|Two years ago Legacy and VORRA opened discussions about hosting a combined event. Both organizations had ideas in their heads and wanted to run with them to team up and put on an amazing event, and we did just that. With each organization bringing their own strengths we were able to pull off this epic Gold Rush 2023 event. We were able to do something that not many race organizers could pull off. This memorable event will be one that is talked about for generations and will quickly become a bucket list item for racers of all caliber. |
It’s key to recognize that the Bureau of Land Management is owed some serious appreciation for working with Legacy and VORRA so that they could make this event happen. Laura Butcher, owner of VORRA, worked hard with the Storey County Sheriff and the Virginia City Tourism to make it possible to run the event’s Tech & Contingency down the historic Main Street in Virginia City – a reality which made this event truly one-of-a-kind.
On Thursday, October 19, 2023, the event kicked off with Qualifying for select classes in Dayton, NV. This specific area is known for some historic racing and we knew we had to incorporate its best feature, the jump at the finish line. With the racers leaping for the fastest time, this was an epic way to start the Gold Rush. There were 54 entries waiting for their chance to run the course and fight for the fastest qualifier position. Team Real Racing put a bounty on #1 Eric Hustead, awarding anyone who could beat him off his Qualifying pedestal with an extra $1000. But once again, Eric laid down the fastest time to take home the P1 and the NextGen Protection Fastest Qualifier. Kyle Jergensen #6173 was on a mission in his Brenthel truck and had the top spot in his sights, but Kyle missed catching Eric by only 0.102 seconds. Kyle would end up with the fastest time in Class 6100 and took home the trophy and cash from Teal Excavation. The Vorra Group T #8030 Chris German was there to prove a point and showed he could keep up with the unlimited trucks. He was able to start in order of his qualifying position of P7.
Ahead of the event we received numerous phone calls from the UTV teams about qualifying. Some wanted to, some didn’t. We decided to ask the racers if they wanted to qualify. Some classes were split decision but the NA Class was a 7 to 1 vote, with no dominating as the answer. However, the Turbos, Unlimited and Pro Stock were excited to qualify. The Turbos and Unlimiteds were able to start in the positions they qualified for. Garrick Lastra #T924 would take top spot with Michael McFayden #T838 right on his heels. Tim Fitzpatrick #2906, running for both the VORRA and Legacy Championship, knew it was all on the line and earned himself a 1st in class and 3rd in line as a start position. In the Pro Stock Turbo race, Ed Conrad #3967, Gil Medrano #3970, and Brian Powell #3950 came into the Gold Rush separated by 5 points. Brian Powell decided to skip qualifying and save his car for the long race. The always fast Trapas Wilde #3922 took the poll, followed by Gil Medrano and Ed Conrad. Based off the draw, Brian Powell #3950 would start 4th, leading to what would be a wild race on Saturday.
From the very early days of planning, we knew we wanted this event to be in the historic town of Virginia City to honor the original races that VORRA hosted in the area. We had the chance to talk with icon Sam Berri before the event, he remembers races starting right on C Street and driving down 6 Mile Canyon back when it was a dirt road. As he reminisced, we knew we wanted to try to replicate that as much as possible but knew it would be a lot of hard work and had to rely on personal relationships. Laura Butcher, VORRA’s Owner and Director, brought it all to life by getting Tech on C Street right in the heart of Virginia City. This was the perfect setting for this event, and after speaking to a lot of racers, Tech had made a lasting impression and will hold a spot on their list of favorite race moments. It’s recognizable that there is history in every part of this town, including its racing past as well as some ghosts.
Opening the doors to the Fright Depot for the Drivers meeting, we knew immediately that it was the perfect setting. The room was packed and eyes were taking in the history, listening to the comradery amongst racers created even more memories for everyone involved. We had the pleasure of having “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, race participant and ambassador for Kawasaki, get up to get the mood going and fire everyone up to get ready to race.
With Registration and Tech in the books we were ready to head to the starting line. We choose to start the race out of Weeks instead of torturing racers with the climb over Mt. Como, and it proved to be one of the best decisions. The green light glowed and the motorcycles, quads and 3-wheelers were off into the desert. With a four hour head start, they kept a good pace in front of the high horsepower coming from their backside eventually. Danny Cooper #1X and Cory Skaggs #22X were set out to battle, with the championship at risk they both knew what was on the line. Danny had to finish this race to snag the championship. Cooper had the lead off the start but with some bike issues Skaggs was able to snag the lead and clean air. Danny knew if he wanted to win his 3rd Open Pro Championship with Legacy he would need to keep a steady pace. It would be Skaggs that would take the win and the overall bike with a time of 6:04:18:989.
Family Team #2F, Nick Lopez and son Cole, would come across the finish line with a 3rd overall on a motorcycle. Cole ended up doing more miles than anticipated but he made it happen and finished first in class.
Dylan Tondreau and Dayton Esposito #1Z have had an exciting season with some early changes to their team lineup. Good news is they finished strong and snagged the 399 Pro Championship for Legacy Racing.
As Vinny Ruiz #222 raced to the finish line he was passed by quad #22Q. As they both approached the stop sign you could tell it was all congratulations and hugs for these two teams. We love seeing teams come together and celebrate.
Our quad pro winners returned to racing with a banger of a year. After a 15 year hiatus from racing, Bret Greenholz & Elijah Conner finished every mile of the 2023 Legacy season. It was a true celebration on the Podium for #22Q.
Stephen Helms #77J was doing well to keep up with the open pros but after trying to take on a rock the team had to play catch up. They were still able to get a finish and take home the win for Over-30 Pro.
Taking off from the start with just the rear wheels on the ground, Wrangell Gubler #491 gave us a show. I think it’s safe to say this 3 wheeler was the favorite of the day. Every checkpoint got excited as he went by. This may have been Wrangell’s first race with Legacy but he is regular at VORRA and this event sealed his Championship for 2023. Wrangell is a leader in the class, coming to VORRA a few years ago with the idea of bringing the class back. Going 3 for 3 in 2023 and proving he is a force on 3 wheels.
The off-road race community never ceases to amaze us. We had a few racers step up this event to give away money to classes who don’t often get any payback. One of those racers was Skaggs Racing, they wanted to give away $500 to an Expert/Amateur motorcycle/quad team. We put the names into a hat at Sunday’s awards and Aaron Potter #730, Ironman Expert class, was the lucky winner. Gold Rush 2023 was the longest race that Aaron raced solo so this bonus was well deserved
For the Trucks, Cars and UTVs, they would take their green light at 11:30am to battle the 350 miles to the finish. Our top qualifier, Eric Hustead, would end up out of the race at pit 3 with broken suspension leaving clean air for Kyle Jergensen. The overall went to Mike Osborn #6131 who started off the line 6th, but battled to come across the finish line less than a minute behind Kyle. So his adjusted time left him 3 minutes ahead of Kyle, giving Osborn his first class win and overall. To ensure we relayed timely yet accurate information, we took an additional 15 minutes to verify that the win was his to take home. Kyle congratulated Mike. Mike said “The Legacy and VORRA inaugural Gold Rush race was one that I’ll never forget. The course was a lot of fun to race and covered a variety of terrain. We took home both our first 6100 Class win and Overall win. I’d like to extend a huge thanks to our entire team, our sponsors as well as to Legacy and VORRA and all of their volunteers.“ Brent Fox #6146 would end up with the 3rd Place finish.
In true Class 6100 fashion it wasn’t all smooth sailing. We had an incident to disclose, but we’re here proactively to explain what happened to keep negative rumors from spreading. During the standard race post tech inspection, the #6136 vehicle of Larry Brown had his Sealed engine tag inspected. The tag was found to be by a company not on the 2023 Legacy approved engine sealer list. For that reason alone, Brown was disqualified. After long discussions with the race team and officials, Legacy feels it was an honest mistake. Brown has a long history with his engine builder and had recently performed an engine swap from the same builder, but the builder had not gone through the process to become approved with Legacy. We are already working with the engine builder to get approved. However, at the time of the Gold Rush event, they were not approved so Legacy is standing by its decision of disqualification based on the rules set forth in the 2023 Legacy Racing Rulebook for Class 6100.
In other news, Michael McFayden was on a mission in his Pro Turbo #T838 and flew to the finish. Coming across less than 20 minutes after the leader after a flawless run. McFayden would end up with a 6th overall and the overall UTV. Garrick Lastra #T924 would take the 2nd block in class. Randy Adams #T932 pushed hard and took the 3rd position. With this 3rd place finish, Randy takes home the championship with VORRA in Pro Turbo, and the overall UTV championship. Finishing 4th at Gold Rush was Alex Baker #T909, who also takes home 2nd place in VORRA’s Pro Turbo class championship.
In Group T, Chris German #8030 and Nick Gust #8035 made Class 8 great again! German went out and qualified 7th overall, and ran strong on race day having a near flawless day to get him 1st in Group T, and finishing in the top 10 overall. Gust had a great run as well, finishing 2nd in his first Legacy/VORRA race.
Unlimited UTV Travis Sallee #2999 had zero issues on race day and was able to get his Polaris RZR Pro R to the finish the fastest. Herman Johnson #2951 was unable to make qualifying but after the green light was making good pace and leading on time. Unfortunately, about 25 miles from the finish, a rock would slow them down. Thankfully Johnson was still able to pull off 2nd place. Tim Fitzpatrick #2906 was out to win and gain positions not only in the VORRA Championship but also under Legacy. Unfortunately a couple of flats and minor issues would set the team back but pulled off 3rd place for the weekend.
Having to fight his way from behind Mike Frye #1513 would have a great smooth race putting him in the top position in class and a 10th overall. Ladd Gilbert #1562 and 1512 Blaine Conrad #1512 both had problems in the first half that set them back from the front pack but both fought for the 2nd and 3rd positions. At qualifying, Frye approached Legacy wanting to give back to classes that don’t typically see prize money. So the idea came up to give away $1000 to a Sportsman team. We put the names in a hat and the lucky winner went to James Alford #5912.
The #26 Brenthel truck was driven by Bryan Scheible who is normally seated in Class 6100, but this Unlimited Truck experience would have him take home a Class win. Michael Scafuto #3 came across the finish line 2nd in class with Sean Cook #T930 in tow, after losing his fuel pumps just 1 mile out from the finish. One great example of sportsmanship after another for Scafuto. He stepped up for the race community at the driver’s meeting, giving away $500 to a Sportsman team.
In the Pro Stock Turbo class, things got interesting. Newcomer to VORRA, Nicholas Gurries #3983, was unable to qualify due to returning from a cruise. Gurries definitely did not cruise on race day though, he flew to the front of the pack by RM125 and held it for a 1st place finish. Brian Powell #3950 also came from deep in the pack to finish 2nd and do his best to close the VORRA points battle. Gil Medrano #3970 pulled off 3rd, knowing he had to beat Ed Conrad #3967 who ended up 4th, to make the final points tighter than we have ever seen. In the end, Medrano and Conrad tied for the points championship, with the tie breaker being best finish at the last race. And just to make things even more interesting, Powell ended up just 2 points out of the top spot. Talk about a competitive class!There were some tight championship races going on in the Naturally Aspirated class, not just for Legacy but for VORRA as well. The win for Zach Kisman #1941 has secured him the 2023 VORRA Championship. Dan Benfield #1911 finished 2nd for the race and 2nd in the championship, just 5 points out from the top spot. This third place for Ian Torfi #1912 moved him from 3rd in points to 2nd in the Legacy season. We have one more race in 2023 and these guys have proven that anything is possible for this class.
Chad Woodruff #6075 has had a great season thus far and continued that streak. Taking home the 1st place finish for the TrophyLite class.
In Jeepspeed, the 4733 of Mike Craft had a solid run minus taking a bath in the water crossing at mile 56. They completely covered the truck in water including both driver and co-driver. At the finish, both drivers commented about the “sewer water” crossing and the nasty smell it instantly covered them in. After some explaining, they found out it was sulfur water they were smelling and not sewer but even then, the entire team practiced social distancing from the vehicle at the podium even after 300 miles of dust trying to mask the smell.In the Sportsman UTV class the championship was all but over with #5944 taking the start and finishing 3rd in class with a great run. Coming out for some redemption, the #5912 of James Alford had to overcome some issues to take the 2nd position. Newcomer to racing this year is none other than the Steve Austin #316. Austin has had some learning experiences this year. He has remained strong and continued to take advice of pre running almost daily and after 5 races earn his first big win! The smile on the podium said it all, having a flawless day and earning the respect of other seasoned vets.Matt Creveling #1690 took home the win in his first Legacy/VORRA race. Matt is a long time Class 9 racer who graduated to 1600 recently and everyone could tell that those years of a swing axle paid off. Heath Bernard #1633 took home second, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Bernard raced strong and was extremely happy to make it to the finish line.
Steve Bradford #1008 won $1500 from Silver State Forklift. When we announced the Gold Rush race we immediately got a phone call from Doug at Silver State Forklift, he wanted to do something extra for Class 10. He offered $1000 to the winner and later added $500 if they could beat his car by more than 30 minutes. Unfortunately they had issues at the beginning of the race so he owed Bradford that $500 cherry. Steve, and his brother Travis, drove great to have a great day of racing ending up on top of the box. Michael R. Ahlmeyer #1001, has had an interesting season with VORRA, being plagued with part failures and oopsies. Michael was due, and thanks to a few friends driving some sections, they made it to the finish line and 2nd on the box. Katlyn Cox #1091 made her race a family event. Bert (dad), Katlyn (daughter), Kyle (son), and Kayla’s (daughter-in-law) boyfriend, in their Class 12 vehicle converted to a Class 10, had a rough start. They got stuck on the ‘not-so-dry’ lake bed. Kyle let Donald Jackson know at the finish line to watch his shins as a much deserved shin kick could be on the way. Luckily the 200 plus miles between the mud lake and the finish gave them time to cool off. The entire Cox family were full of smiles and laughs at the finish line. Class 7 teams of Kevin McKeown #7280 and Pat Bonse #7225 both had troubles on the lake bed as well. A calculated dirt nap cost him some time, but after creative resolutions, he was able to get it to the finish line after a few years away from racing.
Sarah Stewart #U905 may have been the only competitor in the Stock 1 Class for this event but she was out to show the men how it’s done, including her own husband. She certainly did just that when she had to tow him out. Tyler Stewart #2973 broke down around RM174 and his wife was quickly approaching. As she got closer, she had to make the tough decision to stop and help him or just keep going. Her biggest worry was if she stopped to help she would then have to pass the racers she’d just passed. Being the sweet wife she is, she towed him 7 miles, even though he wanted her to tow him to the finish. This next story is about one of the bravest racers we have. Every event he has a different co-driver, and most of the time this recruit has never been in a race vehicle. Talk about trust. Craig Macintosh #S915 works with Race to Erase 22 to put veterans in his race car. Some races it’s one, some it’s two or three. Most events Macintosh meets his co-driver the night before the event. This one was no exception and he met his co-driver, Ed Sou, at the racer meeting. They got to know each other well when they got a flat and both had to admit that they never had changed a tire on a UTV. Good news is they figured it out and took home first place!
Victor Borg #V264 in his vintage Ford Ranger made the trip out to race his long time VORRA truck. Borg’s truck has a notable history, taking several Class 7 Championships in the 90’s, and this truck kept the history alive with a vintage class win.Wolforca (Ben) Palma #7011 contacted BJ, VORRA race director, two weeks before the race looking for a co-driver. Soon after, Palma was set up with a VORRA lifer, not only to ride, but to drive a section and bring a full pit crew to help. Palma was stoked to get the finish and win to say the least.
Maclain McBride #9990 kept it in the family. It was a collective effort bringing together several VORRA Class 9 racers to get this car to the finish. McBride and his dad purchased this car just over a month ago from Tom Piggott, and decided that Piggott needed to drive a section of the race. Getting stuck on a sandbar, it took some effort to get it to the next driver. In the end McBride (17 years old) who played in his high school football game Friday evening, crossed the finish line with his dad riding as co-dog. For McBride’s father, Nathan, crossing the finish line with his son was definitely a proud dad moment.
Photos Courtesy of Dirt Nation & Rallyewerk Media Service
In the Sportsman Class, 1374 Mark King #1374 drove their 5/1600 bug to win the class and also be the last official finisher of the 2023 Gold Rush. Talking to Mark at the finish line, they had their challenges, but in the end, they got the job done and made that drive back to Washington that much more rewarding.