If you were planning on building a race truck to contest the Baja 500, would you start with a full-size Lexus SUV? If you're Phoenix-based Joe Bacal of JTGrey Racing, there's no better starting point than an LX 570.
"It may seem unusual to race a large luxury SUV in the desert, but I've worked quite a bit with Lexus vehicles and frankly, I think I'll have an advantage," said Bacal. "Lexus SUVs are capable and extremely durable -- both key factors in successful off-road racing."
Bacal would know, as he's no stranger to Lexus vehicles. Prior to starting JTGrey Performance Driving, a nationwide professional driving service, Bacal spent 17 years as a test and development driver for GM, Nissan and Toyota. During that time, he also trained with off-road legend Ivan Stewart and cut his teeth driving the Rubicon Trail and co-driving in the 2007 Baja 1000. While driving on the street paid the bills, Bacal's dream was to race off-road.
The catalyst that vaulted Bacal's dreams into reality was a battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After beating cancer, he signed up his caretakers at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America as his sponsor and put together a team of off-road veterans to transform the luxurious LX 570 into a desert runner ready to take on the Baja Peninsula.
Bacal's LX 570 finished up desert testing last month and ran its first race at the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 in Ensenada, Mexico. Assuming the rig performs well, the team is planning a limited campaign in 2009 which will see the first-ever Lexus off-road race truck competing in three more "Best in the Desert" series races. Like "The Iron Man" himself, Bacal plans to drive every race solo.