ACE Motorsports takes double season Championship; wins two awards for 2001 racing season -- The undisputed ACES of Off-Road racing just won a coveted double victory on Dec 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This makes 5 straight years of championships for this awesome team, a track record that may be unbeatable for years to come.
Both the mighty Expedition, driven by Marc Stein and Mike McComas, and the formidable Explorer, driven by Marc Winocur and Dave Turner showed up in the cold December dawn to finish the punishment they had inflicted all year long on the competition. Staging for the start of the popular BITD Las Vegas 200, both FORD Trucks sat impatiently idling at the start line, waiting for their turns to churn up the desert, and cross the finish line first to claim their checkered flags, and the season championship.
The Expedition was leading in the points again this year, and had to finish 5th or better to be the 2001 season champs. The Explorer, having gone undefeated all year long, had already clinched the title of champion before ever starting, and was running this race hoping for another first, and an undefeated year.
The format of this race was 3 laps around a 72 mile loop that turned out to be a mix of high-speed sections over dry lake beds and graded roads, along with punishing silt beds, massive car-high rollers, and edge of your seat cliff driving along mountain rises.
Expedition report #4101: The eyes of the participant: Mark Stein
We enter the dry lakebed of southern Nevada near the state line of California & Nevada. It is 6:20 a.m. and 22 degrees outside. Chris Tartar and I don our race suits and jump in our mighty ACE Motorsports Expedition. We enter our last race of the year with a 25-point lead, and need to finish 5th or better to win the championship. As we enter the line of 67 trucks and cars (seven in our class), we feel the bitter air chill our bones. It's hard to see through our "pre-fogged" protective shields, yet we go to battle against the others and against our biggest enemy, "the rough and tough Nevada desert". The trucks start every 30 seconds and we call to our team the count down to our start time. Nerves are racked, as we are concerned of finishing fifth or better this last race of the year.
We start the 213-mile race at 7:25 a.m. and off to the battle we go against the others and the elements. Facing the rising sun, our visibility is limited to near zero. Starting slower then usual to allow our oils and shocks to warm against the elements, we take a careful beginning to this 5-½ hour race. Quickly, the Hummer caught us at mile 4 and Chris (my Co-rider for the past 10 years) counts off the closer of our arch rival as he approaches us from the rear. "200 Yards back, 100 Yards, 50 Yards, 30 Yards," Chris commands me to step on the gas or pull over. We choose to keep in somewhat clean air, so we step on the gas and pull away from Rod Hall and the coming Hummer he drives seconds before he bumps us. We race to pit A, mile 27 where our faithful and professional team awaits us. Mike McComas fills me in on our position -- we have fallen 3 minutes behind the leading truck of John Sunderland. The Excursion driven by Matt Scaroni has passed all the others (the excursion started last) and is only 1 minute behind. The rest of the field follows the Excursion minutes behind.
We see my brother David "Syko" Sykes down with a motor problem (Dave later finished in his mighty Ford F-150, while helping many people along his way to the finish line, pulling over rolled trucks and providing water and medical aid to other fallen teams along the course). The team tells me to stay the course and race our own race. Chris and I have our own plans for victory. Soon the Excursion passed us, yet we keep him on a string, allowing him to only get 30 to 60 yards in front of us at any given time. Chris comments "this is better then any racing you can watch on TV as we watch the SMD Ford Excursion go through the motions with the ACE Motorsports Expedition on its tail, watching--waiting--learning what the "enemy" does to try to avoid our waiting attack. Feeling the pressure of our mighty truck, the Excursion made a mistake at mile 44 and flattens its passenger rear tire on the razor-sharp rocks that await all racer's tires. With us quickly approaching the end of our first lap (73 miles per lap) we learn that we have fallen back 9 minutes to the Sunderland Bronco.
With a question in my voice and concern on my tongue I ask Chris what we have done to lose this time? Was I driving too slowly, was I losing my winning edge, what do we do? Mike McComas & I stay the path and continue our attack of the desert and against the others. Lap 2 had many bumps and bangs with other racers yet the Bronco avoided us. We were closing in as we got to Pit "B" at mile marker 59, where we were only 4 minutes behind. As they change drivers and fuel the weary Bronco at the main pit, we closed to within 30 seconds. Our expert pit crew fuels our truck, checks us in and out of our pit in only 17 seconds and we are off to catch our prey.At mile 3, last lap only 73 miles to go, with the championship at hand and a first place in view, we take the "high" road outside of the main pit and the Bronco makes its first mistake- taking the slower "low" road. Chris watches below as we catch and pass and take the lead. We race to pit "A" and have a 1 ½ minute lead- we race on to have a 2 1/2 minute lead and then we lose our support until mile marker 56 (pit B).
Not sure of our exact lead (no visual or pit between mile markers 27 & 56) we forge forward on a path not to win the championship and run at a slow speed, but to run it hard and win the race. Then the possible becomes reality. At mile 48, we flatten our front tire. Silence is in the air, as we look at each other and then scream bloody murder. Quickly, we put of our race faces on and understand the mission at hand- change the tire, lose our position and catch up if needed, but get to work. We roll up to a now rolled truck (Darren Oliver- lost his spindle and rolled onto his side) and ask the Driver and Co-rider to help Chris change our flat. With the speed, professionalism and calm of a NASCAR team, the three of them were able to change our only flat of the season in 3 1/2 minutes and we were off.Surprisingly we have not lost our position and we continue to be in front, yet we are only 30 seconds ahead of the now quickly approaching Bronco.
Again we do what we do best, and that is racing our mighty Ford Bilstein Goodyear Expedition onward and upward. We go through pit "B" our last contact with the team before the finish, to find that we have a 1 ½ minute lead and "smash" on. We're blessed to find out the truck in front of us is the other ACE Motorsports truck, our class champion Explorer, and as we approach we call over the radio for a little help, and without another word Dave pulls over and allows us the final cushion to the finish. ACE Motorsports EXPEDITION WINS not only the championship by finishing 5th of better WE WIN THE RACE!