It was a very happy birthday for California Race & Rally driver Gavin Skilton, who drove his Honda Performance Development Desert Pilot to the Class 6 [Unlimited 6-cylinder] Trophy Truck victory in Saturday's 44th running of the Baja 500.
Co-developed by the engineers at Honda Performance Development and California Race & Rally, the HPD Desert Pilot is a single-seat, tube-framed racer powered by a mid-engine, production-based Honda V-6 engine and featuring replica Honda Pilot bodywork. Developed for off-road racing, the HPD Desert Pilot made its competition debut at the 2011 Pikes Peak Hillclimb.
Last weekend, driving solo on his 42nd birthday in the second-oldest desert race in the world, Skilton left Ensenada, Mexico on Saturday morning, traversing a rugged, 450-mile course that ran east to Ojos Negros, south to near San Felipe, and west to the Pacific Ocean before returning to Ensenada for the finish.
The clockwise course included elevations ranging from sea level to the 4,155-foot summit at Mile 110, temperatures from the low 50s to more than 100-degrees Fahrenheit, and a wide variety of terrain. The class victory was the first for the veteran Skilton in 2012, and the first for the Desert Pilot in the five-race SCORE Desert Series.
"I drove the whole race. I got into the truck at Staging this morning and only got out at the finish," Skilton said at the conclusion of the grueling event. "We had some minor issues during the run, but nothing major - just some small adjustments here and there. The crew guys were all where they needed to be, so we could make those adjustments [during scheduled stops] pretty quickly. The hardest part was being in the dust at night, and not having [a co-driver] navigating off the GPS. When you're in a [truck with a co-driver], you have someone calling out 'hard right-hand turn coming up.' But when you're driving solo, you have to keep one eye on the road and the other on the GPS. You can't drive too fast or you're going to hit something."
In November, Skilton and his California Race & Rally team will campaign the HPD Desert Pilot in the Baja 1000, the desert racing classic that caps the SCORE race season.
Founded in 1993, Honda Performance Development (HPD) is the technical operations center for high-performance Honda racing cars and engines and operates at race circuits around the world from its headquarters in Santa Clarita, California. Honda has been a fixture in North American open-wheel racing since 1994, and has played an active role in the growth of the IZOD IndyCar Series - as both a Manufacturers' Championship competitor and single engine supplier - since joining the series in 2003.
In addition to its efforts in Indy car racing, HPD spearheaded championship-winning efforts in the 2009-2010 American Le Mans Series, 2010 Le Mans Series and the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans. HPD offers a line of race engines for track applications from prototype sports cars to karting; and showcases "fun" products for professional, amateur and entry-level efforts.
For more information about HPD, please visit http://hpd.honda.com