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Desert Truck Race - Scrambled In San Felipe

Posted in Ultimate Adventure on September 26, 2006 Comment (0)
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Think your motor is up to the task? Think your suspension is dialed? Think you can drive for hours through a minefield of whoops and rock-strewn sand washes? We think you should check out the Score San Felipe 250.

San Felipe is the second stop on the yearly Score circuit and has been a part of that racing series for the past two decades. SCORE president Sal Fish introduced it thus: "This year is almost unbelievable. We have over 300 entries, the largest number of entries in the 20-year history of the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250. What an incredible way to start Score's 33rd season of championship desert racing with back-to-back record entries in our first two races of the year."

Set along the turquoise-blue Sea of Cortez against a rugged, mountainous backdrop, San Felipe itself is a friendly place. Rows upon rows of restaurants and shops await American tourists, and green U.S. dollars are gladly accepted. Off-roaders who don't bring their own equipment can rent ATVs or motorcycles and enjoy the well-worn dirt trails that radiate from the town in every inland direction.

On race weekend, those same well-worn dirt trails lie in wait, ready to pound trucks, buggies, motorcycles, ATVs, and their pilots. It's a true test of off-road readiness. Most racecourses have a few whoop sections. San Felipe's course is a 250-mile big whoop section interrupted only by three scenic, treacherous sand washes: Huatamote, Chanate, and Matomi. Then there are the spectators.

Off-road racing is the most popular sport in Baja, and San Felipe's fans are as numerous as they are nutty. Less than 10 miles after crossing the starting line, racers face down a sea of humanity at Zoo Road. It is here that local fans unwittingly compete for Darwin Awards by getting as close to the fast and furious race traffic as they dare. It's exciting, but it's actually a very uncool situation. Fans have, in fact, been hit from time to time. Bones have been broken, but no one has died - yet. This journalist chose to stay away from the inebriated chaos at Zoo Road and focus his attention elsewhere. Away from Zoo Road, the fans tend to be as helpful as they are enthusiastic. If you get stuck or break down, they're ready and willing to lend hands, tools, and towstraps to get you on your way. This is very cool. Just be prepared with a few stickers as thank-you handouts.

Over the miles of the serpentine course, several teams felt San Felipe's scrambling effect firsthand. Coyne Motorsports' full-floating Trophy Truck rearend snapped an axleshaft. Sportsman Truck contender Matt Torian's shocks overheated, blowing a reservoir hose completely off of a shock body. Fabtech's Barry Karakas lost a power steering cooler, changed a fuel pump, broke a 31-spline Ford 9-inch axleshaft, and finally ended the day with a fried driveshaft center carrier bearing. Even the smoothest and best-built trucks have their share of bad luck and untimely parts breakage.

One team that avoided bad luck and other San Felipe scrambling was G&R Racing from Mesa, Arizona. Trophy Trucks #38 and #39 are owned by Garron Cadiente and Ron Whitten, respectively. The G&R squad is a relative newcomer to the SCORE circuit but let its presence be felt with an Overall and Trophy Truck victory for Garron and a Fourth-Place Trophy Truck finish for Ron. "We had a very good day today, with no problems at all," Cadiente reports. "The course was really, really rough. We knew where to go, but everybody was right after us the whole race. There was speculation about the new guy. Today, we proved ourselves, and we beat the good guys. San Felipe was only our third SCORE race, and we only started racing in April of last year. It's great to taste a victory like this."

Cadiente's win was not only a truck and buggy overall win, but the Overall for the whole racing field - including the motorcycles, which usually end up at the top of the podium. How fast did he go? Trophy Truck #38 averaged a scorching 61.9 mph over the length of the 240.34-mile course. At the 20th Annual SCORE San Felipe 250, Garron Cadiente scrambled the competition.

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