Rings In The New Year With A Banger Event!
Story By: Mike Ingalsbee
Photos by: HighRevPhoto | Brandon Bunch | Savannah Rose
The inaugural event for the Legacy Racing Association, the 4WP Desert Shootout, begins a legacy for the series and the many racers who showed up to challenge the incredibly demanding desert outside Pahrump, Nevada. It must have been a lot of hard work for Legacy, as the race looked to go off seamlessly, and we all know that takes experience, and a lot of behind the scenes work. Many of the participants mentioned how smooth the event went, and how well the race course was marked.
About the only thing during the event that didn’t go smoothly was the terrain. The desert in the area has seen a lot of upheaval by Mother Nature over thousands of years. Much of the area is extremely rocky. Some rocks are sitting on the surface, some rocks are covered in silt. Some rocks are embedded into the ground like icebergs, waiting to wreak havoc on tires, wheels, suspension, and steering.
Once contact is made to the underside of a race car, the embedded rocks get kicked up, and join the masses strewn around on the ground. No matter how many rocks come up, there are others below that take their place. Great drivers have the skills to avoid the big ones; even at speed, but in Pahrump it’s nearly impossible; there are just too many.
The only break from the rocks is in the valleys where the wind and rain have carried the dirt from higher elevations to form pockets of silt. Silt can be fun. When you hit a deep pocket the race vehicle will float. It feels like you’re in water. It’s all fine until you feel the vehicle start to slow down while the RPM’s climb. Once you are stuck, the fun is long gone. Trying to self-extricate means lots of digging, jacking, and pushing; all while choking on the fine, but abrasive powder. Just to add to the difficulty, there may also be big rocks floating unseen in the silt. Any way you look at it, the course is extremely challenging, but that’s what everyone signed up for. Desert racers have a unique challenge in motorsports. Not only do they have to beat their competitors, but they also need to survive the desert. Pahrump has some of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet.
Tires hit the dirt for the first time on Thursday when racers got a chance to prerun the course. Valuable information could be learned, but at what price? Do you save it for the race, or push a little harder to find any weaknesses before actual race day on Saturday? The Turbo class had time trials at 7:45 am on Friday so they had the added pressure of being at 100% the next morning. Held on terrain that was a mix of loose rocks, and sandy washes, time trials saw Dan Fisher take the fastest time on Friday morning. Brandon Schueler was second fastest turbo. Mitchell Alsup, Peter Libby, and Vito Ranuio rounded out the top five in that order. They would all start up front for the race on Saturday.
Lonestar Racing’s Dan Fisher ran out front for 50 miles of the roughly 220 mile course until he blew a belt. “We were running a little higher rpm than I wanted,” says Fisher. “We wanted to baby it. We blew a belt which allowed Vito to get past us. Then he stopped, and we got by, but then had brake issues. The brakes would go to the floor, and then seemed to build pressure gradually. We went off course a couple times with no brakes, but never got a flat tire. It kept throwing stuff at us all day. We dropped all the way back to fourth place but others had problems too so we kept passing cars. I wish we had more speed at the end.” Fisher finished second; he would be edged out for the win by fifth fastest qualifier Vito Ranuio who took the turbo class victory.
“Our race went great,” said Ranuio. “We started off, I felt pretty strong. We had a solid pace going; a lot of straight long runs so we were concerned about belts, and that prevailed; we blew one off. Unfortunately it cost us a ton of time, but the last part of the race we stepped it up just a little bit harder than everyone else. We pushed a fast, steady pace throughout the race. It was super rocky out there, and the rollers in the last 30 to 40 miles were intense. We’re just happy to bring it home with the car in first place with a win.” After his win, Ranuio is eligible for the 100,000 dollar prize. Quantum Motorsports has partnered with Legacy to put up the big bucks. A $100K bonus if you sweep the 2021 Legacy Series in your Turbo UTV. It was only Ranuio’s 5th race so Legacy and Quantum better start saving their money. He’s coming for it.
Third place in turbo class went to Ryan Piplic who said he’s never made it past pit 4 on this course. The rocks have taken him out each time. “There was a mix of everything out there,” said Piplic. “I knew we had to be smart until pit 2; the rocks are just brutal here. I had a mindset to just be calm, and make it through that section; then bring it home. We got a hole in our radiator from a rock kicked up while we were passing. We lost so much coolant that we fried the turbo. Without the boost we were down on top speed. Pit crew was on it; basically it was a solid team effort to make the car go around. If I had to do it over again I probably wouldn’t have tried to pass those other cars so aggressively.”
The naturally aspirated class was much the same. Racers in the lead pack swapped positions back and forth. Maddie Wedeking was running up front until she smacked a rock with only 20 miles to go. “It was great” said Wedeking. “We started out in 7th, and slowly started picking our way up to the top spots. We didn’t plan to make any stops but when a Polaris teammate of ours took more gas than expected, we decided to stop, and top off to be safe. I love the new car; it’s next level. It’s crazy going from the 2 seat chassis to the 4. I barely lifted. I was pinned the whole time. My co-driver Matt was freaking out. He was a little nervous. The last 30 miles we turned it up to catch Kaden. We could go only as fast as the belt temperature would let us. We slammed a rock and lost a tire. I was really amazed. I put these tires through hell all day, and that was the only flat we got.”
Kaden Wells did what he typically does; win. He is a man of few words, but he sure can drive. With that said, he didn’t have it easy. “It was fast, and rocky,” said Wells. “We were running third; we started fifth, and made the pass for second when we got a flat. It was in the dust, we never saw it. We dropped back to fifth again. We took the lead right before pit 5. It was pretty crazy.”
TURBO CLASS IMAGE GALLERY
Finishing third in the NA class was Tim Fitzpatrick, and Mark Levrett. We spoke to Levrett. “I drove to mile 102, it was a blast,” said Levrett. “I built the car; the car did awesome. We need a little more horsepower which we can get with some belt, and clutch work. Other than that we are at a point where the car is just working awesome. We loved the course; we’ve been running those same trails for a lot of years. We wanted to race something that we could do out of our own pockets; more fun for the buck.”
NA CLASS IMAGE GALLERY
UNLIMITED/SPORTSMAN/STOCK CLASS IMAGE GALLERY
The first race for Legacy went off without an issue. The Legacy leadership used their decades of experience to produce a great race for everyone involved. Racers and fans are looking forward to their next event, a Hare Scrambles for Motorcycles & Quads in Laughlin, Nevada – February 5-7, 2021. Don’t miss it.