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7 Open/7200 Racing Class - First Of A Kind

Posted in Features on June 20, 2008
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Photographers: Collette Blumer

Holmes And Fourth Street Racing Show What's PossibleNew life. That's what the 7 Open/7200 racing class needed. Defined as an "open class for two- or four-wheel-drive mini or midsize pickups," the class label ostensibly presented the opportunity for fabricators and racers to build their trucks any way they wanted to. A look in the rule book told otherwise. There were plenty of restrictions. Frame material could not be removed. Engine placement was restricted to the stock location (plus or minus an inch). Track width was restricted to 78 inches. Faced with this set of restrictions, most 7 Open/7200 racers ended up building overly tall trucks with relatively (by today's standards) narrow track widths. Combine a tall ride height and a narrow track width and what do you get? Rollovers. Instead of building new trucks for 7 Open/7200 competition, racers began to look for other classes to race in.

Just when 7 Open/7200 seemed destined to stay stale, Best In The Desert Racing Association rewrote the class rules with bold strokes. It should be noted that Class 7 (aka 7 Open) is a SCORE designation, while Best In The Desert uses Class 7200 to describe its open mini or midsize truck class. Up until now, SCORE and BITD had essentially the same rules in Class 7 and Class 7200. The new Class 7200 rules are unique to BITD. As of press time, it is unknown whether or not SCORE will follow suit and change its rules for Class 7.

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What are the new Class 7200 rules?

"Engine is limited to a six-cylinder. Engine may be relocated on chassis as needed. There are no engine placement restrictions."

"Body must resemble a truck or SUV and must have emblem of manufacturer of type of truck (i.e. Ford oval, Chevy bow tie, Honda H). Track width is limited to 85 inches as measured from outside of tire to outside of tire."

"Maximum of three seats may be used, but must meet with Best In The Desert Racing Association approval."

Bolds strokes indeed! This new set of rules gives truck builders almost unabated freedom of design and construction. The new class warranted a new name. Class 7200 is now also known as Mini Trick-Truck.

Mark Landersman of Fourth Street Racing has had his eye on Class 7/Class 7200 for several years. On the way back from the 2005 Baja 1000 (see "How to Win a War," Apr. '06), Landersman observed, "I see a common problem in Class 7 Open trucks: It's that the rules aren't really open. If they were, I think I could build something better."

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Mark's Class 7200 plotting and planning kicked up several notches in mid '06 when BITD announced the new 7200 rules. The new rules meant that stock framerails could be dispensed with in favor of a complete tube chassis. The new rules meant that the engine could be shoved rearward in the chassis, or could even be mounted buggy-style at the rear. The new track width meant added stability in the corners and bigger suspension travel.

It's one thing to scheme and dream. It's quite another to take a dream and bring it to life as a functional metallic reality. Landersman had the plan, but he needed to find a client whose racing goals meshed with his. Enter Jeff Holmes of Holmes Racing.

If Holmes Racing has a familiar ring, that's because Landersman's shop, Fourth Street Racing, has teamed with John Holmes of Holmes Racing for several seasons to date. The Fourth Street/Holmes Racing alliance has netted championships, First Place finishes, and a few near misses during its joint racing effort. Jeff Holmes is John Holmes' brother.

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With Jeff on board, Mark Landersman and Fourth Street Racing began to create what was destined to become the first new-school Class 7200 Mini Trick-Truck. Off-Road's lenses were on hand during the buildup and also during two-day-long test sessions at Plaster City, California. The new truck is built right up against the new-school 7200 rules. It boasts a complete tube chassis constructed using 2-inch-diameter, 0.120-wall, 4130 chrome-moly tubing for the main structural core. The 4.5L Ford Grand National V6 sits at the rear, feeding over 500 ponies forward into a five-speed Albins transaxle. The 84-inch track width further enhances cornering stability, and allows for extralong upper and lower control arms. Driver and codriver enjoy roomy surroundings thanks to the wide chassis. The Mini TT is cloaked by one-off fiberglass panels created specifically for it by Enrique Leon and the crew at Baja Fabrications.

The truck's Vegas to Reno debut race has yet to be run. At press time, V to R was still a few days away, and the Fourth Street Racing Team was busy making sure that every T had been crossed and every I dotted during the final hours of race prep. Mark sees Class 7200 success on the horizon. "We're going to run up front with this truck," he commented. "Desert racing is full of unknowns, of course, but this truck has the speed and handling to dominate the class."

The stage is now set. Best In The Desert has cleared the way for a completely new type of race truck. Class 7200 is sure to come back to life with a vengeance, starting with the fiery red rear-engine Ford Ranger on these very pages.

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