Trail-Gear arrived on the lakebed almost a week before the big race to make their final tweaks and get the car fully dialed in. A 9th place finish at last year’s King of the Hammers proved that the 4-cylinder, Ecotec powered engine at the heart of the #17 Trail-Gear Godspeed buggy had what it took to be a contender at the toughest off road race in the world.
“I’ll drive fast enough to put that fire out.” Those were the words of Matt Messer, owner of Trail-Gear, regarding concerns of a potential fire if any race fuel were to spill onto the turbo during refueling in the pits. It was obvious that their only options were to win or break trying. Starting at the middle of the pack in 44th position meant having to reel in a large number of other racers to move into contention.
Trail-Gear took the jump off the line and raced into what would be a high speed, low visibility first lap. The winds were low at The Hammers and the dust was like a dense fog that just wouldn’t evaporate.
Gary Feravanti limped into the pits halfway through the race on with only 1/2 of a rim on one corner and 4WheelParts owner, Greg Adler, sat for ages waiting for tire changes and other adjustments. It was nerve wracking to think what shape the Godspeed buggy might be in.
Consistently passing cars in the desert and the rocks brought the buggy into the top 10 by the end of the first lap. Overheating was a concern and the panels came off at their only stop in the main pits, quickly eliminating the problem. A quick checkup and refueling and the car was back on course, close behind the leaders.
Two flat tires, one coming from a high speed collision with 8th place finisher Tracy Jordan in the home stretch, kept Team Trail-Gear from gaining any more spots. Rolling into the finish line with a battered front housing, a bent rim, and a five foot length of winch line tangled in the rear wheel was a victory in itself.
Trail-Gear bested their performance last year by two spots, capturing 7th place by less than seven minutes.
“Every year more and more cars are getting faster and faster,” remarked Matt Messer. This race will continue to evolve, but securing a top 20 finish guarantees a spot in the 2012 King of the Hammers and in order to compete, Trail-Gear, along with the other racers, will have to come back with something new up their sleeve.