Hameedi theorized the problem may be pump cavitation: "Cavitation can cause fluid to funnel and suck air. This'll create fluctuations in pressure and cause the oil to miss certain key areas." At this point, the team was 11 minutes off the lead. The lead Trophy truck was Herbst. It was a two-way competition at this point, one no one wanted to lose because the transmission was hot. Between onion and wheat fields, with the mountain leg coming up, Dan Smith, one of two drivers in Ford's team, said he would take the chance and run at 90 percent of maximum rpm, hoping the temps in the mountains would help cool the vehicle and give Dave Ashley, his partner, a chance at a strong finish. After the Trinidad pit stop, the transmission cooled to 235 degrees and everyone's mood lightened. Half an hour later, the temp was back to 290, the mountains still a long way off.
Smith radioed: He lost his alternator when the bolts sheared off. Two hours later, his team found him in the outback and he was on his way again. Herbst, ahead of Smith, stalled in a Tech Inspection site, with ring and pinion problems. Both trucks got fixed, but by race's end, neither was the winner. Hameedi shipped the transmission back to Detroit for teardowns.
At headquarters, the teardowns uncovered transmission-pump problems. Hameedi was confident they were the source of the overheating. "The clutches were being applied inadvertently when the spinning inside the transmission caused the lube to apply pressure to them. At the same time, there was uneven lubrication. We created a leak path to allow some of the fluid to exit at high rpm and allow the clutches better lubrication and performance," says Hameedi. The lubricating pump on the TorqShift was designed for a diesel application, meaning a low-speed/high-flow operation. Hameedi and his team adapted the pump to a high-speed/low-flow operation, more typical of gasoline vehicles. That allows the clutch to spin faster and with more even lubrication. "We retoleranced the pump gears and slightly reduced the capacity of the pump to better match the higher-rpm duty cycle," Hameedi reports. He also says the new torque converter developed for the race looked flawless when cut apart. Meanwhile, the Terrible Herbst crew will be stiff competition in future races, once they figure out whether the added weight of four-wheel drive is worth the risk of differential failure during a big race.