Scott LeSage is a FOX Off-Road manufacturing engineer based in San Diego responsible for all Ford Raptor and Toyota TRD Pro programs. He also races the Ultra4 national series in the 4900 UTV class in his modified 2014 Polaris RZR. Here’s his report from the 2020 Lasernut Area BFE Beatdown in Moab, Utah on September 19.
“After racing the 4WP Tear Down in Tennessee on July 25, my car was functionally in pretty good shape, but I still had a full prep to do and some fabrication projects to make the car even stronger. All new fluids, fresh front axles, suspension bearings and hardware, new transmission skid plate, more crossmember support, bumper mounts, and re-valved the front shocks, all in a few short weeks. I got to shake down the car the weekend before leaving for the race, which led to a few more tasks and re-valving the shocks again.
“We left southern California on Wednesday about midnight and drove through the night, but still didn’t get to Moab until the sun was going down Thursday. I was frustrated I didn’t get to see the course Thursday, because that would compress Friday and limit my ability to be comfortable and hit my marks on race day.”
“On Friday I finished a few things in the morning then went out on the first pre-run lap. I like to walk lines, and there were lots of them, so the first lap always takes the longest. We also lost time in the canyons blocked by broken cars and helping them to get the path clear. By the time we had completed the entire 5-mile lap and a few laps of the qualifying loop, it was time for the drivers meeting.
“I qualified third with a smooth but fast run; I didn’t jump down the ledge and that was the difference to first. While the other classes were qualifying, I went out on anther lap before the sun went down. Final preparations and little things were checked off late into the night, but the car was perfect and ready to go. UTVs were the second race of the day, so I got to “sleep in” and warm up the car plenty before staging.”
“Third off the line and settled into a conservative race pace that I planned to step up every lap. I had no issues at all, and “one shot” the difficult, longer, and required for one lap Joker line. I started the second lap in fifth physically and all was well, I executed my plan and put down my fastest lap. Third lap, I had gained some time on the leaders, but my confidence was shaken when the transmission did not shift into reverse on one of the most difficult ledges and something with the four-wheel drive felt strange at times.”
“I had to stack enough rocks to build a patio in the first serious rock section, but I eventually winched to the top.”
“Beginning the fourth lap, I tried to pass a broken car with a line I had practiced with no issue before qualifying. The car didn’t walk right up like I had practiced and stood up on the rear two tires. Reverse wouldn’t engage, and I struggled with the shifter and RPM while all I could think about was the weightless front end and how vertical I was. I chirped forward just a bit and heard a “POP”. Suddenly I could find reverse, tried a different line, and walked around the other car. I quickly realized the front end was not contributing, and I had some struggles on loose hill climbs.”
“I had to stack enough rocks to build a patio in the first serious rock section, but I eventually winched to the top. Then winched again in the canyons, but after that I knew I could get through the rest of the lap in two-wheel drive. Honestly, the pace in 2WD was faster than I would have wanted, but I couldn’t risk slowing down or stopping for fear of getting stuck and exceeding the allowable time. Every time I’m forced to push that hard, I learn the mechanical limit of the car. I bounced off a wall and bent an A-arm but was still able to catch and pass a couple cars, finishing seventh physically. After corrected time, it was officially eighth.”
“I was proud of the finish because it would have been easy to give up and retire the car, but I refused, and choose to stack rocks and run a winch to reach the finish line.
“We packed up and headed West just as the 4400 class race started. We stayed just outside the Grand Canyon that night and made it home at the end of the next day. Eighth place in Moab wasn’t the result I was expecting, but I’m still proud of a Top Ten finish with a broken transmission.”
Complete race results here.
LeSage received his B.S. Engineering from Oregon State University, where he was captain of its Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) team, a collegiate design competition where engineering students design, build and race off-road cars. Sixty to 100 teams compete in each competition. He started racing the Ultra4 series in 2018, finishing first at Ridgecrest.
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