SCORE Journal


SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 77 of 105

A WINNING STRATEGY After starting at the back of the grid Rhys Millen manages to win Class 7 By Larry Saavedra It’s not often that a racer will intentionally request to start last off the grid. But it was exactly the kind of strategy that put SCORE Class 7 driver Rhys Millen on the podium at the 53rd BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. “I’d rather do the hunting than be the hunted,” he said after the race. “There’s a lot of pressure to lead an endurance race. I’d rather do the chasing.” A Race That Almost Didn’t Happen Millen’s winning efforts and time in the driver’s seat at the 53rd SCORE Baja 1000 almost didn’t happen at all. As he told it, the year began with the excitement of being part of a factory racing effort by Volkswagen for the 2020 SCORE World Desert Challenge. Then in March 2020, just when the contracts were about to be signed, the world went into lockdown and his program with VW was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Millen was determined to race in Mexico.Although it was too late in the season to build a new vehicle to race at the 53rd SCORE Baja 1000, Millen did the next best thing and asked one of his customers at Rhys Millen Racing for a favor. That customer had RMS help build a Class 7 off-road race vehicle, and willingly provided Millen with the ride he needed to compete in Baja. Chasing Team Honda From the back of the grid of Class 7, Millen watched Jeff Proctor and Team Honda Racing’s Ridgeline set a blistering pace out of Ensenada. They were first off the start in that class, after the team had finished first at the 52nd SCORE Baja 500 in September. Millen had all sorts of scenarios running through his head that had him wondering if he could catch-up to the team, or if they would slip-up somewhere along the course. He knew that at some point if given the opportunity, he could take away the lead only if he ran clean, fast, and confident. The tables turned in Millen’s favor when Team Honda made a critical driving error at mile-marker 150. They lost the complete suspension system in the mishap, and it rocketed Millen and navigator Nathan Moreno into the lead, where he never looked back. “I stopped to make sure everybody was okay after an incident with Team Honda,” he said. “It was then all about racing the course. Not worrying about times or any other competitors. At race mile 200 the course was within its traditional routes of travel,” he said. “The rains that delayed last year’s event did lots of damage to the terrain. At around mile-marker 400 it was effectively an all-new course and it became very tight and technical. We saw six bottlenecks that slowed us up.”The silt was really deep and caught several racers, but according to Millen, Team RMR drove across the silt or around it after seeing multiple teams stranded. “To our credit, the vehicle had an automatic transmission like those vehicles running Dakar,” he said. “We saw an advantage to use this transmission and to build a four-wheel drive for the customer. We didn’t have as much horsepower or wheel travel as the others. But what we learned from UTV racing with Polaris helped. It came down to power-to-weight.” Looking back, Millen said it was his race to lose. “The vehicle was flawless with almost no issues. We did have a limit-strap on the front shocks break, but that didn’t stop us and we didn’t damage anything.” Millen thought his overzealous tuning of the new FOX Shocks may have caused the limit-strap to break. “The overall time wasn’t as competitive as it should have been,” he said. “A few years ago 30 or 40 vehicles ended their race in the silt, and that was just not an issue with our RMR design.”“That’s not suggesting that it was easy going, however,” said Millen. His co-driver Stephan Verdier and navigator Hudson Hall had to constantly adapt to the course in pitch-black darkness heading into CheckPoint 3, and below San Felipe. They got through it all…barely, minus a couple of body panels. Millen took the wheel again at mile-marker 890 and drove to the finish in a time of 25 hours, 26 minutes. Millen’s Wild Ride Millen’s RMR Class 7 truck was designed specifically for endurance courses like the SCORE Baja 1000, where deep silt and other challenges can severely slow down the pace of other vehicles. Constructed by Rhys Millen Racing of Huntington Beach, California it is powered by a 2.3-liter Ford EcoBoost turbo that makes 400 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. It is a custom truck body mated to a four-wheel-drive RMR-produced Jackal chassis and a gearbox that is more familiar to Dakar than Baja. The vehicle weighs 3,250 pounds loaded with a wheelbase of 119 inches and a track width of 87 inches. Transitioning from drifting and rallycross, Millen had set major goals for himself in off-road racing prior to 2020. He tackled the SCORE Baja 1000 in 2016 in the UTV class and finished 34th overall. He said it was the highest position for a UTV against bikes and cars. “That finish gave us accolades for building Razors for desert racing,” he said. “It got our feet wet for the industry that represents off-road racing.” Overall, what he enjoyed about the 53rd SCORE Baja 1000 was the ability to pre-run the course. “We are very detail oriented and having the ability to race in Mexico under SCORE was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” he said. As for the overall course, Millen stated that SCORE challenged everyone. “The efficiency of the racecar was the key. You don’t have to worry about reducing corner speed in this race truck, and so we didn’t need to carry a fast roll speed to get past the soft, silty areas.” “Finishing this year represented the pandemic,” he added. “The last five miles was a little strange, but we had our own personal celebration just the same. To have our entire crew share in this win was great, especially for our two younger crew members that worked on the vehicle. It’s been a positive influence on everyone at RMR.” SJ

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of SCORE Journal - SCORE-Journal-December-2020