2012 Dakar Rally Brutal
This year’s running of the Dakar Rally was deemed particularly brutal by its competitors. Starting on New Year’s Day in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the rally consisted of 15 stages covering some 9,000 kilometers (about 5,600 miles). According to the folks at General Tire, who sponsored Darren Skilton’s Open Production 1-class buggy, “Bottomless silt beds and mile-high dunes” took their toll on the field, as just 72 of the 171 vehicles that started the Dakar made it to the finish line in Lima, Peru, two weeks later.
The overall winner was Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel, who drove his All4 Racing Mini to his 10th Dakar win. This also marks the 10th time the Dakar winner was riding on BFGoodrich tires.
Robby Gordon and his Toyo-shod Hummer (seen here) had a strong finish, coming in Fifth overall. Along the way he won three of the rally stages outright and came in Second or Third in four more. After the race he said he could have won the rally overall had he not made the decision to replace, rather than just regrease, a wheel hub in Stage 11. “This decision ultimately cost us the rally,” he said.
Skilton wasn’t so lucky. His Revolution VI buggy was plagued by fueling issues during the rally’s first half. Once mechanic Barrie Thompson fixed the problem, the team began to gain back ground until the final stage, when the buggy’s gearbox let go. Undaunted, Skilton, navigator Skyler Gambrell, the rest of his Baja Automotive team, and even some fellow competitors pushed the buggy across the finish line, netting the team a 62nd overall finish.
“Bottomless silt beds and mile-high dunes took their toll”
Mopar Celebrates 75th
Mopar, Chrysler’s performance division, is 75 years old in 2012 and has kicked off a yearlong celebration by creating a handful of customized vehicles. Representing the Jeep brand is the Jeep Compass True North, with matte-black exterior accents, 16-inch alloy wheels, BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, and a 2-inch lift from Rocky Road Suspensions. Inside, audio components from Kicker turn the Compass into a “rolling high-end sound studio,” says Mopar. While this special Jeep won’t be offered in turnkey form, its various components are available at dealerships or through the Mopar catalog.
Mopar, by the way, comes from motor parts and was trademarked in 1937.
Looking for a new truck but have little in the bank account? Here are the 10 cheapest ’12 4x4s based on their MSRPs (excluding destination charges and any special deals or incentives).
1. Chevy Colorado Work Truck (2LT crew cab model shown), $20,980
2. Jeep Wrangler Sport, $22,045
3. GMC Canyon Work Truck, $22,195
4. GMC Sierra 1500 WT, $24,630
5. Jeep Liberty Sport, $24,975
6. Ford Ranger (remaining ’11 models), $25,060
7. Nissan Frontier SV, $25,320
8. Ram 1500 ST, $25,490
9. Chevy Silverado 1500 WT, $25,635
10. Toyota Tacoma, $26,165
This Just In
• GM is working to strongly differentiate the styling of its next-gen Chevy and GMC pickups, to give each a unique identity. Speaking to Automotive News, Ken Parkinson, General Motors executive director for design, said, “The normal person is going to see two very distinct and very different vehicles. We want to make sure that we dial the differentiation just right so that it is really, really difficult to see what is common between the two.” Front-end styling, headlights, taillights, and wheel designs will separate the corporate twins, he said. Look for the new trucks in 2013.
• The North American Truck of the Year jurists may have been impressed with the Range Rover Evoque, but Consumer Reports? Not so much. The consumer watchdog scored the SUV among the lowest in the SUV category and said its high points—acceleration, a nicely appointed cabin, and decent fuel economy—“don’t make up for its many weaknesses. The Evoque’s ride is choppy, its cabin is cramped and noisy, and its rear view is poor. A potentially bigger concern is its emergency handling. When pushed to its handling limits at our track, the tail slid out and the vehicle repeatedly lifted a wheel during our avoidance maneuver.”
• The latest fallout from Toyota’s issues with unintended acceleration: A 162-page report by the National Research Council found the NHTSA is “ill-equipped to detect problems with high-tech electronics that are increasingly commonplace in today’s new cars,” said a story in the Los Angeles Times. Finding that the agency doesn’t have the “technical expertise to properly monitor safety in electronics that are rapidly taking control of nearly every automotive system,” the report recommended the NHTSA take several steps to improve its knowledge base, including the appointment of an advisory panel to help the agency keep up with advancing technology.
• The California Air Resources Board has once again called for stricter emissions rules to reduce greenhouse gases in the state. According to the Los Angeles Times, the new regulations would require automakers to produce more zero-emissions and very-low-emissions vehicles—battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell—by 2018. By 2025, one in seven vehicles sold in California must be ultraclean, said the paper. Automakers are generally in agreement with the new rulings, which will add an estimated $1,900 to the cost of a new car in 2025. According to CARB, those costs should be offset by fuel savings over the life of the vehicle. Building clean vehicles is one thing, but getting people to buy them is another, said experts interviewed in the story. Kelley Blue Book’s Jack Nerad, for example, noted that the added cost and reduced capabilities of these non-emitters may make them less desirable, forcing manufacturers to sell them at a loss to meet the state’s requirements. That would mean “buyers of conventional cars will pick up the remainder of the tab.” So will truck buyers, we’re guessing.
Ram Introduces Laramie Limited
For those truck buyers with a little more coin in their pockets, Ram has introduced a new high-end trim level, the Laramie Limited. Ram calls the Limited a “refined luxury alternative to the popular southwestern-themed Ram Laramie Longhorn,” as it features “understated exterior badging”—meaning the usual Hemi, Cummins, and Ram’s head badges have been replaced by a small “Limited” badge on the tailgate. The 1500 models feature 20-inch wheels, while 2500 and 3500 trucks roll on 17s. Inside there’s full leather upholstery, piano-black interior accents, and Berber floor mats, plus a nav system, a backup camera, and remote start. At press time the truck had yet to launch, so pricing hadn’t been set. But a 1500 4x4 version of the Laramie Longhorn carries an MSRP north of $46,000, so this new truck should be in that (pricey) neighborhood.
At the Houston Auto Show, Jeep debuted a model of the Grand Cherokee called a “production-intent concept version,” designed to test the public’s reaction to the Grand’s monochromatic styling cues. The stealthy Jeep is based on a Laredo X package but with black front and rear fasciae and black 20-inch wheels. A day later, Jeep unveiled a similar Grand at the Washington, D.C., auto show, but that one was a monochrome cherry red.
“If the level of excitement is what we anticipate, this new Grand Cherokee will be in Jeep showrooms this spring,” said Mike Manley, Jeep president and CEO.
Baldwin, MacCachren Win Desert Challenge
SCORE International kicked off its 2012 season with the two-day Laughlin Desert Challenge in Nevada. Each day of racing counted as a separate event pointswise and had its own victor. On Saturday it was B.J. Baldwin (seen here) who piloted his Baldwin Motorsports Silverado to the Trophy Truck and Overall victories, running eight laps of the 61⁄4-mile desert race course in 53 minutes 45 seconds, for an average of 55.81 mph. Baldwin, fastest qualifier of the day, battled Rob MacCachren for five tough laps before a flat tire slowed MacCachren, who eventually finished Ninth.
MacCachren came back on Sunday and picked his way through the crowded field for the Trophy Truck and Overall win, turning the eight laps in 54 minutes 16 seconds, averaging 55.28 mph. Baldwin, who suffered a mechanical issue on lap two, did not finish. Mexico’s Juan Carlos Lopez finished Second in the Trophy Truck class both days, an effort that put him at the top of the Trophy Truck points chase after the weekend was over. Next stop on the SCORE calendar is the San Felipe 250.
Coolest Reading Places, Support Our Troops Edition
These enthusiastic 4WOR readers are (from left) Master at Arms 2nd Class Mark Everline and Master at Arms 3rd Class Scott Armstrong of the U.S. Navy. Armstrong sent us the photos and a note from the Middle East, where he’s “missing my ’96 Cherokee back home just as much as ever. When I’m not deployed or reading the magazine, I’m back home in Port Jervis, New York, wheeling all over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania with my buddies, finding new trails and crossing rivers or new mud pits to make sure my snorkel is still airtight and my winch still works.”
Armstrong’s baby has a 4-inch Rough Country lift, 31-inch Super Swampers on 15-inch Cragars, a Warn 9500 winch, custom front and rear bumpers, and removable doors with plug-and-play trailer hitch connectors to disconnect the electronics in the door. “Still a project, not quite done yet,” he says.
If you’re in the service and a 4WOR fan, send a high-res photo of yourself and the magazine, plus some details about where and with what you wheel back home, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Photo Ever
It’s got the Pep Boys, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and a Willys that needs a little air. What else can we say?
• Apr. 21: Mud for Blood truck and car show and blood drive, Canton, GA. Info: www.mud4blood.org
• May 3-5: Land Between the Lakes Jeep Jamboree, Marshall County, KY. Info: www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
• May 5: Jeep Blessing, hosted by the Cadillac Jeepers, Mesick, MI. Info: www.cadillacjeepers.com
• May 5-6: Lucas Oil 4Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, Springfield, MO. Info: www.4wheeljamboree.com
• May 5-7: Spring Run, hosted by the Lone Star Jeep Club, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501/625-3600, www.orvpark.com
• May 10-12: 4x4 Safari, Pittsfield, IL, by Two Rivers Jeep Club. Info: www.trjc.com
• May 10-12: Big Bear Jeep Jamboree, Big Bear Lake, CA. Info: www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
• May 10-12: Top of the Ozarks Jeep Jamboree, Seymour, MO. Info: www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
• May 11-13: Molina Ghost Run, Hollister Hills SVRA, Hollister, CA. Info: www.cal4wheel.com
• May 12: Basic and Advanced Winching Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• May 17-19: Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree, Amarillo, TX. Info: www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
• May 18-20: Lucas Oil 4Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH. Info: www.4wheeljamboree.com
• May 19: MORE 500 desert race, Lucerne, CA. Info: www.moreracing.net
• May 19: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• May 19-20: 4Wheel Parts Truck & Jeep Fest, Dallas Market Hall, Dallas, TX. Info: www.4wheelparts.com/events
• May 19-20: Iron Range Off-Road Driving School, Iron Range OHV Park near Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Info: www.ironrangeoffroad.com
• May 20: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• May 24-28: Sam’s Offroad Customer Appreciation Run, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501/625-3600, www.orvpark.com
• May 25-28: Hi Desert Roundup, Anderson Dry Lake in Johnson Valley, CA. Info: www.cal4wheel.com
• May 31–June 2: Canyon de Chelly Jeep Jamboree, Chinle, AZ. Info: www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
• 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 4wheel email@example.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.