On the weekend of October 12/13 Team OTSFF/MOTUL campaigned – along with over 200 other racing teams – the final round of the Best in the Desert Racing Association’s 2019 off-road schedule in Laughlin, Nevada. Considered one of the toughest and roughest on the off-road tour, the annual Laughlin Desert Classic takes no prisoners. Compared to the four other rounds of the points chase Laughlin is a unique event. Run over two days, the Desert Classic features multi-heat style races on a challenging, specially built 16-mile course. This translates into a veritable test of man and machine, in what is essentially a four- lap, 64-mile sprint race times two.
Team owner/driver Andre Laurin and navigator Kerry King’s mission was to get to the finish line both days and collect enough points to solidify their top five standing in the 6100 Spec Trophy Class Championship. They were in fifth place on the scoreboard going into Laughlin. When all was said and done, they left Laughlin – which is located on the banks of the Colorado River at the extreme southern tip of Nevada – in fourth place. But that storybook ending to the season almost didn’t happen.
During qualifying runs on Thursday, October 10, the OTSFF/MOTUL truck’s GM LS3 engine started running extremely hot. Rather than risk frying the motor Laurin decided to drop out of his qualifier. Upon inspection by crew chief/truck builder Adam Fitza, the overheating problem proved to be due to an issue with the water pump. A water bypass plug had somehow come loose, effectively plugging the water pump’s flow. Not qualifying meant that Laurin and King would have to start at the back of the thirty-one 6100 Spec class entries. Undoubtedly this was a setback but everyone concerned agreed it was better to have the pump issue during qualifying and not the actual four-lap races. Of course, starting behind numerous other vehicles in a desert race also meant having to deal with their dust. And there would be plenty of it in Laughlin. Passing slower drivers would be difficult and treacherous.
Saturday’s race proved to be more or less uneventful. For a driver and navigator that’s never a bad thing. And because there was a fairly brisk wind blowing across the desert, the dust kicked up by the vehicles tended to be less of a problem than expected. After a quick start, Laurin and King clawed their way through the maelstrom, picking off close to half of the field to finish in 16th place. Although the truck ran like a charm, it was decided to tweak the suspension a bit for Sunday’s race. The course had proved to be much rougher than anticipated and a stiffer suspension setting was called for.
On Sunday Laurin and King did not have to face another back-of-the-pack start. They got off the line in 16th place, based on their finish the day before. Everyone on the team was pumped and confident that a top ten finish was in the cards for the OTSFF/MOTUL truck. Lady Luck, however, threw Laurin another curve ball. A few corners into the race Laurin was in for a shock: he had lost the truck’s brakes. It was later determined that a rock had hit the caliper up front and smashed it. He had two options: keep going and let his extensive racing experience get him through the next 64 miles or get the brakes fixed. The latter was not really an option to Laurin’s way of thinking. If he pulled off the track for repairs, he knew he could say goodbye to wrapping up the season with a top five ranking. King concurred with Laurin to keep going. It was a no-brainer.
Despite having to rely on shifting gears and engine braking to slow down, Laurin managed to finish the race three minutes quicker than the previous day. But the competition also poured on the gas, in this final race of the year, and passing proved to be difficult. Having no brakes to rely on didn’t help. Dust conditions were worse than the day before, as there was no
wind at all to disperse it. Laurin and King soldiered on, however, and amazingly had to give up only two positions, finishing in 18th place.
Although Lady Luck did not exactly favour Team OTSFF/MOTUL in Laughlin, she did not totally abandon Laurin and King. Thanks to a DNF by the team that was sitting in fourth place, going into the event, and some of the other top five overall points contenders finishing behind Laurin, he was able to move up from fifth place to fourth. It was mission accomplished for the team.
All’s well that ends well … so the saying goes. In a sport that is known for its high rate of attrition, for Team OTSFF/MOTUL to reach the finish line at each of the five rounds and nail down a solid fourth place in the championship – in their first full season of racing the 6100 class – all was well indeed. And even though things are still cooling down from a hot and nasty desert racing season, everyone at Team OTSFF/MOTUL is already eagerly anticipating the 2020 season.
From the Horses’ Mouth Andre Laurin: “Considering some of the issues we had this weekend, I’m happy first of all that we were able to finish both days. Starting at the back of the pack on Day 1 put us at a bit of a disadvantage, so I knew then we weren’t going to finish the day in the top ten. Never mind the top five. We were not racing for that; we were racing for points. We didn’t want to lose our fifth place in the points standings. When we took the checkered flag in 16th place, it was a big relief. Day 2 we were prepared to race for at least a top ten position, because we started mid-pack, and we knew the truck has power to spare. We also tweaked the suspension a bit, so we could take the jumps at higher speeds. Then, of course, we lost our brakes and that was a game changer. I wasn’t too concerned about not being able to finish the race. I can race without brakes if I have to. Now it was just a matter of defending our 16th place starting position, and hopefully keep most of the guys who started behind us from passing us. “When we lost only two positions to finish in 18th, I was pretty sure we’d end up keeping our fifthplace in the final points standings. Then when I heard that the team who held down fourth DNFd, I thought, hey, we could end up fourth. And we did. We were able to finish all our races this season, and that alone was a big deal for us. One DNF is all it takes to take you out of contention.
We got Adam to thank for that. He’s simply an amazing technician and builder of off-road racing vehicles. Thanks to him we had no mechanical issues that could have taken us out of a race. It’s been a pretty successful season in many ways for us, basically thanks to three components: physical, emotional, and mechanical. Both Kerry and I were able to compete the entire series without putting our backups in the truck. This is testimony to our fitness level, which we both work hard at to maintain. “Emotionally we were able to handle any issues that can arise in racing. Kerry is a good friend of mine and he is able to inspire and motivate me to give more of myself than I would if he wasn’t sitting beside me. By taking things in stride we never let ourselves be defeated by adversity. Mechanically, we were never let down by Adam. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my wife Monique and daughter Renee for believing in me, and their unwavering support to help me chase my dreams. A big thank you to the team’s staff, especially Brad Ewen who has been very instrumental in putting our racing program together. Last but not least a huge shout to our sponsors and the individuals at their respective companies who made our racing possible this year.” Kerry King: “Laughlin was a tough race to be sure. It was a case of having to deal with the unexpected. And considering some of the adversity we faced, starting with the water pump and then the brakes issue, we came out of
it intact. Our finishes may not be what we were after, but they sufficed to get the job done. And we achieved what we set out to do. I think it’s safe to say that overall we had an awesome season. Even though we had a few hiccups at some of the races, we finished every race entered and scored enough points over the course of the season to enter the 6100 top five club. Kudos to Adam for providing us with one of the best spec trucks in the series. Without him we wouldn’t have achieved what we did. Kudos to Andre for his driving skills and never throwing in the towel.
Kudos to our crew and sponsors. Without them we would not have been contenders. Thanks to everyone who supported us and believed in us, our families, friends, and the people behind the scenes.” Adam Fitza: “Laughlin this year will be a race toremember. It was a bit of a nail-biter, starting with the qualifier problem that put us at the back of the field. And, of course, losing the brakes on Day 2.
Things like that help define the grit and savvy of a driver and navigator. Both Andre and Kerry passed with flying colours. They showed they had the right stuff. As a crew chief and mechanic that gives you a lot of confidence. Andre was driving better than I’ve ever seen him drive before.
“The brake issue actually made him a better driver. He’s got the mojo to do this. His lap times were very consistent and quicker than Day 1. Even the extreme dust on Day 2 didn’t deter him from racing at speed. Andre and Kerry saved the day, both days, to end up capping the season with a fourth place points standing. This is amazing for a more of less new team on the circuit. I’ve been in this business for quite some time and I’m impressed by those guys,
coming all the way from Canada and sending a message that they are serious and passionate about racing to their competitors, some of which have been at this a lot longer than they. Every race team strives for winning. But to get top five in what is hands down the most competitive class in the Best in the Desert series is unbelievable. We’re a small team. We love the dirt and we love racing. Everyone on the team clicked; everybody pulled their weight. We made a statement in our first full season campaigning the 6100 class.
People realize who we are now, that we’re not just interlopers. We’re not here to mess around. We want to win. “All our partners are equally serious about this. Everyone involved, everyone who supports us is part of the success we achieved this year. All the companies who supplied us with parts and equipment, the components that made our truck as badass as it is, made us successful. The B&M Transmission, which is second to none; the Fox Shocks that handled the abuse we put them trough; the Toyo Tires and Vision Wheels that kept us afloat in some of the most wicked terrain imaginable, the Rigid Lights that turned the darkness of night into daylight. All of our partners, regardless of what they supplied us with, we owe a debt of gratitude. Personally, I’m thrilled with how the season transpired.”
Team OTSFF/MOTUL would like to thank all the individuals and contributing sponsors for their invaluable support to help make our participation in the ‘Laughlin Desert Classic’ possible. You guys are awesome!
Come meet the OTSFF/MOTUL 6100 team and see the race truck at SEMA 2019