Toyota Announces Entry into Baja 1000 with 2015 TRD Pro Tundra
Toyota created plenty of buzz earlier this year when it introduced its new lineup of 2015 TRD Pro Series models. With this new line taking the company’s popular TRD line to the next level in terms of off-road performance, Toyota decided to follow that line of thinking and tackle what it consider the “ultimate test” for the TRD Pro Tundra by entering into the 47th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 in the Full Size Stock Class this November.
Toyota invited us out to Milestone MX Park in Southern California yesterday to check out the truck, meet the team, and even compete in our own friendly Tundracross competition in a TRD Pro Tundra. The gathering gave us a chance to check out the vehicle first hand as well as meet the team Toyota hand selected to tackle this year’s 1000.
The TRD Pro Tundra team will be coached by none other than the Ironman himself, Ivan Stewart, who will provide both insight, tips and strategy for the team hoping to complete this year’s Peninsula run that will start in Ensenada and end in La Paz. The team of drivers getting behind the wheel of the TRD Pro include: TRD Design Engineer Ted Moncure, who’s no stranger to Baja after having won class titles in both the Baja 500 and 1000; Toyota athlete and SCORE Baja 500 Champion Andy Bell; Toyota Athlete, BMX superstar and nine-time X Games winner Jaime Bestwick, who competed in his first Baja race last year; and Ryan Millen, who has raced for Toyota in previous SCORE races and comes from an impressive off-road lineage as son of racing legend Rod Millen. Navigation duties for the race will be the task of Chief Engineer of Toyota Trucks Mike Sweers, who looks forward to the challenge and believes the truck is up to the task.
“My job is to ensure that the Tundra exceeds the expectations and demands of every single one of its owners,” Sweers said. “With over 1,000 miles of harsh terrain, The Baja 1000 is the ultimate proving grounds for research and development that helps us to continuously improve our trucks.”
For Ryan Millen, this isn’t the first time he’s raced with Toyota, nor is it the first time he’s been around the company’s racing effort, as he pretty much grew up around his father’s Toyota race team that competed at the highest levels of off-road and rally racing.
“I got involved with Toyota as a kid growing up with my dad racing, so I grew up around that atmosphere of racing,” Millen said. “Around 2006 Toyota came out with the FJ Cruiser, and my dad’s crew was starting to wind down their racing careers, and with the FJ Cruiser being the new thing it was kind of passing the torch for me to race it.”
Millen went on to race the FJ in three Baja 1000s for Toyota as well as a race overseas. Even now, Millen’s “love affair” with the brand has carried over into his business world of outfitting and upgrading Toyota off-road rigs and also providing guided tours in Baja with his business Millen Adventures.
Teammate Jaime Bestwick had his chance to race in Baja in the Baja Challenge class, which gave him a great taste of what to expect and learn what it takes to make it to the finish line. One of the things he looks forward to most is getting to swap out an open-wheel race buggy for a truck.
“The last Baja I did was with Monster Energy in the Baja Challenge cars, and I think this year I’m already used to driving a Tundra, and maybe not in the terrain we’re heading into, but I think I’m more comfortable with that car,” he said.” It’s going to be a lot of fun to experience the full potential of this truck. Being in the Baja, it’s such an unpredictable race. Literally anything can happen, and the wildest stuff you can ever dream of happens, so to be a part of that whole race again is amazing. These are the kinds of experiences you live for.”
For Andy Bell, the move to a larger truck is also something he looks forward, and he hopes to parlay his success and experience in Baja to a win for the team.
“In my first year I won the championship in Class 7, so I have some experience,” Bell said. “I understand that you can’t just go beat the hell out of the truck, you have to make it through 1100 miles of Baja in the stock class, which is tough. But I think that knowledge of having done it and be successful at it, coupled with Ryan and Jaime having raced it before, and Ted Moncure has done it a ton of times, so that, coupled with an amazing truck, should make for a good time. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could win.”
The move to a different truck class, coupled with the support of Toyota and his team, also gives Bell faith that his TRD Pro team has a great shot to win their class.
“I think for me this will be a real step up in the level of truck, and I’m just such a fan of the race, the place, the legends that comes with it,” he said. “I mean, we have Ivan Stewart heading up our team – he was the first hero I ever had. I played his video game, I had his posters on my wall, so to have him as part of it is unbelievable.”
This year’s SCORE Baja 1000 is not until the middle of November, and Toyota will be putting the final touches on the race truck and begin testing in the next few months, and we look forward to following the team as it prepares for the brutal off-road race. As for the TRD Pro Series of vehicles, which includes the 4Runner and Tacoma models as well as the Tundra, they should be hitting dealerships later this year. For more information on the lineup, check out the Toyota’s site here. http://www.toyota.com/upcoming-vehicles/trdpro.html
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