What’s going on everyone! I am Cody Schafer and this is my race report from the 38th annual Tarantula 100 located near Alamogordo, New Mexico. This race is the opening round of the New Mexico Desert Racing Club's 2012 season. Living in Colorado it was not a difficult decision for me to either work all weekend, or escape the snow and make the drive down to this race. It is only about 10 hours away which seems to be a short drive nowadays.Plus what could be better practice then racing 108 miles straight in the desert? Not much I think.
This was my second year doing this race and unlike last year I wasn’t going down there unprepared. Last year I did the race with stock gearing on my bike which was not even close to adequate for what was ahead of me. This year I changed sprockets from stock which is 13-50 to 14-48 which I was very thankful to get from Dirt Tricks especially for this race. On Saturday they did a course pre-ride/poker run of the 27-mile loop and I definitely had forgotten a bit of how fast this race was, but at least I was prepared this time around. The course had much faster sand-whoop sections, as well as fast sweeping jeep roads and fast sand washes; and yes I realize I just used fast three times in the same sentence but I gotta make a point somehow right? It was fast!!! Which is not something I think I will ever get used to but hey, practice makes perfect...or something like that. On the pre-ride the club put out bags with little markers in them that you were supposed to stop and pick up so you could exchange them for cards when you were done. Somehow I missed one so I didn’t end up having enough to make a full Poker hand. So I just didn’t turn them in (which my Mom yelled at me about since I could have still gotten a good hand with 4 cards apparently). My brain must have not been functioning to figure that one out. So after doing some prep work to my bike for Sunday I loaded up and headed into town, devoured some Chili’s, went to Wally World and got a movie to watch to kill the rest of the night and passed out pretty early.
I think no matter how early I go to bed there is something unnatural about waking up before the sun rises. It just doesn’t feel right to me but never the less I somehow managed to get it done. The other obstacle I had to overcome was the 25 degree temperature at 7o'clock in the morning.I thought I was escaping the cold weather but no surprise I was wrong again! I did’t have much hope that it was going to be above freezing by the time the race started at 8 so I decided I would wear my riding jacket for at least the first lap. I got to the line early for once which felt a little strange but I am not complaining. I started on the second row since the series starts the previous year’s top ten in points on their own row ahead of all the other Pro’s. I picked a spot on the outside and practiced a ton of dead engine starts knowing how huge a good start would be for the dust. Before I knew it the first row took off so I turned on my Go-Pro, said a little prayer, took some deep breathes and got ready to get the holeshot!
Against all odds I nailed the start and was the first one through the first turn and onto the first fast straight-away. Something had to be wrong since things were going just like I had planned but that would change quickly. Apparently I was going about the speed of a Prius down the first straight and quickly got passed. Not long after that I was passed again by a guy on a Suzuki who was riding with a much higher intensity then I was at that time. I kinda think he forgot for a second or two that we were going 108 miles. I followed the two guys that passed me for awhile as we worked our way through some of the Pro’s from the row ahead we had caught. About a quarter of the way through the lap I closed back in on the Suzuki and made my way past him on one of the roads. I think he was stuck with the stock gearing dilemma I had experienced the year before so I could feel his pain in the open stuff. I set my sights on the next trail of dust I could see and slowly reeled it in and just repeated that process a few more times to finish the first lap. When I came into the pits I was the fourth bike overall but was close enough to be in second on corrected time. I was surprised with where I was and could see the riders ahead of me so I had my next target in sight. I got some gas, took off my jacket and just focused on hunting down the guys ahead of me. I would make up time on the riders ahead of me in the rough sand sections, but they would absolutely kill me going down the roads. I was scared of how fast I was going so I can't even imagine how fast they were going!
Near the end of the second lap I caught Russell Garcia and stayed right on his backend until he finally blew a turn and I snuck by. In the pits my Mom told me I was down by 5 seconds from the leader on corrected time.I had my mind set, I was going to win the race at this point so it was time to really put in a good lap and close that gap. I had no dust besides lappers and I did my best to take advantage of it. I pushed really hard on this lap but I didn’t think I had made up any time on Nick Platt until I came into the pits to start the final lap. As I was coming in he was just leaving his pits and I knew I had made up all the time I needed to. I was in the lead on time but I was still second overall on the track. I was content just to follow him the rest of the lap and take the win. I don’t know what happened but I think I let my intensity slip a bit and he kinda started to slip away from me through the faster part of the track. That kinda pissed me off at myself and lit that fire back inside me. I made my mind up I was going to catch and pass the guy ahead of me and wouldn’t be happy with myself if I didn’t. With about 3 miles left on the lap I caught right up to him and followed for a little while until I think he finally just had enough and let me go. There was no doubt in my mind now that I was winning this race and as I took the checkers for the first time in a little while I was proud of how I finished in a race.
Overall everything went really smooth for the weekend. I had several close calls that could have ended my day in an instant, but thankfully I was able to stay on the bike the whole race and have no major incidents. I had a great time at this race and I think it really helped build some confidence at racing at such a high speed. I have so many people that help make this possible for me so I have to thank the man upstairs for keeping me safe through this race as well as my parents for getting me to the race and being the best pit crew there is. Dango’s Damping set my suspension up amazingly for the weekend and I couldn’t have been more confident with it. I would also like to thank all of my other sponsors starting with Dirt Tricks, Fly Racing, MotoAdventure Kawasaki, Motorex, Race Tech, DT1, FMF, Hinson, IMS, Enduro Engineering, Leatt Brace, BRP, Topar Racing, and finally A’ME grips. Thank you all for reading!
Photos: Sunny Adams