Jeep XJ Cherokee - 10-Day JeepSpeed Competitor - Part 4Posted in Project Vehicles on April 9, 2007 0) (
This is it: For the past three issues we've been following Jason LaFortune and his crew at Temper-Mental Racing as they turn an ex-Forest Service XJ into a JeepSpeed contender in just 10 days. It's been a tough slog, with the team spinning wrenches literally night and day to meet the tight schedule. This month, we'll show you the final build days as well as how the whole effort turned out. For those of you who don't want to skip to the last page, we'll give you a hint: it has a happy ending.
So...How'd They Do?
Did Temper-Mental achieve its 10-day goal? Just about. By the end of Day 10, about 99.9 percent of the XJ's pieces were in place. Then came three days of shakedown runs in the desert outside of Barstow, California, sorting out exhaust, electrical, and clutch issues.
The truck's debut JeepSpeed race, at the Best in the Desert (BITD) Parker 425 in Arizona, started out strong, with the Jeep in first place at the end of the first lap. But chewed-up conditions on the course knocked the gas pedal loose-with the clutch and brake following suit shortly. Later, the rearend U-joint broke not just once but twice. Each time the crew banged out a repair, resorting in the end to duct-taping the last U-joint in the toolbox to hold it together. The Jeep did finish-it was the last JeepSpeed competitor to cross the finish line at 10 p.m.
"When it was working, it was awesome," LaFortune said after the race. "We had stuff break because we didn't have enough time to prep and test. We're disappointed that we didn't do better, but we finished. And that first lap gave us a taste of what the truck will be like when it's sorted out."
Those words proved prophetic. In its second outing, at the Mojave Desert Racing (MDR) Mojave 250, the XJ placed third out of 24 JeepSpeed entries. LaFortune and crew later won the MDR Coyote 200 night race and also won the season-closing JeepSpeed event at the BITD Terrible 400 in Henderson, Nevada, clinching the '06 JeepSpeed title in the process.
"The Jeep has gotten nothing but faster," LaFortune said after the race in Henderson. "We haven't had any problems, and the new Currie frontend (a fully-forged 8-inch housing with heavy gussets and Dana 44 knuckles) ran just awesome. Ray Currie has been a huge help with this project."So, yeah, maybe the 10-day part of this buildup was a bit of a fudge. But LaFortune and his crew built a real winner.