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THE ORIGINAL CLASS Brendan Gaughan Makes A Case For Class 1 Racers By Dan Sanchez Photos By Get Some Photo Perhaps one of the most experienced and outspoken Class 1 buggy racers is Brendan Gaughan. With a racing family that stretches from off-road to NASCAR racing, Gaughan says he was born into it and loves being called a “buggy dork,” a nickname that most buggy racers like to call themselves. “My dad (Michael Gaughan) raced buggies since 1969 before I was born,” he says. “When I got involved in racing, I won Class 10 championships early in my career, but all I ever wanted to do was race my dad’s Class 1 buggy. To me, that’s the original “OG” class and in the early days, everyone was in Class 1.” Michael Gaughan drove Funco Sandmaster buggies with the Mears family, and Brendan and Casey Mears were also teammates when they drove Superlites early in his career. As Brendan Gaughan’s career expanded, he drove for Walker Evans and was the first to drive one of the early SCORE Trophy Trucks, as well as many other types of vehicles. Despite his experience in a variety of race vehicles, the Class 1 buggy was always Gaughan’s favorite. “To me, that was a real race car,” says Gaughan. “The off-road and NASCAR trucks are awesome, no doubt, but looking at an open-wheel off-road buggy, it just screams race car and to me. It’s more impressive what they can now do and the technology that has gone into them. When you had a Chenoweth back in the day, that to me was a Class 1 car.” The diminishing field of Class 1 racers hasn’t gone unnoticed by Gaughan and he believes there are two major contributing factors. “The fact that Class 1 buggies are made of custom parts designed to improve the suspension, drivetrain, etc., can hinder any of the teams when one of those parts breaks in competition. For example, if you break something on a SCORE TT Spec, the team usually has some spares. I broke a spindle during a SCORE race and we were done for the day. It was something we custom-made ourselves. This adds up to the cost of components and building the car. Teams like Herbst/Smith build plenty of trucks so they have spare parts they bring to competition. On the Class 1 side, only a builder like Jimco is close to that capability of having several spare parts on hand.” Despite the rising costs of buggies, Gaughan reminded us that his Class 1 buggy is more than 20 years old and is still competitive. “We’ve upgraded it many times and we were the first to run 40-inch diameter tires,” he says. “We are competitive and won the 2019 SCORE Baja 1000 in our Class. I know some of the Jimco Hammerheads and Alumi Craft AWD buggies are awesome vehicles, but so far we’ve managed to keep costs down and stay competitive at the same time.” Another issue Gaughan believes is hindering the class, is the starting position for some of the fastest Class 1 vehicles in SCORE races. “We start after the SCORE Trophy Trucks and SCORE TT Legends,” he says. “Among these classes, there’s probably about a half-dozen or more that are very fast and competitive, but behind them are 20-30 slower vehicles. Many Class 1 teams are fast, but they all have to slow down and take time to pass lots of slower trucks ahead of us. The trucks put up so much dust that it takes a long time to do that. Given the time and distance in the race, that results in less of a chance for us to finish in the top 10 anymore.” Gaughan believes the fastest vehicles could qualify and start up front in a mix of classes. “I would suggest to SCORE that they let all of us qualify together, even with the SCORE TT Spec trucks, and see where everyone starts,” he says. “This gives Class 1 vehicles a fighting chance to finish in the top 10 or even perhaps will a race overall. SCORE Trophy Truck racers know that if they qualify poorly and start in 30th or 40th position, there’s little chance of them winning the race overall.” SJ

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