Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tracking the Fines Double Arctic Cat ATV Team-2009 Baja 1000

Anyone who has been to a Score Baja 1000 and participated knows that lack of communication can be very frustrating. I wasn’t going to attend this years race so I volunteered my services to Reid Rutherford`s Team Arctic Cat/Fines Double team. My good friend Jason Wade with whom I have been racing with was asked to race on Reid`s team. I know most of the Baja trails that are used to race on and I can pin point how to get a chase crew to a rider if needed so having a 2nd set of eyes never hurts. Since the advent for the Iritrack system from IRC (International Racing Consultants), it has been much easier to keep track of your rider. Reid enlisted the IRC for public tracking for this years Score Baja 1000. Teams are required to run the tracking unit for scoring but its not mandatory for tracking. Team Guilty was directly involved in testing the IRC units in desert racing and they work! Jason Wade would also use the Spot Satellite system. This unit is not as elaborate as IRC but is a inexpensive way to track. It has its limitations and the user needs to understand this when using it for an offroad application.
Jason was in San Felipe waiting for the Arctic Cat to arrive. We estimated around 3:30pm and he would get on at race mile 240. Through the grapevine I heard that the Can Am Outlander team of Mike Penland.passed us right off the start. These races are generally not won off the start, but, they can be lost! There were 2 other teams in Class 26 but I heard nothing about them the whole race. We seemed to keep Penland`s Can Am just in sight. When Jason got on, heading south towards the Matomi wash, he chased the Can Am all the way to San Felipe to race mile 350.Both teams used Baja pits for fueling and came in to the San Felipe pit, neck and neck. The Penland quad got out first and Jason was in tow! The Outlander pulled off the course with some sort of mechanical issue and gave the thumbs up signal to Jason as he went by indicating he was ok. Team Arctic Cat/Fines Double did their rider change and Jeff  Henson took over from Jason. He was to take the bike through the infamous Zoo Road whoops section. Not knowing where the Can Am team was exactly Jeff kept a steady but safe pace through the whoops. He wasn't wearing the Spot unit so I was tracking via IRC. There were some online users who had trouble with the IRC web page but ours worked fine. I would text the location to Reid and the rest of the team about every 30 minutes to an hour. Somewhere during the San Felipe loop, I believe it was the fenced road coming into San Felipe, we got caught by the lead trucks and cars.

Jeff made it to the Mikes Sky Ranch cutoff road near Valle De Trinidad where Jason Wade would get back on and do the Mike`s loop. I tracked Jason through Mike`s and near race mile 472 the IRC tracker showed Jason at 0mph. I knew that this was the Simpsons Hill area, notoriously steep hill, and there was a traffic jam there. Many cars were having trouble making it up the hill. I heard this over the "Weatherman" channel on the radio broadcast from Race Dezert.com .I waited about 30 to 45minutes and didnt see Jason moving at all. He was with another quad, number 8A, and they were both at the same spot. The 8A started moving but Jason did not.Team Arctic Cat/Fines Double sent a pit crew member to assist with the starting issue and had it started within 10minutes. He stopped to help push cars out of the way on Simpsons Hill so he could make a run up the trail.It was his turn and when he tried to start the bike it would turn over so they jump started the bike. He started riding up the hill and while doing so, a car was backing DOWN the hill! Jason couldn't stop so he drove over a huge boulder off the side of the trail and got stuck and stalled the bike. He couldn't start it again. He got the bike unstuck and "bulldogged" the 700lbs machine back down. I contacted another team who was behind us to check on Jason, the 100A team of Craig Christy. David Scott was on the bike and they had electrical issues and were well behind the leaders of their class. Dave stopped and radioed Jason's predicament and Reid sent a crew to tow Jason out since they could not repair the bike where they were. This ordeal took about 4 hours. Jason froze his butt off up in the mountains that night but they repaired the bike and the Thundercat was back on the move. Meanwhile, the Penland/Can Am team had passed Jason while he was stuck and appeared poised to win the race. Somewhere between San Vincete on the Pacific side and the finish, team Arctic Cat came upon the Can AM Outlander on the side of the course again. They had some clutch issues and as it turns out, they were unrepairable.Now the race  was against the clock. Reid and his team had a little over 1 1/2 to finish within the time limits. Averaging 30mph like I had predicted they would finish in time. I was not sure what shape the bike was in so I couldn't be sure how they would ride it for the last 30-40 miles into Ensenada. The last pit at Ojos Negros and it was homeward bound. Reid came in with 30 minutes to spare! Team Arctic Cat/Fines Double took the win and the Championship.
This was the first EVER win for an Arctic Cat ATV in the Baja 1000 and the first championship in Score Desert racing.