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Andersons - A desert racing family
by Dan McGee
Feb 13, 2011 | 2837 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Dan McGee - Jim and Ann Anderson stand by their car in front of the Big O Tires store he owns. They compete as a driver/co-driver team in desert races including the Baja 500 and Baja 1000.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Jim and Ann Anderson stand by their car in front of the Big O Tires store he owns. They compete as a driver/co-driver team in desert races including the Baja 500 and Baja 1000.
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Photo courtesy Jim Anderson - Husband and wife driving team of Jim and Ann Anderson (left to right) are suited up before climbing into their racer at the start of last fall's Baja 1000 race.
Photo courtesy Jim Anderson - Husband and wife driving team of Jim and Ann Anderson (left to right) are suited up before climbing into their racer at the start of last fall's Baja 1000 race.
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Photo courtesy Jim Ober - Jim Anderson, along with his co-driver and wife Ann, get some air at the start of last year's Baja 1000 race.
Photo courtesy Jim Ober - Jim Anderson, along with his co-driver and wife Ann, get some air at the start of last year's Baja 1000 race.
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Photo courtesy Jim Ober - While Ann Anderson usually acts as co-driver for her husband Jim, she's a winning driver in her own right and here is racing to victory in a Powder Puff event. The event was to benefit breast cancer awareness for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Photo courtesy Jim Ober - While Ann Anderson usually acts as co-driver for her husband Jim, she's a winning driver in her own right and here is racing to victory in a Powder Puff event. The event was to benefit breast cancer awareness for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
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RENO - Jim and Ann Anderson are a good example of how family orientated racing is. They and their sons compete in desert racing either as driver or co-driver/navigator.

Anderson's involvement in the sport began when he lived in Southern California.

"As a kid I always like going to the desert and got lucky enough to pit crew for an off-road race team in the early 1980's and that's where the dream of racing in Baja began," he said.

His first time racing came after winning the ride at a church auction.

"The very first race I was a co-rider or navigator and my first time riding I was definitely shocked at how fast you go through the desert." he said. "I won the ride at the church auction then after riding with them they asked me to drive in the Baja 1000 in 2000. And as soon as I got home I sold my car and bought a racecar. I was hooked after one race driving."

For the next four years Anderson campaigned his own two-seat Class 10 buggy which has unlimited suspension but a limited motor. He was so successful other people began to ask him to drive for them.

"Which made a lot more sense economically so we wound up selling the car and starting racing for about four different teams," he said. "Our final team we've been racing with for four years is Precepts Racing, a Christian based race team out of the Coachella Valley in Southern California."

With that team the Andersons race the big races like SCORE's Baja 500 and 1000, Best-in-the-Desert's Parker 425, Vegas to Reno and other races they can squeeze into the schedule.

"In between that we've raced for other teams but more on a one or two race basis," he said.

After he began to drive Anderson met his wife Ann as they were in related business.

"He was the contractor that was awarded a job and I was the project manager," she said, and then added with a laugh, "We survived it."

Her first taste of what it takes to compete on the desert came during the pre-running of an event in Baja.

"I didn't understand it until we went pre-running on a trip with a bunch of couples, just playing around in Mexico," she said. "You started to understand how tight the terrain is and I couldn't understand how they could race through what we were just putsing through."

Her next revelation came when she asked Anderson what happens when he had to pass someone.

"He looked at me and said, 'you hit them.' And I thought he was kidding," she said. "Then he talked me into racing for the first time being the navigator."

Her first time as a co-driver/navigator was the 2005 Vegas to Reno event and showed her the attraction desert racing has.

"The first race was a blast and it's very easy to understand how quickly these guys get addicted to the sport as it's just fun," she said. "It's a hard thing to explain and I think that's why we like being in the car together because we share so many great adventures and memories."

This past year was a busy one for the Andersons. They raced the Parker 425, the MORE (Mojave Off Road Racing Enthusiasts) 500, the Baja 500 and 1000, and the MORE Toys for Tots 250.

"We've had a pretty successful year," he said. "And Ann raced the Power Puff. With all those races we've either won or came in second, with the exception for the Baja 1000, which this year was an adventure."

Ann then added they have a couple of first overall victories.

Describing this fall's Baja 1000's challenges, Anderson said, "We finished but it took us 31 hours, we had to rewire the car in the middle of the night, replace both axels and CV joints as well as replace the steering ram. And we had no reverse gear when we finished the race."

Ann added that one of their drivers got stuck in the mud and she credited their pit crew for helping them get through the entire event.

In race like the Baja 1000 there are 25 people on split pit crews. One will leapfrog from pit area to pit area while another is ready to head into the desert for a repair or rescue operation.

Last year their 16-year-old son, Zack Collins got to co-drive with the other driver Drew Belk during the Baja 500 and crossed the finished line in first. During the Baja 1000, since his grades were good enough, he was part of the chase team but didn't ride in the car.

"His older brother, 17-year-old Austin Collins has raced in multiple races this year as a co-rider. Unfortunately he hasn't shared the same success," Anderson said.

He related that the car Austin was in during the Parker race got stuck and hit by another car that put him out of the race. So in the past two years the car Austin was riding in only went 40-miles in each race due to misfortune while his brother's car finished both races.

But there was one race that Anderson and Austin competed in as a team and won.

Ann pointed out there are two more sons as the Andersons are a blended family. Brian Anderson is 23 and the senior member of the group, while the junior member Turner Collins is 8 years old Turner Collins.

"And Turner is waiting out there and he's ready to go," Anderson said.

While Ann rides as co-driver/navigator with her husband she's also having success in Power Puff events. She laughed when describing how he had to coax her to drive rather than just be the co-driver.

"I've done pretty well. In my first year of driving I came in second in my class," she said. "This year they split us into two races, morning and afternoon because there were so many entries, maybe a couple hundred. And I came in first overall and first in my class in the morning race."

The race itself is to benefit breast cancer awareness and the program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Ann explained it gets heavy support and the women change the decals on the cars to reflect, in a humorous way, the aim of the race.

This past year she split the driving chores with Reno resident Wendy Pierce, the daughter of Drew Belk, the team's main supporter. And this year both women will compete together in a race where they get to race against the men.

Both Andersons feel racing has brought them and their family closer together as well as teaching their sons some valuable lessons on life.

"Absolutely, because not only do you share the time together but you're out there going through adversity. Racing, especially off road, is a lot of adversity," he said. "Our boys have seen its not all highs but there's lows and how do you deal with those.

"It brings you together because you realize that everything you deal with in life is a challenge. And how you deal with those challenges is who you become."

Then Ann added, "You spend a lot of time as a family, you're not playing video games and you're coming together for a common goal. It's very rewarding.

Anderson added that it gives their boys a chance to get out of the house and experience what the desert, wilderness and mountains offer. Things they wouldn't get a chance to experience if they weren't out there.

He cited this last Baja 1000 when they went ocean fishing. Ann added that Zack caught his first eel, had his first clams and they all experienced the adventure of looking for ice cream.

Their involvement with the Christian based team has also given the family a chance to help others in need as they do charity work in Mexico, especially with orphans.

"We bring a lot of clothes, food and it gives our kids a chance to see what impoverished people don't have and how fortunate we are," he said. "They've been able to participate and bring some joy to kids that maybe wouldn't. So they get to see both sides of the spectrum, from the very poor to the very rich."

Anderson related a story from this past Baja 1000 when one of their co-drivers was unable to make it. Team boss Belk signed up an 18-year-old orphan he knew in Ensenada, Mexico then flew the youngster down Baja so he could co-drive in the last 300 miles of the event where they crossed the finish line first in their class.

So after his first ever race and ride in an airplane, Belk gave him his helmet, driver's suit and the trophy to take back with him when he returned to the orphanage. Anderson wondered what things they young person would have to tell on his return to school that Monday.

Belk, who owns Belk Farms and Precepts Motorsports, is probably their biggest supporters and Anderson said it's because of him that they can do so much racing. The other sponsors are Anderson's Big O Tire Story on Mae Anne Avenue as well as Silver Creek Developments.

And of course he gave a big credit to his co-driver and wife Ann for supporting his racing.

With the boys all wanting to race Ann said, "I'm losing my seat fast as they begin to co-driver more and more. But they've also found that racing, and the family involvement, has brought all of the closer together."

In fact both teenagers are working in Anderson's shop changing tires.

Relating her least liked part of the sport, Ann said, "Being stuck in the desert upside down when your four wheels aren't on the ground."

Anderson simply put said, "not winning."

But they both felt being a team where one depends on the other has brought them closer and given them a lot of stories as well as special memories.

Another thing that impresses both of them are how gracious the Mexicans have been since both Baja races are holidays. The locals give the racers a huge send off when an event begins.

And out on the desert, help comes in very unexpected ways. They've had a guy on horseback show and offer to rebuild an alternator or a group rush up and hold up a car so a jack isn't needed when changing a tire.

Looking forward the Andersons will be racing this weekend at the SNORE (Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts) event, "The Battle of Primm." Then they'll get ready for future major races and hope to compete in at least two VORRA events.

For this couple desert racing has allowed them to work as a team and bring their whole family together. And they know it's truly a family sport.

OTHER RACING NEWS

•This weekend kicks-off racing in this area with the biggest show happening at the Reno Livestock Center with the annual visit of the Arenacross Series. The pros race Friday and Saturday evening, beginning at 7 p.m., then after the course is altered for safety, amateurs get their turn Sunday with the finals beginning in the late morning.

The MRANN season begins with the Sahwave Hare and Hound staged north of the Nightingale exit on I-80. As usual Saturday is for the Pee Wees, Mini Bikes, V Women and Vintages classes that use a short course.

The big bikes get their turn starting at 10 a.m. Sunday on the long course that has elevation changes from 4,200 to 6,500 feet. To be classed as a finisher a rider has to complete one of the two loops.

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