Despite the challenging conditions they knew existed in Parker, Arizona for the Best In The Desert Parker 425 race, Jeff Proctor and his crew were anxious to kick off the 2017 racing season in their Team Honda Racing Ridgeline. The competition was sure to be adept, but any team’s greatest challenge in offroad racing will always be Mother Nature. The desert is well known for inhospitable terrain, but the Parker 425 course is as ruthless as it gets. With the exception of deep silt, it contains every truck breaker known including huge holes, big rocks, whoops, sand, and deep ruts. A substantial 425 miles in length, the race was run at an aggressive pace. Being the first race of the season, every team wanted to show the field they are the ones to beat this season. After overcoming the worst Parker had to offer, the Team Honda Racing Ridgeline finished on the podium in 3rd place.
After starting 4th, the Honda Ridgeline was in the lead after only 20 miles. They were running a fast but measured pace through some rolling dunes when they suffered a driveline failure. The power from their Honda twin turbo powerplant and the incredible traction they were getting from the team’s General Tire X3 Grabbers actually caused the splines in the driveshaft to yield.
There are different types of sand; light powdery blow sand, and the heavy, dense sand that’s found in Parker. The deep heavy sand does not move easily. In fact, Parker is known for drivetrain failures because of it. They were able to make repairs but lost the time they had made on the field.
Once they made it to the pits for fuel, they lost precious time when they had a pressure build up in the fuel cell. The fuel going in had to push that pressurized air out, causing the stop to take longer than usual. It wasn’t a long delay, but every second counts when you are racing. Once back underway, the truck was performing incredibly strong. All the hard work testing, tuning, and refining the truck have paid off nicely. As it happens so often in offroad racing, there was another test of their resolve just around the corner. As they came around a deeply rutted, blind corner, two huge boulders were wedged into the bottom of the rut. With no place to go, the rocks tore into the sidewalls of both right side tires. Once again they hopped out and got busy.
As they were changing the tires, the Trick Truck of Rob MacCachren came around the corner and suffered the same fate. Jeff Proctor and co-driver Robert Zeman sprung into action on MacCachren’s truck, changing the spare tire so they could remain strapped in. Putting Karma points in the bank is always a good idea. After MacCachren took off, eventual overall race winner Andy McMillin hit the same rocks and killed his tire as well. Again Jeff and Robert helped to change their tire. From there to the finish, the Ridgeline was running at full song, tearing through the desert. Dirty and covered in mud, they both had huge smiles on their faces as they drove across the line for their first podium finish of the year.
“Overall it was a great race for us,” said Jeff Proctor, “We had some issues, but our Honda Ridgeline was running as strong as ever. I could really open the truck up and use all the power. Every system on the truck performed flawlessly, the cooling system, the suspension, the engine. We are always looking to win, but we are proud to get a podium finish after the setbacks we had. It was a battle all day and the course was very rough, but that’s why we love Parker so much. We can’t wait to take on The Mint 400 in March.”
2016 was a development year for Jeff Proctor’s Team Honda RacingRidgeline team. They had great success in unusually demanding conditions during the SCORE International series Baja 500 and iconic Baja 1000 race in Mexico, but were hit with minor issues at the Mint 400 race in Nevada. With thousands of race miles under their belts, and a dialed in race truck, the team is anxious to hit the 7200 class at the Best In The Desert series Parker 425 race in Parker, Arizona.
The Parker 425 is the first race of the year, and the team is looking forward to a great race. The course is a tough one which is exactly what the Ridgeline was designed to endure. “I have always liked the Parker course,” says Jeff Proctor, “It has such a diverse mix of terrain from sand washes and super rough rock sections to wide open rally roads. Our program continues to get stronger and we are looking forward to enhancing our results from last season. Our goal is to add to our SCORE series wins with a victory in the Best In The Desert series.”
The Honda Ridgeline team has made some important changes for 2017. Aaron Laeng has joined as the Team Manager. Laeng will focus on race preparations, planning, and logistics. He will also spend time navigating from the right hand seat. David Cowan is now the crew chief and will use his extensive experience and keen eye for attention to detail to benefit the team.
“On the heels of the Ridgeline having been selected last week as North American Truck of the Year, we are pleased to announce the extension of this agreement to continue racing the Ridgeline with Proctor Racing,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of the Honda Division, “In just its first full season, the BajaRidgeline has already claimed several class victories in desert truck racing, and we look forward to adding to those successes with the continuation of this strong partnership.”
With a clean slate, and stronger than ever, the Team Honda Racing Ridgeline team is looking forward to getting back in the dirt in 2017. The Parker 425 will be their first chance to open up the high tech, twin turbo Honda in the extraordinarily demanding conditions that offroad racing provides.
Racing machine previews second-generation Honda Ridgeline
Developed by Honda as a preview to the introduction of the new, second-generation Honda Ridgeline, the driving trio of Jeff Proctor, Sage Marie and Jason LaFortune piloted their Ridgeline Baja Race Truck to the Class 2 victory in this weekend’s 48th running of the SCORE Baja 1000.
Built jointly by Honda Performance Development, the North American motorsports arm of American Honda, and the Proctor Racing Group, the tube-frame Unlimited Class 2 off-road Ridgeline Baja Race Truck made its competition debut at the brutal Baja event, which this year consisted of an 821-mile loop that started and finished in Ensenada, Mexico.
Less than half of the 239-competitor starting field finished this year’s Baja event, as limited visibility due to fog and dust added to the usual challenges of high-speed desert crossings, technical, rocky mountain trails, silt beds, washes, ditches and jumps throughout the course.
Despite the obstacles and high attrition, the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck ran trouble-free, completing the event in 25 hours, nine minutes and 47 seconds.
“The course was extremely tough today, and it seemed like Baja threw everything it could at us, but the Ridgeline ran flawlessly all day,” said Proctor, driver and owner of Proctor Racing Group. “We couldn’t be happier with how it performed on its maiden voyage.”
Powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 produced by HPD, the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck features a body designed by Honda R&D Americas’ Los Angeles Design Studio, with inspiration taken from the next-generation Honda Ridgeline, also being designed and developed by Honda R&D North America. Key design cues drawn from the 2017 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, cylinder heads and crankshaft as the production V6 engine that will power the all-new Ridgeline. Additional, custom elements of the powertrain include an HPD-designed intake plenum and custom Engine Control Unit programming.
Honda will introduce an all-new second-generation Ridgeline truck in the first half of 2016. Honda introduced the first-generation Ridgeline in 2005 as a 2006 model. The Ridgeline challenged conventional thinking in pickup truck design with its boxed frame uni-body design, offering superior driving dynamics, fuel efficiency and interior space, in combination with midsize pickup towing, hauling and off-road capabilities. It also introduced several industry-first features including a dual-action tailgate and lockable In-Bed Trunk. The Ridgeline captured both the 2006 North American Truck of the Year and Motor Trend 2008 Truck of the Year and led all other midsize pickups in J.D. Power’s APEAL study for three consecutive years.
Like the original, the next-generation Ridgeline is being designed and developed by Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln, Alabama. The new Ridgeline will join an expanded lineup of Honda light trucks that includes the subcompact all-new 2016 HR-V crossover, the ever-popular Honda CR-V, America’s best-selling SUV, and the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, in contention for the 2016 North American Truck of the Year award. The Ridgeline will be followed by the launch of a completely redesigned Odyssey minivan in the second half of next year. All Honda light trucks are manufactured in North America, and all but the HR-V are produced exclusively in the U.S. at Honda’s plants in Ohio and Alabama, using domestic and globally sourced parts.
Honda Baja Racing History
Honda has a long history of motorcycle race success at Baja, scoring two dozen victories, including 17 consecutive wins in the SCORE Baja 1000 through 2013. Honda entered four-wheeled SCORE competition on the Baja peninsula in 2005, competing in the Stock Mini class with a Honda Ridgeline fielded by Clive Skilton and his California Race and Rally (CaRR) organization. Driver Gavin Skilton and the Ridgeline scored their first SCORE Baja 1000 class victory in 2008, while Gavin and co-driver Andy Grider claimed a second Stock Mini class win in the 2010 SCORE Baja 1000. Both of these class victories came in partnership with HPD. Moving up to the Class Six Trophy Truck category in 2012 with a tube-framed HPD Desert Pilot developed jointly by HPD and CaRR, Skilton won the category in the Score Baja 500 in June, then partnered with brother Darren Skilton to finish third in that year’s SCORE Baja 1000.
Honda Performance Development
HPD was founded in 1993 to spearhead Honda’s entry into Indy car racing. No other manufacturer has matched Honda’s success in Indy cars, which includes 212 race victories, 15 drivers’ championships, six manufacturers’ championships and 10 Indianapolis 500 victories, including the 2014 event, won by Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport.
HPD’s prototype racing efforts have resulted in more than 70 victories and multiple American Le Mans Series championships. The company’s sports-car racing debut in 2007 at the 12 Hours of Sebring marked the first win for HPD’s LM-V8 engine and the first for a Honda racing engine designed and developed outside of Japan.
HPD won the LMP2 title in the inaugural 2012 World Endurance Championship and has twice won the LMP2 category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2010.
HPD offers a complete line of race engines for cars from grass roots to pinnacle; for professional, amateur and entry-level racers. For more information about HPD and the company’s racing product lines, please visit http://hpd.honda.com.