Big Wreck In The 11th Hour
Photos by www.fatkidphotography.ca
There's nothing quite as tiring or rewarding as thrashing to put a race car back together for a competition on an unrealistic deadline. This was the scenario I was facing after I lent my buggy to a friend to "take a girl for a cruise," a midnight cruise two weeks before the next KORRBC event. The friend failed to see an 8' cross ditch as he was bombing down a gravel road resulting in a horrendous crash and a 10 km walk back to camp with the now unimpressed girl. We had to literally shovel the broken buggy with a wrecked front axle onto a flat deck trailer after a late night rescue session. Our first thoughts driving home were how could we get the parts and time to fix the front axle so that we could compete in the next race coming up in two weeks. Without any exaggeration the next couple of weeks were spent welding, cutting, grinding and cursing the name of the buggy wrecker friend. Although, his friend status did improve as he took time off work to help do various chores during the fix preparation. Also, to add more onto the workload our new King coilovers had arrived late the Friday night before the race so plans were made to leave early and install them at the track. I arrived at Baja North in Kamloops and was greeted by Craig who opened up the door to his shop and helped me install my new King shocks. After a quick bench racing session and static tune of the shocks, I headed out to the track to relax before the races.
Prior to the race my wife had questioned me about riding along for a race as my regular co-driver, Dave, usually doesn't at this track. I explained to her that my driving would be about the way I would drive on the road if I didn't have to worry about losing my license with some jumps thrown in. In other words: CRAZY. She was undeterred so we decided that doing the hot laps would be the best way for her to get a feel of whether she wanted to race with me or not. Pulling into the pits after the hot laps I asked how she felt, to which she responded "it was like a scary rollercoaster." "Just wait until there are a bunch of other trucks out there that I'm trying to pass," I said. Much to her credit she agreed to co-drive during the race. On a side note, the new King Shocks were already better than the best we could get out of years' worth of tuning my old coilovers. All the time spent on the phone to get the shocks pre-tuned to my application paid off.
Just before the race we discovered that the event organizers wanted to join our Outlaw class with the Pro Trucks. So instead of a $500 prize for first in each class the fastest vehicle would get $1000 for taking the overall win. Thoughts of a nice prize payday floated through my mind along with "there goes my plans to take it easy and save the buggy for the Highriders Challenge event the following week."
Before our race the Limited Lites were on track and they are one of the most fun classes to watch. Within the first lap two trucks were out and all but one was missing body panels or had damaged panels from bumping other race cars. Being a spec'd class they have to run a lot of stock parts that just don't stand up to a days worth of 20' jumps. I told one of the drivers to put a passenger seat in his so I can ride along next race. I want the best seat in the house for all the carnage.
Our first race would start Corvette Dan (named because he has a Corvette body on a 4x4 frame), with Mike in a class legal Pro 2 truck beside him. My nemesis from last race, Craig would start beside me and I started behind Mike. The green flag dropped for the standing start and both Craig and I dragged for the same holeshot opening down the middle. We hit the table top and my suspension kicked funny in the rear sending us into his truck, there was nothing to do but stab the throttle and hope the damage was minimal. I settled into 2nd place with the Toyo tire autographed Chevy right behind in 3rd. We battled hard for the next couple laps love tapping each other a few more times. I came out of one of the corners a little squirrely and he took advantage of it by passing me in mid air over the table top. As we landed we both tried to turn away from each other but the momentum caused our tires to get personal again. I ended up almost taking out a sprinkler and he got the pass. I then almost rolled going hard into a corner trying to make up ground. I settled in his dust trail for the rest of the race and cruised to a 3rd place finish. After that heat I walked up to him and apologized for the foul. He laughed and his co-driver joked that I was used to running over rocks bigger than his hood so it probably didn't faze me. There was also mention that it was unfair that I came out unscathed while he had tread marks up his fender. I mentioned that if it made him feel better I was missing a chunk of tire.
The second race I was more comfortable and confident with the new shocks, so I thought I would start really driving my buggy. We started in the front row beside the Corvette on a rolling start. When the green flag dropped we took off and as I was coming into the first corner I could see something in my rearview mirror. I looked a little too long and ended up driving too hard into the corner leaving the inside lane open which Mike took advantage of. I decided to try to hang as close to him as I could so I wasn't eating dust. For those that aren't used to it dust is the hardest condition to drive in, but if you can stay on the bumper of vehicle in front, you can follow their lights. On the back straight Mike's truck would pull away leaving me doing about 50-60 MPH going blind into a 180 corner then into the next 180. I was happy to be hanging with such a powerful and well-built truck. We finished the heat in 2nd place.
The Main event would have us starting in the first row beside Mike, with Dan and Craig behind. From the start we launched the tabletop and I cruised in behind the Pro truck, following his well-picked line choices on the track. He started to pull away from us as the race wore on. My temperature gauge stopped working when I hit 260F. I knew it was getting really hot as the ECM was de-fueling the engine to control the power output, a safety feature GM uses to help stop overheating. I did not like it but it may have saved my engine. With 2 laps to go we got a mandatory caution and restart as all 4 of us were spread out over the entire track. The result was that I would be closer to Mike, but also Craig would be closer to me. When the green flag dropped once again all four V-8 motors went screaming over the front jump. I was using everything I had to stay with him this time. I almost endoed the buggy a couple times trying to keep up, but as we came into the 180 degree turn I was close enough to see the Pro truck take a weird line then again into the next turn. I knew something was wrong and set myself up to cut the last hairpin as hard as I could. Mike went wide and I shot out from the inside of the turn. The buggy was turning 6200 RPM as I shifted into second coming up the jump at the start/finish line. I could see the white flag but couldn't see anything behind me. I carried all the speed I could into the corner and hoped the buggy would not roll. The last lap consisted of really technically ugly driving, I was mis-timing jumps and running too far into corners. As we hit the last hairpin I remembered the spot my truck died at during the last race and said out loud, "Come on baby 300 more ft!" We sailed over the finish line and I parked the truck. Mike came over and congratulated me. I asked him what went wrong. He explained that he lost power steering so the big Pro Truck couldn't stay on the inside of the corners.
As we headed to the pits we were adding up the race points in our head and knew it was going to be really close. When the announcement was finally made "Mike Caldwell had taken first by 1 point over us to win the overall. Although I was disappointed not to be one thousand dollars richer, I was proud of how we finished and thankful for all the help we received before and during the race. That help included: KORRBC and all it's volunteers, The Gear Centre group, Evolution Machine and Fabrication, Hardbodies by Aqualu, Sportsman 4x4, Toyo tires, BC4x4, and of course my family. A special thank you goes out to Jeap Thrills for working their butts off to get me my parts so I could get the buggy running and Baja North for not only getting my King shocks but helping me install them and working on the valving and tuning.
Angela's Co-Driver Experience
After a lot of mental gearing up I decided that I was going to race with Curtis in the KORR BC race on June 27th. I put on my helmet and fire suit and was strapped into the buggy. While being strapped in, some of the crew members gave me instructions on how to escape the buggy if we crashed. Then Curtis said my job as co-driver in the buggy was to count laps, watch for flags and most of all stay out of the way. At the starting line-up we got pushed to the back beside Craig Byers with Mike Caldwell and Corvette Dan in front. The flag dropped and instantaneously the engines roared. Within seconds I heard a bang and felt the buggy slam to my side. We were hit or had hit Craig Byers, and then a second later we were in front of him. I am now thinking "what did I get myself into?? I thought we were just racing not having a bumper car rally." The turns and jumps were crazy, so much faster than the hot laps. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to do my job watching for flags and counting laps when I couldn't see anything with all the dust and dirt flying at us, but I did. Then I caught a glimpse of Craig in the rear view mirror. I held on even tighter to my belt and got ready as I knew it was going to get faster as Craig tried to pass and Curtis raced to stay in front. At the end of the race Craig caught us and we finished third behind Mike and Craig. I rode along in the first two races, but opted out of the third as my shoulders started to hurt and I figured it was probably for the best. The third race was the race to watch. The last two laps were a shoot out, with Curtis finishing third and then second in the previous races he was really pushing for first in the main heat. He was flying around the course and gaining on Mike Caldwell when suddenly Mike took a turn wide and Curtis went in for the pass and made it. Mike couldn't catch up and Curtis finished first. Unfortunately we didn't have enough points and missed out of first overall by one point. I must say that I have a new respect for my husband, brother in-law Dave, and their racing. It isn't just gas, brake, steer. I was amazed at how much Curtis was doing to keep us on our wheels and in the race. I didn't do much except count laps for Curtis, watch for flags and keep myself out of his way so he could work his magic. It was the ride of my life but I think I am now content to sit on the side lines and cheer him on.
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