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BITD: Team Hummer extends winning streak at Vegas to Reno.

Best in the Desert Racing Association’s ‘Vegas to Reno’, a 585 mile race across the state of Nevada, presented Team Hummer with many challenges during the event on Saturday, August 26th. Although most of the pre-race festivities took place in Las Vegas, race day morning we towed our race trucks 75 miles north to the start line in Kane Springs, located about forty miles south of highway 375, known locally as the "Extraterrestrial Highway".

Hundreds of trucks lined both sides of the road, each unloading their varied entries to stage for the start of this marathon event. The ‘Vegas to Reno’ got under way about 11:00 AM for Team Hummer with Chad Hall getting off the line first in the #8102 H1 pickup followed within minutes by Josh Hall in the #4101 H2 SUV and Mike Winkel, starting the race in the #3111 H3 SUV.

About 60 miles into the race, where the course crossed highway 93, the H3 slowed for the road crossing but as Winkel began to accelerate away from the intersection, the Vortec 3500 in-line five cylinder engine suffered an apparent connecting rod failure. Although it’s hard to identify the exact cause of the failure without a complete tear-down, a rod broke in half, putting a hole in both sides of the engine block, abruptly ending the race for the #3111 Team Hummer H3 after four consecutive wins.

The silt was overwhelming in the early part of the race, rising half way up the bodies of the trucks in some areas. The 4WD capabilities of the Hummers certainly helped us get through the silt beds where stopping was simply not an option for any race vehicle or chase truck. The #4101 H2 was the first Team Hummer truck to pull into pit #3 in Rachel for fuel and an inspection. The H2 had a 25 minute lead in class and was averaging close to 50 M.P.H., a phenomenal pace for a stock production truck.

Fuel was all they needed as the rest of the truck appeared to be in perfect running order and they were out in under two minutes. Fifteen minutes later the #8102 H1 pickup stopped for fuel, concerned about an overheating problem in the new truck. The radiator was packed with silt, restricting airflow through the cooling fins.

After dumping five gallons of water on the radiator and blowing the excess silt out with an air hose, the overheating problem seemed to be under control. They left the pit 20 minutes behind Josh in the #4101 H2 SUV, fourth in class, about 25 minutes off the Class 8100 pace.

With a substantial lead over the second place truck in Class 4100, Josh set his sights on the Class 8100 leaders. In the 145 mile stretch between Rachel and the Checker Pit in Tonopah, the H2 averaged 58 miles per hour, increasing their hold on first in class and putting the H2 in front of the Class 8100 leader by 15 minutes. As always, the H2 had been flawlessly prepped by co-rider and chief H2 mechanic, Sam Cothrun and there was no question that Josh knew exactly how much he could ask the big Hummer to do.

They took on fuel in Tonopah and grabbed a snack while Pit Captain Ed Jahn and H2 chase leader, Doug Moore gave the truck a thorough inspection and changed an air filter. Four minutes later they were back on course for the next leg of the race to Luning, over 142 miles of bad road.

Although the cooling problem seemed to be resolved after leaving Rachel, Chad Hall continued to struggle with problems in the new #8102 H1 Alpha pickup. At some point, a motor mount broke or shifted allowing the motor to settle on the passenger side. This allowed the power steering hoses to rub together resulting in the failure of one of the hoses. Chad nursed the truck to the BFG pit at Warm Springs (RM 238) where the crew cannibalized an H1 Alpha chase truck to replace the damaged hose. While the new power steering hose got the H1 back in the race, Chad began to have problems with his new front shocks, installed only weeks before the race. At the Checker Pit in Tonopah (RM 301), the truck took on fuel while H1 crew chief John Cumming cleaned out the radiator and increased the gas pressure in the shocks.

Back on the course, the performance of the #8102 H1’s front shocks continued to deteriorate and the beating the truck was taking from the failing shocks eventually broke the upper radiator mounts at racemile 315. This was in a spot where the racecourse closely parallels highway 95, and Chad, feeling that he was fighting an uphill battle which could only result in further damage to the truck, decided to put it on the trailer and call it a day. Afterwards closer examination revealed that there was no oil in one of the front shocks and they both had gotten so hot that the seals had melted. Also, when the engine mount failed, rocks had become wedged in the area between the lower skid plate and the oil pan and the constant grinding movement of the rocks had worn a hole in the oil pan. It was clear that the engine would have blown up from lack of oil within just a few miles!

About the same time that the H1 was being retired from the event, Josh Hall was pulling into Luning in the #4101 H2 SUV for the final fuel stop on his record run to the finish line, now just 140 miles away.

After a brief two minute stop, the H2 disappeared into the night, still running like a new truck. At the BFG Rawhide pit, 30 miles further on, Hall passed through at 8:44 PM, 82 minutes in front of second place, John Sunderland, in the #4105 Ford Expedition and 47 minutes ahead of Class 8100 leader, Randy Merritt, in the #8103 Ford F-250 pickup.

Anyone who has been receiving our race reports for awhile may remember the 2004 Parker 425 edition, when the H2 exploded both differentials early in the race while running the truck in ‘Hi Lock’ position. This setting locks the front and rear ouput shafts together so the wheels rotate at exactly the same speed, allowing greater control of the vehicle, under all conditions.

In a nutshell, the H2 smacked the front wheels into the lip of a berm and with the driveline ‘locked’, the energy of the impact was absorbed throughout the entire drive train, seeking out and breaking the weakest link in each component. Since that race the H2 has run every event in ‘Hi-Open’ position which unlocks the axles and distributes torque 60% to the rear and 40% to the front. Theoretically, this allows the energy from an impact to be absorbed at the source, rather then being transmitted along the entire driveline, localizing the damage. The downside to this approach has been to sacrifice the superior handling characteristics of the Hi-Lock position!

The Team Hummer H2 seemed to work well in Hi-Open position as Josh Hall and the H2 went on to win 10 of the next 13 races including every race entered last year. After the 2004 Parker 425, GM engineers studied the damage sustained by the H2 and integrated several design changes to the production H2’s which strengthened the driveline components. We applied these changes to the #4101 H2 SUV and ran the entire ‘Vegas to Reno’ race in ‘Hi-Lock’ mode for the first time since 2004. The result of the superior handling characteristics was demonstrated in the way the H2 dominated all of the production class vehicles throughout the race.

At the finish line, the #4101 Team Hummer H2 won Class 4100 by almost two hours over the second place entry in class, dominated the Class 8100 production pickup entries by finishing 52 minutes in front of the Class 8100 winner and was only 15 minutes behind the winning 650+ horsepower Class 8000 modified pickup entry and closing the gap.

In some ways the Best in the Desert Racing Association’s ‘Vegas to Reno’ race was a bittersweet day for Team Hummer but we will learn from the problems that sidelined the H1 and H3. Just as we did from the running gear failure of the H2 in 2004, we will continue to apply that knowledge and demonstrate the superiority of the Hummer brand under the most demanding conditions. The next race for Team Hummer is Best in the Desert Racing Association’s ‘Las Vegas 300’, October 13-15, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

2006/09/13 | 15:33 CET | Editor: MR/George R. Thompson

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