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PROCTOR TAKES THE LEAD A Dramatic First Win In 2021 For The Factory Honda Ridgeline Team Story by Stuart Bourdon Photos by Get Some Photo and Honda Factory Racing The Honda Factory Racing team has consistently proven itself a worthy and successful group of off-road racing competitors. Its methodical vehicle preparation, precise race planning, and highly skilled drivers and riders work as a cohesive unit to advance the teams goal – to win races and bring home trophies. Nailing the Class 7 win in the first race of the 2021 SCORE World Desert Championship season, the Jeff Proctor and the Honda Factory Racing team bolstered its reputation for winning. By all accounts, it was a tough race with a reputation for being fast, but extremely rough on the racers and the vehicles. Jeff Proctor, Team Principal (and driver of the Class 7 Honda Ridgeline race truck), talked about the course. “Going into race day, we thought the course had a nice flow to it. We were feeling well prepared. What we didn’t realize was how much deeper the holes would eventually be. We pre-ran right up until the day before the race, but by the time the SCORE Trophy Truck, Trophy Truck Spec, and Class 1 cars went through, the holes were deeper – much deeper than we experienced during pre-running,” he said. The Honda Factory Racing team members have all been around long enough to know that for vehicle classes like Class 7 starting at the middle or back of the pack, the course will have been torn up a bit by those running upfront. “We knew things would change by race day, and certainly that it would get worse by the time we got into the rough stretches, but we were surprised by just how bad it got. We adapted and pushed forward as best we could,” said Proctor. Race Day Strategy So much in racing comes down to strategy, especially in off-road where it can make or break a team. In this race, the Honda Ridgeline was the first Class 7 to get the green flag. “It’s not always advantageous to start on the pole. When you’re starting first in the overall field, like the first Trophy Truck, you’ve got clean air and that is an enormous advantage,” said Proctor. “However, when you’re way back in the pack behind all those SCORE Trophy Trucks, Class 1, and Class 10 cars like we are, it’s not necessarily an advantage to be first in class because for much of the race you’re eating the dust of the classes in front.” Proctor revealed that his driving plan was a tactical one. “I would have preferred to be back in the class and be the hunter rather than the hunted because it’s hard to gauge your race pace if you’re out front. Because we led the class off the start line, the plan was to build a gap early in the race. We began picking off the Class 10 cars one by one, putting some time between us and the rest of the Class 7 field. Once we got about midway through the race (mile 157 was our main pit), we got split times on the rest of the class. We had about 30 minutes on the second-place 7.” With a cushion built between the Honda Ridgeline and the rest of its class, Proctor could move to step two of the race plan. Nail-Biting Finish But no matter how good your planning is, off-road racing can unexpectedly throw you a curveball, and the SCORE San Felipe 250 was no exception to the rule. With just a few miles to go before taking the checkered flag, “Baja” cast her spell over the Honda Factory Racing team. “We had 26 miles left to the finish line and we got a split time from our chase crew. We had a 35-minute lead at that point,” said Proctor. “We turned a sharp corner and the fuel-pressure light and alarm on the dash started going off. That usually means you’re starting to get low on fuel and it’s sloshing around in the tank.” The changes in course not only made it much rougher, but according to Proctor, the sand had become so deep that additional tire spin was putting pressure on the race truck’s fuel economy. “We were burning a lot more fuel than we had anticipated because we were revving the motor pretty high and pushing it hard through the deep sand.” A call to the chase crew had them following the race truck as closely as it could along the highway to the finish line in San Felipe. “They were ready to meet us on the highway with fuel. I kept thinking that this is going to be a close one, and couldn’t enjoy our lead much because I was short-shifting and driving in ‘eco mode’ all the way to the finish line.” The team was so nervous about the low fuel situation, that the chase crew followed them to the very end. “It was a crazy 26 miles to the finish, and we weren’t sure if the race truck would have enough gas in it to get up on the podium,” said Proctor. The Honda Ridgeline race truck did make it onto the finish line podium, bringing Jeff Proctor, navigator Evan Weller, and the entire Honda Factory Racing team its first Class 7 win of the season and a head start towards a class championship. SJ

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