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AutoMatters & More: Competitors & even strangers help out at WGAS Motorsports Tuff Truck racing

Launching high in the air
Jan Wagner

These days are bittersweet at the 2018 San Diego County Fair. On the one hand it is nearly the end of June, which means that the Fourth of July – the final day of the Fair – is fast approaching. On the other hand, motorsports traditionally help to wrap up the festivities. That’s always lots of fun.

This past weekend the fans in the Del Mar Arena’s grandstands were treated to off-road, Open Tuff Truck racing on a dirt track filled with jumps. While many of the spectators may never have been out to the desert to witness the spectacle of trucks leaping and bounding over multiple jumps of varying heights, they may be more familiar with Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks racing at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where metal ramps substitute for dirt jumps. Here, however, in the tight confines of the Del Mar Arena, the trucks raced around the course one-at-a-time, against the clock.

Pitching in
Pitching in to help get the truck ready for its next race Jan Wagner

Unlike the fancy motorhomes and uniformed mechanics in immaculate, fully-equipped pits like you would see at the upper levels of professional motorsports, here it was more of a run-what-you-brung kind of deal, where friends and family got together to have some fun in a friendly competition.

One person with the #16 Bruno Fabrication truck told me: “If someone breaks down, we’re over there helping them. If we break down, they’re over here helping us. Everybody is just like a big family out here.” Everyone somehow manages to make do with whatever they have, all for the love of their sport.

Based in Southern California, Jason McNeil is a popular, national caliber desert racer from the famous off-road racing McNeil family. Jason’s business – – fabricates fiberglass off-road vehicle body parts.

Slow motion
Andrea executes a slow-motion pirouette Jan Wagner

In the first race session, Jason was running strong in his orange truck. He had just taken a succession of jumps when he reached a sharp left-hand turn. Here the dirt of the track had been worn down to the slippery concrete underneath. His truck lost traction and slid into the barrier, which caused a crooked approach to the next jump. He came off that jump sideways, which broke the seal of the right rear tire to the rim.

Two spectators had seen his tire suddenly deflate, so they decided to volunteer to use their special skills to help put Jason’s truck back on the track for the final race session.

Apparently, their work included servicing heavy equipment tires for the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Quickly they left to get their well-equipped service truck and drive it next to Jason’s wounded orange race truck in the pits.

Tuff Truck
Getting a great look underneath a Tuff Truck Jan Wagner
Andrea swag
Andrea collects her swag after rolling her Toyota truck Jan Wagner

With a gathering crowd watching, they proceeded to use their expertise and specialized industrial equipment to successfully remount the huge tire on the rim. The orange truck was good to go…

Andrea races a seemingly indestructible, “pretty much stock,” 1993 Toyota pickup truck that her husband built. I asked her in the pits after the day’s final racing session to tell me about what had caused her truck to do a slow-motion pirouette up onto on its nose, before twisting and landing on its side: “I didn’t think it was going to happen. It was a pretty sharp little bump they got going there. I saw the other guys going over and it looked like I could maybe catch a little bit of air, and then kinda land okay – land a little flat. Ya, so I went for it and I gave it some gas and – uh – went over on the front – and luckily landed on my side and not on the lid, which is nice. The truck’s in pretty good condition. It’s still drivable. Actually, when they flipped me over I asked them if I could do a U-turn and continue my run, but they told me that I had a flat so I had to come in and get a new tire, but we came out for the second round so it came out OK.”

A little while later, at the group’s informal awards presentation and before their group photos, and in the spirit of good-natured fun, Andrea was presented with a bunch of promotional swag.

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Copyright © 2018 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #547r1