One of the most memorable races Brendan Gaughan had wasn’t on a track but in the desert. With his dad.
Gaughan is back in the desert this week, helping his father compete in the National Off-Road Racing Association’s Mexican 1000 rally for vintage and alternative fueled vehicles.
Gaughan said he would spend most of the race in a support vehicle for his father’s team but might drive a section for his father.
Entering Tuesday’s segment, which goes from Loreto to La Paz, Mexico, Michael Gaughan was second in his vintage truck class. The four-day race ends Wednesday in the Cabo Corridor.
Michael Gaughan won the overall title in 2012 with the help of his youngest son. That final day remains special for Brendan Gaughan. With his father in the navigator’s seat and the actual navigator sitting between the two, they started about 90 seconds in the lead for the overall title but were down about 25 seconds with five miles left.
“I looked at my father … what do you want?’’ Brendan Gaughan said.
“I want … the overall,’’ he recalled his father saying.
Thus, began a wild journey through sand washes and dirt roads that ended with the father winning the overall title and declaring, according to his son, “I raced with you twice today … my first and my last.’’
As they began the final five miles, the engine light came on.
“I looked at my dad and he goes, ‘I own the engine shop, I’ll make another one,’ ‘’ Brendan Gaughan said.
The transmission light soon came on.
“I own the transmission shop also. Go!’’ Brendan Gaughan recalled his dad saying.
They got on a dirt road with traffic and construction. Let Brendan take you through what happened next:
“I’m passing semis and they’re coming both ways,’’ he said. “In the middle of this, my navigator says 90-degree left (turn) … I say I’ve got it. He says semi and I see a semi coming at us, but I’m going to make (the turn) before the semi. I lay this thing into the corner. (The navigator) goes semi! He’s hitting me and I go ‘I see it’ and he says, ‘No!’ He points though the turn, there’s one coming on the road we’re tuning on. I’m using his lane to turn. I open the wheel up and just missed the semi.
“We hit pavement. These cars are not made for pavement. It’s got off-road tires. I hit the pavement and I’m on the gas driving hard. I come around this corner that is blind and all of a sudden there are parked cars on the left lane. I can’t get the thing back to the middle.
“I look over at my father, if he didn’t make a diamond out of a lump of coal, I’d be surprised. He was so puckered, his face was just pure fear. I dropped a gear and got just enough grip to miss the first parked car and made it.’’
At the final roundabout Brendan Gaughan hit some barrels but made it to the finish to win the overall title by 28 seconds for his dad.
“I’ve never seen my dad just that pale,’’ Brendan Gaughan. “It’s the only time I’ve got to race with my father. I was never as excited as that.’’