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Baja Proven In 2008, Ford Tested Its Raptor Off-Road Truck Concept On The World Stage By Entering A Pre-Production Race Version Into the SCORE BaJa 1000 By Dan Sanchez Photography by BCII When Ford engineers decided to build a high-performance off-road truck, they wanted to do much more than adding decals, a shock upgrade, and more ground clearance. What we know today as the Raptor pickup, started as an entirely new concept that the company took very seriously. According to Ford’s Chief SVT Engineer Jamall Hameedi, the idea of the truck was to create something different than the SVT Lightning and not hand consumers another performance street truck. The thought to take something new, completely built from the ground up, and focus on off-road performance that would be capable of handling some of the harshest terrain. The truck went from an idea to design concept and into the pre-production stage in 2008. At that point, the plan was to get the vehicle ready as a 2010 model, but Ford’s SVT Raptor team wanted proof of its concept and decided to showcase the truck in the harshest environment possible. So they decided to enter the truck to compete in the SCORE Baja 1000. “The idea of using racing to prove our production platform was not a new one,” said Jamie Allison, then Ford Racing Performance Group Manager. “Ford has done that throughout its history, but with the Raptor, we’re taking the rigors, demands, and challenges of off-road racing and putting into the hands of our customers, a highly developed, proven, and capable vehicle that is still a street production truck.” To handle the rigors of an actual SCORE Baja race, they needed to build a racing version of the production truck. ASSEMBLING THE TEAM The engineering team then assembled a group of experienced off-road racers, Bud Brutsman of BCII, Ford SVT Vehicle Development Engineer Gene Martindale, and off-road racing veterans Steve Olliges, Randy Merritt, and Greg Foutz, who would also be in charge of building the race version of the truck. “I was called to be a part of the project from early on in its development and document it,” said Brutsman of BCII. “I had logged many miles in Baja and at that time had raced three or four SCORE Baja 1000 race, but was honored to be a part of an OE racing team.” According to Brutsman, the drivers were flown to Ford’s headquarters in Detroit, shown a clay model of the truck, and were asked to explain to the SVT engineers what it’s like to race in Baja. “We were in a conference room with Ford’s Chief SVT Engineer Jamall Hameedi who had some experience in Baja. He knew how difficult it would be, but we gave him and his engineering team an understanding of what they could expect.” This initial meeting ended with the creation of a campaign that included building and showcasing the race version Raptor R to the media in early November 2008 for the annual SEMA show, then take the truck to Baja to race at the 41st SCORE Baja 1000. “This sounded crazy to do this at a time when the economy in the U.S. was bad, but these guys were building an enthusiast-based truck that had never been done before. It was exciting,” said Brutsman. The build of the Raptor R was done at the shop of racer Greg Foutz. “Foutz and his team at Foutz Motorsports did a great job of taking a pre-production, prototype truck, and adding all of the safety equipment to it to make it race-worthy,” said Brutsman. “Except for the 6.2L engine and the roll cage, it was pretty much like the production models. The build was kind of scary because every part we received was stamped with the words ‘prototype’ on it, and we were told that there were no more parts available if the team broke or damaged one of them.” The Raptor R was outfitted with a full roll-cage, gutted to the bare essentials, but also included a 500 horsepower 6.2L V8, as opposed to the 5.4L V8 that was slated for the first production models. In a matter of two months, the team at Foutz Motorsports built the Raptor R and unveiled it to the media in Nevada that November. “We did the media launch and then took the truck over to be displayed at the Ford booth at the SEMA show,” said Brutsman. “The following week we went racing.” With no time in the vehicle to get a feel for what it would be like, the drivers took turns pre-running outside of Ensenada, Mexico before the race. “I had the truck down in the Guadalupe wash to get some time behind the wheel and after three minutes, the Raptor R would die and go into limp-mode,” said Brutsman. Ford’s engine team had swapped out the motor before the race and had removed some unnecessary sensors. “We didn’t know what the problem was the night before the race,” said Brutsman. “The engineers and team were awake for 12-13 hours without sleep to find the problem. Once they contacted the Detroit office early in the morning of race day, they replaced the wiring harness, and by 8 am the Raptor R was ready to be on the starting line of the SCORE Baja 1000 at 10 am.” CONQUERING BAJA WOULD NOT BE EASY The Raptor R team still faced many difficulties ahead of them during the race. Early on the course, several bottlenecks held the team up and they began to lose time. Expecting the worst, the only difficulties the truck had was a slight overheating issue at one point, and a broken rear leaf spring mount near Valle De Trinidad. While those added to a normal day of racing in Baja, the team managed to keep their cool and pulled it off, finishing the 631-mile racecourse with a time of 25:28:10. “The entire goal was to finish the race,” said Brutsman. “As one of the drivers on the team, it was important to stay focused and hand-off the vehicle to the next driver in one piece. Most people don’t realize that this truck was mostly stock running on a prototype motor that had never been raced in Baja before, only tested on a dyno simulation. This made me a bit nervous but the 6.2L engine’s designer Jim Stevens did an amazing job and the motor was totally bulletproof.” The accomplishment of finishing the SCORE Baja 1000, the toughest off-road race in the world, cemented the Ford Raptor’s success when the truck was finally available to the public in 2010. “The Ford Raptor has been the most successful special market vehicle in the history of the company,” said Brutsman. Off-road enthusiasts would also agree that the Ford Raptor set the bar high for any OE off-road truck, which has not been matched since.SJ

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