Following a recent run of tough luck, Doug Fortin and his “Dream Team” bounced back to produce what was arguably their strongest showing of the season thus far in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. Piloting his #96 Fortin Racing, Inc./General Tire/Toyota of Escondido Action Sports/Fox Racing Shox/Maxima Racing Oils Toyota, Fortin rose to the occasion under very tricky conditions to challenge what was certainly the most fearsome field of the year.
Rain was the defining aspect of the weekend at Glen Helen Raceway, as heavy rains on Saturday morning drowned out both the morning’s practice and qualifying sessions. After a midday respite, the downpour returned throughout the afternoon and into the evening, forcing series officials to postpone Round 9, as they opted to move this night race to the following morning. When morning came, conditions had improved markedly, and thanks to major efforts by the track crews, the drivers were treated to a track that actually needed a bit of water to knock down the dust that was starting to come up.
With only the lessons of Friday practice and his pre-event test to go on, Fortin chose a setup that seemed to suit the track and its conditions quite well. With a combination of tight corners, an extended rhythm section, jumps large and small, and good dirt that allows for real bite out of the turns, Glen Helen has a little of everything, and Fortin’s truck not only charged the rough with ease, but also made quick work of the corners and their exits. “The testing we did really worked,” Fortin remarked enthusiastically.
Starting according to his position in the championship, Fortin lined up fourth, and after getting put back one spot to fifth on the opening lap after getting blinded by mud from those ahead, Fortin set to work on picking off the strong lineup of drivers ahead of him. The whole field ran strong all the way to the end of the race, but in short order, Fortin had passed his way up to third place, and was looking like a serious threat to second place Rob MacCachren. However, a broken front brake line mid-race then began to hamper Fortin’s efforts somewhat, as he struggled to keep from locking his rear brakes, which were all he had left, when braking hard into the tighter turns. Fortin wound up stalling on more than one occasion as a result, and despite quick work to get back underway, Fortin eventually conceded two positions, but would still come home a solid fifth.
“We had a truck to win for sure; I didn’t get a chance to go have fun in the second half” Fortin stated, knowing that the result could’ve been much better had the brake issue not occurred (his fastest lap still came AFTER the brake issue, though, which he felt was costing him about half a second per lap), and he readied himself for Round 10, which was scheduled to kick off later that same evening. However, rain again caused a cancellation of the race, and with no “next day” to fall back on, series officials have been forced to look towards a later race weekend for a date on which to make up Round 10, with no firm date having yet been set.
In the meantime, Fortin takes some consolation from his performance in Round 9, where he not only had the fourth quickest lap in the field, but also his first seriously competitive run with the class’ top contenders in several rounds. “I felt like we had the fastest truck out there, and that’s not easy to do against these guys.” Fortin now turns his attention towards the all-new racetrack at Estero Beach in Ensenada, Baja California, México, which will host Rounds 11 and 12 in just two weeks’ time. Baja has been a place of great success during Fortin’s time as a desert racer, and he hopes that trend will continue as he and the rest of the competition head to a track that will be new to everyone. “We’re ready to go to Estero and pick up where we left off in 2003 (when he won his fifth Baja 1000, and his third overall). I’m excited about it. It’ll be the first time my whole family, including my daughters, will get to see me race in México after all those years racing down there.”
Doug would like to thank all of his sponsors for their valued and continued support:
Fortin Racing, Inc.
Toyota of Escondido Action Sports
Fox Racing Shox
Maxima Racing Oils
Method Race Wheels
Weldon Racing Pumps
Automotive Racing Products
McGrath Fiberglass Products
Gibson Performance Exhaust
Cool It Thermo-Tec
For more information, please visit www.fortinracing.com.