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2005 Nissan Titan - So You Want To Race Baja

Posted in Features on April 9, 2008
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If you've ever been to the Baja during the 1000 race or watched it on TV, you probably found yourself asking how they do it. Specifically, how does a group of people put together a truck to tackle the toughest terrain on earth? Professional racing in any motorsport typically takes big bucks and full-time dedication. As such, the dream of owning a Baja-worthy race vehicle and actually competing in the SCORE Baja 1000 usually vanishes as quickly as the dust after race day when you start adding up what it costs. However, let's take a look at one particular team's effort in hopes of inspiring future racers while providing a little clarity about what it actually takes to compete in a low-budget average-Joe format.

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Sure everybody wants a Trophy Truck, but very few can afford to play that game. That's why SCORE created the Sportsman Truck class. In the Sportsman class almost anything goes. Originally it was intended for vehicles that didn't meet the exact criteria of other more competitive and heavily regulated classes. All the same safety rules apply, such as the use of a rollcage and fuel cell, however many of the strict technical limitations governing suspension, bodywork, engine, and drivetrain are absent. This allows those of us with smaller pocketbooks to configure a race truck with parts we have lying around or from components that are simply much more affordable and available to the mainstream.

This year we teamed up with Bob Graham of Orange, California, to walk through the process of transforming a bone-stock two-wheel drive '05 Nissan Titan into a race-ready Baja Sportsman truck. Bob has been racing Baja for 11 years and knows what it takes to take on the harsh deserts south of the border. Back in 2004, Bob placed Second in the Stock Full class in his red '04 Nissan Titan 4x4. Last July, Bob decided to step it up a notch and turn the stock full truck into a potent Class 8. However, economics forced him to put the project on hold for a while. Unhappy with the idea of missing the 40th annual Baja 1000, he turned to his daily driver/prerunner and started wrenching. The result of his hard effort was a fine-tuned low-buck sportsman class contender.

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Item Approximate cost
'05 Nissan Titan $15,000
SCORE-approved Rollcage $5,000
Ford 8.8 Rear Axle $1,000
Camburg Suspension $4,500
Glassworks Body Parts $1,200
Suspension Seats $1,000
Lowrance GPS Unit $2,000
11 Wheels $8,700
Fuel Cell $1,200
Lights $6,700
Spare Parts $5,000
Miscellaneous Items $5,000
Total Expenses $56,300*
*Sponsored items include Sway-A-Way shocks, AFE intake system, VHF race radio, tires, and lubricants.

Some of the most often overlooked components of a race vehicle are lubricants and other vital fluids. Bob prefers Royal Purple oil in his engine, power steering, and rear differential, because Royal Purple designs its products specifically for racing applications where they are required to last longer and hold up through greater heat cycles. The aftermarket cooling system of Bob's Titan runs Evans waterless coolant because it simply will not boil no matter how hot the engine gets. The fuel Bob uses in his truck has a 100-octane rating. This allows the fuel to burn more efficiently giving Bob increased throttle response and smoother power. Together, these items give Bob a distinct advantage over other racers who use traditional off-the-shelf products.

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