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

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REACHING FURTHER Baja Designs Lighting Has Adapted From The Needs Of Racers By Dan Sanchez Lighting technology in SCORE Baja racing is all about seeing far enough ahead to react. When SCORE Trophy Trucks reach speeds of 80-90 mph in difficult terrain, they need powerful lighting to avoid obstacles and have time to maneuver around them. This approach is one the company’s owner and founder, Alan Roach, learned from his experience with motorcycle riding. In 1992, he started Baja Designs, making lighting systems for himself and other motorcycle racers to compete in Baja. The products grew to create systems for four-wheel competitive vehicles like buggies and Trophy Trucks. “Baja Designs began by supporting riders and racers, creating products that are now widely used in off-road motorsports, recreational vehicles, and the military,” says Baja Designs Marketing Manager, Chris Fortunato. As vehicles change and the speeds at which they can race in the desert increase, Fortunato says the company continues to adapt accordingly. “As the sport has grown, so has the diversity of lighting needs,” he says. “Lighting for moto guys is different from what a SCORE Trophy Truck racer requires, or even a Jeep rock crawler. Aside from providing adequate illumination, one of the major reasons why LED lights are continually changing is because the variety of vehicles also have different “real-estate” to place them. A SCORE Trophy Truck may have lots of places high on the roofline, in front on the bumpers, and more to mount a variety of lights for seeing far ahead, cornering, and even to illuminate the undercarriage during pit stops, “said Fortunato. “UTVs on the other hand, have very limited space to mount a lot of different types of lights, so lighting systems have to be more compact and cover various lighting zones in one light housing.” This multi-function approach is one of the reasons why there is such a variety of sizes, applications, and combinations of ways to focus light with modern LEDs. “For example, in our LP Series lights, we have three to four different combinations of LED that target different lighting zones,” says Fortunato. “We still listen to the needs of racers. In many cases, we work with them directly to outfit their vehicles with what they need, often allowing them to test and give us feedback on what they think works for them. It’s the same kind of testing racers also do with shock absorber manufacturers to fine-tune their suspension systems. We’re fine-tuning the lighting system on their vehicles.” Some of the racers who work closely with Baja Designs include 2020 SCORE Trophy Truck Champion Luke McMillin, Cameron Steele, the Ampudia brothers, Bryce Menzies, and others. In the growing UTV racing classes, Baja Designs works with SCORE Champions such as Wes Miller, Brandon Sims, and more. “We even work with Pro Moto Unlimited Champion Mark Samuels for his motorcycle,” says Fortunato. “We made a customized system that gives him the lighting he needs, and tune the packages that give racers like Mark a custom, purpose-built system.” Many of the latest lighting systems have become more powerful than when LEDs first appeared on the off-road motorsports scene. This is due to the improvements in LED technology and how light can be concentrated and focused. “Within the past five years, purpose-built LEDs from CREE, the major LED manufacturer, have become more popular and available. We’ve taken those specialized LEDs that have a tighter beam and adapted them into our lighting systems,” says Fortunato. “We’ve seen a 20-percent additional gain in projection, which translates to more speed for racers. Laser technology we have adapted has also increased the projection of light, and we have integrated it into our light bars. All the top running racers use 10 to 20-percent Laser lighting for racing.” Advancements in lighting are continually being researched within a variety of applications. Fortunato says that in the next six months, we may see even greater lighting capabilities coming from LED and chip manufacturers that Baja Designs will integrate into current and new products. “We’re always trying to stay ahead of new design trends with both racers and consumers. Factory fog light openings are also getting smaller from the factory, and bumper openings for accident avoidance sensors reduce the real estate for adding lights. It’s another area where we are creating simple plug-and-play solutions for the enthusiast and offering lighting upgrades for new vehicles, many of which are used as chase trucks and support vehicles.” SJ

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