8th place in Moab wasn’t the result the the LeSage team was expecting, but, even with a broken transmission, a top 10 finish is a proud place to be.
After Tennessee the car was functionally in pretty good shape, but LeSage still had a full prep to do and some fabrication projects to make the car even stronger. All new fluids, fresh front axles, suspension bearings and hardware, new transmission skid plate, more crossmember support, bumper mounts, and re-valved the front shocks, all in a few short weeks. LeSage got to shake down the car the weekend before leaving for the race, which led to a few more tasks and re-valving the shocks again.
The team left Wednesday around Midnight and drove through the night, but still didn’t get to Moab until the sun was going down Thursday. It was a bit frustrating that LeSage didn’t get to see the course Thursday because that would compress Friday, and limit his ability to be comfortable and hit his marks on race day.
Friday he finished a few things in the morning then went out on the first pre-run lap. Lesage likes to walk lines, and there were lots of them, so the first lap always takes the longest. The team also lost time in the canyons blocked by broken cars, and helping them to get the path clear. By the timethey had completed the entire 5 mile lap and a few laps of the qualifying loop, it was time for the drivers meeting.
LeSage qualified 3rd with a smooth and fast run, he didn’t jump down the ledge and that was the difference to first. While the other classes were qualifying, he went out on anther lap before the sun went down. Final preparations and little things were checked off late into the night, but the car was perfect and ready to go.
UTV’s were the second race of the day, so LeSage got to “sleep in” and warm up the car plenty before staging. 3rd off the line and settled into a conservative race pace that he planned to step up every lap. He had no issues at all, and “one shot” the difficult, longer, and required for one lap Joker line. He started the second lap in 5th physically and all was well, He executed my plan and put down his fastest lap. Third lap, he had gained some time on the leaders but his confidence was shaken when the transmission did not shift into reverse on one of the most difficult ledges and something with the 4wd felt strange at times.
Beginning the 4th lap, he tried to pass a broken car with a line he had practiced with no issue before qualifying. The car didn’t walk right up like he had practiced and stood up on the rear two tires. Reverse wouldn’t engage, and he struggled with the shifter and RPM while all he could think about was the weightless front end and how vertical I was. I chirped forward just a bit and heard a “POP”. Suddenly he could find reverse, tried a different line, and walked around the other car. He quickly realized the front end was not contributing, and had some struggles on loose hill climbs.
He had to stack enough rocks to build a patio in the first serious rock section, but he eventually winched to the top. Then winched again in the canyons, but after that he knew he could get through the rest of the lap in 2wd. Honestly, the pace in 2wd was faster than he would have wanted, but he couldn’t risk slowing down or stopping for fear of getting stuck and exceeding the allowable time. Every time he is forced to push that hard he learns the mechanical limit of the car. He bounced off a wall and bent an A-arm, but was still able to catch and pass a couple cars, finishing 7th physically. After corrected time, it was officially 8th.
He was proud of the finish because it would have been easy to give up and retire the car, but he refused, and choose to stack rocks and run winch line reach the finish line.
They packed up and headed West just as the 4400 race started. They stayed just outside the Grand Canyon that night and made it home at the end of the next day.