This past weekend I once again attended the Dirt Nitro Challenge which this year really lived up to its name. The Dirt was a huge challenge! With rains pounding the area days before we arrived, the track didn’t get finished until last minute, and thus it never got smoothed out. So the track started and continued to be rough, as the surface had clods of dirt and very uneven surfaces throughout. On top of that the water broke on the first day by an errant truggy in the first practice, and thus we ran a dry track most of the weekend. . . until mains.
Practice started us off on Wednesday with 2 rounds per class. Everyone was working hard to come to grips with these unique track conditions, and you could see it was going to be a struggle all week. The Tekno team was a fantastic atmosphere to be a part of as we worked together to get our cars on pace.
Come qualifying day one, we had Nitro truggy and Ebuggy on tap. The track was high bite and very bumpy. My truggy started the week off dialed, as I navigated the tough track to take an opening round TQ. Success wasn’t as high in Ebuggy with a 13th as I still worked on nailing down a comfortable setup.
In Q2 I really hoped to lock up TQ in truggy but the track got a bit of a slick groove midday, and I was a bit more uncomfortable. Still a great run in 2nd, as Maifield and I would battle out in Q3 for the overall. Ebuggy Q2 would be my drop round of a 19.
Q3 would finish off the night. I put in a run of my life in truggy staying ahead of the hard charging Tessman and Maifield to take the overall TQ with the fastest run of the entire weekend. In Ebuggy I really needed a miracle run with how things were going and I got it. I was in the B resort and took the victory even with feeling like I was making lots of little errors. The track was just so tough. Then in the A sort only 2 drivers beat my time thus securing me a 3rd, and a spot in the A in 10th.
Nitro buggy qualifying would happen on Friday and it was another long day especially only racing one class. My results were excellent for me though. First round held it together in the tough conditions to take a 4th. In the second round had a bit faster pace but also a 4 second mistake. Still took a 5th for the round. In the final round I was already locked into the main but did a couple setup changes and a different tire selection choosing AKA Soft Chainlinks. I was leading for much of the race before making a mistake and falling to 2nd for the round. But everything was coming together and I had qualified 5th into the A main.
Saturday was main day for Ebuggy and Nitro Truggy. The decision was also made midway through the day to start watering for the first time all week. Thus tire choice just got that much harder. For the Ebuggy A main I decided to go with soft chainlinks like I ran on my Nitro in Q3 the night before. It was the wrong choice for the new track condition. My car was loose on the surface that had a water glaze on top and I just struggled from the get go. I never got into a great groove and was only able to muster finishing where I started in 10th. I was a bit disappointed, and it left me questioning what to run for the Truggy final.
The truggy final would be a 45 minute affair and I would be starting on pole for this prestigious race. I chose super soft long wear gridirons and they were great to start. As the tone sounded we were off, with me leading the way. After 2 laps I got in a groove and started to pull away to a 3 or 4 second lead and my truck felt amazing. Suddenly though I lost my smoothness and it got hard to drive. It seemed as though my steering wasn’t being consistent and I just started to make mistakes. Perhaps oils heated up and we started to soft or perhaps tires should have been soft compound. About 7 minutes in I got sideways at the end of the whoops and into the pipe. I fell back to 3rd where my teammate Joe and I would find ourselves running together for the next 20 minutes or so. At that point I really started making a few mistakes and then drove into the hay bales after jumping the back triple going away while running 3rd. I’m not sure what happened or why. But the end result of hitting the bale with the wheel full turned was it pulled the screw through the steering spindle plastic. It was a hard hit that I just watched again. Maybe I just got on the gas to much and just made a big mistake. Either way race was then over for me. Quite the bummer as it had looked so promising. Big congrats to Joe though who took home another 2nd, and also to Alex for taking 7th in his first ever event driving truggy!
On Sunday we had the nitro buggy main. For some reason I wanted to try to improve my buggy further from my excellent qualifying results, and thus did some changes for the Amain warmup. The car was decent but perhaps not as good as in qualifying. But with an entire day between qualifying and mains for said class, it made it hard to really compare. Well come main time I chose to go with soft double down tires. I think I made the right decision there, but going with the setup changes I made was probably a wrong decision. My car was a bit tricky to drive and I had some gnarly crashes throughout the start of the race. I tried to find a groove but I just couldn’t keep it consistent the whole time. Some of my crashes were so violent that my throttle trim got moved somehow and I had to adjust it on the fly to make the car drivable again. You can’t put a car through as much punishment as I gave it without some consequences. Well in about the middle of the race I was able to get everything sorted, and it was great to be one of the only drivers doing 9 minute pit stops during the main. The Blok engine was running amazing and I just wish I had stuck with my Q3 setup on the car.
For much of the beginning of the race I found myself languishing in last. But throughout the middle, I was able to make some adjustments and find a groove, and I was able to move up slightly through the pack through the race. By the end of the 45 minutes I found myself in 9th position. Not nearly what I wanted, but I learned some things and will work to come back stronger next time.
Congratulations to Maifield on the clean sweep of the mains. Very impressive indeed for such a difficult track. And also a huge congratulations to my Tekno Teammate Carlos Arredondo who took a commanding victory in Expert Truggy and a huge come from behind 2nd place in Expert buggy!
As for the Teammate Challenge this race had the potential to really give me a big lead but I didn’t capitalize and thus we stand just 1 point apart!