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Local racers take on Matomi Wash

March 05, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

MATOMI WASH, Mexico — The Bud Light blue, barbed wire-emblazoned CAC Farms class 8 truck driven by Calexican Craig Corda tore into this wash on the backstretch of the 227-mile San Felipe 250 course.

At times the sheer rock walls of the 28-mile-long wash were so close Corda or his teammate in the shotgun seat, Carlos Corral, could reach out and touch a jagged face.

Not that they would — at 60 mph.

SCORE spokesman Dominic Clark said the wash is so narrow at points that a 7-foot-wide trophy truck is barely able to squeeze through.

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Clark didn't mention the boulders. Corda did, though.

After the race, he and his teammates, Corral and Danny Frear, stood near his still-warm Ford F-150 and talked about the harrowing pass and the truck's triumphant escape.

Besides the close confines of the wash, Corda said there were big boulders strewn throughout. Hitting one of those could have blown a tire or sent him into a wall.

While avoiding boulders, Corda had to watch for slower racers up front or faster racers growling on his back fender. In stretches of the wash there was no room to pass. Dust and debris from other off-roaders limited visibility.

That was a shame, since Clark said the wash has been called "28 miles of Baja's best."

Corda and Corral agreed.

They said the scenery they were able to make out while jostling in the cab was fantastic.

Those fleeting moments of beauty, though, didn't prepare them for the end.

When they finally made it up and out of the wash, the Sea of Cortez glistened in the distance. Corral remembered calling out on the radio, "We made it. The Sea of Cortez!"

The moment was huge for the teammates because reaching this part of the course meant the finish line was near.

After leaving the wash, Corda and Corral turned north onto the Old Puertocitos Road, heading toward San Felipe. They found out finishing wasn't assured.

Corda said this part of the course was "hideous"; a "diamond maker." Corral said the whoops and moguls were 2 to 3 feet high.

The suspension on the ZackyFarms/Sellers Petroleum/John Wood Automotive-sponsored Ford was pounded on each dip.

The truck lost its right-rear fender, although the team members weren't sure if they lost it in this section of the course.

A little more than seven hours after starting the race, the one-fendered truck carrying Corda and Corral reached the finish line. They placed fifth in their class and 115th overall in 7 hours, 33 seconds.

"The big story is we finished," Corda said.

Throughout the race, the team had to make like "MacGyver" when various parts of the truck failed. At the 30-mile marker, a calipher inside the driver's side wheel broke off and wadded up between the wheel and brake disc.

"We had to get out and bang it off of there," Corda said.

The truck's distributor gear broke at around the 80-mile marker.

That "shocked the hell out of us," Corral said.

To fix the distributor, Corda and Corral had to pull it out of the motor and replace a pin that had broken inside of the gear.

Corda took a thin Allen wrench and jammed it in the gear, then snapped it off to get it to stay. Meanwhile, Corral was directing traffic as racers sped by.

The pair had to retime the motor without instruments.

"We just listened to it," Corral said.

Around halfway through the race, Frear scored some gas from a trophy truck team to fuel up Corda's Ford because it was getting only about two miles per gallon instead of the three that Corda had expected. The team of Glen Greer and Larry Foddrill from Arizona sold Corda's team the gas.

"That kept us rocking and rolling with no down time," Corda said.

Thirty miles after fueling up, a tire blew as the truck sped past the sulfur mines just south of San Felipe. After the tire was changed, the truck ran fine to the end.

"This is the point when I thank my team for a great effort," Corda said smiling.

"There's no I in team," Frear noted.

Corda added, "Oh, by the way, did I mention I soloed?"

Yes, he did.

"Here we go, ‘Ironman,' " Corral said, laughing.

Most of the teams running the 250 switch off drivers at least once.

"Ironman" Ivan Stewart got the nickname because he drove the whole way.

"I'm not saying I'm Ironman but I did solo," Corda said.

Since the team allowed Corda to solo, Frear was asked why.

"He needs the practice," Frear cracked.

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