Wayne & Kristen Matlock 2016 Baja 500 Race Recap

Wayne & Kristen Matlock 2016 Baja 500 Race Recap

"Black Rhino Performance Sponsored Athlete Wayne Matlock Takes 1st Overall & Kristen Matlock Takes 3rd Overall in the Baja 500"

El Cajon, CA, June 13, 2016- Black Rhino sponsored athlete Wayne Matlock finished 1st Overall in the Pro Turbo UTV class and Kristen Matlock 3rd in Pro UTV at the 2016 Baja 500 in Ensenada, Mexico. The following is their Race Recap written by Wayne Matlock.

It’s been three weeks since Kristen and I competed in one of the toughest races I have ever entered. I knew going into this race that it would be a tough one for me. This would be the first Baja race that I would do where I did not have my team manager behind the scenes making sure that I was dialed in on all fronts. Instead, I would find my wife/team manager on the starting line not only as my teammate, but as my competitor. I knew she would be fierce competition at that. I also knew that the heat would play a major role in this race and the outcome of it, if not taken seriously. Luckily for me, Kristen could not have handled her role as team manager and top competitor any better. She had us both dialed in on all fronts.

My race day started much like it has for the last 18 years of my life. I was headed to the starting line with my wife following me only this time she would be following me there behind the wheel of her own race car. If you can’t tell that I’m proud of her by now, then you’re not following along. My co-driver, Sam Hayes, and I pulled up to staging with Kristen and her co-driver, Derek McGaughy, in tow. We got out of our cars and talked to the other drivers while we waited to start. I always try and make a point to shake all of my competitors’ hands and wish them good luck; in Baja we can all use some luck. Kristen started looking over her car and noticed an oil leak and asked Derek to take a look. He confirmed that the oil cooler had a small crack in it and was letting oil run down the front of the motor. Kristen and I asked everyone we could find if they had a spare oil cooler available in a chase truck, but everyone had the same answer, ‘yes, but it is in our truck at our first pit in Ojos Negros.’; the exact same place our spare oil cooler happened to be. That’s when I went to find Richie and Nate from Alba for some much needed help. I quickly found them and they both rushed to Kristen’s car to help her out. The really awesome part about this is that Richie was driving the car that started right behind Kristen and we also had Mike Cafro, another competitor, there helping us too. The bond you make with people when you race in Baja is something that goes beyond competition and it is one of the best parts of racing. Richie, Derek, Mike and I decided to JB weld the crack and see if it would hold; Derek and Richie both jumped on it and had it done quickly.

During this time the race was delayed because of an accident that had occurred near the start. Having been around racing and Baja my whole life, I have seen and been through my own tragedies, having moments that made me fall to my knees and ask why? Rumors started flying around the staging area and they weren’t good. Then we were informed that a little boy was killed when a truck got out of control in a turn that transitioned from pavement to dirt. This news was so hard to take in because I instantly thought about our own little boys and how devastating it would be. Kristen and I both new about it, but we did not say much as I think it hit way to close to home for us. I could tell that she did not want to think about it and she also sensed the same about me. Had we allowed ourselves to think too much about the situation, we would not have had our heads in the race and that could be dangerous for us and our co-drivers. We all did our best to move on towards the green flag that would drop whether we were ready or not.

Sammy and I pulled up to the starting line with a first place draw. As I pull up to the line, the same thing always happens, but only in a Baja race for some reason. My mind starts racing, it feels like there is a fight going on inside of my head. Half of it is calm and silent waiting patiently and the other half has a monster that is in rage and wants so badly to just scream at the top of his lungs. As I stop on the line, they are both at peace as if they too are staring at the green flag waiting for the slightest of movement. During that 30 second period of time, there is a calm that feels like it may last an eternity. Then with a twitch of the hand, the monster screams and jumps off the cliff while leaving the silenced side wondering if he should scream too and give chase. It usually takes a couple of miles before all is at peace so I may get settled in.

I felt like I was setting a good pace making my way passed the “faster cars” that had started in front of us. At around mile 27, our race came to a sudden stop. The course was plugged up with cars and trucks. I sat there wondering what to do. The Jagged X car came up, the co-driver jumped out and immediately started looking for a way around the bottle neck. I sat there for a little then Chad, Jagged X’s co-driver, started waving at Keith, his driver. Keith pulled up next to my car and said, “You were here first if you want to go around follow my co-driver and I will follow you!” I did not really want to break the trail through the bushes and tear a CV boot, so I told him I would follow him. As he drove by, I followed and we passed our way up to the front of the pack. It was short lived though, he got stuck and as I was waiting we had about 10 UTVs pass us on the outside. Other racers started losing their minds. The other UTVs realized that they could not make it up to the front in order to get up the hill, so they started cutting back in line. Now there were UTVs mixed in with larger cars and trucks. Then hands started coming out of the window nets with middle fingers extended. Sammy and I sat back and watched the madness go down. We watched Cory Sappington try and push his way passed a class 10 car and fail miserably, having to remove his rear wheel to get untangled. We also had a front row seat to Cognito getting nailed from behind by a class 8 truck that let it be known that he did not appreciate getting cut in front of.

As this whole thing was going down, I was on the radio with Kristen and Derek telling them to just be patient and do not get taken out by a pissed off driver of a larger car. Sammy and I were sitting there waiting and all of the sudden my power steering shut off. I was running both of our fans and the car at idle does not make enough power to run everything. So now we were sitting there revving the motor trying to get the juice to charge the battery in order to run all the stuff we needed to run. After nearly a 2 hour wait, we finally had our chance to take on the steep silt hill that had caused the bottle neck. We just had to wait for Cory to get his Can-Am towed up it and then we could go. Once he was clear we shot up with no problem. Kristen radioed us once she saw that we had made it to the top, while she sat there waiting for her turn at it, to tell us that it’s a long race and just have fun. I told her the same and to be safe.

As we came down the hill towards Ojos Negros, I could feel that the clutch was having an issue at about the same time we came around the corner to find a wild fire. We blew through the flames like a scene from a movie. It was so close that the flames were reaching inside our car as we raced through them. As we came into our first pit in Ojos. I had radioed Greg to let him know we needed to change our clutch out. We pulled in and he went to work. The rest of the crew looked the car over and gave us some water. We pulled out of there and they told us we were 45 minutes behind Cognito who was leading our class.

Sammy and I would press on, still sticking with our plan of taking it easy and letting the race come to us. Shortly after we left the pit I could hear Kristen on the radio saying she was coming into the pit and they needed to swap out the oil cooler because theirs was still leaking. Sammy and I started picking cars off pretty quickly and making time up on the leaders. We passed by our next pit at Mile 95 and Alvin Dimalanta told us that we had moved back up to 6th UTV on the road. Now we were headed up the Summit and I started not feeling well at all. I was driving with my shield up trying to get some fresh air and not throw up in my helmet. We pushed on, but then it got bad enough that I thought I would have to pull over and “see a man about a pony”, it was not good at all. Then luckily as fast as it hit, it went away just as quickly and I was back to racing.

As you approach the top of the Summit there are pine trees, jagged rock cliffs, and a ranch that looks like time passed it by over a hundred years ago. Every time I see it, I expect to see an outlaw inside waiting to make his escape. We were now on the downhill side of the Summit and I could see dust off in the distance and even more out in the desert. Seeing dust to me is like pouring fuel on a fire, we started picking up the pace a little, but still sticking with the plan.

Once I dropped down to the desert floor, I was really starting to get in the grove. I love the desert and feel very comfortable reading the terrain at high speed. The first car we caught was Jagged X, they gave way quickly knowing they were caught (the Jagged X guys are class acts for sure). A short while later we passed Alonso Lopez in the #1949 car. Then less than a mile later, we shot past Marc Burnett in the #2905 as he was pulled over with problems. As we passed by the side lined Burnett, I could see another UTV up ahead. We got closer and closer then I could see who it was. A smile came across my face as I told Sammy, “Here’s Johnny!” I tried sneaking up on him to make it easier, but he saw us in his mirror and moved over on my line dusting us out. We switched lines and gave chase. Neither of us wanted to push too hard for fear of braking the car or a belt. I was smiling as I was able to get next to him and pull away. I realized my line choice was poor as he drove back by me though. I was able to come up next to him again and as I looked over, I knew the race was on. We were both full throttle racing towards a whooped out path that had trees on both sides. Knowing that whoever got there first would have a huge advantage, dusting the other one out. I laid into it and was able to edge him out. His car faded into the dust in my rearview mirror. I kept watching that mirror knowing that he would not lie down but he never showed up. Now the only guy in front of us was the# 2918 of Cognito Racing.

Unknowingly to me, Kristen was starting to have problems with her car. She was making up tons of time on the leaders and had a wire break off in the harness. It was causing her car to lose power and cut out completely. She kept pushing as hard as her car would allow, trying to get to the next pit at mile 162.

Sammy and I had cleared our pit at mile 162 on the dry lake bed. It was around 120 degrees when we came through there. We took a splash of fuel and poured water down our fire suits that felt like they were on fire. Luckily our pit gave us extra bottles of water just in case we needed it. We took off and soon found our car in limp mode with the temperature gauge reading 235 degrees. I was trying to keep moving to get some kind of airflow through the radiator. It was not working well at all. The sand was soft and the car was bogging down. That’s when I remembered that we had those water bottles in the car. I had Sammy take the lids off and spray them into the radiator that was right behind us. It worked. The temps came back down and we were back at race speed or at least as fast as we wanted to push given the conditions.

As we were coming into the Borrego pit at race mile 202, I called Greg on the radio and told him we were having clutch problems again and told him that it needed to be changed out. We came ripping into the pit knowing that we had made up a ton of time on Cognito and they were now only one minute and thirty seconds in front of us. Sammy and I waited patiently while Greg worked on the clutches. Well that’s a lie…Sammy waited patiently, unfortunately patience is not one of my virtues. I was starting to lose my mind, knowing that Cognito was getting away again. To make matters worse, it seems that the hose came off my catheter and I just pissed my pants. The funny part is there is something about being 37 years old and pissing your pants, that takes the fire right out of you…it’s rather calming. I realized I had no choice but to sit there in my pissy pants and wait for the team to fix the car. Once the car was ready Sammy and I tore off out of there like we had ants in our pants instead of piss.

We headed down towards San Felipe, 16 minutes behind the leader, and I was confident that I could catch him. San Felipe is one of my favorite sections in Baja. It is rough, nasty, unforgiving, and relentless. We started pushing a little harder and as we came through San Felipe we could see the blue flashing light of Cognito. We knew we were gaining on them. We came through a new section of the course that had changed the night before as a class 10 car pulled out of the pits just in front of us. We beat him to a 90 degree turn and then the course turned to a straight fast road that would go on for five miles. I decided to pull over and let the “fast car” go because he was on his siren and horn and I did not want to hold him up or get a “love tap” on this high speed road. This would prove to be a horrible decision as this guy drove his car just fast enough to make it miserable for us. We were catching him going down a flat road and we were only doing 65 to 70 MPH trying to save the belt. This guy should have been doing 90 to 100 MPH, but instead he was now holding us up and would not move over. We followed him for 100 miles like this as we tried our best to catch the leader. To make matters worse, we only could use one 10’’ LED light bar because our car did not make enough power to run both fans, the radio, and our fresh air pumper.

Back on the other front, Kristen and Derek would make it to the Borrego pit at race mile 202 where their mechanic, Erik Ridens, and the rest of the team would try and track down the wiring problem and get them rolling again. He worked on it until it started to run better and then they took off into the night. The bad part is that not long after they left the pit it started acting up again. It would go away only to come back later on. She was determined to win this race and was not about to give in to this problem. They pushed hard through the bottom loop of San Felipe, moving as far up as second place in the Pro UTV class only to have the car completely die forcing Derek to get out and try and fix it in the dark. He managed to get it running again and they were off and running heading for race mile 320. At this point, Kristen was more than frustrated because the car still did not want to run and would only do so at high RPM. That being said, she was now heading through the whoops while pushing hard to keep the RPMs up so the car wouldn’t die. As her luck would go, she snapped an axle in the process and Derek would have to get out of the car yet again to make the repair.

Sammy and I were now passed mile 320 and heading up the whoops towards San Matias Pass. We pushed hard and as we popped out onto the highway, Cognito was only about ten seconds in front of us. Thankfully that turtle of a class 10 car was nowhere to be seen. We turned off the highway right on Cognito’s tail and I tried to stay with him, but the dust was too thick. The dust would die down a little allowing us to charge up on him, but then it would turn again forcing us to back off. As we came back up to the highway I saw him pull into his pit. I radioed my pit and told them I had to beat him out of the pit and back on the highway. As I came down the highway I noticed my pit out of the corner of my eye and threw the car sideways off the road and doubled back to my pit. Greg ran up with the dump can. I had told him to just put two cans in the car, not the three that we had planned on, because I had to get out ahead of Cognito. As he was finishing the second can I reminded him “Only two cans!” I looked back over my shoulder and watched him pick up the third can and as he shoved it in the car, I freaked out. I could now see Cognito coming down the highway and I was stuck in the pit. Luckily, one of my other pit crew members, Ken Gilden, had reached up and pulled Greg and the gas can back. I hit the throttle, jumping onto the highway only feet in front of Cognito. Sammy and I now had the lead and we were about to head up The Goat Trail into the night. Now it was race time! I knew that neither Justin Lambert nor I cared at all about just finishing…only winning…and I had to beat him by over four minutes in order to get the win.

Back down on the course, Kristen and Derek were still struggling with their car. It started running good again and they had chased down second place only to have it completely die before they could make the pass. Derek got it running enough to limp it into the pits at Valley de Trinidad. Once there, they were finally able to find the bad wire and hoped to get her car fixed once and for all. The only problem was that the chase truck did not have the replacement part needed and they had to spend over an hour just in that pit alone trying to make necessary repairs. Her and her whole crew kept pressing forward never giving up hope.

Now with the race miles were counting down quickly, Sammy and I had the hammer down trying to put space between us and Cognito. I took chances that I did not want to take in order to get around another class 10 car. He put up one hell of a fight and he did not want to let a UTV pass him. But in the end, he did not have a choice and we got by him. Once we passed our last pit they reported that we had over 10 minutes on Cognito, so we backed it down a little in order to preserve the car. On the way into the finish line I kept thinking about how awesome it was to be winning the race and then I was wondering where Kristen was and how she was doing. Sammy and I came ripping across the finish line and we waited to breathe until my Mom told us that 4 minutes and 1 second had passed. At that moment it finally set in that we had just won the Baja 500 for the second year in a row!

Back out on the course, Kristen was out there finally driving her car like she knew she could now that it seemed to be running well. She and Derek were clicking miles off while trying to close the gap. Like I said in the beginning of this story, everyone in Baja could use some luck. Unfortunately, luck was not on Kristen’s side. As she came through the hills of Ensenada her car began to once again cough and sputter as she prayed that the car would make it to the finish line, she knew she would have to settle for a third place finish. She pushed as hard as she could and I am super proud of her and her accomplishments! She not only made history by becoming the first woman to solo the Baja 500 in a UTV, but in her first attempt she not only finished…she took third place in the Pro UTV class in the process. I am also very grateful to Derek for trusting in her ability and sitting beside her the entire 500 miles. I’d like to thank him for getting her through this race safely; I am proud to have him as one of my best friends.

Both of our chase crews did an amazing job! My mechanic, Greg Forsberg, did a flawless job prepping my car again and Erik Ridens with the crew at Black Rhino did an awesome job prepping Kristen’s car too. The wire had nothing to do with his prep job. It is just something that happened. Our pit crews are awesome and worked like a well-oiled machine; thanks so much for helping us live out our dreams and volunteering your time to make it happen.

I would like to thank Terry Hui for supporting us and giving us the chance to prove what we can do given the opportunity. We would also like to send a huge thank you out to everyone involved at Polaris! Thank you for taking a chance on us, for believing in us, and for giving us a chance to prove it. To all of our other sponsors…thank you all so much…we could not do it without ALL of you!

Wayne & Kristen Matlock are sponsored by: Polaris RZR, Terabbit Racing, Matlock Racing, Maxxis Tires, G-Fors Racing, Alba Racing, Fox Shox, Black Rhino Performance, DWT, Lonestar Racing,Coyne Powersports, NecksGen, Baja Designs, Simpson Race Products, Rugged Radios, Airdam Clutches, Factory UTV, Fly Racing, Maxima Oils, UNI Filter, CryoHeat, Motion Pro, IMS, Monster Seal, S & B Particle Separator, and CopyBoy Printing.

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