There are off-road races… then there’s the SCORE Baja 1000. It’s in a class all by itself and is the granddaddy of extreme off-road racing. This year’s 47th Tecate Baja 1000 starts in Ensenada and finishes in La Paz, crisscrossing the Baja peninsula, stretching the course to approximately 1,200 miles of desert trails, bottomless sand and unknown obstacles.
Toyota is no stranger to the Baja 1000, taking the overall victory in 1993 and 1998 with Ivan “Ironman” Stewart at the wheel (until last year, Ivan was the only person to claim the overall victory in the Baja 1000 while racing solo, that included trucks and motorcycles).
With the introduction of the 2015 TRD Pro Series Tundra, Toyota thought it would be a novel idea to enter a basically stock truck in the race, piloted by TRD’s own Ted Moncure along with Andrew Bell, Jamie Bestwick, Michael Sweers and Ryan Millen (more on the drivers later), and coached by Ironman himself.
How difficult is it to race a basically stock truck in the Baja 1000? As of November 8, 2014, there were 228 entrants in the race – of that, only four were in the stock class (and two of them are Toyotas)!
The goal was to demonstrate the toughness of the new 2015 Toyota TRD Pro Series Tundra by attempting to finish the 47th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race – finishing first in class was an added bonus! But the win did not come easy. As TRD’s own Ted Moncure said, “I had to floss the truck through a narrow gap between a truck stuck in a deep silt bed and a large cactus or I would have gotten stuck. As Maxwell Smart said, ‘Missed it by that much!’ as the other truck's bumper opened our side up like a can opener. Now the TRD Pro Tundra isn’t as pretty as it used to be, but it’s tough!” Luckily the body damage was superficial and it did not slow their winning effort. So what do you do after finishing a race that spans 1,275 miles? Well, the team topped off the gas tank, got in the truck, and started driving north back to the U.S. as the Long Beach Racers crew members took turns driving it home. Next stop? Toyota’s headquarters in Torrance, CA. Congratulations team on a well-run race!
It takes a serious commitment to win the Baja 1000. In 1979, Toyota decided off-road racing would be a good way to demonstrate the durability of their trucks, so they enlisted the help of Cal Wells, a proven off-road racer and owner of Precision Preparation Inc. In 1983, the team signed Ivan “Ironman” Stewart as their driver (Ivan had already won the Baja 1000 in 1976). Still today, 41 years later, Ironman is a vital part of the Toyota team.
The Baja 1000 didn’t start as a “race” – it started in 1962 when two motorcyclists timed how long it took to ride from Tijuana to La Paz – 952.7 miles – they did it in 39 hours, 56 minutes.
A brief history lesson on the Baja 1000:
Team Coach: Ivan “Ironman” Stewart Off-Road Hall of Fame Member
22-time SCORE Baja 500 and 1000 Champion San Diego, CA
Navigator: Mike Sweers Chief Engineer of
Toyota Trucks Ann Arbor, MI
Ted Moncure TRD Design Engineer SCORE Baja 1000 and 500 Class-Champion Long Beach, CA
Andy Bell Toyota athlete SCORE Baja 500 Champion Guinness World Record holder Long Beach, CA
Jamie Bestwick Toyota athlete Professional BMX Vert Rider 9-time X-Games winner Port Matilda, PA
Ryan Millen SCORE Baja 1000 and 500 competitor son of off-road legend Rod Millen San Juan Capistrano, CA
Toyota and TRD are entering a modified 2015 TRD Pro Series Tundra in the 47th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. The modifications are basically to ensure the truck complies with the racing safety and communication requirements (like installing a roll bar and fuel cell), then the truck is “race-prepped,” which requires safety-wiring key components to ensure they stay tight during the heat of competition.
TRD and Toyota Truck Chief Engineer, Mike Sweers, said, “My job is to ensure that the Tundra is designed to exceed the expectations and demands of every single one of its owners. With over 1,000 miles of harsh terrain, the Baja 1000 is the ultimate proving ground for research and development that helps us to continuously improve our trucks.” Mike is also riding along as the navigator during the event, which is the first time Mike has raced in Baja.
“Competing in the Full Size Stock class allows our team to test the Tundra TRD Pro (with its TRD Pro Suspension, TRD Tires and TRD Wheels) as close to stock as possible and showcase its strength and durability in the Mexican desert’s treacherous terrain,” said Andrew Franceschini, Toyota Truck Marketing and Communications National Manager.