The Mint 400 in Las Vegas, NV turned out to be a banner event for OTSFF/MOTUL on Sunday, March 10th, with Andre Laurin taking the team’s truck to a noteworthy seventh place finish out of 52 entries in the 6100 Spec Trophy Class and 31st overall out of a total of the 117 combined class entries that managed to cross the finish line.
Laurin decided not to participate in Thursday’s timed qualifying runs, which meant he and navigator Kerry King started at the back of the 6100-class pack, when it came time to set off for three challenging 120-mile laps. This proved to be no issue as they quickly manoeuvred the OTSFF/MOTUL truck into the top-20 by the second lap. Laurin, who would do the entire race without back-up driver/builder/team manager Adam Fitza taking the driver’s seat, stayed on the gas for the first two laps till they felt they had penetrated at least the top-10. Although they did not know exactly what position they were in, on lap three, now in the darkness of night – and with nobody in front or behind them – they went into protection mode and rode more conservatively.
With about 30 miles to go, they suddenly noticed lights coming up behind them and they picked up the pace again, not wanting to lose a position this late in the race. It was mission accomplished.
Suspension setup proved to be everything in the gruelling Mint 400 and Fitza ensured nothing had been left to chance in that department or any other department. In extremely rough sections – such as stretches dominated by braking bumps, jumps or massive holes, Laurin would hit the brakes a short distance before the obstacles – to preload the suspension – then pin the gas to launch the truck over them or accelerate through them. By doing this he gained a lot of time and managed to pass quite a few rivals.
Another tactic that helped Team OTSFF/MOTUL break into the top-10 was their one-pitstop strategy, which saw Fitza and his three-man DFR Racing crew – consisting of Andrew Ortiz, his brother Nathan Ortiz, and Steve Bumpas – inspect the truck inside and out, change two rear tires, install the front lights bar, and add 60 gallons of fuel in an amazing 80 seconds flat.
The Mint 400 turned out to be a mostly issue free race for the team except for one scary moment when Laurin go hit on the head by a flying rock that had careened into the cab of the truck. Fortunately, his Bell helmet saved the day and he was able to shake off the incident. It did not affect his focus or driving. When they finally reached the finish line, they were greeted by a jubilant Fitza, team crew, friends and family. Once the results were verified, Laurin, Fitza, and King knew that the Mint 400 had been a benchmark race for them.
From the Horses’ Mouths:
Andre Laurin: “In desert racing everybody wants to get horsepower and the best equipment available to get it, but they often tend to forget about their safety gear, like a top-grade helmet. This weekend my Bell helmet allowed me to push through areas where most drivers would have backed off, like in rock-strewn sections. Quite a few rocks actually flew into the truck, roosted by the guy in front of me. Some of them just glanced off my helmet, one big one in particular, and they hardly even fazed me. And I managed to pass the guy in front me at speed. All in all I am totally exited about how well the vehicle performed. I probably picked up my own pace by about forty percent, with the new suspension setup. I’m feeling very confident about everything and can’t wait till the next race to see if that one will be the one we get a top-five finish if not top-three.”
Adam Fitza: “I’m stoked with the results this weekend. To see a truck that I built and prepped do so well, with few issues, I know I’m doing my job right. Andre and Kerry are doing a fantastic job in the cab and have come a long way in a short period of time. We have the momentum now. There are still things we can do to make the truck faster, you can always improve, but we’re there. The OTSFF/MOTUL truck is well capable of winning races and we’re ready to kick some butt.”
Kerry King: “I’m still healing from some broken ribs I sustained in a snowmobile accident, so having a really nice suspension was an asset for me, allowing me to cope with the discomfort. Of course, that was just a bonus for me. For the team, it meant we were able to race more according to the style of racing we like, and it showed in the results. It was a big deal for us. A confidence booster. When we got to the finish line and saw everybody waiting for us, it was a very emotional moment for us all. Not just the fact that we had logged a great finish, but the fact that we finished the race period. There had been a lot of carnage on the track, with a lot of guys DNFing. We got through it all. It was one of those deals that all the stars aligned for us. The suspension was awesome, the Fox shocks were sublime, the motor was great, the gearing, the tires. Everything with the truck was right on. Everything was there for us to finish and get a good result.”
On another note. The OTSFF Ford Twin Turbo Eco boost truck – the truck Laurin started his off-road racing career with four years ago – was driven by Jordan Cochrum, Tim Temac, Duke Zukowski and Oliver Squire to an impressive second place finish in the 7200 class. We at OTSFF would like to congratulate them for their awesome result.