All of 2016 was interesting to say the least, racing included. The first big race of 2017 would be no different. After having several team obligations fall through, I had to resort to drastic measures to get a co-driver for the 2017 LCQ race to enter the 4400 main King of the Hammers race.
Coming highly recommended, from some of my most highly respected race family members, Martha Tansy stuck out from the crowd of applicants. At the end she would not disappoint. As the saying goes, the racing begins not at the green flag, but in the preparation and the journey to get to the race. After several mishaps and repair parts along the way to the (new to me) tow vehicle. I was finally in Hammertown.
As I unloaded and set up camp for the upcoming week, Martha, who proved to be a “racer extraordinaire” and I went over race strategy, logistics, and basic car quirks and nuances to get better acquainted with each other, as well as the race car. There were minor issues to be addressed as well as communication details for the hectic race environment that we would soon find ourselves in. We strapped in and did some minor shakedown, engine break in, and shock tuning with the amazing guys at ADS racing shocks to get all set for the LCQ run coming on Tuesday. The car felt great!
Martha is a bit more dainty than most of my co drivers, so we had to make some adjustments in the cabin to make the navigation easier on race day, with the help of both Swag, and Ruffstuff, and Martha’s use of a plasma cutter and grinder, the rock addicts crew built and installed a new GPS mounting bracket so the screen was literally in her face. Rugged Race Radios, as well as PCI Race Radios helped with some GPS and communications connectivity issues, then Ruffstuff helped weld some cracks on the worn knuckles.
Our awesome crew was also able to get some new PRP shoulder harnesses installed and fitted for more comfort and safety. Their new neck restraint friendly kit was amazing, it came with 2in shoulder belts and 3in lap belts. The pads on the shoulder belts are smaller and lower so the belt fit nicely in our neck restraints. Martha also tried out PRP’s ratcheting lap belt and absolutely loved it. It was the most secure she said she’s ever felt in a racecar.
It’s the little things… She got used to the new setup, we had a feel for the suspension, and she got the GPS setup to her liking, so she knew what she was comfortable looking at and knew where the more common loose bolts and other warning signs were on the car mechanically, so she was ready with the proper wrenches if, no when, the time came. So, once we got settled and fitted, we were mostly ready to rock… LCQ was on Tuesday… Tuesday comes and goes, we didn’t make it to the green flag for LCQ due to some unforeseen circumstances…
“Plan B” Remove some shocks, and put on some smaller 37in tires, and run Legends class. This lead to a lot of running around on both our parts, but she was adept at “rallying the troops” and mustering all the help we could to rearrange the suspension, test it out, then rearrange again so that we had a decent ride under us, and both weren’t two inches shorter at the end of the day. All while keeping positive, calm, and cool as a cucumber.
This would end up being a trend for her. Last minute registration, and tech briefing and we were in the EMC race at the back of the pack of the 4800 class, very little shock tuning on a first-time setup for EMC. My totally amazing, and always ready for action father, Mark, had arrived to assist in all things racecar. Brian and the crew at ADS Racing shocks made lemonade out of lemons in an exceptionally fast and accommodating manor…
Plan B engage. Race day started hot, real hot. The trans was cracked and having issues from lap 1. Leaking everywhere, and running about 230-240* the whole first lap, I was surprised it was staying alive. The temps were wreaking havoc on a lot of the other systems in the car, but Martha and I were finding a groove in both driver/navigator and troubleshooting and macguyvering fixes on the fly. With the crack in the transmission we were loosing roughly 2 quarts of ATF an hour.
A huge thanks to the rock addicts crew and many other race teams for helping us gather up enough transmission fluid to keep the transmission full enough to keep on going. There’s a lot of holes in the desert, a lot of problems get buried in those holes. We were in the vast solitude of the desert without a hole to bury our problems in, we had to press on. Through pit one and main onto second lap, Martha and I powered the Canary on after some stops for cooling. We slid down Backdoor with the grace and ease of a canary in flight, the common line to the right was blocked by another broken vehicle so we were forced to the more direct and vertical line to the left, we pressed onto the real course of the rock trails in lap two.
We had a traffic hang up in aftershock and in no time Martha was out of the car not only assisting in the recovery of other racers, but spotting and helping the canary peck her way through the pack. Then we pressed on through pit 2a, Martha was taking charge of radio communications at this point so that I could focus on the road ahead and keep the car alive in some sense. A great pit stop from the Rock Addicts team, and with some quick welding from Josh Lowenstein to fix another cracked knuckle, we hit the road again.
Martha was a trooper in all pit stops, as anyone who has raced knows, adrenaline, anxiety, and tempers can cause the situation to flare unnecessarily, very quickly, but she was still calm and positive and it lead to keeping people on task and keeping the team working as a team, which allowed us to be in and out of there in no time flat.
At arrival of Chocolate Thunder, we were informed by grandpa of HAMMERS, Gene Mooneyham, that we were about 40 minutes from timing out at pit 2B, we decided to press on for a finish, if even after the course was closed. We would be without recovery teams should the worst happen, we were on our own. We finished chocolate thunder with ease, and proceeded to wrecking ball. Once up to the waterfall on Wrecking Ball, we realized a front locker was broken, a bad situation given that the winch motor had been smoked in aftershock. (Thank you, Todd, at Warn Winches for the upgrade to a new one after the race)
So, reluctantly, we decided to tuck tail and retreat to pit and call the race for the upgrade this year. The season has just started for 2017, and prospects are bright. We will be back. Thank you, Rock Addicts, Pit crew, and all the associated volunteer help, we truly appreciate you all. Congrats to the finishers in our group, Jason Fish, Dustin Isenhour, Ben Swain, Chad Wheeler. A special HUGE thanks to Dave Cole, Shannon Welch, JT Taylor, and Gene Mooneyham for doing what you do so that I (We) can continue to do what We love! Even though we didn’t get a finish, in the last 6 years of racing with Ultra4 and at KOH, we achieved more successes than any other year, we hit a top speed of 103mph, we raced more miles this year than any other year previous without failure, we did more rock trails than any other year, and we did it on less prepared equipment than any other year due to last minute exceptions.
Special thanks to our sponsors: ADS Racing Shocks, Xtreme Engineering, BFGoodrich Tires, KMC Wheels, Rock Addicts Racing, Hooligan Offroad and Crawlertech 4×4
Who said desert racing was easy.