The track at Estero Beach is notoriously tough to tame. Though it lacks some of the big features of the other tracks on the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series schedule, the deceptively simple Ensenada track has wrecked its share of race vehicles in its five-year history. So when someone conquers it, and wins races on both days of the two-day contest, it’s somewhat remarkable. When a driver does that in two different classes, winning four races in total, it’s nothing short of amazing.
That’s exactly what Brock Heger did as LOORRS made its annual trip south of the border to Baja California. Not only did he double up in Pro Lite, but the two-time Production 1000 UTV champion managed the feat in that class as well.
On Sunday, Heger took command in both races fairly early, but he had to work hard for the wins on Saturday.
In Production 1000 UTV, Robert Stout started on pole, and at one point, Stout, Heger and Myles Cheek were three wide through the rhythm section before Cheek came out on top. Heger took the point once again on the next lap, and while Stout would challenge briefly, Heger rolled on to the win in his Yamaha/Maxxis Tires Yamaha.
In Pro Lite, Christopher Polvoorde was in charge through the first half on Saturday, but Heger (photo above) pounced immediately after the restart following the competition caution and stayed out front in his Maxxis Tires/Ikon Pro Lite. On Sunday, he was in the middle of a three-way fight with early leader Ronnie Anderson and Mickey Thomas, but once he found his way around Anderson by going to his inside at Turn 4, he was in front for good.
“I’m pumped about it,” said Heger after win number four. “I’ve been struggling with the Pro Lite at the beginning of this year, and I’m pumped to turn it around and sweep the weekend. I’d say it’s one of the best feelings ever.”
The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series’ efforts to incorporate spec, 410ci engines into Pro 2 continues to work to the point of one of the West Coast series’ regulars switching to that engine over the unlimited-prep engines. Rodrigo Ampudia, an Ensenada native whose father, Rodrigo Sr., is largely responsible for the Estero Beach race, showed that the 410s have potential to win. On this track, the spec-engine trucks were given about a 20-second head start, and on both days it came down to the last lap.
Ampudia and Troy Cox were the two 410 trucks, and, after a full restart caused by RJ Anderson rolling in Turn 2 from contact with Jerett Brooks, Ampudia jumped out to a commanding lead on Saturday with Brooks, Rob MacCachren and Bradley Morris chasing. Brian Deegan eventually moved up to fourth overall, third of the unlimited trucks, to put himself in the mix.
On the white flag lap, Ampudia, Brooks and MacCachren were three wide through the tricky whoops section and into the right-hand Turn 4. MacCachren, on the inside, went up on two wheels and the correction sent him shooting left when the right-side tires hit the ground again. He was sideways in front of Ampudia, and Brooks was sailing off to the win in his Rigid Industries/Bilstein Pro 2, with MacCachren second and Deegan third; Ampudia fell back to fourth.
On Sunday, it was MacCachren’s turn to lead the chase to Ampudia, and he in turn pulled out a gap over first Brooks and then Morris, who fell out with a mechanical issue. At the halfway competition yellow, the 20-second gap had closed to an eight-second lead for Ampudia. That gap seemed to take forever to close, but once again, on the final lap, MacCachren got inside Ampudia in Turn 4, this time making a clean pass to take the Rockstar Energy Drink/Makita Tools Pro 2 into the lead. Ampudia finished second and Brooks third.
“I definitely thought we could win with it,” said Ampudia of his choice to go with the spec 410 engine. “Its hard with the gap and the cars come so quick … Rob got me in the rhythm [section] and came into the corner, I slid underneath him, and if I had more power, I’d have been able to maintain the spot. He has so much power coming out, the only thing I could have done was to try to push him off course so he had to lift off the gas. But that would have been a Hail Mary. It’s definitely the weapon of choice for the rest of the season.”
The Pro 4 drivers, although diminutive in numbers, continue to put on hugely entertaining races in LOORRS. On Saturday, Kyle LeDuc took the lead from the pole, but had RJ Anderson all over him for two laps. Unfortunately a mechanical issue ended LeDuc’s day, leaving Anderson out front while a three-way battle between Doug Mittag, Adrian Cenni and Greg Adler raged behind him. Mittag eventually broke free from that fight and set off to chase down Anderson.
“My spotter was telling me, ‘six car lengths…five car lengths…four car lengths…’ I figured it was Doug and eventually I heard him,” said Anderson, who nonetheless held on to win in his Rockstar Energy/Polaris RZR Pro 4, chased to the flag by Mittag and Cenni.
It looked like Anderson might take another one on Sunday, while LeDuc pursued. But LeDuc got into him in Turn 4, climbing up the back of Anderson’s truck, sending LeDuc off course and letting Mittag past. Anderson would then have issues of his own, and Mittag and LeDuc sailed past.
On the final restart, Kyle got past Mittag in Turn 3, but Mittag put his COD/Hostile Wheels truck back in the lead on the penultimate lap to win, with LeDuc second and Anderson third.
Pro Buggy was two stories with the same basic plot: flag-to-flag runs on both days. On Saturday it was Trevor Briska’s turn, leading Eliott Watson and Bud Ward all the way. Unfortunately, Briska was disqualified for an unapproved tire, handing the win to Watson and the Tom Watson Inc. Alumi Craft.
On Sunday, Ward threw his Horsepower Ranch/Fox Funco into the lead and never looked back, winning over Watson and Briska.
The next race for Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series will be the first unified event with the Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., on June 29-30. That event may be the best test yet of incorporating spec-engine Pro 2s, as there should be plenty on hand.
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series
Baja International Short Course at Estero Beach
Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
May 18-19, 2019
Round 3 (Saturday) Results
Pro 4: RJ Anderson
Pro 2: Jerett Brooks
Pro Lite: Brock Heger
Pro Buggy: Eliott Watson
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Turbo UTV: Corry Weller
Round 4 (Sunday) Results
Pro 4: Doug Mittag
Pro 2: Rob MacCachren
Pro Lite: Brock Heger
Pro Buggy: Michael “Bud” Ward
Production 1000 UTV: Brock Heger
Turbo UTV: Trevor Leighton