastest woman in the desert, Shelby Reid.

“Darren Ebberts drove the first two laps and he was having a bit of a problem with the engine going into limp mode,” Reid said. “He figured out that he could trick it by turning it off and then back on. He gave the car to me in first and when I got up into the sand hills I started struggling and it went into limp mode and shut the motor down. I got stuck in the sand for a little bit and had to go down the berms to get some momentum. I got in the car in the dark and we've been lost a few times and been off course.”

Brady Turner finished second in Class 1.

Second in Class 1 went to Brady Turner. “It was a tough day. The strap for my tool bag on the back of the car broke and the bag fell onto the headers and caught on fire,” Turner said. “The fire burned up the coil wires and it cost us an hour before we could get a coil and new wires. The sand was terrible and it was a rough course, but we had a great time.”

Rounding out the top three was Jaime Huerta Jr. in Class 1. Huerta’s navigator Bryan Hanson commented at the finish: “We started off the day really well but at mile 10 there is a left turn that we nailed hard and we got stuck in the sand,” Hanson said. “We tried to motor it out but got buried all the way to the chassis. We got the jack out and it took us about 15 minutes to get undone. We got tangled with another car and broke off our top lights and front lights, so all we had were the amber lights all night.”

Jaime Huerta Jr. earned third in Class 1.

Earning the win in in Class 19 was the Polariz RZR XP4 1000 was Wayne Matlock, who finished more than a half hour ahead of second-place finisher Scott McFarland and Nick Oldham. The fastest overall motorcycle at the IV250 was the 404x KTM 450 XCW of Jano Montoya. In the Pro Motorcycle class, Mark Samuels and Dal Soglio took the win aboard their Honda CRF450X, with Colton Udall and Mark Samuels finishing in second place in class aboard their Honda CRF450X. Josh Row earned the Pro Quad win aboard the 1a Honda TRX450R ahead of Francisco Vera.

Unfortunately for all those who braved this tough and challenging course, this looks like the last run for a race like this for the area. The bureaucratic red tape to put on an event such as this in California is for a lesser term, destroying any chance of this in the future with huge fees and over-policing. It is a sad state of affairs that a place such as Imperial Valley, with a rich history of off-roading and off-road racing, should be governed by an organization that has no real ties to the area, nor does it have the local community’s best interest in mind. For years these designated off-road areas have been used safely and with respect, and none of this has changed except for the federal policies that govern these areas. As we lose another venue we have to ask ourselves where will it stop? Right now the future does not look so bright for off-road racing in California.

Next up for SCORE is qualifying at SEMA for the grand daddy of all off-road racing, the 48th Baja 1000. Stay tuned for ORC’s coverage.

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