We're sideways at maybe 70 mph and I see the washout looming on the right. It's only two feet wide, but from where I'm sitting, it looks like the Grand Canyon rushing toward us-dark and deep, with jagged edges carved by recent heavy rain. This is going to get ugly.
Gene Martindale deftly flicks the truck back to the right at the last second, roostertails of sand spitting from the rear tires as he kicks the beast in the belly and unleashes 411 angry horses. I see what he's doing: The washout abruptly peters out on the left, and now he's trying to unload the suspension on the right hand side. Even so, this is going to be a big hit. I brace myself, and...there's a muted thud, a sharp but not uncomfortable vertical movement, then...that's it. The sparkling-blue Ford F-150 SVT Raptor barely breaks stride as SVT development engineer-and Baja racer-Martindale races for the far horizon.
Ford's F-150 Raptor is the Porsche 911 GT3 of pickup trucks. Like a 911 GT3, the Raptor is a racebred piece of machinery you can drive every day on the street. Okay, the GT3's reflexes were honed in the green hell of the legendary Nurburgring Nordschliefe road course in Germany. The Raptor, meanwhile, was developed on the stony desert tracks, powdery sand washes, and bone-jarring whoopdies of Baja California. Point the Raptor down a rough desert track, and this thing will go as fast as you dare, without turning into a dribbling mess, out of breath and out of brakes, after a dozen miles or so. And it'll make you feel like a born racer.
The Raptors are built using the biggest brakes and strongest half-shafts in the F-150 parts bin, along with the heavy-duty rear axle. Engineers at SVT, Ford's in-house hot-shop, made hundreds of other detail mechanical changes, ranging from stiffening the engine and transmission mounts 45 percent to developing trick new forged-aluminum front wishbones.