It’s called the largest, roughest off-road race in North America…to us it was also our FIRST off-road race as drivers. Pattie Hughes Mayer, Pilar Lastra, and I teamed up to follow a dream – to race off-road. We gathered up our resources, called our friends in racing (Sparco and West Coast Chill) and made it happen. As for ‘what’ we would race in, there was just one choice – Zero One Odysseys arrive and race program, it was perfect. I love these cars and have driven them before, as has Pilar, but Pattie hadn’t! What a trooper, she jumped in gave it hell in the barely lit landscape.
Pre-race was fun with a vehicle parade down the strip, plenty of kick-off parties, and tech and contingency on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. I admit our unique female status got us some extra press, and we might have had too much fun with smack-talking the boys. They took in good stride – everyone knowing that the words mean nothing on race day. We had to do more than show-up.
We did. Race day starts early – staging at 5am. The crack of dawn means little light and dust that hangs in the air. It was early but we were up and ready, and Pattie and the rest of the class was off the line, two at a time, every thirty seconds.
This is a spec class…that means it was all about driver talent and we had our hands full competing against some seriously experienced racers. Patrick Dempsey and Andy Lally in 5501 – Patrick has raced these cars in the Baja 1000 and Andy, is a professional racer, with too much resume to list here. 5502 was Mike Dillard and Adrian James. Mike has raced these cars in the 1000 as well, Adrian has seat time from doing a Nevada adventure tour. We were in 5503. 5504 consisted of some fun Texans – Brian Hoffman, a former motorcycle racer and Jeff Saldiver. Dillard took a tumble at RM 67 which left the car on its roof and out of the chase. Patrick and Andy took the lead and kept it.
The race was on for second and third. Pattie and Pilar drove like hell and delivered a car in great shape to me for the final lap. We were 18 minutes behind 5504 in P3, I had some work to do. I focused and listened to my superstar navigator and coach, Kellon Walch. Just before Pit B I caught up… I got the pass done and proceeded to make sure I held it for the last 20 miles, putting another truck in between to be safe. And that’s the way we finished…not bad for our first race. Stats came in and it turned out that I had the fastest lap in the class – beating Andy and Patrick! Did I mention that I work with Dempsey Del Piero Racing? So technically, I was racing my boss and his ALMS team mate.
There are lots of women in racing and off-road racing that deserve props for all they do. It takes a lot of work to get into a race and probably a bit more for women. Just crossing the finish line felt like a win for all of us.
The GIRLS proved we could do it and not just finish, but compete. It was a dream – now a reality. Time to do it again…
More photos on my Facebook page.
5500 Zero One Odysseys Class Finishing Stats:
Patrick Dempsey & Andy Lally 7:21:13
Melissa Eickhoff, Pilar Lastra, Pattie Hughes Mayer 7:33:46
Bryan Hoffman & Jeff Saldiver 7:34:49
Top 3 Lap Times (a girl’s allowed to brag a little) :
Melissa Eickhoff 2:16:22
Andy Lally 2:23:09
Patrick Dempsey 2:27:30