Best In The Desert’s TSCO Vegas to Reno at over 550 miles, the longest desert race in the US, proved to be a good test of chase teams and pit crew. The Shaffer-Motorsports team encountered some challenges that put their teamwork, coordination, and field repair skills to good use and made for an excellent shake down for the upcoming prestigious Baja 1000.
Just fifteen miles off the start, driver Shawn Twitchell called in with engine issues, “the temperatures are too high, the engine is going into limp mode”. On the north end of Death Valley with temperatures reaching upwards 119F, “we had to power cycle the ignition to reset the computer, every fifteen second or so” said co-driver Ian Twitchell.
Despite engine heating issues, the Twitchells pushed hard and kept the car within reach of the podium. The addition of cutting brakes before this race proved very valuable, “hitting the cutting brake and stabbing the throttle hard was the only thing that saved us from being upside down after cresting an off camber left in a high speed section,” said Shawn.
Pit 3 marked the first time the Torchmate 1066 car was in the pits with most the body panels off to relocate sensors, rewire the fuel pump and replace the computer. At the pit 5 scheduled driver change the Twitchells hopped out and driver Mike Shaffer and co-driver Daniel Rosenberry climbed in. It also marked the second time the Torchmate 1066 car was in the pits with most the body panels off. This time to change the fuel pump and rewire a miss-behaving com, this was the pit team at it’s finest
Unfortunately, overheating issue remained. “We would have to stop for a few seconds so the temperatures could drop before silty sections” said Shaffer. “It was the only way to prevent the engine from going into limp mode right in the middle of the deep relentless silt.”
Just before sun down, at pit 8, the crew installed the light bar in preparation for the night. The limited visibility and slower traffic forced the drivers into a different pace. “We could not see beyond the end of the hood.” said Rosenburry. “I was driving by looking out the side of the car, at the edge of the course, so forget about passing,” scoffed Shaffer.
At pit 11 driving and co-driving duties went to Daniel Aeberli and Chris Miller. “The limited vision takes some getting used to,” said Aeberli, “it is like permanent tunnel vision”, “not to mention the effect of dust pockets lingering in the air like dense fog” added Miller. They would still push the pace, much of the time out-running visibility. The drivers made an exciting full speed run right down Main Street in the town of Gabbs, “Nothing like racing all out pinned down a street lined with ’30 mph Speed Limit’ signs, with even the cops cheering us on !” said Chris. Soon after the drivers found themselves in a lengthy roller coaster section, “by the end of it we would be going over the tops, lights pointing skyward into full darkness, with all wheel off the ground … what a rush,” said Miller. “Thankfully Chris was calling the course perfectly,” quickly added Aeberli.
Just past pit 13, Daniel started to have a difficult time getting 3rd gear, and soon 4th, to engage . At the mandatory stop to pit 14, the entire shift box popped off the welds. Thankfully the Locos Mocos crew stepped up with a welder to save the day, Torchmate 1066 was back in the race !
The last forty miles proved that no matter how bad you think the rocks are, they can always be worse, thankfully the Torchmate 1066’s BFG tires proved as tough as ever, “still no flat after 3 years of racing,” commented Shaffer.
As part of the team’s continuous improvement program, and at the recommendation of Full Potential and with the help of Fox Shox, Shaffer-Motorsports added a sway bar to the suspension set-up it nicely complemented the added cutting brakes and new gearing in the Weddle 4 speed. “With those changes, I could nicely powerslide the car through the turns” observed Aeberli.
Vegas to Reno had taken it’s toll on machines and their crews. Only 99 would finish out of the over 270 that started. Despite the difficulties, the Shaffers-Motorsports team moved up to 2nd in BITD total points standing, with a respectable 7th in class finish.
Watch for Shaffer-Motorsports to continue climbing the podium steps with the Torchmate 1066 car through the rest of the 2011 desert racing season. Next up for the team is BITD’s BlueWater Desert Challenge in October.
Shaffer-Motorsports would like to thank its sponsors: Torchmate CNC Systems, BFGoodrich, FOX Racing Shox, Shaffers Offroad, Ruffstuff and PSC. For race proven products of the highest quality contact these fine companies.