After a 10 year absence, Mark Turner returned to desert racing at last weekend's Parker 250 in the Turner Racing SR-1 Rhino! With a full field of bikes, quads, and UTVs, there wasn't much time to dust off the desert racing cobwebs, but fortunately Turner didn't need any extra time before he began reeling in the rest of the pack.
As usual, the days leading up to the race were full of challenges. The initial plan was to enter Turner's 700cc 4WD Rhino, but motor issues continued to plague the car. Rather than just give up, however, Turner decided to turn the short-course SR-1 powered Rhino into a desert racer! The Turner Racing crew scrambled to get the car prepped, while sponsor FST stepped into the fray and fabricated a needed spare tire carrier for the extra Walker Evans Racing wheels and Maxxis Ceros tires, as well as mounts for the required safety lighting. Other items that had to be added included a passenger seat and harnesses for the co-driver, a GPS, a horn, an intercom system, and a host of spare parts that needed to be mounted on the vehicle in case they might be needed in some remote corner of the desert. Of course, all of these items and a passenger added a significant amount of weight to the vehicle, which required a host of changes to the suspension as well. Indeed, while short-course racing and desert racing might have dirt in common, that's about all when it comes to racing strategy and equipment!
Fortunately the crew did their homework and the SR-1 Rhino passed Best In the Desert's tech inspection with flying colors. The BITD Parker 250 consists of an 80-mile loop; the UTVs and certain other classes run two laps, while others run three. In addition to the loop, this year's course included the notorious Parker Python, a two-mile groomed track full of dips, jumps, and moguls; basically a short course track within a desert race! The drawing order put Turner practically at the end of the long line of 127 entries, which meant Turner and co-driver Don McMillan were going to be facing a lot of dust and traffic. Still, the team had high hopes for a strong finish.
The first 28 miles of the course before the remote pit were perhaps the most nerve-wracking, as the crew knew that any weaknesses would reveal themselves sooner rather than later. Turner was able to make a few passes and breezed into the pits for the crew to check things over. Turner reported that the rear suspension seemed pretty soft, so the crew make a quick adjustment to stiffen the rear shocks and added a splash of fuel. Gas mileage was another unknown, and with just a 10 gallon tank, the crew was nervous about being able to make the full loop on one tank of fuel. Fortunately the SR-1 engine proved to get much better mileage than anticipated and fuel range turned out to not be an issue. The car was checked over and proved to be in great shape, so Turner roared out of the remote pit to tackle the remaining 50 miles of the loop. Unfortunately, the rocky terrain took its toll on the tires, and Turner ended up using both spares on board after experiencing flats on different sections of the course. By the time Turner reached the Parker Python at the end of the first lap, he had climbed his way from the back of the pack to sixth place! Unfortunately, he was also out of spares and running on two flat tires when he got to the pits. The Python also claimed a right rear shock, forcing a lengthy stop where the crew frantically repaired the damaged shock, changed the two flats, and reloaded the tire rack with fresh spares. Determined to finish the race, Turner decided to take it easy on the second lap and hopefully nurse the repaired but still damaged rear shock to the finish line. Unfortunately, 7 miles into the second lap, the damaged shock gave up again and a second attempt to repair it proved ineffective as well. The break forced Turner out of the race for good, but the strong showing at their first desert race kept the team's spirits high and gave them the confidence needed to be contenders in long-distance racing.
The next stop on the Turner Racing schedule is the Soboba Grand Prix and Long Jump contest, where Turner will compete with 50+ other entries for his share of a $20,000 purse! To up the ante Daystar is even kicking in an extra $1,000 to the pot for the winner of the long jump competition! Stay tuned!
Turner Racing would like to thank the following sponsors for their support:
Daystar Products ¬… FST ¬… Walker Evans Racing ¬… Maxxis
Check out a video of the race here, plus more photos here.