Ensenada, Baja California Mexico
Many thought Jason McNeil’s FiberwerX / Toyo Tires #2 was a brand new trophy truck at the 48th annual SCORE Baja 500. Cloaked in computer designed carbon fiber, the stunning FiberwerX Raptor body is new for 2017 and incorporates all of the latest aerodynamic refinements. Time spent during the design stage to shed weight and manage air flow in and around the envelope produced a body that is as slick as it looks. The body sits on a potent package that benefits from great support by sponsors Toyo Tires, FOX, Aeromotive, FK Rod Ends, Baja Designs, Gibson Exhaust, Bink Designs, Powder1, True Line Wheel Alignment and of course, FiberwerX.
The team was very pleased that their measured pace during qualifying beat out several heavy hitters and past champions; earning them the eighth starting position on race day. This year’s Baja 500 had something especially challenging for competitors from Mother Nature. The course was as tough as usual, but the weather was brutal. Triple digit temperatures scorched competitors and put a strain on every moving part on the vehicles. It was not just hot, it was dangerously hot. Temperatures inside some of the trucks were as high as 150 degrees. Many competitors and crew were sidelined by the heat and a motorcyclist lost his life to heat stroke on the course.
The FiberwerX Trophy Truck was performing perfectly at the start of the race; passing several trucks and moving up into the lead pack. Somewhat unique, the truck has three seats inside. After several miles of the race, Daniel, who was in the third seat, started feeling sick. When they hit the first pit stop, he was too ill to continue; leaving Jason and his Brother Tyler to continue on without him. They had somewhat of a traffic jam at the first pit. Robby Gordon was having an issue and pulled into the FiberwerX pit. Jason pulled in right behind him, forcing the crew to push Robby’s truck out of the way before they could service their own truck. There are rivalries in Baja but there is also a code that you help others in need. It was just a case of bad timing.
They topped off the fuel and set out to go over the summit. On the way down, the course drops into the washes and dry lake bed of Laguna Salada; the hottest section of the course. “We had moved up to fourth place physically on the road and 2nd or 3rd on corrected time,” said Jason, “It was the first time we had to back off due to the heat. The water and oil temps were very high. We were having a great race until I smacked a rock the size of a microwave with the right front. It was making a thumping sound so we pulled over expecting a flat. We both got out but the tire was still holding air so we jumped back in to take off. We got going again but the noise was still there. We got out a second time to change the tire and discovered that the Toyo Tire took the blow and survived but the wheel was bent just enough to rub the brake caliper. It was amazing that both the tire and our Method Race Wheel were still holding full pressure after that hit.”
When they stopped the second time, eventual race winner Tavo Vildosola got past them. They continued on and stopped to pit once more. Daniel was refreshed and jumped back in, the crew topped off the fuel, fresh Toyo Tires, and restocked the spare rack on back. They were still in the hunt, 10 minutes down from the leader. They were now in the worst of the San Felipe whoops and the heat was still vicious. It may have been too much fluid in the FOX shocks with the elevated temperatures or as simple as a faulty Schrader valve but they blew the reservoir on the front shock ending their day. There was no point in limping around the course for 200 miles. It would have been dangerous and they didn’t want to affect any of the other racers who were battling for a win. “We are pleased with the performance we had in such demanding heat,” said Jason, We were really looking forward to opening it up on the dry lakebed to see just how fast it was with the new body design, but the heat forced us to back it down. We got a lot of compliments on the design from other racers and the fans that crowded around the truck during contingency. We will have to wait for the next race to see what this thing will really do.”
Photography By: Bink Designs