Honda Ridgeline Wins Again at Baja
11/23/2010 11:45:55 PM
For the second time in the last three years, the Honda Ridgeline has emerged victorious in the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, with the California Race & Rally entry of Gavin Skilton and Andy Grider claiming the win in the Stock Mini Truck category. The victory also clinches a second consecutive SCORE class championship for Honda, Skilton and his CaRR team.
Making his off-road racing debut, Team Honda Research's Chad Gilsinger followed up his recent SCCA National Championship with a second-place finish as part of a B.F. Goodrich-supported team in the competitive Baja Challenge class for identically-equipped spec "Baja Touring Cars."
After an early-race duel with the Toyota of famed Baja competition Ivan "the Ironman" Stewart, Skilton took his CaRR Honda Ridgeline into the class lead near the end of the first leg of this year's 1,062-mile event. Handing off to co-driver Grider, the duo continued to build their lead throughout the race, passing many higher-powered entries along the way.
"We knew it would be a fast race this year, well suited to the Ridgeline, and that proved to be the case," Skilton said. "The Honda ran flawlessly. We had a 15-minute [class] lead at the first stop, when I handed the Ridgeline over to Andy, and he built it up to 30-minutes during his first stint. We brought it home from there, beating all other stock-class entries and even many modified vehicles."
Long recognized as one of the toughest tests of man and machine, the Baja 1000 runs nearly the full length of the Mexican peninsula, from Ensanda to La Paz on a course ranging from paved roads to rock-strewn mountain trails, rain-damaged washouts and sections of deep talk-type silt.
To be eligible as a Stock Mini Truck, the CaRR Honda must maintain the stock Ridgeline platform, with only limited modifications provided to the suspension and drivetrain, in addition to safety-related items such as a roll cage H.I.D. auxiliary lighting and a fire suppression system. Developed by CaRR with additional input from Honda engineers, the Ridgeline ran on 33-inch B.F. Goodrich tires developed specifically for the demands of off-road racing.
"This is the second Baja win for our team, but the first for Andy in a car after many years of off-road racing Honda motorcycles," Skilton said. "We have a small but cohesive 11-man team made up mostly of volunteers. It was an efficient, flawless effort from everyone involved. It was a great race, with an excellent truck and excellent teamwork. Everything came our way and this is an even better win than '08, and a fantastic follow-up to our four [class] wins and championship season last year."
Gilsinger, an engineer with Honda Research & Development Americas in Raymond, Ohio, drove his Team Honda Research Honda S2000 to victory in the Touring 3 class at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs in September. But the veteran road racer had never competed in the desert before this year's Baja event.
Part of a five-driver team that included Casey Currie, 2010 TORC Pro Lite champion, rally driver Lars Wolfe and Hollywood producer Bud Brutsman, the group finished their Baja run in just over 25 hours, 20 minutes, some 12 minutes ahead of the third-place team.
"This experience is definitely one I will never forget," Gilsinger said. "I came here not knowing what to expect. I researched the race online and watched videos but honestly it was beyond anything I could imagine. The race was pretty insane, we were driving up things in our little 'buggy' that I would never even dream you could go up. It was an incredible experience."
Honda Performance Development (HPD) is the Honda racing company within North America. Founded in 1993, and located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for high-performance Honda racing cars and engines.
In addition to its Honda Ridgeline off-road racing program, Honda is the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series; competes in prototype sports-car racing in the American Le Mans and European Le Mans Series under the HPD banner; and has an extensive grassroots motorsports effort that includes karting, amateur club racing and entry-level professional road racing programs.
This year's 43rd running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 will be televised as a one-hour NBC Sports special, airing at 3 p.m. EST on Sunday, December 19.