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

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THE HONDA TALON TAKES ON BAJA A Two-Pronged Approach To Honda UTV Success In SCORE Off-Road Racing       Story by Stuart Bourdon Photographs courtesy Honda Racing “We’re going after the toughest off-road races in the world, and that puts the factory Honda Talon team in Baja,” says Jeff Proctor of Proctor Racing Group. Proctor manages American Honda’s off-road racing efforts and while he was racing in Class 7 with the Honda Ridgeline, he and a new team will be campaigning a Honda Talon UTV this season. More Reasons to Race Honda and the Honda Talon UTV are not new to the SCORE racing scene. Last year, Honda won its first SCORE Pro UTV Class Championship with Eliott Watson in the SCORE Pro UTV Unlimited division. This season, Proctor is heading a full factory-sponsored program. “The main reason Honda goes racing is to learn the limits of their product so they can continually be improving it,” he said. “That’s essentially what we are doing every race. We push the limits of the product to find where the weak spots are. That feedback goes directly to the Honda drivetrain, chassis, steering, and shock engineers. Those engineers take what we’re learning, get feedback from the ground level from us in the desert, and use that information to make changes and improvements to the next model.” Product improvements learned from racing help improve the end product to the consumer. “The bottom line is that all this carries over to the consumer when they buy a Honda product. They’re getting the best possible vehicle for their dollar because it’s been durability tested, time and time again. Honda is a company that’s known for its extensive durability testing, and off-road racing is one of those testing methods.” The Drivers For the 2021 off-road racing season, the factory Honda team is taking off-road racing seriously. The team picked up two very capable desert racers including Elias Hanna, who is a skilled Mexico-racing tactician with experience in Class 7 and TT Spec. Hanna ran his own program in the past, has a big following in Mexico, and has always had a lot of success south of the border. “Elias is our hot-shoe for the Baja races,” said Proctor. “Zach Sizelove will also join the team. He has a wealth of experience racing a 1600 car in the desert, and a winning record driving the Class 7 truck for Al Hogan. He’s not a well-known racer, but he’s our silent assassin. Although Hogan was the driver of record, Sizelove was responsible for much of that team’s success. He knows how to preserve equipment for long endurance races, and he’ll do well for the Honda Talon team.” The Cars Preparing a car for racing is not an easy task, but the Honda team feels they are ready. “The Honda Talon is already a very capable vehicle, but we start with safety items like Sparco seats and five-point harnesses,” says Proctor. “Then we put in a full-race roll cage. Safety is number one for our drivers and navigators.” The team uses the factory four-seat chassis as the baseline, then they move the dash, and the driver/navigator positions back to center the balance of the car. Where the rear passenger seats were, they put in a large fuel cell for increased driving range down in Mexico. According to Proctor, this also helps better balance the car and improve overall handling. The Honda Talon’s powertrain is not like other UTVs on the market, one that Proctor believes will give them an advantage. “We believe it’s a game-changer,” he said. “We’re not dealing with belts, as the Talon is a direct drive. We have a driveshaft and rear differential that that powers the CVs. We don’t have to race by belt temperature.” Honda has two vehicles ready to race this season, and the team decided to run both cars in the Pro NA (naturally aspirated) Class for 2021. The cars are limited to a 1000cc engine displacement. “You can use a ‘race’ crank and pistons, and a different cam in the class, however,” said Proctor. “We increase power mostly through ECU tuning, instead of changing a lot of components in the engine, because we’re trying to prove the durability of the Talon by pushing it to the limit. We do some post-processing to the gearbox like cryogenic treating to increase the longevity of the gears for off-road racing.” Keeping Pace  The team also makes sure the Talons have enough suspension travel to keep up the pace following the SCORE Trophy Trucks that start in front of them. “The TTs are running 40-inch tires and make some deep holes out there,” said Proctor. “We spend a lot of time making sure our suspension is dialed-in and can handle the rough stuff like the long whoops sections of the San Felipe racecourse.” The long-travel suspension kit developed through racing the Honda Talon has a track width of 77 inches and allows for 18 to 20 inches of travel. Proctor also worked with Fox to develop shocks specifically for the long-travel kit designed for the Talon. Proctor told us, “everything we developed for the Proctor Racing Group Talon race cars can be purchased by consumers. We’ve also developed billet CNC aluminum knuckles and a 300M axle. You can buy all the race components that we use every day on the Honda Talon team race cars to build your own car through the J Sport SXS brand. “We’ll be competing in the 34th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE San Felipe 250 Presented by Ford, as well as the SCORE Baja 500, and Baja 1000 this year,” he added. “Racing in Mexico is tough. It’s the pinnacle of the sport, and we want to make sure that we’re there with the best in side-by-side racing.” SJ

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