|Terabbit Racing/Matlock Racing Polaris RZR XP4 1000|
By Wayne Matlock
I am now sitting at my desk getting back to normal life…or what they tell me is normal. I keep thinking back to this past weeks’ experience and I think to myself that I am blessed beyond words to be able to do what I just did, but the truth is…I am blessed to have friends that set their lives aside and go down to Baja to drive chase trucks and work their butts off in order to make it all possible. I’m also blessed to have the family that supports me 100%, no matter what. But most of all, I’m blessed to have the wife that I do. Kristen Matlock really is the reason I am able to do things like win the Baja 1000. She has been there for all of my success standing right by my side and most importantly she is there when things don’t go so well either. So instead of ending my race report by thanking my friends and family, I wanted to start it for a change by saying, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Normally I would cover all of our pre-running in my reports, but it would take too long to tell all of the stories from this one, so I am going to start at race time…
We woke up early Friday morning ready to get our race started. Like normal, Kristen and I were nervous about how the day ahead would play out. We are both the same when it comes to racing; we are there to win and nothing else. We talked about our race plan, a backup plan, then about the plan to back up the backup plan. Around 9:30 in the morning we had a pit meeting with all 19 people involved with our race and chase plan. After that we took some team photos with the Baja coastline in the background. When that was all finished up Terry Hui (Driver of Record) and Derek Derek Mcgaughy (Terry’s Co-Driver) headed off to the start line in the race car. We had chase teams heading all over Baja. I was in Chase 1 with Kristen, Greg Forsberg, Ken Gilden, and Sam Hayes. We headed over to the start line to see Terry and Derek off. I’m not going to lie; it was different for me to see someone else starting the race for our team besides me.
After the start of the race, we headed down to pit 2 so we could meet up with Chase 3: Marc Behnke, Mike Froelich, and Trent Heimerdinger. We waited there for awhile and watched the Trophy Trucks and all of the other cars/trucks come through. Pretty soon I heard the distinct sound of a Polaris RZR XP1000 Pro Star motor wound-out. We were all looking down the road to see who would be first and as the car came into view, I started to smile. It was my long-time teammate, Wes Miller, and he was on rails. As we waited there the UTVs kept coming by and shortly our car came down the road. Terry was in 13th place and only about 20 minutes off pace. Not too bad…plus the car was still in one piece. As he came in Derek told us they had bent a wheel and needed a fresh tire on the rack. He was in and out of our pit and back to racing, so we moved on to pit 4. We made a last-minute plan change that would put me in the car at Pit 4 at race mile 155 instead of race mile 200. As we got to Pit 4, we realized that the lead pack had already been through and were hauling butt. I suited up and got ready as Kristen was checking the online tracker and letting me know where we were compared to the lead pack. Greg, Ken, and Sam were getting everything ready for our fuel stop and driver change. Terry came in right behind the #1901 of Gregory Scott Row in 14th place. He jumped out of the car and I got in while Greg and Ken fueled the car up. Derek would stay in and co-drive the next 50 miles because Sam and I hadn’t pre-run that section and Derek had.
Derek and I took off like a bat out of hell and had one thing in mind…to catch the lead pack. As we were blazing down the road, Kristen got on the radio to tell us that Wes Miller was 55 miles in front of us according to the tracker. I knew we had the car to do it, so I shoved the “go pedal” down and we started making up time. The whole first section was in heavy fog. A lot of the time we were driving with just one of our Baja Designs 10” amber LED lights on. The funny part is that we were both way too comfortably doing it. As we came in to mile 200 the plan was for Derek to get out and Sam would get in, but we kept calling out on the radio with no response. Knowing that the chase trucks were going to get fuel, we pushed on and hit the next section. We both knew that we were making up time and passing cars, but we still had no idea where we stood. During that small section we had passed Cory Sappington and as we came back to the highway we were on the tail of another car. I was relieved that the chase truck was there. We did a quick co-driver swap and once Sam was strapped in, I was off and trying to chase down the guy in front of me. Kristen got on the radio and told me that I was right behind Cognito and had moved from 14th to 6th in less than 80 miles. As I got off the highway, I knew the next couple of miles were very rocky with a small sand wash and if I was going to get Cognito, I had better get him before it turned back to silty roads. I was pushing hard and told Sam that we had to get him soon, as it turned to sand wash I told Sam to hit the horn. As soon as Sam hit the horn they pulled off and gave me the right of way and we were gone.
|Terabbit Racing/Matlock Racing Polaris RZR XP4 1000|
After passing Wes I now knew that the only cars I had in front of me were the Jagged X and the UTV Inc cars. Sam and I put our heads down as we pushed hard. We got right up on the Jagged X as the course turned to silt, forcing us to let them go. It went on like this for over 30 miles. Once the course hit a rocky section, I knew it was going to be sandy roads thereafter. I made a hard push to get right up on him and this guy was no joke. He made me push my car harder than I wanted to for sure. I knew that I had to pass him quickly because the roads were going to become very fast and dusty soon. I laid it all on the line. I got up right behind him in his dust and I could not see a thing other than his taillights. I knew that if his car could handle it, then mine could too and as long as he didn’t smoke a rock or a tree, then we would be fine but if he happened to hit something I would have driven right into the back of him. Luckily after what felt like 100 miles of this, he pulled over, giving me the right of way and I was now sitting in second place.
We pulled across the highway at mile 348 and into our pit. Greg and Ken fueled the car while Kristen looked the car over to make sure everything was ok. Once fueled, Kristen told us that we were doing great and that the UTV Inc car had a long pit stop and they were now only 2 minutes in front of us. Just before we pulled out the Jagged X car came ripping by and I was pissed. I thought that they beat me out of the pits, but then I realized that they never even stopped to pit. Now I was just trying to stay close and not push too hard in their dust because they would have to pit sooner than later. Sure enough, a little bit later they pulled off allowing me to make a much easier pass on them. I knew now that the last one, the lead car, was lying just ahead. It was now time to go to work on the UTV Inc car driven by Johnny Angal. I knew I could get them, but I also knew that they were driving the new Polaris RZR XP4 1000 Turbo car and it was fast. Sam and I kept pushing ahead as we passed some of the other cars in other classes that were between us and them. At one point, we were within 20 seconds of them, but with the dust kicked up as they rabbited back out to over a minute in front of us, the gap would stay over a minute for a long time until I could slowly reel them in. Suddenly, their taillights stopped moving all together. I thought to myself, “thank god they finally got a flat.” As soon as he started to move again, I thought, “Oh no…here we go again with the blinding dust.” Then all of the sudden his car turned around and started driving back towards us. Most likely it was heading to the Baja Pit that was about a quarter of a mile back. Not knowing what the problem was, I kept a fast pace trying to put as much time in between him and me as possible. As I pushed on, I was not letting up and I found myself driving even faster because I had no dust to hold me back. I could tell at this point that something was wrong with Sam. Either he was pissed at me or he was sick because he wasn’t talking. I tried asking him if he was okay but he did not answer me. I then heard a funny sound come over the radio followed by Sam informing me that he had just swallowed a mouth full of puke. I told him to turn off the GPS, don’t worry about telling me where the turns are, and to please refrain from telling me what he just swallowed…otherwise I would end up puking next. To be honest, I had a ton of fun flying loose without the GPS. It reminded me of racing quads and dirt bikes again. There is a certain thrill that you get when you are pushing hard, just flying over rises and turns, not quite sure of the turn or drop on the other side. Don’t get me wrong, I did pre-run and I was 95% sure of the upcoming turns, but you wouldn’t believe the rush that comes from being just 5% unsure.
We were now coming up on race mile 465 which was scheduled to be our major pit stop for maintenance and service. Sam was still not doing well, so we told Derek to get geared up again and be ready to switch with Sam at the pit. I came blowing into the pit like a mad man, partly because I did not know how far behind the UTV Inc or Jagged X cars were. In the pit Greg and Marc were doing the clutch service and Kristen and Ken were looking the car over when she found a leaking CV boot that had been torn by a stick. I was losing my mind sitting in the car knowing that I could be doing something. Sam was out and Derek had gotten in, but now I was getting out and Derek followed me to help work on the car. We must have looked like a clown car with all of the in and out stuff going on. We both jumped to work on the axle. I was barking out orders…more like yelling orders because I was sure Jagged X or the UTV Inc cars were going to come blowing around the corner at any moment. Once the axle was under control, Derek and I got back in the car and waited for the signal to take off.
Once it was all said and done, we were out of there and back to trying to separate ourselves from the pack. We had a small desert section and then we were back on the highway at race mile 476. On the highway there was a Trophy Truck in front of us and we were being followed by Marc and Mike in Chase 3. As we bailed off the highway, I tried making a move on the Trophy Truck…and it worked. Derek and I were dying laughing at the fact that this guy was driving a truck worth well over a quarter of a million dollars and he just got snaked by a UTV. After I passed him, the laughter ended pretty quickly after we realized that his ego was hurt and he was coming for us. I was not going to puss out, so I gave him a race. Derek and I were flying through the twisty roads and we were pulling away from him. As you probably guessed the laughter started again as we left this guy in our dust. When we pulled onto Coco’s road at race mile 493, we had pulled over knowing that our 80 mph top speed would be no match for his 130 mph top speed.
We drove the next 30 miles down the road with no problems at all. Once we hit the highway at race mile 515 we knew that we had 70 miles of highway and it would be boring as hell. I had a chase truck behind me complete with my mother Marla Matlock, sister Tamra Birney, brother-in-law Justin Birney, my buddy Taylor Knorr, and Alvin Dimalanta aka “Baja Ninja”. They kept talking to me on the radio to try and keep me awake. This is where it starts to get a little weird… Derek was fresher than I was and was not tired at all, but he also knew that I was too stubborn to pull over and switch drivers for the highway section, so there I was sleeping away driving down the highway hanging from my harnesses as Derek drove the car from the passenger seat with his left hand on the wheel and his left foot on the gas. What could go wrong…..? Well I did sleep for a bit but the funniest thing kept happening to Derek. I kept waking up thinking that I was still driving and had fallen asleep at the wheel, so I would panic jerk the wheel and hit the brakes. I say funny because Derek never knew when I would wake up and jerk the wheel nearly running us off the road each time. About a mile before the highway ended, I woke up for good. Then the bastard tells me his evil plan to not say anything to me at all and to just drive off the highway where the race course turns off onto the dirt to make me think that I had actually fallen asleep behind the wheel.
Now moving down the course again, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. We were now around race mile 590 and I had been looking forward to this section all race long. I love racing in the San Felipe area and we were smack dab in the middle of it. As we were pounding through the whoops, the car started to act funny. I knew right away by the sound and feel that we had snapped an axle. I pulled over and told Derek to rip it out and toss it so we could limp in to the pits with three-wheel drive. We pushed on as I radioed the chase teams about the problem and asked them to have the tools out and ready when we pulled in. I could not see either one of our chase trucks as I pulled into the pit. I looked over towards the highway and one was coming down the road. I tore off towards them and was pissed that they were not ready only to find out that they had gotten pulled over by the cops and had to pay him off in order to move on. Derek and I jumped out and got to work as I had a flashback of the Baja 500. Derek and I had ourselves a nice local Mexican helper that was very eager to take over and he also smelled like he knew more about mixing a strong drink than changing an axle…I was right on all accounts. This guy was so far up in our show that we were tripping over him while grabbing tools. At one point Derek had to physically push him aside and tell him to stop helping. I think he must have gotten mixed signals and thought that Derek was telling him what a fantastic job he was doing and that he needed to do more and try harder.
Once the axle was complete, Greg and Ken fueled the car while Derek and I got in and tried to buckle up. We now had our little helper trying to buckle my harnesses as I would slap his hand away and say “No!” he would look at me and say “Es ok Amigo,” taking the straps away from me. It turned into more of a cat fight in the car as we slapped each other’s hands. Taylor had to pull him away from the car just so I could buckle my harness.
With that done, we were now back on the road at race mile 625 and back to racing. Kristen told me Jagged X was about 22 minutes behind at that point so we pushed to extend our lead. We pounded through the rest of the desert and headed up the Goat Trail above Valley de Trinidad, into the mountains. We kept our pace up going through the area we always call the “Bad Lands.” It is fast with sweeping turns, full of things that will end your day if you get too comfortable. After that we came back out to the highway at K78, race mile 748, for a quick fuel stop and a once over of the car. I was asking what the time split was as I learned that apparently Robby Gordon was our new time keeper. I guess he was broken down and was now following the UTV race. He had stayed back at the Goat Trail to wait for Jagged X so he could give Kristen an accurate time split. The Mad Media crew was also in our pit climbing on our car in order to mount a GoPro while the car was getting fueled.
After that, it was on to one of my favorite sections of course in Baja, the Tres Hermanos section. This area is full of high speed twists and turns with lots of ups and downs. I was having a blast racing through it, but the whole time I was ripping down the course, I knew I was racing towards one of the worst places of the entire race course that I would have to pass by. With every mile passed, both Derek and I kept getting quieter until we were not speaking at all, just driving. We both knew that we were racing towards the very spot where my Dad was killed in a UTV accident a little less than three years ago. As we approached the spot, my mind was racing. I was not sure what I was feeling, but as I raced by the spot the only thing I could think of was, “Look at me now Dad!” like I was a little boy riding his bike for the first time. Derek also looked up to my dad like a father and I was glad I had one of my best friends with me. As I drove down the road I started having fun again. It seemed the further down the road we got, the sadness faded away with every remaining mile. This made me drive faster until we were flying over rises and having the time of our lives again. After all…we were winning the Baja 1000.
We came into Ojos Negros at race mile 788. The plan was for Terry to get back in and take it to the finish. I’m not going to lie to anyone, I did not want to get out of that car until I crossed that finish line. I had pushed the car, my team, and I beyond the limits and I wanted to make sure that this race was won.
As Derek and I came through the final turn before the podium, we each had huge smiles on our faces, as I had the car in a four-wheel drive drift on the pavement all the way to the checkered flag.
I would like to say thank you to Terry Hui and his wife Olivia for giving us this amazing opportunity. I would also like to thank my family and friends who helped north of the border to help make this happen. A special thank you to BAJA NIKKI for all the help with accommodations, concierge service, and for being Chase 3 along with Justin Fu and Cein Duignan. A huge thank you to all our sponsors that supported our efforts…you guys took a huge chance by putting so much into our program, being that it was our first year racing UTVs. We are all so grateful that you did and were able to pull this win off because of your efforts!
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