- Third consecutive Mint 400 podium result for Ridgeline Baja Race Truck
- Honda Talon 1000Rs make Mint 400 debut
- Honda Off-Road Racing Team takes on Baja 500 in June
First run in 1968, the Mint 400 lays claim as the oldest off-road race in the United States, and holds the reputation as being one of the toughest courses in the sport. The 2020 edition, held in the desert south of Las Vegas near the Nevada-California border, was the longest ever – 428 miles in four 107-mile laps.
Ridgeline Baja Race Truck
A late decision from race organizers to move the Class 7 entries, which include the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck, from the Limited Race to the Unlimited category led to a major race strategy overhaul for the Honda Off-Road Racing Team. The Ridgeline would now be lining up at the start just behind the higher horsepower, larger Unlimited Trucks, Class 1 purpose-built racers and Baja Trucks.
Heavier, and equipped with larger tires, Unlimited category vehicles generate massive dust clouds, create and enlarge holes on course, and expose previously covered rocks to following vehicles. The priority for the Ridgeline Baja team – including starting driver Jeff Proctor and navigator Evan Weller, along with the finishing driver/navigator duo of Patrick Dailey/Michael Loomis – was to preserve equipment and tires throughout the grueling event.
The strategy paid off for the first two-thirds of the race, as Proctor and Weller established a solid class lead, while their competitors fell back or dropped out of the contest. However, suspension damage sustained midway through the third lap forced the pair to reduce their pace before handing off to Dailey and Loomis for the final lap. The Baja Ridgeline Race Truck continued to lead Class 7 at the start of the final lap, but with Dailey and Loomis having to further reduce their speed to ensure a finish, the Ridgeline eventually completed the race second in Class 7.
Powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 engine produced by Honda Performance Development, the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck features a body designed by Honda R&D Americas’ Los Angeles Design Studio, with inspiration taken from the current Honda Ridgeline, also designed and developed by Honda R&D North Americas. Key design cues drawn from the production Honda Ridgeline can be seen in the front fascia, hood, roof, bed and side profile.
Making approximately 550 horsepower, HPD’s 3.5-liter HR35TT engine uses the same block and cylinder heads as the production Ridgeline V6. Additional elements of the powertrain include an HPD-designed intake plenum and custom Engine Control Unit programming.
Honda Talon 1000Rs
Friday’s opening-day activities saw the first Mint 400 race for the new Honda Talon 1000Rs. Eliott Watson and navigator Quintin Tucker drew the coveted pole in the draw for starting positions, with teammate Christopher Polvoorde and navigator Jimmy Davidson starting 22nd in the 42-field UTV Pro Turbo Class.
The widely separated starting positions required different strategies for the race. Starting first, Watson established a fast pace to stay in the lead pack. Starting mid-field, Polvoorde’s strategy was to be less aggressive and focus on conserving the Talon for the decisive final lap. However, both Talons were out of the race early due to mechanical issues.
Up next, the Honda Off-Road Racing Team takes on the legendary diverse terrain of Northern Baja, Mexico in the 52nd Annual SCORE Baja 500, June 3 -7.
Photos and information from the Honda Off-Road Racing Team’s efforts at the Mint 400 can be viewed on Instagram at @hondaoffroadracing and @proctor_race. Honda Racing/HPD news and reports can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HondaRacing_HPD and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD. The team next takes on the classic Baja 500, the first weekend in June.
Patrick Dailey (driver, #709 Ridgeline Baja Race Truck) started 1st, finished 2nd in Class 7 Unlimited V6 Trucks: “This Honda Ridgeline was running great all day. Jeff [Proctor, opening driver] and Evan [Weller, navigator] set a great pace. Unfortunately, about halfway into the third lap, we had a suspension failure, which caused us to greatly reduce our pace. I jumped in the drivers’ seat for the last lap and Michael Loomis replaced Evan in the navigator’s seat. We still had the lead at that point, but weren’t able to hang on with the slower pace we had to run. My main goal was just survival and getting the truck to the finish line. The HPD engine ran perfect all day long. It was great to get back onto the podium with a second-place finish. We can’t wait for redemption at the Baja 500.”
Eliott Watson (driver, #T903 Honda Talon T1000R) on his first Mint 400 race: “It was a ‘rad’ experience: getting to go through the [pre-race] Mint parade and do autograph signings throughout the day. When we were at the drivers’ meeting and heard all of the people who put on this race, I got the chills a little bit. All of the hard work that everyone at Honda has put in to get us out here was insane.”
Jeff Proctor (owner, Honda Off-Road Racing Team) on the Honda Talon 1000R effort: “We’re still learning how all of our off-road experience fits into these capable Talons. We’ve made decisions, done the testing, worked with the best engineers, and we just didn’t see this coming. The Mint 400 wasn’t our race. It’s unfortunate that our results don’t reflect all the potential of the Honda Talon 1000R. We’ll adjust and come back stronger.”
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