Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dominguez Brothers Battle The Baja elements in Desert Off-Road Racing

Dominguez brothers battle elements in off-road racing

To say the Dominguez brothers have to deal with the elements would be a vast understatement.

Off-road racing isn't a sport most have the guile to try. There's the unforgiving terrain, unrelenting dust, sabotaging fans who set booby traps and the inescapable prospect of death.

But they love it all.

“When you're on the quad and you got that adrenaline – you just got to keep going,” Juan Dominguez said. “The next day you can barely walk, your hands are still vibrating.”

And that's not all, as the sensation of racing also takes over your subconscious.

“When you go to sleep, you still hear the motor inside your head,” Alonzo Dominguez said.

Now imagine if you had to overcome all of that with one eye. You would be Juan Dominguez.

He had an affinity toward all-terrain vehicles for some time, but it became a full-blown passion in 2006. A year after Alonzo witnessed the Baja 500 — a world-class off-road race in Baja California, Mexico — Juan Dominguez saw it for himself in 2006. Sure enough, that moment served to be the tipping point.

The Dominguez brothers already had a quad at the time, but once Juan saw the quads drivers were using in the Baja race, he was hooked.

“Compared to our quad, they looked like monster trucks,” Juan Dominguez said. “I was like, ‘Hell yeah, dude, this thing is sick.'”

A year later, their father invested in a top-notch all-terrain vehicle for them to ride. But he wasn't on board with them driving it into the ground.

“My dad was like, ‘Hell no. I spent thousands of dollars and you're going to go in there and mess it all up?,'” Juan Dominguez said. “I was like, ‘Dad, that's what I want to do, you know?' Luckily, he supported us.”

And so the Pirruñas racing team was formed. So what's ‘Pirruñas,' you ask?

Growing up, Juan's grandmother affectionately referred to him as Mirruñas – or little guy. At some point, his mom started calling him Pirruñas and it stuck.

“Since I was like two weeks old,” Juan Dominguez said. “People who are our friends ask me, ‘What's your real name?' They don't even know. I tell them Juan is my professional name.”

With the guidance of a racing outfit from San Luis, Ariz., the Dominguez brothers got on their own two feet by 2008. Their first race was the San Felipe 250, and they've been driving ever since.

In early June, they returned to where it all began: the SCORE Baja 500. Sure, winning is cool, but it's more about survival. And there's no tougher stretch to the race than the first 40 miles. Potholes that could swallow the entire vehicle are a common sight – granted, if you can see.

Visibility is so bad that Juan Dominguez once drove over a 20-foot cliff after taking a turn too fast.

“I was about to go over the handlebars, but I stopped myself because the race would have been over,” Juan Dominguez said.

Luckily, he hit a tree to stop his fall, and a few nearby spectators helped him out. Once he got over the shock, Juan Dominguez and the fans got his quad moving and he was back on the trail.

But not all of the fans are helpful. Some like to lay large objects like boulders in the race trail for their entertainment. When you have one eye and your vision is limited, said booby traps can be tough to pick up.

In all, it took the Pirruñas racing team 13 hours, 32 minutes and 59 seconds to complete the 500-mile trek this year. About every 80 miles they would switch drivers with two other teammates. The Dominguez brothers each took two turns on the quad, with Juan Dominguez starting the race and Alonzo Dominguez finishing it.

“For the last straightaway there's a massive wall of people on both sides,” Alonzo Dominguez said. “It inspires you.”

Pirruñas finished second out of 11 racers in the Sportsman ATV class this year. Afterwards, the Dominguez brothers celebrated with their support crew, which is about 30 people strong and follows them every step of the way.

Juan Dominguez still races despite that fateful January afternoon when he was seven years old. Looking for a thrill ride, Juan Dominguez jumped on the back of a moving ice cream truck. Too bad he turned into target practice for a couple of nearby BB gun-toting teenagers. One of the BB's entered his skull through his right eye, lodging close to his brain.

That same ice cream truck still rolls around Yuma these days, and Juan and his brother get a kick out of it every time they see it. It's since been repainted from the green, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme of the past, but they can still recognize it. As the saying goes, comedy equals tragedy plus time.

“We always just laugh about it,” Alonzo Dominguez said. “The ice cream truck always passes by right here and I'm like, ‘Hey man, you should jump on the back of it.'” Courtesy Yuma Sun Article

Video Race Ending in San Felipe Baja Mexico

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