June 28, 2003 - Reno, Nevada: Contingency and technical inspection for Best in the Desert's `Vegas to Reno' race was scheduled for Thursday morning, June 25th in Las Vegas and Team HUMMER race vehicles started filling up the corner of the Suncoast...
June 28, 2003 - Reno, Nevada: Contingency and technical inspection for Best in the Desert's `Vegas to Reno' race was scheduled for Thursday morning, June 25th in Las Vegas and Team HUMMER race vehicles started filling up the corner of the Suncoast Hotel parking lot early in the day. The bright yellow #4121 H2 SUV was first to arrive from the GM Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona accompanied by Project Man- ager, Thad Stump. Making the journey with Thad to help crew the maiden voyage of the new H2 race program were GM Technicians, John Cumming, Doug Moore and Carl Perez. The H2 chase crew brought with them several matching yellow H2s, making ours the most visible race program in the event. Chad Hall's #8102 H1 Pickup ar- rived shortly afterward along with the #4101 "Flag" HUMMER SUV which was prepped and ready for the final race of it's illustrious ca- reer with Josh Hall at the wheel. By the time all of the chase crews had assembled, we had more HUMMERs on site than many dealerships.
The Best in the Desert `Vegas to Reno' race started about 10:00 am in the small farming community of Alamo, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Chad Hall started first for Team HUMMER in the #8102 pickup followed about 20 minutes later by Josh Hall in the #4101 SUV. Rod Hall was the final Team HUMMER entry off the line in the new #4121 H2 SUV. At Pahroc Summit, about 40 miles into the race, the H1s passed through leading in their respective classes. The #4121 H2 came in slowly some distance back, suffering from a bro- ken lower left shock mount which sidelined the team for about an hour while repairs were made. Chad and Josh continued to dominate their classes with only a few minutes separating the two H1 HUM- MERs as they passed through Pit #3 at Tikaboo Valley, directly adja- cent to Central Nevada's famed Extraterrestrial Highway. A short while later, at race mile 120, the engine on the #4101 `Flag' HUMMER started overheating due to an apparent blown head gasket and the SUV was forced to retire from the event. Although the engine checked out fine in pre-race testing the overheating problem may have developed at the previous race, when the exhaust manifold had cracked about 45 miles from the finish, causing them to have to limp home on little or no turbo boost.
Meanwhile Chad was about 125 miles into the race and leading when Rod and co-rider, Dave Cumming finally got the H2 back on the road at Pit #1. Being a virtually stock, untested race truck, our expectations from the H2 were realistic. Our goal was to get a feeling for the capabilities of the new truck and do everything possible to finish the race. The (LQ4) 6.0 Liter Vortec V-8 engine is certainly smooth and pow- erful but it was apparent that we will need to improve the lower shock mounts in the front and consider a few other suspension modifications in order to get that power to the ground.
The race for the Class 8100 lead was heating up and by race mile 300 (Pit #9) Chad had increased his lead to almost 30 minutes over the second place V-10 powered Ford F-350 driven by Greg Foutz of Gilbert, Arizona. The HUMMER Pickup had been running cool all day thanks to a prototype cooling fan system provided by AMGeneral engineers which had succeeded in drop- ping engine temperature by up to 30 degrees. Unfortu- nately, the central nut holding the new system together started to fail as the team passed through Pit #9 and a low RPM rumble they had been noticing for the past few miles began to get progressively worse. Before the source of the noise could be identified, the fan nut loosened enough to allow the fan to impact the radiator forcing the #8102 pickup to relinquish their lead and pit for repairs at Mina, just short of race mile 350. In the pits the news was not good. After removing the radiator the crew could see that the central locating nut had indeed come loose in spite of the fact that it had been assembled with locktite and torqued to specification. When the nut started backing out, the splined shaft connecting the assembly to the crankshaft came loose causing a significant amount of collateral damage to several parts vital to the continued operation of the system. After working on the truck for three hours, # 8102 was retired from the race. Since this was the first race either Team HUMMER truck has failed to finish in the past two years, the crew was choked with disappointment.
Rod got out of the #4121 H2 SUV at Pit #4, about 125 miles into the race and Mike Winkel took over with John Cumming still in the second seat. Everything had worked flawlessly since the shock mount was repaired at Pit #1 but it was slow going in the H2 as the team tried to conserve the truck and avoid breaking the shock mount again. Thad Stump replaced Cumming in the co-rider position at Pit #7 and by midnight the Winkel/Stump team were heading into Mina nursing the truck along with another broken lower left front shock mount. After some welding and reassembly, Josh Hall replaced Mike Winkel in the driver's seat and by 1:30 am the H2 was headed the final 200 miles toward the finish line at Dayton, just south of Reno. At this point we had concluded that the limit strap on the driver's side was just a bit too long. This forced the shock to act as the limiting stop for the left shock which was eventually breaking the shock bolt and destroying the mount. Josh broke another bolt near the finish but was able to react quickly enough to get away with simply replacing the shock bolt.
The Team HUMMER #4121 H2 SUV entry crossed the finish line at 7:21 am on Saturday Morn- ing with a fourth in Class 4100. This marks the first of many finishes for this new race truck and a tri- umph for the many skilled individuals at the GM Desert Proving Grounds who worked on this project and helped to make this happen.
The next race for Team HUMMER will be the Score Baja 1000, November 20 - 23, 2003 in Ensenada, BC, Mexico.