Last month we put the finishing touches on KORE's new Hemi-powered race truck. Now it's time for the fun part - taking her to the desert for some hot laps.
We took the truck out on two separate test sessions to Ocatillo Wells off-road area. The first session allowed us to get the shocks fairly well dialed in and make sure the steering and brakes were behaving correctly. After some shop time to adjust a few things, we went back and set up a 25-mile loop that we drove over and over. After a couple of hundred miles, we figured that we had the basics hammered out and it was time to head back to the shop and work on the details.
The next few days were spent finishing the wiring, adding a toolbox to the bed, and strapping in all of our spare components. We also got our beadlock wheels from Weld and enjoyed some quality time with a speed handle mounting our Toyos. After much shouting, finger-pointing, and a complete disassembly of the center console (not to mention a lot of help from Chuck Dempsey at Procomm), we finally got a few bugs in the radio and intercom worked out.
The guys at AEM furnished us with a trick intake that allowed us to route the Workhorse dry filter into the cab and under the dash, which greatly helped to keep the airflow clean and uninterrupted. We even hooked up a police-style horn that we originally kind of smirked at, but it eventually turned out to be quite valuable. Without skipping a beat, we spent about two hours throwing all kinds of spare parts and tools into our trailer, packed our camping gear, and headed south.
We set up camp near Valle de Trinidad, which is near the center of the Baja 500 racecourse. For the next three days, the drivers went out to their respective sections of the racecourse and began the sometimes arduous process of prerunning. At the end of the first day, we all met back at camp and the theme of that evening's conversation was pretty much unanimous: "This course is heinous!"
Indeed, my first day of prerunning was almost over before it started. I had only been on the course for a few miles in my own personal KORE Hemi truck when a Trophy Truck prerunner appeared behind me in a tight rocky section. I was able to get over and let him by, but I followed too close behind and hit my front diff on a giant rock that I couldn't see because of the dust. Luckily, I only bent the flange of the cover, and we were able to pound it back into place and continue. Kent had prerun his section in his old race truck, the Beast, and our second team of drivers, Darren Skilton and Jason Hughes, preran their section in the new race truck. Over the next couple of days, my fellow Marine codriver "Happy" Jack Ruddy and I were able to run our 100-mile section four times, which let us accurately mark the danger spots and good lines on our GPS. More importantly, we were able to commit most of the section to memory.
On Wednesday before the race, we spent the day in the hotel parking lot in Ensenada prepping the truck. We changed stub axles, driveshafts, fluids, control arms, etc. This also gave Jack a chance to get acquainted with the truck. We also had to perform some "field expediant" repairs to a couple things that we broke during the prerun.
On Thursday, we continued with the prep, finished race registration, and got our driver wristbands. Later that evening, Jack and I took the race truck out for one last dress-rehearsal prerun. This would also serve as a final shakedown run. Some racers like to start the race on a fresh prep, but we feel that too many things can happen during the prep itself to trust going off the line without wringing the truck out first.