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2015 Desert Toyz Racing Team Baja 500 race report​

After thousands of highway miles, 500 + race miles and hundreds of tacos we are home from another great Baja 500 adventure. This year the SCORE Baja 500 had all the great stuff that Baja memories are made of. This year the Desert Toyz team had 14 members, 7 adults and 7 kids! Half the team arrived in Ensenada on Tuesday night, the other half of the team arrived Wednesday night. Wednesday morning my brother Darren and I, set out to pre-run the first half of the race in our stock Can-Am Maverick Max Turbo. We started at the town of Ojos, race mile 30. The “sticker” kids were out in full force already! I really enjoy the celebrity status the kids give us in Mexico. Our pre-run went great, with no issues. The CST Lobo tires took some serious punishment in the rocky sections and hooked up great in the silt and sand. We decided we had seen enough at race mile 140 which was the most northern part of the course and headed back to Ensenada. Thursday morning my brother Scott and his navigator Jason set out to per-run the second half of the race. They too had no issues and the Maverick Max Turbo ran flawless. Friday morning at 5am, myself and Ryan (one of my chase guys) headed to downtown Ensenada in our race Maverick Max Turbo for contingency and tech. The line of race vehicles were already 15+ deep. We took our place in line and tried to catch some winks. At around 10am the engines fire up and the line starts to move, my team all arrive and there is a sea of yellow surrounding our Maverick! The sicker kids are flowing by like a river. We are signing T-shirts, taking pics and kissing babies, Mexico always shows Desert Toyz Racing team lots of love!  On a side note; two years ago I had a local boy “Alejandro” spend the day with us as we went through contingency. Since then I have made him a part of our race team, he stays with us while we are in Ensenada and is one of our chase guys. His parents abandoned him and he lives with his grandma with 8 other family members in a house that is about the size of my toyhauler! Since joining my team he is now the cool kid at school and has learn much more English. I am trying to get him a passport so he can come visit us in the US. Now back to my race story. Race day morning, we get to sleep in, yay! We guess we will be starting around 11:30, so we head to the start at 10.30. Chase 3 truck headed north to race mile 108 to fuel us and check out the Maverick before we go down the most dangerous road in all of Mexico. It is called La Rumorosa, it is a dirt path with many switch backs, that drops down several 1000 feet. The path is just wide enough for a vehicle travel on. Most folks would say “Hell no I’m not going down that!” and we race down it. For the record I did pass a 1600 buggy going down. My navigator kept saying “take it easy!” Ok back to the start, We left the line 30 seconds behind Johnny Angal 1921. My plan was to take it easy going to the town of Ojos. I know you can’t win the race in the first 30 mile leaving Ensenada but you certainly can lose the race! At approx race mile 28, I came to a bottle neck it looked like there were about 12 vehicles in the line. There was a steep up hill climb and close to the top was a tuck that was stuck. There were a bunch of locals trying very hard to control the line and help the stuck truck. All the racers were staying in line and waiting their turn. The Murrays 1917 were the first UTV in the line and they saw a open line to the left, took it and were able to get ahead of 2 class 7 trucks. Then I hear a vehicle coming up the right side behind me. It was the Cognito UTV trying to make a move in front of me. I steered right and pulled up on the bumper of the UTV in front of me. Of course I was super frustrated that I was caught up in this bottle neck and that another UTV was trying to pass me. The UTV and 2 other vehicles in front of me pulled forward about a car length and the Cognito UTV dove in front of me! I let my emotions get the best of me and gave the Cognito UTV a little nerf and shove! They all pulled forward another car length and I saw a nice line to the right, so I went for it passing 2 UTVs and 2 Trophy lites. I came to a stop right behind the 2 class 7 trucks that the Murrays were in front of. We all waited for the buggy to clear then took turns clearing the hill. It really sucks, for UTVs to have to wait to go up a hill that is so easy for us to clea with 4 wheel drive. When the 2 class7 trucks, that were teammates, went I followed right behind them. The front one got stuck half way up the hill, when It high centered on the center rut. We sat there behind them for what seemed like a life time. My navigator says to me “you will never believe who is behind us, the gold UTV” I said “holy cap how did we get ahead of him, I never saw him leaving town, I guess he got lost” Finally the 7 truck in front of us launched forward and bump his teammate loose. They both got going and I followed. I sat in that bottle neck for 30 minutes. I stayed in front of Johnny and the Cognito UTV for quite a while but eventually they caught me and I pulled over and let them pass. I felt they were pounding their UTVs too hard in the rough to last the 500 mile race and I would see them later in the race. The next action we saw was in the pine forest I caught the Murrays. They saw and pick up their pace. The dust was super thick so I back off a little and kept a safe pace. I came around a sharp left turn and there they were. They had ran out of talent and layed their Maverick on its side in the center of the corner. I slowed and went by carefully. The Maverick was layed over in such a way that I felt it would be easy for them to tip it back to its wheels, so I did not stop. I got to our first stop at race mile 108. My pit crew gave us fuel and looked over the Maverick and said everything looked good. Derek Murray was there helping my guys pit us. I let him know what happened to his Maverick. I then headed to the La Rumorosa “drop” I was on the highway following 2 class 1600 buggys and a truck. I mentioned to my navigator, that it was going to suck following that big truck down La Rumorosa. As luck would have it, the truck missed the turn off the pavement, allowing the 2 buggys and us to pass it. Like I said before the La Rumorosa “big drop” was heart pounding to say the least. At this point of the race we were the 4th UTV on the course. Then about 3 miles from the bottom of La Rumorosa we were going through a short section of big, sharp woops and suddenly our Maverick went sideways and was steering weird. I quickly found a safe place to pull over. Darren and I got out and found that the right rear upper a-arm had broken in half! Up to this point we had not hit anything hard or had any off course excursions, so this was totally unexpected. We were not stopped for more than 2 minutes, when a group of locals were pulling up to try to help us. There were several vehicles and a couple ATVs. One of the young boys spoke great English and said he would go to get his dad to help. Darren contacted our chase 3 truck that was now headed down the La Rumorosa highway. They had a welder in their truck and were able to bring the welded out to my Maverick with our pre-runner Maverick. So the back story on the a-arm was that the a-arms on my Maverick were the “generation 1” a-arms. We were sent a set of “generation 2” a-arms well before this race and I forgot to change them out, “total brain fart”.  I had cell phone service and texted our chase 1 truck that was at race mile 260.  They had the new set of a-arms. They got the text and headed north to meet us with the a-arms. By the time I got the a-arm welded back together and were ready to go again, our chase 1 truck was only 30 minutes away. We decided it would best to wait there and remove the rear upper a-arms and be ready to install them, so that’s what we did. By the time we had the arms a 1 axel removed the chase 1 truck showed up. They quickly made the necessary repairs and we were back under way. Although the down time was around 3 hours and now we were the last UTV moving on course I think. As we continued our race it began to get dark, now I was wishing that I had pre-ran from 140 to 260, where we would make our driver/navigator change. We raced on through the dark passing many UTVs, some were moving and some were stopped. We also passed a bunch of chase trucks going backwards on the race course. I know the rules say going backwards on the course is not allowed but we all do it. Chase trucks please note as a courtesy to the race drivers please pull off the course and turn off your white lights, it is much safer for all of us. Around race mile 220 I noticed that the rear end of my Maverick was dragging very often, we continued on to the driver change. We got there and found that both rear shocks had oil all over them. We only had 1 spare rear shock with us, we change it out and sent Scott and Jason on their way into the dark. Our other spare rear shock was at race mile 358 with our chase 2 truck. Scott and Jason made it to race mile 358 with no issues and the chase 2 guys installed the other spare rear shock. About 20 miles later while Scott was headed out towards the pacific beach, Scott miss read a turn and couldn’t keep the Maverick on the road so just before rolling over the edge he turned the Maverick left and drove straight down the hill about 150ft mowind down lots of bushes. He was very lucky there were no rocks or boulders and did not cause any damage to the Maverick. The only other notable race moment was around race mile 450 Scott heard a loud noise after passing a trophy truck that was stuck in the silt. He stopped and Jason found that a outter rear cv boot was torn. They continued on to race mile 470 at Ojos where we were waiting. We changed out the axel “formula 1 style” meaning wicked fast and sent them to the finish. Scott and Jason got to the finish around 4:30 am. Our wives and children had been tracking us online, form the RV park and were all waiting for us at the finish. We were told we had finished 5th out of 23. Of course we wanted to win but whenever you can beat the Baja it is always very satisfying and a great accomplishment! With around 3.5 hours of down time we felt great to have finished 5th. Only 11 UTVs out of 23 that started finished. We raced and pre-ran 510 miles of the most brutal terrain the Baja has to throw at you in our 2015 Maverick Max Turbo with a completely stock engine, drivetrain, clutch and drive belt. Thank you so much to the great companies that support and sponsor our race team. #Can-Am #CSTtires #ElkaSuspension #TigerLights #ModQuad #ShoraiBatteries #FoddrillMotorsports #UTVoffroadMagazine #TripleXseats #DesertToyzMotorsports #Dirtskins #Schampa #ProSteelErectors #JonesFordArizona #Alba  Thank you to our team; Cory, Jeanette, Alex, Hailey, Scott, Cindy, Keli, Darren S, Jared, Jason, Trista, Wyatt, Natalie, Darren F, Donovan, Joe, Ryan, Shawna, Mikayla, Aubrie, Jessie and Alejandro       

Our Baja Story 2020- Navigator’s Perspective

I feel that I should begin this with a brief introduction. My name is Ashley Antill, I am Cory’s new navigator! Though I come from a lifetime involvement in off-road racing, Baja was my second race ever so this was quite the experience to kick off my racing career.

We made our way down to Ensenada on the Sunday before the race and of course we stopped at our first (of many) taco shop right as we got into town. Monday was the first day we began pre-running, we ran from Ojos to RM200. I got to watch the sunset in the beach section! Also made a stop at a gas station in Camalu and had a line of kids waiting to take their picture with us, that was pretty awesome. Everything went smoothly until our last 30 miles or so when we found ourselves in a water hole! The water filled up to our knees and EVERYTHING was completely soaked. Thankfully we were able to back out of it and we were back on our way, cold and wet. Had the best shower and sleep of my life in a cute little hotel in San Quentin.

Our plan for Tuesday was to do the lower 60 mile loop then make our way up and through the crossover. We had a great day with minimal problems, even the crossover was easy on us. Got our taco fix in Valle De La Trinidad and the next morning we were headed back to Ensenada to get ready for the race.

Friday morning was full of excitement and definitely some anxiety. Even though we pre-ran our entire section, I still felt that I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into. We made our way up to the starting line and shortly after we were off and headed to the finish line. We had a really great start to our race. Our strategy was to just drive smart and not break anything. That worked pretty well until we broke a front axle around the beach section. We stopped and got that fixed then about 20 miles later the other front axle broke! That put us a little behind on time but we were still running great. Up until this point, the race fans had lined the course almost the ENTIRE way! That was one of the craziest things I had ever seen, their excitement for the race is just amazing.

Night fell and we were headed towards the crossover. The air was still so the dust was heavy throughout our entire race, this was extra frustrating while navigating through the tight sections in the mountains. We got into a real technical spot around RM330, we were completely blind in the dust and the car ended up completely on its side. It was a bad spot to be in where the only way of getting her back on her wheels was to lift her. With me being a small lady, that wasn’t happening. Cory went to work jacking the car up to a point that we could push it over while I was up ahead trying to slow down the oncoming cars. About 15 minutes into that we asked another racer in our class for help and their navigator hopped out and helped us push our car back onto all four. In all the chaos another car had hit ours and broke our antenna so we no longer had contact with our team for the remainder of the race. But we were back on our way! The trophy trucks tore up the course so it was ROUGH.

By 1:30 am Cory and I made it to RM440 which was our first driver change. We drove in the fire truck to San Felipe, the next time we’d see our guys was around RM680. They had a few repairs they had to stop for throughout their night but they were on it! At around RM730 they broke a right arm and we were down for a few hours while we worked out getting the necessary parts out to them. Took about 4 hours then they were off for another 90 miles, we had our next driver change set for RM820.

We were on our last final stretch of the race, the finish was close and we were eager to cross the line. Unfortunately at that driver change we had a fueling accident. The car caught fire and took us out of the race with only 78 miles left to go. Heartbreaking to say the least, but thankfully nobody was hurt and the car will be okay. It was a somber drive back to Ensenada. In the days since, I’ve reflected a lot on the whole experience and my feelings are all positive. Though I would have loved to come home with a shiny finisher medal, I left with so much more. Now I’ll be counting down the days until next years peninsula run!

A big thank you to everyone who has supported us. From our amazing sponsors who make everything possible, our team who spent many hours and many days getting us ready for the race then following us around the desert to make sure we had everything we needed, our family and friends at home who tracked us and cheered us on the whole way, and the people of Baja for their love and hospitality. Baja is really something special.
-Ashley Antill

Parker Arizona, January 7, 2017:  

Opening event of the BITD 2107 season and Can-Am Desert Toyz Race Team took 2nd Overall  and 2nd in the Pro Production Turbo class, Cory and Darren Sappington out drove all but 1 in the field of 82, It was a great day of racing and the competition was fierce.   

With the start of a new season, the excitement and pressure to do well in the opening race is high. This year is no different, and with the competition growing each race (39 Pro Turbo’s) this year looks to be the toughest. However the Can-Am Desert Toyz Race team was ready for the challenge and while the team is still working on the new X3 they brought their super reliable and fast 2016 Maverick to the event. Right off the line the Maverick got the jump by beating teammate Mark Burnett to the merge point, by midway pit RM 28 Cory 12th on track and one minute ahead of the leaders on corrected time, however as lap 1 completed the Maverick had 2 flats so the last 10 miles Cory had to drive on a flat.  The crew made quick repairs and sent Cory off into the desert, when he approached midway a decision was made not to switch drivers as it would cost too much time, so after a quick fuel stop Cory was off again. Unfortunately toward the end of lap 2 similar fate hit the Desert Toyz team and again had 2 flats, one was fixed out on the course but the second the team repaired in the pit. With the problems we were about 10 minutes on corrected time behind leader, again as the Maverick approached the remote pit a tire went down; fortunately it was close enough to just drive to the pit where the crew was able to change the tire. Cory proceeded off to the finish with the leader about 10 minutes out and 2nd place 2:30 minutes out; the Maverick was fourth car on track physically. With this information Cory was determined to make up as much ground as possible, at the finish with a car that looked like a mudbogger he completed the race by finishing just 8 seconds ahead of 3rd to secure the 2nd place spot and a great start to the 2017 Best in the Desert season.

The Desert Toyz race team would like to thank all its sponsors for their support: Can-Am BRP, CST Tires, Elka Shocks, Tiger Lights, S3 Power Sports, Monster Seal, PCI Radios, Triple X Seats, Dirt Skins, Foddrill Motorsports, DWT Wheels and Shampa.