A Mopar In Mexico
When you think of Dodge Rams and Baja, you think of KORE. Ever since Kent Kroeker, the owner and founder of KORE, raced his stock Cummins-powered truck in the 2004 Baja 1000 to a podium finish and then drove the truck all the way back home from La Paz, the company has enjoyed the reputation of being not just Baja proven but Baja race proven.
Since then, imitators have popped up to offer similar products for the heavy-duty Dodge Ram, but none of them has the hard-earned pedigree of KORE. Last year, under Kent's guidance, KORE distributors raced three Cummins-diesel-powered Dodge Rams in the Baja 1000. Although only one finished on the podium, everyone on the KORE team gained valuable racing experience. This in turn enables them to better help KORE's customers with their own suspension systems. After all, it's not often a guy in Tennessee, New York, Los Angeles, or Canada can call his local dealer for advice and talk to someone who has actually competed on that equipment in the world's longest and most grueling nonstop off-road race.
I have known Kent since 1993 when we started Marine Corps Officer Candidate School together. While still on active duty, we spent many hours on motorcycles together, navigating the myriad trails on the Baja peninsula. I participated in a lot of motorcycle race efforts that took Kroeker to the podium many times. But it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I started driving trucks off-road. When he showed me the performance that his suspension was capable of, I was hooked. I soon had my own KORE Ram with an Unlimited Series kit and was loving every minute of it. Soon thereafter, he asked me to codrive for him in the 2006 Baja 500, and later that year I drove a section of the Baja 1000 for his Canadian distributor. Needless to say, I was very excited when Kent asked me to help him build and race a new KORE truck.
Little did I understand the monumental task that was at hand.
After last year's Baja 1000, Kent decided it was time for KORE to take the next step. Previously, Team KORE had been doing what Kent calls "adventure racing." For KORE, those days were now over. Bolting hardcore suspension systems to a heavy-duty hay-hauler so that it could withstand the punishment of Baja was satisfying and a good way to both prove and promote products for the consumer, but now it was time to not only finish... but to win.
Although the heavy-duty Ram is a great design, the Cummins Turbodiesel is one heavy motor. Kroeker decided that the next step would be to build a race truck out of the Hemi version of the Ram 2500. The Hemi will never replace the Cummins for someone who wants to tow heavy loads, but the weight savings of the Mopar V8 make it an attractive option for serious off-roading. Further weight would be saved by using a standard cab instead of a Quad Cab and keeping the cage design as simple as possible. With this design, we envisioned a weight savings of close to 2,000 pounds.
Finding a late-model standard cab HD wasn't as easy as first thought, but eventually KORE located one in Georgia. Kent drew up a strong but minimalist design for the rollcage then put the truck in the expert hands of Worthington Off Road, KORE's Los Angeles County distributor. Worthington Off Road uses CNC tube benders and the latest equipment so that after this cage was made, duplicate versions could follow without any painstaking R&D. Just put the tube in the machine and it comes out perfect - every time.
With any luck, we'd get the truck back in about three months or so. This would give us just enough time to complete the build before the Baja 500. In my mind, this was finally going to be the first year we'd go down to Baja completely prepared and not endure a lot of last-minute flailing.
Anybody who has ever actually raced in Baja is laughing right now.