Ensenada, Baja California Mexico
The Honda Ridgeline team overcame every challenge during another incredibly tough Baja race. The 49th SCORE Baja 1000 course travelled back and forth across the Northern Baja Peninsula for more than 866 miles. That’s comparable to driving from Los Angeles, California, to El Paso, Texas. Instead of clipping down the interstate with the A/C on and your favorite tunes on the radio, Honda racers were climbing and descending craggy peaks, traversing rutted out trails, and plowing through deep silt beds. The constant voice of their co-drivers calling out turns, terrain and dangers ahead, and ever changing strategy from the crew, are the only sounds crackling across the radio. The 27 hours they spent on course were filled with numerous surprises, small victories, and setbacks. Despite being severely tested, their ultimate goal of crossing the finish line was achieved.
The starting order had the Trophy Trucks off the line first, followed by class one, and TT spec class. There was then a five minute gap before the Ultra4 cars and the Honda Ridgeline team. Once off the line, they used the power of their twin turbo HR35TT V6 engine to quickly dispatch both Ultra4 cars while they were still on the pavement. This gave them a huge pocket of “clean air,” or the absence of dust that might have allowed them to run at a fast, but conservative pace all the way to Santo Thomas. That’s when they encountered a stuck vehicle blocking the course by Ojos Negros. They came around a blind corner to find a sandy slot canyon with steep walls on both sides. As they tried backing down to get a run, they sunk into the soft sand as well. As they worked to get extracted, the four wheel drive Ultra4 cars caught up and blasted up the side of the canyon to make the pass. As they resumed their race, they eventually made their way down the coast. As opportunities presented themselves, they caught and passed a few Spec TT trucks when the dust cleared.
In the weeks before the race, the team spent many hours scouting the course and determined a potential problem area where they might get stuck. Their wisdom was spot on; they got bogged down in silt but had a team truck standing by to assist them. They were quickly away with no time lost. After driving seven and a half hours, Jeff Proctor got out and Jeff Mortis took over. Despite the struggle to get this far, they were pretty close to being on their projected schedule. Mortis is a good solid driver who knows how to take care of the equipment. He had a single issue, when a rock clipped a brake line, but it was quickly repaired and he handed the truck to Jason LaFortune to bring it home. That’s when their luck took a turn for the worse.
They had an unexplained mechanical failure of the ring and pinion. They had overcome every variable with the terrain up to this point so mechanical failure was the only test of their resolve yet to tackle. As you can imagine, logistics can be difficult in Baja; especially when it’s a part that should never fail. It took an agonizing three hours to get to the stranded truck. In the meantime, the crew had a chance to go over the truck and the driver and co-driver caught a quick nap. The team’s newest sponsor, Stainless Steel Coatings, has a product called STEEL-IT that provides a protective coating to metal surfaces. Not only does it protect, but it can be welded on directly. Any stress cracks or race damage can be repaired in the field with no special preparation. Not surprisingly, the chassis and suspension were in fine shape and once the diff arrived, the team swapped it out in 45 minutes.
At mile 815, Jeff Proctor got back in the driver’s seat and LaFortune took over navigating. “You would think the last 50 miles or so would be easy,” said Proctor, “But Baja is never easy. We encountered even more stuck vehicles in the last miles. We had to bushwhack through the brush and find other ways to get around them. We were glad to finally see the finish line. The entire team worked hard for this one. If it wasn’t for my co-driver Aaron Laeng, we might have been stuck for hours back during the first 300 miles. He got out of the truck many times to scout out a line around the bottle necks and impossible sections. We did not finish as quickly as we planned, but are so proud of the effort put in by everyone on the crew and those who help out the team; Honda / HPD, General Tire, FOX, Rigid Industries, KMC Wheels, Sparco, Eibach Springs, NEO Synthetics, RPI Racing, PCI Race Radios, AEM, STEEL-IT Stainless Steel Coatings, FiberwerX Off-Road Fiberglass. Turnkey Marketing.”
The Honda team proved once again that it has the hardware, guts, and determination it takes to get to the finish line in the toughest Baja conditions. They took on two of the most challenging races on the planet, the Baja 500, and the Baja 1000. Both times they brought the Honda Ridgeline home when many others could not. At the Baja 1000, over 50 percent of starters failed to see the checkered flag. The Ridgeline came through spectacularly and still looked great as it pulled onto the podium. The team’s success puts Honda’s reliability and advanced technology on display to the many thousands of race fans around the World.
For all the latest on the Honda Ridgeline Off-road team go to: http://www.hondaoff-road.com/ or HondaOffRoadRacing on Facebook, Instagram: @HondaOffRoadRacing or Jeff Proctor on Personal Instagram: @proctor_race.
Photography By: Bink Designs
About Jeff Proctor / Honda Off Road
Jeff Proctor grew up surfing in Southern California and like most American kids played traditional stick and ball sports as well. The allure of racing was sparked from his competitive nature, but it wasn’t until starting his first business, an action sports clothing brand in his college dorm room, that Proctor was able to buy his first motocross bike and begin his lifelong journey in off-road racing.
Today, Jeff has embarked on his most ambitious chapter of his race career – Partnering with American Honda on a Honda Performance Development (HPD) – Powered Factory Off-Road Racing Initiative. Jeff will not only pilot a custom Honda unlimited Twin Turbo off-road race vehicle but also direct and oversee the team’s entire race operation. Jeff will lead his team and Honda to the podium, bringing more high-level race teams to the exciting sport of off-road racing.
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