The Difference Between 3rd and DNF, a 2013 KOH Story
We received the official copy of the race course first thing Friday morning. This years course consisted of 3 loops totaling 185 miles (more miles than any previous years race). The 1st loop was 54 miles of the worst desert whoops! The 2nd loop was some desert but mostly the tough Hammer trails and the 3rd lap was the same as the 2nd but also included Spooners and Outer Limits (when you are tired and your car is beat)! So Tony suited up and went out for a closer look in the race car…
We were able to pre-run the entire race course, where our co-driver Bryan Lyttle makes detailed notes in the GPS for race day. Later that same day they ran a couple laps on this years LCQ/Time Trial course which was a short 3 mile version of the KOH course, that included a new obstacle they were calling “Front Door”.
Our time trial run was Tuesday mid day. Our goal was for a good clean run to post a solid time for a mid pack start position! A lot of racers were coming in from their time trial run on flat tires or broken wheels. Tony did not want to break the car! They got in a good clean run and we sat in 4th overall for most of the day. However, toward the end of the day a big rock moved which made the course 20 seconds faster.
In the end, we started 40th – which Tony was fine with, as we knew that meant we would be grouped with cars off the start that we knew we were faster than.
The car was running good and felt solid. The team guys were feeling confident! So confident that Darren & the other team guys even had time to work on other small but equally important details on the car.
Race morning, the nice weather was gone, it was cold and windy with a chance of rain and snow! Darren had the car in line at 6:00am and warming up. Bryan and Tony jumped in the car at 7:45am on the starting line. This years start was weird, around a corner. We had the outside line which was a disadvantage.
Right off the start the car felt loose to Tony. He suspected it was because the shocks were still cold. But that did not prevent them from passing 2 cars in the first 3 miles! At one point Tony looked over at the GPS and noticed they were going over 100 as they passed guys to stay out of their dust over on Melville Dry Lake. Then with the momentum as they passed 2 more cars in the next 2 miles. The engine was running strong and they were clearly faster than most. This is where pre-running paid off as they had mapped out this area so they knew all the fastest paths through the area.
By mile 48 they were in physical 10th! And a few miles later as they came into main pit by 9:30am (at the end of lap 1) we were in physical 6th place! They pitted and peeled out for lap 2! Now it was onto the tough Hammer trails! Lap 2 was pretty smooth for them, but the steering was getting worse… When they got to Aftershock Gary Faravanti was sideways in the Z turn so they had to take the sketchy off camber side hill line (that they had never run before). Tony did not know if it was possible to drive this section in our car… Bryan spotted him and they were through it in a flash! Beyond that Chocolate Thunder, it was tough now. Someone had moved the big rock at the gate keeper so it took Tony several teetery attempts to get through this section. But they did and they were off to finish the second lap! Putting them in physical 4th place by this time, at 12:45pm
On our 3rd lap – right as we left the main pit another car shot out 10 seconds in front of us, it was Chicky Barton. So as we approached Back Door he was stuck in front of us! Bryan hopped out to help him get out of our way before he broke or rolled over on top of our car! We got him up and we worked our way up and over Resolution where we saw Kevin Sacalas, broke and out of the race!
We raced back across the desert, Tony was just starting to feel like he was in the groove. Bryan had just told him “we have a long left hand corner hit it on the inside!” When BAM at mile 93 Tony and Bryan rolled, right in front of our video crew. After they were on their side Tony realized the ARB lockers were still on, which makes the car real squirrely when going fast. Tony & Bryan got rolled back on to the wheels quickly and probably only lost 5 minutes. As they took off, Bryan said “hey take it easy – make sure everything works ok before you really go fast again” so Tony made sure the car felt good before resuming race speed. After the roll over, Tony noticed the rear shocks were suddenly working better!
Lap 3 included Spooners & Outer Limits, two tough trails! About half way up Spooners they got stuck. Tony could not understand what the problem was… so Bryan got out to see what was going on. They had a flat rear tire. By then Eric Miller had caught them and tried to push them through the obstacle (which was fine with Tony). Once free, they pulled up and changed the tire. 3 cars got by them while changing the tire, including Ben Napier and Bill Baird. Once underway again, they caught Bill Baird at the top of Outer Limits and chased him across the desert and up through Sunbonnett where Bryan had to get out and spot him through the middle line at the trail entrance. There were broken rigs in every possible line. Ben Napier had flopped it attempting the far left line. This was great, as they made up all the guys that passed us while they were changing the flat tire!
Finally they had caught Chicky Barton in 3rd place. When they almost rolled coming out of Sunbonnett chasing down Chicky. After Tony saved it, Bryan says “that was fun, lets not do it again!” Tony says they almost rolled so many times he lost count!
They had just passed Bill Beard on HWY19 & 20 when the passenger side wheel snapped off and could now be seen in front of the car!!! Bryan yelled stop. He hopped out and said shut if off we are done… Tony radioed in and told the crew what happened. As he got out of the car he could see the axle housing buried down in the dirt… the shaft had slid out and fluid was pouring out of the differential!
Right about then, Bill Beard caught up to them. They were broken right in the middle of the trail, so Tony spotted Bill by so he would not injure the GenRight car any more.
This is one of the worst type of breaks! As you must repair the car in place before you can even tow it or limp it along!!!
Tony radioed the pit crew – do we have a spare? Yes! OK lets get this fixed and finish this race!
Bryan immediately got going and hiked/ran 2 miles up the canyon and over to pit 2 for parts and tools. Meantime Tony started the process to tear down the car. It was in a bad spot with all the weight on the pass side corner. So he stacked rocks under the lower control arm and backed the car up in 3 wheel drive to get it a little more level for them to work on.
By now other cars had started to catch them. Tony could hear them coming up the canyon. To get to the floor jack off the car, Tony had to remove the spare tire. As he slid the tire off the back of the car it got away from him and rolled several hundred feet down the canyon. At which point he said, oh well we will deal with that later! He got the jack and pulled the tools from under the car. He had to jack up the car 12 or so times, each time stacking rocks and repositioning the jack under the axle so they could get the new parts on the front axle.
Tony got the knuckle disassembled at which time Bryan came down the trail with the parts. As he walked up, he asked Tony to help him get the back pack off so it did not take him down! It was heavy, filled with parts and tools! It almost took Tony down too!
Fortunately Bryan came back with headlamps because now they were re-assembling the car in the dark. Once minimally back together, Tony limped the car into the pit in Low range with no brakes in the dark. They were both SUPER happy to see the guys at pit 2! Tony and Bryan were already cold… it was now 6:30pm. It was awesome as Tony witnessed 10 GenRight crew guys working feverishly on the car. At one point Tony told them to not trust the repairs they did, because it was only a band aid to get over to the pit. They got some food and built the guys a fire to keep warm until they were back in the car by 7:30pm.
Now the idea was to finish – they only had 35 miles to go! It was dark and harder to see. Tony was taking it real easy on the car at this point. They got across Fischer, down Jack Hammer, through Chocolate Thunder and into Wrecking Ball. Where at mile 165, the driver side ball joint broke and Tony saw the tire flop over onto the rock!
It was now 8:30pm… Tony radioed to the team, “now the other side broke…” there was silence – everyone knew that meant the day was over. At that point Tony requested all the guys from pit 2A come help us get it fixed so we could just get off the trail. At which time the crew replied that means you will be a DNF. Tony acknowledged, as he had been fighting the steering all day, to the point it felt like he had 2 broken wrists!!! Tony & Bryan just did not have the energy to stand in the cold canyon with the wind howling to fix another knuckle again… We were only 20 miles from the finish… They sat in the car and tried to stay warm until the pit crew arrived with parts and tools. It took the team until 11:22pm before they had Tony start the car and turn around to head back to Hammertown. Everyone was glad to get back to the RV’s as they were cold and hungry!!!
It was such a long day for everyone - THANKS to the GenRight team for their support & efforts!