Raptor Racing's "Humpty Dumpty" tale of the Baja 2000

Raptor Racing owners, Mike Griffiths and Pete Estler bought the old Herbst Trophy Truck to run the Baja 2000. Additional drivers were Greg Foutz with Steve Wheeler as Co-Driver and Scott Douglas with Jeff Howe as Co-Driver. Foutz Motorsports...

Raptor Racing owners, Mike Griffiths and Pete Estler bought the old Herbst Trophy Truck to run the Baja 2000. Additional drivers were Greg Foutz with Steve Wheeler as Co-Driver and Scott Douglas with Jeff Howe as Co-Driver. Foutz Motorsports and Raptor Racing had determined that they could not support more than one truck there because of the logistics. The plan was that Griffiths and co-driver Estler would start the race, and then Foutz and Wheeler would take over at the 450-mile mark. At the 910-mile pit, Griffiths and Estler would take the Raptor Racing Ford F150 back over and continue the trek through the desert for approximately 160 miles before giving Douglas the final stint. Douglas and Howe were the designated driver/co-driver to finish the race in Cabo San Lucas.

Unfortunately, the desert "gremlins" struck the team in the manner of a good old Humpty Dumpty tale. And like "all the king's men", the team never gave up their effort to finish the trek through the desert!

When they started the trek through the Baja terrain, Griffiths had trouble settling down. He never got comfortable with the 'new' truck and at mile 7, he ran off the road and almost rolled down a 2-mile deep embankment. The truck sat there for about 4 hours before anyone could get to them and pull them out. Griffiths was so shaken by the experience that they got stuck a couple of times and decided to just take it easy. Griffiths and Estler made it to the driver change about 10 hours late.

Foutz got in with Wheeler, his normal co-driver, and they had a really good run in the truck all the way to the pit stop. Only one flat the whole way and with really no down time, they did their 450 miles in just under 9 hours. Foutz said "I was surprised that I could get comfortable in that truck and make time in it. I'm not a Trophy Truck driver by any means, but it was fun for a change. The horsepower difference is huge."

Griffiths and Estler took the Ford F-150 back over but before reaching the driver changeover area where Douglas waited, a lifter in the engine went at about the 1100-mile mark. Some of the crew were able to make their way to the race truck and they took the intake manifold off. They removed the broken lifter and made wood plugs to drive into the bore so the engine would maintain oil pressure. At the time, that sounded like a good idea. So they fired it back up on 7 cylinders and ran until the driver change pit. The entire team was at the pit and they did some more maintenance on the truck. At that time they just needed to finish and if luck held out, they would have a 4th or 5th place in the four-wheel Trophy Truck category.

Douglas and Howe started their run and were doing fine until about 120 miles later when they pulled into the pit area; the engine was running poor. The team started to pull plugs on the hurt side of the motor to find that they were all fouled bad. Once they pulled the air cleaner, they found the throttle bodies full of fuel, "I mean full like a full gallon of fuel filling the intake and throttle plates", according to Foutz. They figured out that the intake valves were not opening and pulled the valve cover and discovered that when the earlier lifter bores in front of the engine were plugged, it starved oil to the other 3 cylinders. The other lifters seized in the bores and bent push rods etc. etc. so they pulled all of the rockers off that side of the engine (driver's right side) and unplugged the injectors. Now they had a 4cylinder engine, which Douglas babied for over 500 miles. At a pit area 300 or so miles from the finish, one of the BF Goodrich pits personnel accidentally gave the team a dump can full of diesel fuel. Douglas pulled into the pit with the truck running fine and when he went to pull out the thing started to run like a diesel; big surprise! The team immediately figured out what had happened and drained the 90 gallon fuel cell out and re-filled it. The entire procedure took almost another hour to get done.

They started back up and Douglas and Howe went for it again. This time, Douglas made about 75 miles and the engine started to shed the lifters on the other side (driver's left) of the engine. Once again, members of the team went to the race truck and pulled the intake manifold out. This time they took some parts from the driver's right side of the engine and built enough lifters and push rods to make the driver's left side run again. The idea to place all the good usuable parts into the driver's left side engine came from Dave Straders (Ford Engine Technologist). The team finished putting the 4cylinder engine back together and Douglas went on his way again. But the motor was starting to come apart internally and they only made about 50 miles when the bottom end started coming apart. The team broke two starters trying to get it to run again; however they were stranded and only(!) 90 miles from the finish line. By this time, most of the team had gone 62 hours without sleep. Their race was over.

The event for all of them was a heart breaker, but 125% effort by the whole team. Foutz said "I was very proud of all my guys for the effort and continued team work. We are very lucky to have such a dedicated crew."

Don't even ask about the "cut loose pool party" the next day, I'll just say Tequila, No sleep, 30 guys, and a pool don't mix.....

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