Congratulations to OPTIMA-sponsored Mongo Racing!
On Saturday November 20, 2010 Randy Merritt and the team of Mongo Racing from Parker, Arizona finished the longest off-road race of the year in North America, the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. The 1061-mile course had its highs and lows for the drivers and crew members of Mongo Racing, creating memories and stories for a lifetime.
Many off-road racers test and prepare for a year to get ready for the SCORE Baja 1000, yet Randy Merritt and the crew at Mongo Racing began building their new 2011 Ford F-150 in May of this year. Randy and the crew at Mongo Racing knew what kind of task was ahead of them and accepted the challenge.
Randy's first drive in the truck wasn't until October 12th and the truck was still far from race-ready. The crew at Mongo Racing still had many safety items to install, which are required for racing and the engine from Ford had not been delivered. Randy and the crew continued to work on the truck and by November 4th, the new Ford F-150 was powered by the Ford Eco Boost 3.5L V-6 direct injection twin turbo engine sent from the assembly line for the 2010 SCORE International Baja 1000. Randy said, “this engine is not a purpose-built race engine. I have the assembly line tag on the wall in the shop to prove its just like every other one that goes into a Ford truck.” The 2011 Ford F-150 was built in accordance with the SCORE International rule book for the Stock, Full Size Stock Production class, but because of the Ford Eco Boost 3.5L V-6 direct injection twin turbo engine, the truck would race in the Stock Engine Truck Class.
Randy Merritt and Tracy Rubio of Kingman, Arizona were scheduled to pilot the new Ford F-150 from Ensenada, Mexico to La Paz, Mexico. The 1061 miles would be split as evenly as possible to minimize driver fatigue. Larry Trim, owner of Trail Ready Bead Lock Wheels, joined Randy in the truck as co-rider and Kenny De Vault joined Tracy as co-rider.
On Wednesday November 17th, the Mongo Racing crew took the truck through the packed streets of Ensenada for contingency and technical inspection. The new Silver Eco Boost Ford F-150 truck was now ready to race. The goal now was to finish the SCORE International Tecate Baja 1000.
November 18th again saw action in the streets of Ensenada, as thousands of fans lined up to watch the start of the 43rd annual running of the SCORE International Tecate Baja 1000. At 12:47pm Tracy Rubio and Kenny De Vault took the green flag and navigated the fan-lined streets of Ensenada, as they headed east for San Felipe, before turning south for La Paz. Tracy started behind the Stock Full class and passed all entrants within the first five miles. Tracy only stopped for fuel for the first 311 miles. At race mile 311 Tracy was stopped by a deep water crossing that looked like a swamp. Tracy had to be pulled out, but shortly after getting out of the swamp a hole in the engine radiator was noticed. Before Tracy could continue the race they had to repair the radiator which took approximately two and half hours, because Tracy and Kenny had to remove the radiator from truck to make the repair. Tracy returned to the race hours down to the leader.
At race mile 330 Randy Merritt got behind the wheel of the silver Eco Boost Ford F-150, taking over the driving duties at approximately 1:30 am. The night air was still and held the dust from the other racers like a heavy fog causing slow-going until sunrise. At about 9:00 am on November 19th, the crew was notified that Randy was stuck at Race mile 607 with a broken driver side spindle and needed parts to continue. The Mongo Racing Crew jumped into action and gathered the parts needed, but it would take another 4 hours to reach Randy and get him going again. The damage was likely caused by the large rocks that were covered by the deep silt in this section of course, which could neither be seen or avoided and lasted for several miles.
At race mile 782 Tracy Rubio returned to the driver’s seat for his second leg of the race. Tracy was able to drive through the night, only hampered by the heavy fog. At race mile 951 Randy Merritt returned to the driver’s seat for his second leg of the race. Randy would be challenged by the desert of Mexico and by those who wanted to see more action on his way to the finish line. Shortly after getting in the Eco Boost Ford F-150, Randy struck a man-made obstacle in the darkness of night, resulting in the new Ford F-150 wrecking and landing on the passenger side. Randy said, “It cost me all the money I had on me to pay the locals get the truck unstuck and back on its wheels and going again. While there Randy radioed, “These people are using a backhoe to dig holes and back fill, making the course impassible without assistance from the local people.” After getting the truck rolled back onto it's wheels and unstuck, Randy continued to about mile 970, where another man-made obstacle caused Randy to get stuck again. This time, it cost Randy his only Driver’s Jacket.
“It was dark and I couldn’t see through the dust to avoid it," said Merritt. "All I could do was try and alert my team that the truck was stuck again and that we were ok. We were stuck for a long time, but thanks to the locals who got me stuck, they pulled me out after giving up my only jacket.”
Not only did these man-made holes cause the truck to get stuck and lose several hours of time, but they caused serious damage to the power steering pump. Randy and Larry had to change the power steering pump near race mile marker 982. Three miles later, the Mongo Racing Crew met Randy and changed out a damaged passenger side upper control arm and shock. From there, Randy continued to the finish line.
Randy Merritt and the team at Mongo Racing finished the 1061 miles of the 43rd Annual SCORE International Baja 1000 in 44 hours and 37 minutes. At the finish line an exhausted Randy said, “we finished this race on the same General Grabber Tires we started on and could have done this race on 2 fuel stops. These Ford Eco Boost 3.5L V-6 direct injection twin turbo engines make great horse power and have great fuel economy. I am very impressed with how tough this truck is and the way my team stayed in the game for almost two straight days of racing.” Randy added, “We can now say we are Baja 1000 finishers!”
Randy said at the finish line, “I want to thank everyone who helped us finish this race and if not for a lot of hard work from everyone here we wouldn’t have made it. I really appreciate all the extra time and effort of those who could make it to the race and the few who could not make the race but helped back at the shop.”
The Mongo Racing Ford F-150 is sponsored by OPTIMA Batteries, Ford, General Grabber Tires, Trail Ready Bead Lock Wheels, EBC Brakes, KC Hilites, Master Craft Safety Innovations, Royal Purple, Camburg Engineering Products, ALLcoat, Lowrance, and Tenneco.
For more information on Mongo Racing or the New Ford F-150 visit www.mongoracing.com.