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2018 72" Wildcat XX
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello My Wildcat XX Familia!

I hope you and your families all were able to enjoy the Holidays and bring in the New Year with joy! And I hope your 2021 year was as amazing as the Gutierrez Racing Team’s! I’d like to share my post-race recap from the last race of the CODE Off Road season!

This one is very detailed and quite long so as always, please feel free to skim, view the YouTube Link and check out the photos. Please feel free to share with anyone that you think may be interested! You are more than welcome to use any of the photos for your marketing pleasure. Please let me know if you would like the original files.

Thank you for your support all season long!
Cheers,
-Mario Gutierrez Jr.
Gutierrez Racing #1993

Youtube Links: Please Click!
2021 CODE Mexicali to San Felipe 275 -- Gutierrez Racing #1997 Wildcat XX


With a 3rd place finish at the season opener, two 1st place finishes at the second and third races of the season, and a 2nd place finish at the Mexican Logistics 300 in October; We were TIED for the points lead of the Naturally Aspirated 1900 class with our competitor, Ricardo Malo Jr. Going into this last race of the year it was going to be “winner-take-all” for the championship. Knowing that, I knew it was going to take the best preparation on the car, the best logistics and crew, and the best prerun notes of our abilities to ensure we had something to fight with on race day.


RACE CAR PREP
The prep on the car began immediately after finishing the October race and the car got torn down to the chassis to service all of the drivetrain and suspension components. Replacing wear items and lubricating and oiling others, the car was back on the ground the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and out in the dirt for a shakedown and belt break-in. Because next on the to-do list was heading to Alba Racing to get dyno’ed the first week of December. Dyno went great and Nate at Alba was even able to find a bit more mid-range power. Saturday, December 4th we did a day trip out to Plaster City East with the race car, the prerunner and a couple of friends' cars and dedicated an entire day in the dirt to testing. We made some clutching adjustments and a single rear shock adjustment while logging over 80 miles on the car and it was the best it has ever been both in the speed and performance category as well as the suspension and handling category. The car had zero issues and it was ready for race day!
Tire Sky Wheel Vehicle Automotive tire


PRERUN #1
We were now in preparation for Prerun #1 which would take place on the following weekend, December 11th and 12th. This prerun was going to be a bit different than the other races this season as it was a point to point race starting at the Laguna Salada and finishing in San Felipe. Not a loop race like the other 4 races. Luckily, I had my dad and fellow Wildcat XX buddy Shane Drake chasing me down the highway with fuel and spare parts, while my good buddy Scott LeSage navigated and took some notes in the right seat as my navigator, Nick Almada, was out of town on work and unavailable. I also had Pete Mercado in his Chevy diesel prerunner “Rosie” chasing us on the race course so that we were not out there alone.

The first 40 miles of this course were identical to the last race in October so we had some relatively good notes and lines from that race that we just had to confirm were still legal, faster, and safe. We actually even found a couple more that would help us out too! We refueled and went from RM 40 to RM 128 to get fuel again (we found the mud at the bottom of the lake bed trying to use an old line from an old race, oops!) and then continued to RM 175 where we would call it a day.
Tire Wheel Sky Car Vehicle

We had some great lines that were legal from previous race courses and some notes that were shared with me from a great buddy of mine that I knew were going to help on race day. Sunday we woke up and ran the last 63 miles from RM 175 to 238. That would end up taking us more than 3 hours just due to the numerous amount of lines in there and running multiples to ensure we marked and ran the fastest and smoothest line on race day. We made it to the finish line of prerunning and I was excited! I knew we had some good stuff and I was actually excited for the homework I had to do before heading back down to see it all over again.

PIT MEETING
We made it home late Sunday night and had a pit meeting scheduled for Monday with all of my guys to discuss pit strategy, logistics, and what everyone of the trucks needed to have with them and where they needed to be on race day. We also went over fueling the car properly and a few key things about the race car I wanted everyone to be familiar with. The meeting went well and there were over 20 people that showed up to show their support for our racing effort. I am forever grateful to the family and friends that I have that take the time out of their lives and bring their equipment down on their dime to come support myself and my team's efforts. It truly means so much to me! This form of Desert Racing really isn’t possible to be successful without a knowledgeable and prepared team behind you. The driving part is relatively “easy” when simply driving is all you have to worry about.

PRERUN #2
It is now Wednesday of race week and we are heading back down south to prerun for a 2nd time. Before heading down we loaded up both of my chase trucks with all the spare parts and tires that will be heading down with my dad and crew Friday at noon and straight to Tech inspection towing the race car. This was the first time that I’m leaving the race car and all the parts and necessities out of my hands so I was a bit stressed out hoping I did not forget anything. Once we got on the road, I calmed down and realized all of this was going just as planned and all was great! Cade Garcia was kind enough to take his truck and trailer down hauling my prerunner as well as his Class 5 race car to follow us down the race course. We had Nick on board for this prerun as well as Shane and Scott again down for round 2 of prerunning. We got to El Centro at 10pm and my good friend Eliott Watson’s parents offered us a place to stay when we stopped by to pick up a few satellite phones that they were kind enough to let us borrow.
Sky Tire Wheel Vehicle Car

Thursday morning we were up early and straight for the Calexico border crossing and then directly to Laguna Salada to begin prerunning. Same plan, did the first 40 miles and stopped for fuel at the chase truck before continuing to race mile 128. Again finding more lines, refining our notes as well as cleaning up some other notes. We made it to RM 128 a bit later than anticipated but fueled up and continued to arrive at RM 175 right before it got dark. Went into town, got cleaned up and had dinner before waking up Friday morning to continue from RM 175 to RM 238. We were a bit quicker this time around for that last 63 miles as it was just dialing in the notes with Nick on all the lines we developed and connecting them all together smoothly. Once we got done with the prerun we loaded up the prerunner, dropped Cade’s buggy at the house and headed north to Laguna Salada to meet with the race car and do tech inspection. I was so stoked that we got to see the entire course a second time! It was a huge advantage and quite the confidence booster to know we had some great lines that avoided some nasty parts of the course and Nick had logged a total of 2190 notes for only a 238 mile race!! We were the 2nd car through tech with flying colors and we got loaded back up, into town to top off all the fuel jugs and then to the hotel to have a final pit meeting with everyone there and get a good night's rest.

RACE DAY!
Race Morning! I’m a bit nervous as I knew today was the day where all this hard work mattered. It came down to this! That was until I got out to the parking lot of the hotel and got the car cover off of the race car. A majority of the nerves went away and I sighed with relief…..because I knew we were the most prepared we have been all season for today. The car, the notes, the prep, the logistics, the team and me. I FELT GREAT! It was our day and we just had to execute the plan.

We got to the Laguna Salada about 2 hours before the green flag and Nick and I got suited up while the rest of my crew dispersed the last of the pit boxes, tires, and parts. Warmed up the fluids on the car and the driveline and we went to staging. Because CODE starts the classes based on the cars numerical number, we gave up our #1993 number this race and entered into the draw for Rear Start. With hopes to start dead last and have better control of the race on corrected time. We ended up drawing the 3rd rear start so that gave us #1997. However, the team that we were tied with for the points lead drew the 4th rear start so he was number #1996 and would start right ahead of us which worked perfectly into our race strategy.
Tire Wheel Sky Car Vehicle

The green flag drops at 11:25 and we are 7th car out of 9 (in our class) off the line. I wanted to run a solid 80% pace for the first 35 miles and then back it down a bit through the rough stuff from RM 40-60 and see where we were at our first fuel stop at RM 70. By the time we were at RM 15 we were already 2nd on the road and only 32 seconds behind the #1996 car. I stuck with my plan and we trailed his dust all the way to RM 70 when Nick and I stopped with our “RD Racing” pit crew and got full of fuel and sent off in less than 40 seconds. They muffled over the radio that we were first on the road. I was surprised to hear that so I pushed a bit to make dust because I wasn’t sure where we made the pass for the lead. A few miles later we heard on the radio that the #1996 car took off and was heading backwards up the access road and not down the race course behind us. That was also a bit surprising information but Nick and I quickly zoned it out and ran our race.
Wheel Car Vehicle Tire Plant

From RM 70 to 128 it was mostly fast terrain but I knew I needed to save the car as help wasn’t going to be close for this next stretch. We ran a 70% pace and just continued to hit all of our lines and quite honestly we were having a blast! We got to the bottom of the Laguna Salada lake bed and where we could really get the car going and next thing we knew we were going 88.5mph as shown on the GPS! The fastest that car has ever gone! I rolled out of the throttle a bit and rolled back in as I was nervous to break a belt or just any weird issue that we didn’t need to deal with. Passed my cousin Daniel Gutierrez who was there ready at RM 114 with a tire if we needed one and we continued to fuel stop number 2 at race mile 128. We made a few more passes of other classes right before the pit. Got a full tank of fuel again and this pit felt like we were in and out in less than 25 seconds! Great pit kudos to my team!!
Wheel Tire Sky Car Vehicle

Back on the road and I was asking my guys for split times on 2nd place. They radioed back that it had been over 20 minutes at the last visual and 2nd place had not been by yet, but they had to leave or they were not going to beat me to their next spot. That was when I knew we had more than a comfortable lead and we could really ease the pace and get to the finish line. It was at about race mile 145 when Nick started getting a stomach ache and was trying to unhook his head and neck restraint because he thought he was going to get sick. He couldn’t get it unhooked unfortunately and he ended up getting sick inside of his helmet (turns out it was food poisoning, and not my driving). I felt horrible and slowed way down to try and help make it easier for him but he soon came back onto the intercom and said “I’m good, I feel better” I had already radioed to the team to have my buddy Scott LeSage get ready to get in at race mile 169 but Nick said “I’m not getting out of this car, we are finishing this.” Which of course I was totally okay with. However, his helmet microphone seemed to be messed up so we requested to have a helmet ready to be switched out with the one that Nick was wearing.
Wheel Tire Vehicle Automotive tire Car

We stopped for no longer than 10 seconds at race mile 169 to exchange the helmet and quickly took off. This was the part of the course where I planned to “start racing” and make up time on the competition because Nick and I developed some amazing lines in this last 70 mile stretch to the finish. Fortunately enough for us, we didn’t have to push, but ran practically a “prerun pace” to save the car in the bumps to our final fuel stop at RM 196 and on to the finish.
Wheel Tire Land vehicle Sky Vehicle

From mile 196 on, I don’t think we passed or got passed by another racer. It was just us, the Wildcat, and the beautiful Baja terrain. Nick continued to call off mile markers as we got closer and closer to the finish line. Sure enough we were in our last race mile and we were in the infamous San Felipe Sand Dunes and I couldn’t see anymore. My glasses were filled with tears and I was bawling my eyes out. This was a moment I have played over and over in my dreams since I was a toddler….. Coming up to the last corner, I grabbed Nick and screamed “WE DID IT NICK, WE DID IT!!” We made the last right hand turn and we could see the checkered flag and all of our friends and my family right there cheering for us. It is a moment I know I will cherish for the rest of my life!

When the actual results came out the following day. We won the 1900 class, averaged 48mph and completed 238 miles in 5 hours and 0 minutes. We finished 2 hours and 29 minutes ahead of 2nd place in our class. We finished 6th overall 4 wheel vehicle and 2nd overall UTV. And of course to top it all off, we won the Naturally Aspirated 1900 class championship and I am nominated for CODE’s Rookie of the Year!!

Sky Tire Wheel Vehicle Vehicle registration plate


Jeans Sky Tree Plant Landscape


THANK YOU’S!
It was an amazing season for Gutierrez Racing! We Podiumed all five of the races. We won 3 of the five races and we didn’t have any mechanical issues all year long. We proved that the Arctic Cat Wildcat XX platform is a contender in the deserts of Baja as we are the first team to bring Arctic Cat a Baja Championship! Without a doubt we were the minority platform when it comes to desert racing. Many have unfortunately given up on this platform due to the lack of support or simply the lack of commitment and patience to figure it out. Not us. We spent the utmost of two off seasons working out the bugs. Figuring out what does work and what doesn’t. Learning service intervals and life spans of parts. It was a lot of tedious work, but we stuck with it and we were fortunate enough to find success. As a team, we believe we have proved that the Arctic Cat Wildcat XX is a contender at every event the car shows up to, no matter what the circumstances of the race course are. I am glad that we stayed loyal to what we believed in and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am very lucky to have the support of Gil Salazar who helped lead my early season success into the right eyes. As well as Beth Roppe, Michael Kloety, and Jessica Wiebe for their help this season. I am looking forward to a bright future with the Arctic Cat Off Road team and continuing to prove what the Wildcat XX is capable of!

I give a majority of the credit from the success this year to the efforts in the garage. My dad, Mario Gutierrez Sr., was there to lend me a hand every night wrenching in the garage after a full day of work and every weekend in between races. The car would come pretty much all the way down to the chassis after every race to inspect everything. It was a ton of work, but it seemed to pay off so we kept doing it. We had the car back together minimum two weeks before the next race and would go testing to shake down the car. If we had any issues, we had two weeks to address them and go test again. With no issues, we had the luxury to go prerun the weekend before the race in my dad’s Wildcat XX. For any of those late nights, Tyler Vreeland was there to lend a hand and make sure we met the deadline. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my parents and the shared passion of this sport with my father. I am forever grateful for the help and support from my dad (MG2 Race Prep) and Tyler. It truly wouldn’t have been possible without my dad.

As a navigator myself when I am not racing my car. I know what a good navigator brings to the table. The role is non-stop and you have to be the driver’s eyes and ears, their navigation, their trust, and in my case (sometimes) their psychologist. I asked Nick Almada a few weeks before the 2nd race of the season if he was interested in riding with me at the next race. He didn’t even question it, he said yes immediately. Honestly, I was shocked. But I was also instantly stoked! I had seen how Nick and Cade vibed in the car from their in-car videos and could see in Cade’s driving that Nick was feeding him information that made Cade confident, and fast. I only got to see one lap of the 65 mile course of that first race together with Nick. But he helped me find some very creative lines and his notes were incredibly easy to understand and adapt to. Nick has helped make me faster every time he gets into the right seat with me. I have often said that having Nick in the car is cheating because I always knew what was coming up ahead and he rarely ever made a mistake on a note or call. Nick was a huge part of the Gutierrez Racing program this year and I look forward to many races together in the future…..as long as Cade lets me borrow him.

I continuously received compliments all season long on how incredible our car worked. Either from my team as that was there for visuals on the race course, from competitors or from random fans who would message me and ask me what shock package I was running and who tuned it. I am so fortunate to have all of the support from FOX Factory Motorsports and my boss Bobby Smith who allowed me to design and develop my own Internal Bypass shock for the Wildcat XX. Without the help of Fernando Ramirez and Mike Kim, I would not have been able to get the car as dialed as it was all season long. Little tweaks here and there, during each test before each race and it continued to get better and better. I give a huge shout out to all the service guys in the shop who helped me with quick turnarounds all year long! Thank you Brandon, Jack, James, Justin, Ulicez, and Erik!

I am so grateful for the love and support from my life long friends Bobby Olimon and Cameron Anderson at Swift Powdercoat. They were my first ever “sponsor” in 2019 and have supported me from all aspects of racing since the beginning! Not to mention, they help make my car look so dang good!! Thank you guys! And recently thank you to Darren as well!

A big thank you for this last race goes to Chris Olimon, Bill Franklin, and Abraham Shoyeb of FTC Services for jumping on board to support this effort to win the Championship! Means alot to me guys, thank you again!

Thank you to McMillin Racing and Luke McMillin for his support all year long. Luke has mentored me and helped guide me through the ups and downs that come with desert racing. From pre-race pep talks to post-race recaps and discussing the lessons learned. I can probably say I got more comfortable and maybe a bit faster in the car this season, but I am more proud of the growth that I have made mentally as a driver. I am my biggest critic and I create high standards for myself, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But I can promise that I learn from both outcomes every single time. Thank you Luke…..for the honest truth every time, teaching me what I need to do in order to run a successful program when the helmet is off, helping prepare me to be a smarter, more patient driver, and maybe a line or two shared in San Felipe.

I owe a huge shout out to Nate Martinez, Fernando and Rich at Alba Racing in Santee for helping make this car such a rocket ship! From the tune, to the race built engine to the customer support on all my questions on clutching and what to try next. I really appreciate the knowledge being shared and opening the doors to help make this car so competitive! I would say 88.5 mph for a Naturally Aspirated 1000cc car is something to brag about.

Blessed to have the support from another San Diego local company, Maxima Racing Oils. I appreciate always having all the fluids I need and always having them packaged and ready to go when I come to pick up! I have been so stoked to have the best fluids on board my program this year because I am confident their RS engine oil kept the engine running at its peak all season long as well as their Pro Gear lubrication in the transaxle and differential kept the drivetrain happy and rotating freely. Not to mention we never had any overheating issues thanks to their Off Road Coolant formula! Thank you to Paul Hawley for making sure I was running the best products for the application!

Coby Herzog of Herzog Automotive was interested in being a part of the team from the beginning of the year. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to make it to a race this year but I am very fortunate to have his support this season. Especially when funds were tight at the beginning of the season!

Robby Gordon and Casey Jefferies of Speed SXS have played a big part in the reliability of this season. Granted I was one of the cars helping R&D parts from 2018 to 2020, we learned a lot together and both Casey and Robby always shared with me what they were learning themselves. There are so many components and little tabs welded here and there that were learned the hard way on other cars that have helped keep this car on the podium every race this season! Not to mention the many months developing the bullet proof water impeller kit as well as the rear axle solution and long travel that allows this car to work properly and so effortlessly to drive in the first place.

The best lighting company in the industry, Baja Designs, were turned on every time the ignition was turned over! If you couldn’t hear us coming, you could surely see that amber light in the grill peeking through the dust! The Baja Designs crew have unbeatable customer service and treated me like a 10 year sponsored athlete. I had lights come in for repair and they came back flawless. I placed orders for the race car and the prerunner, and even given the chip shortage and supply chain delays, lights still were delivered ahead of their estimated delivery dates. Best light package on the market for a reason! Thank you for the support BD!

We did not have a single flat tire or wheel issue all season long on the race car, nor the prerunner. That is a huge testament to Tensor Tire and Vision Wheel. Especially during the preruns. We would continuously run over cactus, bushes, and rocks to find or even make our own course and the 33” DSR Tensor tires and 15” Invader Beadlock Vision wheels just ate it all up!! I must have looked like a fool bringing 10 spare tires to those last two races because they just got hauled around all year. Not to mention, this set-up was the best looking tire wheel combo on the course!

The Wildcat XX’s biggest aftermarket supporter is Jeremy Houle and the Speedwerx family! I am so stoked to have been a member of the Speedwerx team this season. Jeremy helped work me through numerous questions and really stepped up to the plate to support me when I had a bearing failure between races. The Speedwerx team takes pride in supporting the Arctic Cat brand and they definitely helped me develop my race program this season!

Big thank you’s to Josh Lahaye of Cryoheat for working with me from the beginning and allowing the Arctic Cat product into his inventory line. Josh's proprietary cryogenics process is figured out and has proven to help keep our CV joints alive and together for more than twice their usual life span!

Josh Nichols from Off Road Warehouse of El Cajon has forever been my one-stop-shop for everything off road and the first person I call when I am looking for a past minute part or tool! The guys of ORW are knowledgeable and they have always pointed me in the right direction to make sure I’m leaving with the right stuff!

The Axia Alloys team jumped on board at the beginning of the year and I was super excited to get my hands on their interior mirror/visor combo as well as exterior mirrors for both the race car and prerunner. I honestly believe they make the coolest looking billet parts and they install onto the chassis so effortlessly. The visors played a huge part in vision during both preruns as well as that last 20 minutes before the sun drops behind the mountains. Those visors are a lifesaver!

Sean Ritchie at Weddle Industries played a big part in the driveline efficiencies the 2nd half of the season! He was short on staff and help in his shop and he still answered everyone of my annoying engineering questions to the fullest as well as met my prep and testing deadlines when his lead times were cutting it close. Thank you for giving me the confidence I needed to push these cars with this huge tire through the big bumps!

Shout out to Gilberto Ramirez of G Force Dynamics for solving the transaxle mount issue that these Wildcat XX’s have. I have over 3500 HARD miles between the two cars on these mounts and they hold up to the task flawlessly! Thank you for the support all year long with the fuel as well!

PCI Race Radios will forever be the leader in off road communications. Ryder Steinberger was a huge help this season with answering radio and intercom questions as well as having the most stand up customer service in the industry. Thank you to the entire PCI family for supporting my family's race team for decades!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
To wrap this up, I am having a celebration for our Championship and our successful season at BNS Brewery on January 15th locally here in Santee, CA. I know it is a last minute announcement to you all and some of you being so far away but I would still love to share the flyer!

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Congrats! Great write up!
 
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Mario, you are a class act. Your work and dedication paid off. I read your entire post waiting for the inevitable DNF that would sideline a win. It never came and for good reason...luck favors the well prepared. Solid effort.

2nd overall UTV. LEGIT!!! Hope to make it out on Saturday. Will the car be there? Would love to get a few tips.

Also will you be racing any other series' in the future?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Mario, you are a class act. Your work and dedication paid off. I read your entire post waiting for the inevitable DNF that would sideline a win. It never came and for good reason...luck favors the well prepared. Solid effort.

2nd overall UTV. LEGIT!!! Hope to make it out on Saturday. Will the car be there? Would love to get a few tips.

Also will you be racing any other series' in the future?
Thank you so much buddy. That really means a lot to me!!

Yes, the car will be there Saturday! And I plan to finish the proposal I am working on for Arctic Cat with hopes they are willing to help support me in chasing a SCORE Season in 2023 with a new SCORE legal car.....
 

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2018 XX with Speed 77” kit tuned by ST. Speedwerx Extreminator motor/clutch.Simpson seats & belts
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HELL YEAH MARIO and Team!!!! What a huge achievement and massive success for you and your team! Keep up all of the hard work!
With working with Casey(Speed),Jeremy(Speedwerx)and Sean(Weddle) all of those people love racing and it shows with their products! I hope you don’t mind if I pick your brain every once in awhile as I work on dialing in our car? And also would enjoy to meet up out in the desert/dunes on a ply/test day. Thanks and again congrats on the amazing season.
 
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