Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Baja Race Truck Quick Ride
Out in the Stoddard Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area near Barstow, California, Paul Czaplicki, brand manager of Toyota trucks, SUVs, and "all things TRD" (says he) is convincing two Monster Energy girls to go for a ride-along in the new Tundra TRD Pro Baja race truck. We've come out to see the truck and get our own rides at the tail end of its test and tune session. Who's driving? Ivan Stewart, 20-time winner of the Baja 500 and 1000.
The women strap into the three-seat Tundra for a lap around an off-road loop, possibly swayed by a tongue-in-cheek comment Czaplicki made pertaining to Stewart's driving qualifications.
"Because he's old and he's made it."
"He's made it" is most appropriate. For as long as off-road endurance racing has been around, making it to a race's end has always been the greatest challenge. That's why the super-knowledgeable "Ironman" Stewart is the TRD Pro Desert Race Team's team coach for this year's Baja 1000. That's why careful preparation is needed, such as how the team was recalibrating the truck's six-speed automatic transmission's shift points to better match the taller, not-stock 37-inch BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2 tires before we showed up. That's why the Stock Full class Tundra TRD Pro will look to average 28 mph with four different drivers over the approximately 1200-mile Baja 1000 this November 12-16, starting in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, and terminating far south in La Paz.
For speed comparison, last year's Stock Full winner -- a factory-backed Lexus LX 570 with several races beneath its belt -- hit a mean of 30 mph for 29 hours, 21 minutes, 42 seconds, and 891 milliseconds. Three of the five Stock Full entries did not finish.
During our ride, we saw the GPS-tracked ground speed indicate a bit over 70 mph right before Stewart pointed the flying Tundra TRD Pro Baja truck into a sharp right-handed turn that also involved climbing a berm. The course, which the Ironman graded a 7 to 8 in difficulty on an ascending 1-10 scale, is a solid mix of low and high speeds with sharps rocks and tight terrain. Stewart tells us twice to hold on, just before it feels like the tires have dropped out beneath us during a jump. Amusingly, our 5 minutes in the truck don't even translate to 1 percent of the total projected Baja 1000 race time. At least the Tundra sounds race-ready with its TRD custom exhaust and lack of sound-deadening.
Read about Motor Trend's trip with the Toyota TRD Pro lineup to Baja's toughest trails RIGHT HERE.
Later, after Czaplicki had his own outing around the off-road block with the master at the wheel and deplaned with a big grin on his face, we ask how he'd market the experience he had with the Ironman mere moments ago.
"You can't," he politely yet ecstatically responds.
You know what'd be easy to market? "Tundra TRD Pro: Baja 1000 Winner."