The Yerington 300 is a big deal in this rural farming community. The race brings money to
Trucks and Buggies: What's the Difference?
Race "trucks" are really tube-frame creations that have a fiberglass body on them. Other than the body, what are the differences between trucks and buggies? Trucks traditionally have the engine in the front (there are some exceptions, like Robby Gordon's Trophy Truck) with a solid axle in the rear running a spool. By comparison, buggies have the engine in the back with a transaxle to route power through an open differential. Cutting brakes are often used on buggies to turn more sharply and make up for the lack of a locking differential when traction is limited.
The name "buggy" is derived from Volkswagen Bugs, as are many of the buggy parts. Volkswagens use air-cooled four-cylinder engines mated to a transmission and axle all-in-one (a transaxle) that uses constant velocity joints to power the rear wheels and a beam axle in the front. Many racing classes (Class 1/2-1600, Class 5, Class 9, Class 11) still use this basic design. Other buggy race classes (Class 10, for example) mount the engine in the rear, but they don't necessarily use VW engines or beam front axles. Class 1 cars, such as those built by Jimco, Racer Engineering, Penhall Fabrication, Raceco, and others, are the pinnacles of buggies. These vehicles don't use any parts from Volkswagens, but they share their basic layout with the iconic Bug, with the engine in the rear mated to a transaxle.
What The Heck Does the Co-Driver Do, Anyway?
When telling friends and families who are not into the off-road scene about my recent racing, they usually reply, "So, you get to ride along? That's nice," in a patronizing tone. In reality, the co-driver has an important job and is busy from before the green flag drops until well after the race is over. To start, you need to have your own safety gear, including an SFI-approved race suit and a helmet that is plumbed for air and wired for the intercom. A HANS device, racing gloves, and driving shoes are all optional but highly recommended. Safety is not the place to cut corners.
After making that financial commitment, get to know the vehicle you will be racing in if you plan to co-drive. The most important factors will be the location of the fire extinguishers and how to change a tire, but general knowledge of the car and how to wrench on it are definitely beneficial skills. Sam Cothrun and I spent time going over these details prior to the race as well as practicing getting in and out of the car—from harnesses tight and the window net up to all the way out in case of a tire change or emergency. Once that was second nature, we discussed the assortment of switches and gauges in the car and the function of each switch and normal operating range for each gauge.
We ran the course the day before the race, marking cautions on the GPS for any dangerous locations like large rocks or hidden ditches. Every co-driver will have his own preferences for the GPS, but knowing how to process the information on the screen and efficiently relay that information to the driver is critical once the green flag drops. You will also be monitoring the gauges, watching the mirrors for faster cars behind you, and getting on the horn for any traffic you are approaching. Don't forget to look up every once in a while, either, or you might find yourself getting queasy! Being a co-driver is far from a ride-along, but if this all sounds appealing to you then you might just have what it takes to race.