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April 2011 Drivelines: Off Road News

Posted in Features on April 1, 2011
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A First At The Baja 1000
When father-and-son racers Gustavo Vildosola Jr. and Sr. drove their Ford F-150 Trophy Truck through 1,061 miles of grueling Baja terrain between Ensenada and La Paz in just over 19 hours, they earned several spots in the Tecate-SCORE Baja 1000 record books.

Not only did they win First Place among the four-wheeled entries, but they were faster than the winning JCR/Honda motorcycle team of Kendall Norman and Quinn Cody, the first four-wheeled entry to do so in a full-peninsula race since 1973. The Vildosolas are also the first Mexican national team to earn an overall win in the race's 43-year history. And the Vildosola victory gave BFGoodrich its 24th overall four-wheel victory in the 1000.

"This race means a lot to me and my family," said Gus Jr. after the race. "Every time we go out and race, I say we have the privilege of representing Mexico because we're the only Mexican SCORE Trophy Truck team. It's obviously an honor to finally be able to win a race for them and for all of our fans who have been supporting us for all these years. And it is especially great for my dad, as well. He bought this SCORE Trophy Truck eight years ago with the dream to win a Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 overall, and today we were able to fulfill that dream."

EcoBoost Survives Baja
The Vildosolas weren't the only Ford truck drivers with something to celebrate in La Paz. Mike McCarthy, Robbie McCarthy, and Greg Crowther drove Ford's EcoBoost-powered F-150 race truck all the way to the finish line in 38 hours 20 minutes, "and the engine never missed a beat," Mike said. "It took a beating and kept right on going."

Ford has been torture-testing this particular EcoBoost engine ever since engineers plucked it randomly off of Ford's assembly line months ago. First it was put into a stock F-150 and traveled to Oregon, where it worked as a log skidder. Next, the truck towed 11,300 pounds at high speeds around a NASCAR track in Florida before towing up steep grades in Arizona against competitive trucks. After its stint in Arizona the engine was installed in the race truck.

You can learn more about this testing program at

Hall's Streak Continues
Rod Hall continues to be the only racer to have competed in every Baja 1000 since the race began 43 years ago. In November, at age 72, Hall drove his team's new Chevy Silverado international rally truck across the finish line after sharing driving duties with his sons Josh and Chad. Their finish, 24th in the Trophy Truck class, wasn't among the family's best (the Halls have earned 33 class wins at the 1000), but it wasn't unexpected given that the truck was finished just three weeks prior to the race.

"We encountered issues that we fully expected, given limited testing before the race," said Chad, himself an eight-time Baja 1000 class winner. "We have additional tuning and work to do, but our goal was to reach the finish line, and we accomplished that."

The Chevy is a 4x4, maybe the only one in the Trophy Truck class. That choice makes more sense when you learn that the Halls plan to enter the Silverado in a number of international rallies, including the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the Australasian Safari Rally, and the Dakar.

You Think You're Cold?
Arctic Trucks, an outfitter based in Reykjavik, Iceland, specializes in equipping 4x4s for some of the most extreme conditions on earth. How extreme? A recent expedition used Arctic Trucks-built Toyota Hiluxes to reach the South Pole, where temperatures were a balmy -49 degrees F. This marks the third year in a row that Arctic Trucks Toyotas have been used on South Pole expeditions. Currently a fleet of 12 Toyotas is down there, including a 6x6, and Arctic also provides drivers and mechanics to support the vehicles. You can follow their expeditions (three are scheduled for the South Pole this year) at

This Just In
•Italian Jeeps? According to the Wall Street Journal, Fiat is investing some $1.3 billion in a plant in Turin that will make Alfa Romeos and Jeeps. More than half the vehicles built in the plant will be made for export, primarily to North America, said the paper. This doesn't mean, though, that we'll see Italian Wranglers on our trails soon. The article said the vehicles made at the plant "would use a platform modified by Chrysler from one made for Alfa Romeo's new Giulietta compact car."

•In this economy we're all doing what we can to keep food on the table. One 4WOR reader who lost his job was forced to sell his beloved Jeep Laredo, but he used the money to seed his own rug-making company. In memory of his lost Jeep, he designed a rug called Wilderness Trek that features Jeeps on the trail. To get yours, go to Be sure to enter "4x4" in the coupon box during checkout to get 15 percent off.

•Red Line Synthetic Oil has developed an online application that helps you choose the right lubricating product for your vehicle. At, click on the Application Guide tab and enter your vehicle's pertinent data (year, make, model, and so on). The app will recommend the right motor oil, ATF, manual transmission gear oil, differential gear oil, fuel additive and coolant additives.

Earth Watch
•To help one of our best land-use advocacy groups, you can instantly donate $5 to Tread Lightly! by texting "tread" to 20222. A one-time donation will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance.

•The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) recognized 41 members of Congress who sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell urging the agency to prioritize and protect robust and diverse access and recreation in the national forests. This was done because the Forest Service is revising the regulations that govern how the agency prepares forest plans. These regulations will be the driving force behind how the agency develops, amends, and revises its land use plans. The BRC, along with other recreational stakeholders, has been concerned that the agency's draft proposals did not adequately address the importance of recreation.

•Speaking of the BRC, its founder, Clark Collins, was recently inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association's Hall of Fame. Collins was recognized for his contribution to the national fight to keep public lands open for OHV and other recreational activities.

Jeep Festival Hopes to Set Record
Jeep owners, mark your calendars. The Bantam Jeep Festival takes place August 12-14 in Butler, Pennsylvania, where the American Bantam Car Company produced some 3,000 jeeps in 1940-1941. (And yes, before you scold us, we know the vintage jeep in the photo is a Willys, not a Bantam.)

Among the activities planned for the festival-show-and-shine, trail rides, historic Jeep encampment-is a Jeep gathering that organizers hope to get into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest Jeep parade ever. We'll be there taking pictures, so come join the fun. To preregister for the event, visit

Lexus Survives-and Wins-in Baja Too
Joe Bacal and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America-sponsored Lexus LX 570 spent a long night fighting mechanical issues in the Baja desert. A wheel came loose just 180 miles into the race, causing damage that took two hours to repair. Then an electrical gremlin kept the SUV from restarting. But Bacal and company persevered, got the Lexus running, and finished the race in 42 hours 57 minutes, winning the Stock Full class. This victory, plus three other wins and a Second Place, earned Bacal's team the Stock Full championship for 2010.

BFGoodrich Milestone
This year's Baja 1000 was the 35th anniversary of BFGoodrich Tires' participation in the iconic off-road race. To mark the occasion, BFG reissued a "Flash News Report," originally dated November 14, 1976, with a significant new product announcement.

"The T/A Performance Tire Team is proud to announce the introduction of the new 12R15 LT Radial All-Terrain T/A, the first light truck radial specifically designed for off-road recreational vehicle use," reads the release's first line. The Tire Team "spent a week in Baja, Mexico, with an independent testing firm putting this tire through the ringer. The results were fantastic. Everything we asked the Radial All-Terrain to do, it did."

That year, BFG equipped Frank "Scoop" Vessels (shown here) with the new Radial All-Terrains for his Class 8 Ford F-100. Scoop didn't win in Baja that year, but he did in 1977, kicking off a string of wins for himself and the tire maker.

Luxe Jeep Debuts in L.A.
Jeep chose the Los Angeles Auto Show to introduce the most luxurious member of the new Grand Cherokee family, the Overland Summit. This new Grand "elevates the all-new Grand Cherokee to new levels of indulgence and refinement for drivers seeking the ultimate personal driving statement in a premium sport-utility vehicle," says Jeep. High-end equipment inside the Grand includes real wood trim on the instrument panel, heated and ventilated leather seats, and Berber floor mats.

It rides on 20-inch polished aluminum wheels and features Jeep's Advanced Warning System and Adaptive Cruise Control Group, which consists of Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross-Path Detection System. All this could be yours for just $45,995 plus $780 destination charge.

New Tow Rating Standard Proposed
As important as towing capacity ratings are to the truck market, you might be surprised to learn that there is no industry-wide standard. Each manufacturer has its own rating method, making apples-to-apples comparisons nearly impossible.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) wants to change that. It has proposed a method of measuring a vehicle's tow capacity that would standardize the ratings among all the manufacturers who choose to adopt it. (This would be a voluntary program, not one mandated by the government.)

Called J2807, the testing program standardizes such variables as trailer weight and the weight of the vehicle undergoing the test. The vehicles would also undergo climbing, acceleration, and braking tests within strict parameters-vehicle speed, percent of grade, ambient temperature, and so on-so that the results would be consistently comparable between vehicles.

Some trucks' tow ratings might go up, others down as a result of the new standards, despite the trucks being mechanically unchanged.

"The important thing to know is that an SAE-rated vehicle cannot be compared to one that is not, because the tow ratings were calculated using two different methods," says Toyota, which is adopting the new test methodology (and which invited members of the press to tow-test a number of its trucks). Toyota has already rated the 4Runner under the new standard and plans to rerate more. Implementation by other manufacturers should start with '11 or '12 vehicles.

•Mar. 4-6: Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari, Truckhaven Hills area of the North Ocotillo Wells SVRA near Borrego Springs, CA. Info:,

•Mar. 4-6: Manager's Special Run & Swap Meet, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501.625.3600,

•Mar. 11-13: MasterCraft Safety Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico. Info:

•Mar. 12: Getting Started Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Mar. 13: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Mar. 18: Death Valley Adventure, Death Valley, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Mar. 18-20: Molina Ghost Run, Hollister Hills SVRA Upper Ranch, Hollister, CA, by the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. Info:

•Mar. 18-20: National Jeep JK Jamboree, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501.625.3600,

•Mar. 24-26: Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree, Llano, TX. Info:

•Mar. 26: Mojave Road Adventure, Mojave Desert near Needles, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Mar. 26-27: Schuss Mountain Snow Challenge, Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire, MI. Info:

•Mar. 26-27: Mint 400 desert race, Moapa, NV. Info:

•Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event, and contact info-phone numbers and/or email/website address-to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368; email Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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