Abbotsford racing team to compete at Baja 500 in VW Beetle

Grueling off-road race from June 1 to 5 in Mexico benefits kids' home

  • May. 29, 2016 8:00 a.m.
At a recent local fundraiser

At a recent local fundraiser

No one confuses a VW “Bug” with a muscle car. But a hearty, local version of Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle will prove its strength early next month in Mexico.

Abbotsford’s Mooch Racing team is competing in what’s considered to be one of the world’s most grueling off-road challenges, the Baja 500, taking place June 1 to 5. Their little green machine is racing against other Beetles in Class 11, which allows almost no performance upgrades to the cars.

“We’ve got safety equipment, extra tires and air filters, but these vehicles are essentially stock,” said driver Chris Wiens.

He and his navigator wife, Jane (in picture at left), are one of three teams who will take turns piloting the Mooch Bug over a bone-jarring, 500-mile course through the scorching Mexican Baja desert.

Wiens, who grew up in Yarrow and lives in Abbotsford, is a familiar face at nearby Mission Raceway, where he drag races his custom, 11-second Mustang or an even-faster Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle.

His passion for motorsports might entice him to choke down Mexican dust – but teaming with Mooch to challenge the Baja is about more than getting kicks or bragging rights.

Their attempt to beat the heat and unforgiving terrain will benefit Mount of Olives Children’s Village which is home to dozens of orphaned, homeless or otherwise needy youngsters from the very land where the race is run.

Wiens said you can watch from Mount Olives as the vehicles roar past.

Mooch Racing is geared to help those kids and young adults, said Art Penner. He and his wife, Ruth, are Abbotsford poultry farmers when they aren’t wearing their Mooch Racing hats.

Mooch is the part-time project that works with Missions Network International to support the children’s village and lesser, other community programs.

“Racing in the Baja raises awareness and money for the cause,” Penner said.

In this case, the goal is to build a basic automotive and mechanical shop on site for the youth.

“This has long been a dream of mine – giving the kids a garage where they can learn basic, marketable skills,” Wiens said. “These young people can go on to careers that earn them a chance at a stable, productive future.”

When Penner asked Wiens if he would drive for them in Mexico, Wiens said it was “a no-brainer.” He and Jane have made more than 20 trips to eight countries for a variety of charitable and missions work over 25 years – but never sweltered in a jolting, ’round-the-clock battle against the desert.

About a third who dare the course fail to finish.

A number of Chilliwack sponsors are making it all possible, including Micra Transportation Services, Fraser Valley Mitsubishi, Sawatsky & Sons Landscaping, IronSide Design Manufacturing, and JOW & Associates.

Others backing the initiative include TSL Holdings, WCC Enterprises, and Just Right Recycling.

Individuals who wish to help can donate through Scrap Cars not Kids, and all tax-deductible donations will go directly to the shop project at Mount of Olives Children’s Village.