Baja…where the sun is shining, the beer is cold and the racing is epic. JT Taylor and Brandon Pollock, of Team JT Customs, have put in many long hours since the NORRA race last year to give the #13 Volkswagen bug, Lil Blue, an overhaul. Converting from a swing axle to IRS, installing an Artigas Performance 091 Bus Box and a fresh Adam Wik Racing Engines 2.0 Liter, left just enough time to put a few miles on before loading Lil Blue onto the trailer. After nearly a year of prep and major changes on the bug, Team JT Customs headed south for the 6th annual NORRA 1000.
Day one had Taylor starting first in class against two vintage V8 cars, Jim Riley in Rippin’ Rooster and Rick L. Johnson in Snortin’ Nortin. Special stage 1 was a fast, fun section from Santo Tomas, along the beach, to San Quintin. JT drove with Doug Nagy as co-driver. For special stage 2, JT and Doug traded seats and Doug drove an incredibly rough section from San Quintin to Bay of LA. Because the team ran into dusk and eventually complete darkness by the end of the stage, they used their new Rigid R2-46 and R-46 lights. Taylor said, “It was like driving in daylight…a huge improvement on what we had previous to this race.” Thankfully, day 1 proved to be non-eventful.
Leaving Bay of LA on day 2 was a short transit and then a very rocky, 42 mile special stage with Nagy driving and Taylor as Co-driver. Special stage2 was a long and straight but deep and sandy road. Lil Blue was handling strange and when Nagy came into a tight section a little hot, the car pushed due to what was later discovered as a broken shock mount. Doug blew the corner and in trying to get back on course, took a “special” line that dropped a giant piece of cactus in Taylor’s lap. Right about that time, Lil Blue got stuck in the silt. As Taylor jumped out and secured the Off Road Solutions tow rope, AMSOIL team members, Brad and Roger Lovell, slid up in their vintage bronco to save the day and pulled them out.
After finally arriving at transit 3 for fuel in San Ignacio, Team Jt Customs discovered that both front shock towers were broken. Using the Pemex parking lot as a garage and being the resourceful team they are, Taylor used a cut off wheel, run by Powertank, to cut off parts of his trailer ramps to use as a fix for the shock towers. The Corbet Racing Team pitched in, lending a hand as well as their welder and equipment. As things tend to go at this race, a local welder who was working at the Pemex heard the team needed a welder and came out to work with JT Customs team member, Javier Martinez, to effect a solid fix.
Beginning special stage 3 the team had an 82 minute penalty for a late check in. With Taylor driving and Ryan Scott Co-driving, they started into a 175 mile section where their dominating worry was running out of gas. Although long, Taylor was able to make up a lot of time with a great run, and was able to gain nearly 4 minutes on Snortin’ Nortin. They did get stuck in a sand dune so with Scott digging and pulling, they hooked up the badass strap from Off Road Solutions. Fortunately, a fellow competitor in a vintage bronco stopped and pulled them out. With the head winds, heavy sand and fast running, even being prepared with extra fuel, running out of gas was a real concern. So, when they happened upon some other competitors who had a chase crew with them, outside of La Purisma, Taylor asked if they could buy some fuel. They promptly said no, they wouldn’t sell them fuel but they gave them 5 gallons. “You gotta love the people who race this race,” said Taylor. Scott did an amazing job of co-driving and reading the route book and GPS perfectly. As they were nearing the end of the stage, something didn’t feel right. They feared the shock towers were broken again.
Because of the late start, the team rolled into Loreto around 9pm. While Jenn, Doug and Scott went to get food for the team, JT, Ryan and Javier went out to Filis Automotive Shop to get to work on the car. Fili helped out in November during the Score 1000. Taylor talked to him and asked if the team could prep the car and camp there during the NORRA race and they worked out a deal. Their fears confirmed…the shock mounts were broken again. The team was able to do a better repair on them with the help from Filis lift, scrap metal and a stronger welder. After working until 2am, checking the bug over, the team camped out at Filis on cots as well as the always comfortable and quick to pop up, James Baroud tent.
With the bug fixed up, they took off from Loreto on day 3 with JT driving and Doug co-driving. Right out of Loreto, in the wash, JT went to make a turn, downshifted and the shifter went into nothingness. After pulling out of the way, they found out the set screw for the transmission linkage had come loose. It wasn’t an easy fix at all and Taylor dropped the original screw and couldn’t find it. Luckily, he had a spare in the tool bag. They lost about 20 minutes with the fix.
Back on the road, driving towards the Mission at San Javier, they turned down onto a new route. “It was 60 miles of the roughest, crappiest rock trail ever but Lil Blue sucked it up and even passed a bronco in the rocks,” JT laughed. Doug jumped in the driver seat with Ryan co-driving in Insurgents to begin a 155 mile special stage. Jenn, Scott, Javier and Jt went to the highway crossing where they dumped in 10 gallons of fuel and sent Lil Blue on its way. Ten miles down the special stage, after the road crossing, there was a right hand turn and a strong “wind” from the right. A vain attempt at 2 wheeled stunt driving left the car on its side, removing the front fender and bruising not only Doug’s ego but the entire driver side of the car. With help from locals, they got it tipped back on its wheels and were back at it in less than 10 minutes.
Doug and Ryan ran into a traffic jam with several cars stuck in the silt, sending the guys on a walk about looking for a line to take. Doug proceeded to embarrass some of the more powerful cars by going up a hill with the bug that they wouldn’t take. After clearing the stage, the chase crew followed them into the finish at La Paz and then continued to the hotel to begin working on the car. While following, chase noticed that the left rear wheel was bent. As it turned out, the only BFG tire they had to change the entire race was because of a bent wheel, not a flat. With a borrowed welder, and help from Lovell and Corbet Racing, the team prepped the car for the final day.
Leaving La Paz on day 4 had Taylor Driving and Ryan co-driving. They came into the start of the special stage early so they were going to sit and wait. While waiting, Taylor felt the brakes losing pressure. Ryan quickly jumped out and found the problem to be a self-inflicted wound. A piece of weld spatter from welding the night before landed on the stainless, braided brake line and caused it to rupture. Shrek, from the Snortin’ Nortin team, saw them running around and came over and asked if they needed help. Taylor explained that they needed a piece of -3 braided line. With that Shrek was off. Luckily, he had one and was happy to give it to Team JT Customs to get them going again. They replaced the line, bled the brakes and had plenty of time to make the start of the stage with no penalties. “Again, you gotta love the people that race this race,” said Taylor.
JT started special stage 1 day 4 a little frazzled from the brake issue and shortly after was admonished by co-driver Ryan for waving at a spectator as they were coming over a rise which sent them off the course. They were able to get it together and finish a very technical but fun stage.
The team made it to Los Barilles for quick fuel and a co-driver change, putting Nagy in the seat. They had a clean run to the finish in Cabo San Lucas and crossed the finish line first place in their class where shots of Azunia Tequila, cold Tecates and a well-deserved trophy awaited them.
Press Release Supplied By: Jenn Solomon
Press Release Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit To: Dave Morganthall & Jenn Solomon with JT Customs