In desert racing, the most coveted victory is the SCORE Baja 1000. This classic race brings out hundreds of contenders from all over the world. Its prestige even brought back former desert racer, now NASCAR driver, Robby Gordon, hoping to conquer Baja and capture the title. After all, winning the infamous race puts your name among the greatest desert racers of all time, such as Ivan Stewart, Larry Roesler, and Larry Ragland.
In the year 2000, the organizers at SCORE decided to run a course from Ensenada south along the Pacific Coast to Cabo San Lucas, commemorating the new millennium. In a field of 16 starters, only five finished the three-day race. One of those finishers, the Enduro Racing team of Dave Ashley and Dan Smith, not only won their Trophy Truck division, but also the overall 4WD victory. In a time of 32 hours, 15 minutes, 39 seconds, the duo beat their closest competitor by 45 minutes.
In 2001, the Ashley/Smith team were back at it, finishing the SCORE season with victories in the Baja 500, Primm 300, and the Baja 1000. The winning streak gave them the Trophy Truck point victory, along with another Baja 1000 victory, giving them rare back-to-back Baja 1000 Championships in their unique Ford F-150 Trophy Truck.
The project itself started in 1998, when Team Enduro began constructing the framework for the future desert warrior. In between races and prep work, Dave and Dan, with their 30-plus years of knowledge, created a chassis out of 4130 chrome-moly tubing. To ensure the frame would handle the harsh terrain, the tubes are TIG-welded for strength and durability.
With the framework set, the next step would be the suspension. For this, a set of 4130 chrome-moly A-arms was TIG-welded and installed in the frontend. To smooth out the ride, two King racing shocks were installed at each corner. One 2-1/2-inch coilover shock and one 4-inch King Kong triple-bypass shock damp the unpredictable desert terrain.
For the rear, a classic four-link suspension with a live axle was designed, again using 4130 chrome-moly tubing. Similar to the front, two King shocks mount to each corner, a 2-1/2-inch coilover and a 4-inch double-bypass. The rearend itself is an invention of Chrisman Rear Ends in Anaheim, California. The custom-built rearend boasts a strong 10-inch differential equipped with 5.0:1 gears.
Next on the must-have list for the Trophy Truck was a high-performance engine. For this, desert-racing sponsor Ford Motor Company of Detroit was called upon. Starting from an iron block, Ford Power Train Engineering built a unique 5.4L electronic fuel-injected, V-8 monster. Teamed with a custom exhaust system and an 8-into-1 header from REF in Kingman, Arizona, the high-performance engine provides 600 horses and 505 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant pushes the truck to a top speed of 140 mph.
Harnessing the raw power of the engine is another Ford Power Train Engineering development. A Ford 5R-100 electronic sequential shift transmission bolts to the rear of the engine. From the tranny, a custom-built driveshaft from Inland Drive Line of Ontario, California, delivers the power to the rear axle. There, four 17x8-inch APP Thunder II wheels wrapped with 37x12.50 BFGoodrich Baja T/A tires propel the truck through the desert.
The feature that makes this truck stand out is the seating. One Taylor seat, fitted with a Simpson five-point harness, is mounted in the center of the cab. From there, Dan or Dave monitors the various vital signs of the truck through a digital dash, laid out on carbon-fiber material.
With the meat of the truck complete, a fiberglass body needed construction. Trailer Products in Hemet, California, was called upon to make fiberglass skin. Once finished, Premier Paint and Bodyworks of Riverside, California, applied the notorious red, orange, and white paintjob.
The 2002 desert-racing season is underway, and Enduro Racing is the team to beat. With their fine-tuned Trophy Truck and extraordinary knowledge of racing in the desert, Dave Ashley and Dan Smith will surely spend their fair share of time in the Winner's Circle and, perhaps, capture a third, consecutive Baja 1000 crown.