Feature Story Tuesday May 31, 2016
Mooching Around Mexico
Local businesses get behind Yarrow's Chris Weins for needy kids on the Baja 500
Jay Niver, Alcohol-Drug Education Service, Surrey BC
The Mooch Racing Team's Bug will be taming the road in the Baja 500 starting June 1. Below, Chris Weins and his wife Jane.
o one confuses a VW "Bug" with a muscle car. But a hearty, local version of Volkswagen's iconic Beetle will soon prove its strength in Mexico.
The Mooch Racing team is competing in what's considered to be one of the world's most grueling off-road challenges — the Baja 500. 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, whose family hails from Yarrow. He and his navigator wife, Jane, are one of three teams that will take turns piloting the Mooch Bug over a bone-jarring, 500-mile course through the scorching, Mexican Baja desert.
Their Beetle class will compete sometime June 1-5 and require 20-plus hours of around-the-clock driving.
Wiens grew up in Yarrow and runs a local, social enterprise, Just Right Recycling. 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.
At a recent fundraiser, Art Penner (foreground) of the Mooch Racing team shows off the VW "Bug" he hopes will conquer the Mexican Baja to help disadvantaged youth who call the desert 'home."
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.
Chilliwack sponsors are making it possible to help the kids, including Micra Transportation Services, Fraser Valley Mitsubishi, Sawatsky & Sons Landscaping, IronSide Design Manufacturing, and JOW & Associates.
"Mooch Racing is focused on those same youth 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 their 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," Art said. In this case, the goal is to build a basic automotive and mechanical shop on site for the youngsters.
The Mooch Bug drew the attention of kids all around Mexico and the Baja.
"This has long been a dream of mine," said Wiens, "giving the kids a garage where they can learn simple, marketable skills. These young people can go on to careers that earn them a chance at a stable, productive future."
When Art asked Chris 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 battle against the desert.
About a third who dare the course fail to finish.
Besides the Chilliwack backers, others supporting 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.
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