Engage Off-Road and driver-of-record Jerry Allen showed up at Wild Wash and were among the minority of 1450/Sportsman Prerunner class to officially finish the race. After running consistent lap times for three laps, the team ran into trouble and struggled to complete the final lap but successfully crossed the finish line under the time limit. This truck is also used to prerun in Baja and sports a back-halved tail section. The rear 'cage configuration allows for maximum compression travel, but the leaf packs are prevented from going into too much negative arch by a pair of King bumpstops. A completely custom front end rounds out the package.
We've been anticipating the first run of the Thing Motorsports/McNeil Off-Road Trophy Truck for a while. The TT was on display at the Off-Road Expo, but its dirt debut was at the Wild Wash 250. Trophy Trucks run with the Class 1 Unlimited buggies at MDR. Frank Thing's Chevy 383 propelled the TT for a few glorious minutes and then stopped abruptly, the victim of internal engine parts that didn't get along. The cam and distributor drivegears chewed against each other, with the distributor gear losing the scuffle. Frank Thing and Chad McNeil were understandably bummed about the short-lived lap but were still happy about the truck's overall performance. "I don't know how much faster I'd want it to be," Chad says. "That truck just hauls!"
Matt Towery has taken MDR's Class 8 championship two years running and got off to a great start for the '06 season at Wild Wash. At sign-up, Towery found out he was the lone Class 8 entry, and he had the option of running his F-150 in Class 1400/Pro Prerunner. "It was either stubbornness or pride that made me run in Class 8. Since I was the lone truck in my class, I was able to change codrivers each lap and give more people rides in the truck. At each pit stop, we were able to take our time and check the truck thoroughly to make sure everything was OK." Lone entry or one of many, Barstow is still Barstow, and the terrain still holds surprises for even the most prepared. "We were out shaking the truck down the afternoon before the race," Matt says. "We came into a corner and stuffed the right front wheel hard into a dip. We bent the wheel, flattened the tire, and broke a tie rod." The flat was easily replaced with a spare, and the team had a spare tie rod back in the main pit. "I had to climb up to the top of a hill to get cell phone reception and then wait awhile for the chase crew to bring the tie rod to the truck." Spare tie rod and tire in place, Matt started the race the next day and made the required six laps to not only win Class 8, but to take 9th overall.
Racers like to win, but they'd rather win by outracing their competition than by being the last truck running or the only truck in their class. "Last season at Lucerne, I battled with Josh Klenske, and finally DNF'd when my rear suspension's upper wishbone failed. I loved that race; it's probably the most fun I've had racing until the rear suspension broke." Matt feels that his seasons in MDR have him well prepared to jump into the SCORE wars. "When I learned to ski, I spent a lot of time on the easier slopes, making sure I had my technique down before I tried the steeper runs. I didn't want to look stupid by going for the tougher slopes and crashing all over the place. I'm enjoying MDR, but I want to race with SCORE and especially get back to Baja." The Bakersfield, California-based team makes frequent trips to Stoddard Wells for testing but reports that most Bakersfield off-roaders flock to Oceano Dunes (Pismo) to play in the sand. Although we love the challenge of Barstow's terrain, we can't blame people for liking Pismo. Right on the ocean, Pismo's temperatures are more pleasant, and the town of Pismo Beach offers comforts and amenities that are much harder to come by in the heart of the Mojave.
Shawn St. George took the green flag hoping for a finish but ended the day with a Class 7 win. "Last year was our first full season. It was a rough year. We worked through overheating problems, broke a rear trailing arm, rolled the truck at Ridgecrest, and rolled it again at the following race in Barstow. So, when we raced Wild Wash, we just wanted to be consistent. The win just fell into our hands," Shawn tells us. St. George Motorsports' day was free of big mechanical problems, but the team did need to change a front end ball joint and a fuel filter to finish the race. "I liked the Wild Wash course -- it had rough, slow areas and fast and smooth sections too. It was a good way to test your skill." Shawn, along with his brother Nick and father Larry, shares the driving and pitting duties. Number 707 began as Shawn's daily driver while still in high school. Shawn began his buildup by first reworking the front end and adding longer-travel I-beams and coilovers. That stage of the truck stayed the same for a while until he was able to buy a second vehicle for transportation and rip the Ranger apart in his shop. The St. George Motorsports long-travel I-beam front and linked rear suspensions were built in-house and are damped by two King shocks per corner. For motivation, the truck uses Ford's potent SOHC 4.0 V-6 coupled to a C4 three-speed automatic with a manual valve body. "That motor pulls really hard. It's got a definite powerband. It doesn't pull hard off of the bottom, but as soon it hits the high rpm it hits hard. We've stepped up to 3-inch bypass shocks recently. When the course is really rough, the bigger shocks won't heat up as much." The team frequents Stoddard Wells even when not racing: "Going to play in places like Dove Springs, Jawbone Canyon, and California City is fun, but our schedule is so hectic that we really don't have time to just play, so we go testing in Barstow because that's where the racecourse is." Future racing plans? "We'll still race MDR; we started with MDR and we like the reasonable entry fees. When we're ready, we really want to branch out into Best in the Desert and maybe SCORE, but the entry fees there are much higher."