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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT Justin Elenburg and Michael York of Chapo Racing clinch the Pro UTV Open class By Larry Saavedra Photography By Get Some Photo Not even a drivetrain fire could stop Can-Am factory racer Justin Elenburg from taking the Pro UTV Open class win at the 34th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE San Felipe 250 Presented by Ford. That kind of confidence, he said, comes from advanced preparation and teamwork. “We went to Mexico three times before even pre-running the course. Our preparation before the race made the difference.” “We do a lot of testing. It’s a long-haul for us to get to Baja from Arizona, and it was really important for us to get the shocks dialed in” said Elenburg. “Our sponsor, Shock Therapy, flew down to San Felipe and helped us set up the shocks. Then we went down again and tested on Zoo Road and Rocky Point. About nine days before the race our other driver, Michael York, and I pre-ran the course for four days.” Elenburg knew everything was prepped the way he wanted it. But the San Felipe course has been known to wreak havoc on a race car, and that’s exactly what happened early in the race. York started fourth off the line. “Wayne Matlock was two cars ahead,” said Elenburg. “We knew Matlock was going for the overall win, and we wanted to stay close enough to him to seize on any opportunity to get by on the course.” York hung on Matlock’s dust for hours, passing cars continuously. He had one flat tire in the process after hitting a rock. Several miles later after chasing Matlock across some rougher terrain, the front left axle lit up like a roman candle, shooting flames out from under the UTV. “These race UTV axles are set up with a high degree of angle as opposed to street models, and that causes lots of friction and heat.” York and his navigator kept a cool head, put the flames out, and continued on. York then limped toward the driver’s change at mile marker 140, where the team swapped axles. Elenburg then jumped in and continued the team’s pursuit of Matlock in the Polaris. From that point to the finish, Elenburg said it was smooth sailing. No fuel issues, no dust. Just clean racing. “Thanks to our team data analyst, Mike Jeluso, we always err on the side of putting in more fuel than necessary, especially in the deep sand of San Felipe.” Elenburg said at that point, Matlock was at least 10 miles ahead of him on the course. “We weren’t trying to kill ourselves to catch him and knew the issues we had put us way back. So we just decided to run a clean race and finish.” About an hour later, Elenburg noticed Matlock out of his race car with his helmet off. He assumed that Matlock was out of the race, or waiting for parts. “I saw him and waved, and realized I had the lead,” said Elemburg. “I didn’t know if the other competitors were catching us or not. That’s when our team radioed in and said a competitor was gaining on us.” So, Elenburg picked up the pace, and at race mile 240 they got another radio call saying the car behind them was only three miles back. He said he began to push hard and drive faster than what was safe. After about ten minutes of flying through the course, he again got word on the radio that the previous information was incorrect. The closest competitor was at least 10 miles back. “I had to laugh,” said Elenburg. “It was a roller coaster of emotions for us. That meant that the lead was in our hands, and we took it back down to racing a safer pace so we didn’t damage the car.” As they approached the final speed zone, Elenburg knew he had the win. “This is our first win in Baja,” he said. “We took second at the 50th SCORE Baja 1000, but this one was special. After six years of racing Baja, it finally happened. The team and sponsors really put a lot of effort into the event. It was an awesome deal.” Elenburg plans to return to run the entire 2021 series and to pursue the class championship. But you won’t see him in the orange-colored UTV— he said he is changing it to the new Can-Am team colors. SJ

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