Down In The Trenches With Team Hummer
It is a bright Saturday morning in April, following a full day of briefings, tech inspections, route planning, and vehicle preparation for the Best in the Desert Racing Association's Silver State Series Terrible Town 250 and I am sitting in the co-driver's seat of Team Hummer's prized No. 4101 Stock Class H2 race truck. About 30 minutes from the starting line, I am mentally preparing for the start when driver Josh Hall reminds me, "OK, you have to go three more times before we get to the starting line, so keep drinking water. That way I'll know you are hydrated."
He has a point. It is going to be close to 100 degrees and I am belted into the race truck, just outside of Pahrump, Nevada, wearing a Sparco three-piece flame-retardant suit and gloves, along with a full-face helmet with the Parker Pumper fresh-air breathing system. It's going to be hot and there aren't going to be many opportunities to keep hydrated or to cool off. So down goes another bottle of water and I am getting used to urinating through a catheter, a trick used by many racers for years. You can imagine where one end is attached, and the tube, taped to my leg, comes out just behind my boot on to the floorboard of the H2, where strategically placed holes allow it to water the Nevada desert at 90 mph, a tricky maneuver that requires lifting oneself up out of the deep-pocket MasterCraft G3 race seats (while belted) and straightening a leg to remove any kinks in the line.
Just a month before, I had received a call from a friend at Hummer asking me if I was interested in co-driving a race for Team Hummer, and without hesitation I agreed. But now, strapped in tight, looking like an astronaut and only a few cars from the start, I began to wonder just what in the world I had agreed to do.
As we neared the start line, I had gone my requisite number of times and then some. With the starting flag waving, it was wide-open throttle from the start, and the 2005 Best in the Desert SUV Class Points Champion H2 was off, bounding and crashing through the desert over and around obstacles. Josh is locked in, the dominating competitor in him coming through to me loud and clear. Up to this race, he had won 9 of his last 10 races, with only an internal transmission part's demise the race before keeping him from chasing 11 consecutive victories. This was a man on a mission, with incentive to start a new streak.
Also in this race are Josh's brother and championship racer Chad Hall, in the inaugural race of a newly minted H1 Alpha race truck, and their legendary father, Rod Hall, the only man in history to have raced in every Baja 1000 to date, the winner of the very first Baja 1000 in 1967 and the only driver to ever win the Baja 1000 overall in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Co-driving for Rod in Team Hummer's H3, is our very own Four Wheeler TV host, Bob Bower, well-regarded in racing circles in his own right.
The precision at which Josh pilots the H2 amazes me. Truck-destroying whoops sections are conquered in stride. He seemingly knows every curve, dip, and boulder on the course. And he isn't afraid of any of them, he knows just where to place the vehicle, and the Hummer never feels loose or top heavy, the four-wheel-drive system working overtime and doing its job well. One second, we are flying over the tops of rocks, the next barreling through them. The H2 knows no bounds, it dutifully responds to every input, and I am along for one helluva ride.
However, it isn't a free ride, and I am expected to do my share of work. While Josh manipulates the on/off switch, known outside the racing community as a gas pedal, my job was to monitor the vitals on the truck through a diagnostic readout, alert Josh to upcoming obstacles from a sheet of known hazards, check our mirrors for any competitors gaining on us, spot obstacles or wrecks on the course, work the GPS system, blast the freight-train horn, split duty on the radio, and call in what pits we were arriving at and if we needed assistance, such as fuel or tires-or water-and handle anything else needed by the driver.
When Josh Hall gets into his zone, it is all business with only necessary communications being shared between us on the in-car intercom, and his focus isn't unlike a sniper zeroing in on his target. In fact, in his spare time he teaches military Special Forces advanced tactical driving techniques in Humvees; he even used to build special Humvees with increased performance envelopes for the military. It is obvious that he knows exactly what he is doing and is executing his plan.