Volkswagen executives in Germany were largely unaware of their hard-won heritage in the Mexican classic until top American desert racer Mark Miller was invited to Germany to drive one of VW's special, five-cylinder turbodiesel Dakar Touaregs in the famed Paris-Dakar race in Africa. Miller's prowess in the works-built VW racer and his personal accounts to VW's brass of the brand's continuing smaller-class successes in Mexico convinced the Germans that Baja might be just the place to create some instant rough-terrain credibility for their modern, luxurious turbodiesel-powered Touareg SUVs.
As a test, VW first entered four of its V-10-powered SUVs in Pikes Peak's annual hillclimb. A class win in Colorado encouraged the company to enter two of its tiny Dakar Touareg racers in last year's Baja 500. Although the African racer's comparatively low ground clearance and limited suspension travel made them rather unsuited to Baja's gnarly terrain, they still performed remarkably well, finishing 11th and 12th overall against a huge field of mighty Trophy Trucks and Class 1 Unlimiteds.
The 500 was a mind-expanding experience for the German engineers and VW's American marketing staff, who had come to Mexico for the first time. Two things convinced them that VW should have some continuing presence in SCORE's Baja racing series: the tremendous reputation and respect the VW name had established in 40 years of desert racing and the realization that Baja's proximity to the U.S. had given the Mexican race a powerful marketing credibility that no event in Europe or Africa could match. The name Baja, with all its mystery and storied reputation for incredible difficulty, had a unique power to promote the Volkswagen name in the trendy and super-competitive American SUV market. Clark Campbell, Volkswagen of America's motorsport manager, saw instantly that, as good as VW's reputation was in Baja, what was really needed was a brand-new specially built VW-powered racer that could again place the familiar VW logo in the 1000's winner's circle. With zero experience in creating this type of "unlimited" desert racing vehicle, Campbell turned to VW's expert desert racer, Mark Miller, and his equally talented driver/business partner, Ryan Arciero, for advice.
Both were experienced, successful Trophy Truck racers on the Mexican peninsula, with two overall TT wins in the 1000. Miller suggested their firm, Arciero Miller Motorsports, design and construct a special Baja Touareg Trophy Truck that would combine one of Volkswagen's clean-burning turbodiesels with a race proven American-designed TT chassis that could compete effectively with the huge field of Trophy Trucks.