At around noon, an ominous plume of smoke appeared on the horizon. The most obvious possibility was that a race vehicle had caught fire and was going up in flames with its driver and co-driver safely out of the vehicle. The truth was in fact much worse. A helicopter carrying XYZ Productions and Camburg Engineering employee Steve Kurtyka and two other men had crashed during a low-level flight while filming the race. All three survived, but sustained burns while exiting the burning helicopter. Steve's injuries necessitated a lengthy hospital stay and numerous skin grafts. As of press time, Steve has been transferred from the hospital to a recovery center. He's not home yet. His condition has improved, and he is in good spirits. He has a long physical and financial road back to full recovery. For information about how to help Steve, please see the "Strength" sidebar at right.
The Prerunner class is usually a battle between Ford Rangers and Toyota pickups and Tacomas. When the checkers flew, it was for neither of the two. Lloyd Snyder drove a GMC Sonoma to the win. The Sonoma's key features include center-mounted front control arms, a healthy V-8, and a linked rearend. Lloyd's lap times had no more than an 11-minute spread, a tough trick to turn on a 48-mile course filled with rocks, sand, hills, heat, and other competitors.
We'd like to give our thumbs-up of approval to Beard Seats for its strong support of the Prerunner class and to M.O.R.E. Racing for hosting the event. It was a day that - for reasons both good and bad - we'll never forget.
Sitting Shotgun at the Shootout
Seat time is always a good time. As the author found out, it's not always an easy time. The short version: The two laps in No. 1452 were tough, but fun. Read on for the details.
Steve Kurtyka is a class act. His friendly, unassuming nature makes him easy to like and easy to approach. A single glance at his arms makes one realize that Steve doesn't have to talk much to be noticed or to be respected. The man's arms are bigger than some people's legs! Steve is a strong guy.
Earlier in the day, Steve was in the thick of the action at the Camburg pit, and lent a hand with the No. 1452 race effort as well. He had hired a helicopter to help him film the Shootout for XYZ Productions, but weather conditions had kept the chopper grounded in the race's opening hours. As the weather changed, the helicopter was cleared for flight, and Steve climbed aboard in search of superior footage.
The helicopter went down unexpectedly - and went down hard. All three on board managed to climb free of the burning wreck, but Steve suffered second- and third-degree burns on his arms, back, and shoulders.
The accident cast a pall over the rest of the day. Suddenly, it didn't seem to matter as much who won, or whose Prerunner would be dominant. Fourteen-fifty domination was still battled for, but with the perspective that life itself is far more precious than a single race win or loss.
Steve is a strong guy, but he needs the strength of others to help him back to physical and financial recovery.
For more information about how to help Steve, please visit www.stevesfund.org.