Knowing the terrain is the key to winning any type of race, especially out in the desert. Driving talent alone can only go so far and can rarely win races. Doing your homework wins. A prerunner aids in marking out the terrain before the race. Sure, you might be thinking that drivers run the same course every year. This is true to some extent. The overall course outline may be the same, but the terrain of the course changes throughout the year. Jumps and whoop sections can be created in the mildest of storms. This is where the prerunner comes into play.
The ideal prerunner is one that acts like your race vehicle. Having the same suspension allows the driver to get a real feeling for how the race vehicle will react out on the course. By being able to feel these reactions, the race team can also adjust the race vehicle's suspension beforehand. It's kind of like knowing the answers to a test before taking it.
Riviera Racing is one team that is fortunate to have this setup. When they purchased their Ford trophy truck in 1998 from desert racing legend Robby Gordon, a unique prerunner was also up for sale at the same time. This prerunner was built to be an exact replica of the trophy truck, the only differences being a few luxuries inside the cab. It's safe to say that this is one of the best prerunners out there.
The first step in the creation of this machine was the skeleton. Knowing that racing great Robby Gordon designed and built this frame, it would be one of the strongest out there. True to his reputation, Robby constructed the frame with the highest-quality 4,130 chrome-moly 1.25-inch tubing, TIG-welded for accuracy and strength. However, over the years, the desert has taken its toll on the frame, which was maintained and rebuilt by Riviera.
For the suspension, durable 4,130 A-arms with 24 inches of travel were created for the front. To do this, the engine was moved back in the engine compartment. This made room for the hefty arms, a design modeled after the trophy truck's arms, ensuring that they will be able to handle the roughest desert terrain. Equipped with Robby's own line of shocks, built specifically for desert racing, the F-150 dances across the nastiest of whoop sections.The rear suspension uses a four-link design that creates 36 inches of wheel travel. Similar to the rest of the truck, the control arms are constructed from 4,130 chrome-moly tubing, with the lower arms being boxed in for added strength. Again, Robby's shocks handle the damping duties, with one coilover and one bypass shock mounted to each lower arm.
Inside the cockpit, three Cobra Technology seats reside -- two up front, and one in the rear center -- equipped with Crow five-point harnesses for safety. Liquid-filled Auto Meter gauges monitor the truck's performance, while a three-spoke MOMO steering wheel helps the navigation. A Global Satellite Phones communications system keeps team Riviera in touch with the pit crews.Prerunning a course can be a very long, hot task. To make things a little more comfortable, beverage coolers are mounted in the cab to each side of the rear seat. If the beverages aren't enough to cool down with, this prerunner is equipped with ice-cold air conditioning for the front and rear of the cab. To drown out any unwanted noise, a Rockford Fosgate CD/MP3 player and sound system delivers the tunes.
When all was said and done, the truck was widened a few inches, leaving two options for skin. One would be to create new fiberglass body panels for the truck. This would reduce the weight of the vehicle, making it faster. However, this truck was not intended for racing, just prerunning. Thus, the second choice was opted, widening the original cab. If you look closely around the area where the door and windshield meet, you will see that it is wider than a standard F-150 -- 3 inches to be exact. To cover the rest of the truck, a one-piece fiberglass front end and rear fenders were made by Trailer Products in Hemet, California. Now covered, the prerunner is 92 inches wide, 6 inches more than stock. The flawless jet-black paintjob provided by Anaheim Hills Auto Body in Anaheim Hills, California, helps this runner stand out in the crowd.
While the framework was taking place, the Ford V-8 was sent to Patton Racing Motors in Hemet. While there, the mild-mannered stock motor was transformed into a 440ci monster. Equipped with a Motoc fuel injection and ignition and a complete 3-inch exhaust and header system by Tube Technologies of Corona, California, this beast produces 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm. To control the power to the rear wheels, a Chevrolet Turbo 400 transmission, built by Culhane Transmissions of Hemet is bolted to the motor. From there, a custom-built 10-inch rearend, with 5.0:1 gears, from Chrisman Rear Ends of Anaheim, California, spins the 17x8-inch Ultra wheels wrapped with 37x12.5R17 BFGoodrich rubber.
The next time you are at a SCORE or BITD race, pay close attention to the Riviera entry in the trophy truck division. Since this prerunner was built to be an almost exact duplicate of the Riviera trophy truck, it is possible to see it entered if the trophy truck isn't ready for the race. In the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge of 2001, this happened, and the prerunner finished an impressive Third in the Trophy Truck class.
Owner/hometown: Mark Post, Riviera Racing/Laguna Beach, California
Co-Driver/hometown: Jerry Whelchel/Rancho Santa Margarita, California
Make/model/builder: '97 Ford F-150 Extended Cab/Robby Gordon
Engine/builder: 440ci 650hp Ford V-8/Patton Racing Engines
Compression ratio: 11:1
Transmission/builder: Chevrolet Turbo 400 three-speed automatic/Culhane Transmissions
Fuel cell/fuel: Fuel Safe 75-gallon cell/VP 112-octane racing fuel
Suspension: A-arms with 24 inches of wheel travel (front); four-link live axle with 36 inches of wheel travel (rear)
Shocks: Robby Gordon Racing Shocks
Rearend: 10-inch Chrisman with 5.0:1 gears
Wheels/tires: Ultra 17x8-inch with bead locks/BFGoodrich 37x12.5R17
Brakes: CNC Caliper four-wheel disc brakes with 14-inch rotors
Wheelbase: 125 in
Overall width: 92 in
Weight: 6,500 lb
Additional features: Motec Fuel injection; Uni air filters; TTI exhaust; Cobra Technology seats; Crow Enterprises belts; MOMO steering wheel; Auto Meter liquid-filled gauges; Optima batteries; C-Fab oil and tranny coolers; Trailer Products fiberglass; Anaheim Hills Auto Body jet-black paint; Global Satellite Phones; Rockford Fosgate CD/MP3 player and speakers