Foutz Motorsports 2001 Vegas to Reno off-road race Our adventure started out on Wednesday September the 26th when we loaded up the truck and headed toward Primm Nevada for our normal shake and bake test session. We had been through the truck...
2001 Vegas to Reno off-road race
Our adventure started out on Wednesday September the 26th when we loaded up the truck and headed toward Primm Nevada for our normal shake and bake test session. We had been through the truck from bumper to bumper for this long race to make sure we didn't have any missing components. Everything was new from tip to tip. The only part we didn't change was the engine. It had been arranged that Steve Scaroni's team would meet us in Primm for some note comparison before the race. Dave Strader, Dave Brune and Doug Steinman were all to be there too for technical assistance.
The test session went as planned and we found no major issues with the truck. We ran about 30 miles and checked several minor adjustments on the truck. We made minor fuel pressure adjustments and found a little speed in the top RPM ranges. I went for a ride in the Excursion with Tommy to see how it worked, and suggested to Scaroni that they needed to bring the shock valving way up and this should enable them to go much faster overall.
The next morning (Thursday the 27th) we all went to the Sun Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for the normal contingency and technical inspection day. The day went fine but everyone was tense. The next day held the longest race we run in the United States and everyone in our class seemed very determined to place well.
Race day began with a long drive to Pahrump Nevada with the start line outside of town by the airstrip. The cars and trucks were to stage into starting order at 9:00 in the morning and the first car would start at 9:30. Our class was moved up in the starting order for this race due to the average speed we have been maintaining. We were the 6th class of cars to go off of the start line, which placed us in front of many of the smaller trucks, and cars we normally got stuck behind and were forced to pass. This starting order was perfect. We had only one small truck class (unlimited mini trucks class 7200) in front of us and they were fast enough that we passed them over several hundred miles and were spread out enough not to slow us down. We had drawn first off in our class and lined up in front of the other 9 trucks we would battle to Reno.
The green light came on and we were off. The start of the race was down a pretty smooth road before we dumped off into the rough desert outside of Pahrump. Steve and I began immediately to try and settle into a solid but fast pace. He started off with the normal small talk and stories of his adventures, which normally get me calm and collected. We ran clean and fast and built up a small lead by the time we had reached pit 1 which was only 17 miles in on the race course. When we crossed there our crew later told us we had gained 5 minutes on the pack and looked great. With the good news we picked up the pace and set out to build a bigger lead before pit 2. By the time we were out of the rock garden after pit 1 we were running very fast and hit a silt pocket with too much speed and found the rut at the other end. The front of the truck hit the rut hard and made a strange noise. The truck felt fine so we kept it up and didn't think much of it. In another few miles we heard more noise and then the snap. The front shock shaft had broken clean off by the lower mount. We were close to pit 2 now and Steve radioed in to let the crew know we were stopping to fix it. They prepared the spare shock and got ready to slam and jam. We pulled in and the crew went to work. We were in the pit for over 10 minutes before Spirikoff went by without stopping. Then Esquerra went by about 3 minutes later. We completed repairs in about 15 minutes total and set back out.
We ran hard for a few miles and began to catch Esquerra pretty quickly. We passed them back and moved up back into 2nd place again. As we passed Esquerra I went looking for 3rd gear however it was gone, never to return for the rest of the race after only about 60 miles. Just shortly after we passed Esquerra we began to catch Spirikoff and were making time on them too. By now we were getting close to the first fuel stop at BFG pit 1. We pulled in to the BFG pit within 1 minute of Spirikoff and both took on fuel. They let him go first and we both set back out into the desert to battle again. We ran less than 1 minute behind them forever. With no 3rd gear it was almost impossible to pass them. Each time we got to a fast area they would pull away from us and we were left to catch them in the technical areas. We learned that our truck seemed faster than theirs in the technical areas, by a large margin. It gave me great comfort to know that we are faster than they are and even without 3rd gear. When we got to the 2nd BFG pit over 100 miles later we pulled in and they had a flat to change in the pit. We thought we would be out ahead of Spirikoff for sure now, but the pit boss held us for some reason I still don't know until they left then they let us go. The battle continued into the desert again and we remained about 1 minute apart all the way into the next BFG pit. We knew they were to make a driver change at this pit and we were not, so we radioed the crew and let them know we wanted to short pit and only take on 20 gallons of fuel and get out in front of them. Our crew worked on the pit boss at BFG pit 3 and received some resistance and no help from them. Our guys had to dump our gas and we nearly didn't get out in front of them again even with them doing a driver change and both rear tires in the pit. It seemed that they had the favored truck over us that day as far as BFG went. We pushed our way out of the pit anyway and got out in front of them again.
We ran with clean air for about 10 miles and had no problems. We headed up into some rolling hills that were very rocky and had a small problem. As we went across a hilltop I tried to miss a large rock by going to the low side of it rather than putting it under the truck. Seemed like a good idea until the rear end of the truck started slipping over the side of the hill and the more I applied power the worse it got. We stopped completely and decided we would back down the hill until we could get better ground and go again. Steve jumped out and had to push on the front bumper to get the truck in motion and we started backing down. After about 4 minutes Spirikoff came by while we were backing down the hill. We recovered quickly and started back off after them again. Within a couple of miles one of our rear tires started to shred. The center strip of tread began to de-laminate. I thought we had a flat and stopped to change the tire. We changed it pretty fast and got back in the truck and started going again. Within minutes we heard the header break and turn our sweet sounding V-10 into an annoying lawn mower. About now I also started noticing some fluid speckling my visor. I didn't think anything of it at the time. I thought it was fuel or some remnants from the broken header. So we continued on. We were now between pit 10 and 11 and nearly 25 miles from pit 11 when I realized the power steering was gone and we were on manual mode. I knew now what the fluid on my visor was and Steve and I decided not to stop. We fought the truck into the pit without the power steering but lost some time.
At Pit 11 we changed the broken power steering pump and welded up the broken header the best we could. This repair included welding a 7/16 bolt over the two parts of header to keep it together. It looked like birds came and crapped all over that one header but it lived the rest of the 125 miles we had left to run. By now we were in the full darkness. Steve decided to get out of the truck incase we had any other problems and put Mike Mounts in with me. We knew if we had any other issues I would be too tired to finish the race and Steve would have to drive it in. Mike and I seated up and pulled out of the pit area and headed into the nasty silt/rock bed outside of Hawthorn Nevada. I radioed out to the crew to see where Spirikoff was on time with us. No other trucks had come through the pit and we were there over an hour before we were done. We later learned that we were over 2 hours ahead of the rest of our class by that point and they would never catch up. Daryl Robinson from our crew came back at us on the radio from pit 12 and told us we were about an hour and a half down from them and they looked like they were running clean through pit 12 but not as fast. With that news Mike and I talked about running hard and trying to catch them before the finish. We knew we had over 100 miles to go and if they had any problems we could be right back in the hunt. That laid the groundwork for the fastest part of our run. We picked up our pace about 20% and punished the truck the rest of the race. The crew was letting us know that we were making time on them in big chunks. We prayed for them to have a problem and equalize the bad luck demons, but no such luck. We reached the finish line and they had beaten us by only 35 minutes at the end of 525 miles of racing.
The intensity of the race was awesome. Our whole crew couldn't believe that we raced that close for over 300 miles with them and both trucks kept in one piece. The entire rest of our class was like they were at a different race than we were finishing way behind us some by several hours. It amazed me that even without 3rd gear we could keep pace with them in most areas and go faster than they could in many. All in all the truck worked great and proved how tough it really is. We finished our race in 13 hours and 13 minutes. That is faster than the time from the last Vegas to Reno when we won our class and had a near trouble free run.
- Greg Foutz / www.foutzmotorsports.com