Author: Matt Kartozian Photos: Matt Kartozian
On a weekend in April I learned something startling: Jurassic Park is indeed real. That weekend I descended upon the Texana Ranch, just south of Blackwell, Texas, for the second annual Texas Raptor Run. The ranch, owned by the Trophy-Truck racing Beal family, is home to a 43-mile off-road racecourse used by the Texas Desert Racing Association (TDRA) as well as over 600 miles of single-track for motorcycle riders. While the Beals are kind enough to open up the ranch to members of the Dirt Sports Nation, in day-to-day reality it is an exotic game ranch offering hunting. The local inhabitants include African game like the Wildebeest, Scimitar Horner Oryx, Axis, Auodad and Sika, as well as Bison, many species of Deer and Elk and even famed Texas Longhorn Cattle. That same weekend the ranch was also home to 115 dinosaurs, specifically the Ford Raptor. Launched in 2010, the Raptor has quickly become an extremely popular vehicle often seen in the pits and prerunning racecourses across the Dirt Sports Nation. Everyone expected the truck to sell well in traditional desert racing markets, but many were shocked with how popular it has become in what no one thinks of as off-road areas such as New York and Massachusetts. Many owners live where they have no opportunity to drive off-road at all, and certainly no chance to tackle desert trails like we are used to. So what is a Raptor owner to do?
Over 115 Ford Raptors would descend on Texana Ranch to enjoy taking on its unique terrain. Enter Trey Palreiro who has been involved in off-road racing for about six years, co-driving and also pitting with the Locos Mocos pit club. Trey, a member of the Ford Raptor Forum, began his odyssey to event promoter with a crazy idea to bring about 10 Raptors to the Texana Ranch for a weekend of fun in 2012. It instantly exploded, with 30 signing up the first day and the count reaching 50 a few days later. “There is a demand for places to go off-roading in a Raptor, and there was nothing to fill the need,” Palreiro explained. There was a need indeed, as the 100 available spots were filled with more than a month to go before the 2013 event. In addition to the 100 participant trucks there were an additional 15 Raptors brought by vendors for 115 total. The event began Friday morning with a drivers meeting, which emphasized not to overdrive the terrain or skills. Palreiro wanted everyone to have fun, but did not want people to have to tow their Raptors home on a trailer due to damage. At one point in the meeting Palreiro pointed to the Beal’s Geiser Trophy-Truck a few feet away and noted, “That is a Trophy-Truck, it has 39-inch tires and three feet of suspension. You don’t have that.” He was making the point that while Raptors are capable off-road trucks they are by no means a race truck. After the meeting, drivers were staged and sent off the line at 30-second intervals. The participants graded themselves as experienced or new to off-road driving and were grouped accordingly. The course was broken into two loops with a group of drivers starting on each. Later in the day, as traffic on course died down, the drivers were free to go wherever they chose. The track was open to all participants from late Friday morning until late Saturday night. While a few took it easy and only did one lap, many took advantage of the opportunity and drove lap after lap of the course. With most hotels about an hour away, the majority of people chose to camp out on site at the ranch in everything from lavish custom motorhomes to the most basic pup tents. Saturday was the big day at the event with an amazing brisket and sausage BBQ all cooked by Palreiro’s uncle -- appropriately nicknamed “Uncle Bacon.” Shortly after, the raffle was held with big prizes, including a full set of Icon 3.0 Raptor shocks, as well as other prizes worth well over $15,000. The raffle was held to raise money for Frontline to Finish Line, a group that takes combat veterans desert racing. After the raffle, more than 60 trucks lined up for a unique guided tour of the ranch to see the exotic animals living there, where many got up close and personal with the camels. The event concluded with a late night run to Panther Gap, a beautiful rock formation in a gully on the ranch.
Raptor owners from all over the U.S. were present at the driver's meeting and reminded to drive safely. On both Friday and Saturday several participants got the chance of a lifetime to ride in a Trophy-Truck. Carl Beal gave rides along a five-mile test loop in his Geiser truck. Because so many wanted a ride, a raffle system was used to draw names and each rider paid $50. The money collected was donated to Fallen Rider to help a motorcycle rider who was recently injured in the area. In total Palreiro raised more than $7,000 between the raffle and Trophy-Truck rides. When participants were not on the course or enjoying smoked meaty goodness, they could browse or buy new parts at the vendor booths. Representatives or product from Icon Vehicle Dynamics, RPG, Addictive Desert Designs, Raptor Addict, SDHQ, Rigid Industries and many more were on hand to show their wares with displays ranging from big to small. SDHQ took the prize for big, bringing not just their normal vendor trailer, but also a stacker trailer full of parts, shock sets, mounted wheels and tires along with seven mechanics to install it all and make repairs for those who incurred damage on the course. Of course, the vendor’s Raptors were all tricked out with the latest gear, but the coolest truck at the event was brought out by Greg Foutz of Foutz Motorsports. You may remember Foutz as the builder of the original Raptor R that raced the Baja 1000 in 2008 and team manager for the EcoBoost Raptors that raced the 1000 in 2010. Foutz recently completed a Raptor for the MGI race team that features what Foutz calls the sixth evolution of the Raptor R front end, a linked rear end and a full roll cage. The front end has a 3-inch bypass and 2.5-inch coilover from King and cycles 18 inches. The rear is a race-grade four-link with a 3.5-inch bypass and 3.0-inch coilover that cycles 26 inches. It also features a 40-spline Currie axle and 68-gallon fuel cell. An event this big draws from the entire country, not just Texas. Anthony Muscato came all the way from Buffalo, New York, 1,600 miles away, to drive at TRR 13. “New York does not have too much to offer with this kind of environment,” Muscato shared. “After seeing last year’s event I wanted to come out. It’s been a blast and I didn’t break anything. I learned that I was overdriving a bit too. I got a ride with Greg Foutz on the back half and learned a lot from being in the truck with him.” Muscato had a sobering final thought as well, “It’s going to be a long boring drive back home.” Muscato was not the only long distance participant. Andy “Birdman” Terry, administrator of FordRaptorForum.com came all the way from Boston, Massachusetts, to drive his Raptor. “It was about 30 hours, not counting stops, 2,200 miles total,” Birdman said. “This is a physical representation of how far the Ford Raptor Forum has come. Trey (Palreiro) put this all together, but it is basically all members from the forum. I wanted to be here after missing last year. I had a lot of fun with my truck, I got to beat on some other people’s trucks too, and I got a ride in a Trophy-Truck. It was better than a roller coaster ride, a once in a lifetime experience.”
The brainchild of Trey Palrerio, the Texas Raptor Run has seen explosive growth since its creation in 2012. Palreiro spoke about his motivation for hosting the event. “It’s amazing how many trucks are out here. There is a huge demand for places to go off-road with a Raptor, and I am excited to be a part of it. My goal is to get people into desert racing, and the Raptor is a good stepping stone to go forward and race. If just one person from this group goes out and buys a race truck, I will be really excited.” The 2013 Texas Raptor Run may have been a big success, but Palreiro has bigger plans in the works. A new, smaller 23-mile track is planned, but will be within a two-hour drive from any major city in Texas. He also plans to hold events bi-monthly, with the goal of October for the first one. Trips are also planned for New Mexico and Colorado, as well as a return trip to Baja in 2014. For more information on future TRR events go to www.texasraptorrun.com