Team Desert Assault® Takes The Podium
in the 39th Annual Tecate® Score Baja 1000
LA PAZ, MEXICO – On November 16th, 2006, three Stock Full© race trucks flying the KORE logo left the starting line to take on the notorious SCORE Baja 1000. KORE’s 2006 Team DESERT ASSAULT® consisted of #865, RPM Off-Road, from Bristol, Tennessee, #866,Worthington Racing from Los Angeles, and #867, Team Canada Racing, from Alberta. Each team drove similarly-equipped Cummins diesel-powered Dodge Ram 2500 4×4 pickups.
“We’ve been doing this for so long now, we’ve got the whole thing down to a science. Prerunning and racing are standard Baja – you prepare the best you can but anything can happen. But by using proven, off-the-shelf parts we eliminate a lot of variables and increase our chances of success,” said Kent Kroeker, President and CEO of Kroeker Off Road Engineering [KORE]. “We use Toyo tires, Weld Wheels, Fox Racing Shocks, Baja Designs Lighting Systems, FASS fuel pumps and AEM filter systems. This not only makes the build easier, but facilitates logistical support, since each truck uses common parts.”
1047.8 miles of whoops, silt beds, exposed rocks and standing water from recent hurricanes made this year’s Baja 1000 particularly challenging, claiming 146 of the 283 Four Wheel class starters – a 51% attrition rate. Team DESERT ASSAULT® didn’t have it easy.
“We had passed everyone within the first 50 miles, but then we broke a sector shaft,” said Loren Worthington, owner of #866. “We were right in the middle of the race course which made changing out the steering box dangerous, awkward and time-consuming. We barely made check point two without timing out.”
Meanwhile the rookie drivers Kevin Ostlund and Richard Thomas made no errors and drove #867 consistently, maintaining a solid second place behind Team Hummer’s Josh Hall. The team members of KORE pit 4 in San Ignacio changed out a broken half shaft in record time then John Zambie and Mike Sedway took over driving duties. But luck was not on their side. By Race Mile 650 it was all over for the Canadians.
“When the turbo came apart it sounded like a 35,000 RPM Calliope thrown down a sewer pipe. I’ve never heard anything like it,” said former Marine Harrier pilot John Zambie.
RPM Off Road’s #865 was plagued with mysterious electrical problems, causing a DNF early in the game.
“It was very disappointing to come all the way across the country only to DNF. It wasn’t what we were expecting after a near flawless prerun,” said RPM’s Justin Matney. “But racing the Baja 1000 was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. Baja is in our blood now, so we’ll be back next year for sure – with two race trucks and more people. ”
Kent Kroeker and Robin Stover took the bruised but not beaten #866 at Race Mile 340, prior to Bay of LA. Barely making check closures and inching up the speed average was the name of the game for the next 22 hours.
“The frame cracked twice and twice we welded it up. This slowed us a bit, but pulling multiple stuck vehicles out of the mud, water and silt took a lot of time. I couldn’t believe the silt beds south of Loreto. They were so deep that twice they swallowed the entire passenger side of the truck. I couldn’t see anything. That was definitely the gnarliest wheeling I’ve ever done,” said Stover.
2AM, Ciudad Insurgentes, Landon Worthington took over in the left seat while Kroeker co-drove.
“It was like a graveyard out there. Cars were everywhere stuck in the silt. Drivers stood near by with long faces and tow-straps in hand. We just couldn’t help everyone. There were so many. So close to the finish too. It was heartbreaking,” said Landon.
Conservative, precise driving by Landon Worthington brought #866 down the Steps to the finish line in the city of La Paz. As the sun rose over the Sea of Cortez forty hours and seventeen minutes after the start in Ensenada the race was over. KORE/Worthington Racing had made it to the podium for third place.
It was Landon’s first desert race ever.
“This was a great Baja 1000,” Kent Kroeker said later, “KORE sponsored three unproven race trucks that were piloted by people totally new to the sport. The Canadians and the team from Tennessee had never even seen a desert before. And they chose to race the Mount Everest of motorsports in a professional class! Their dedication and commitment to the mission was unbelievable. Our chase and pit crews performed admirably and everyone on the KORE team returned safely to the U.S. The Fox shocks worked great, we had zero flats from the Toyo M/T tires, and superior performance from the Weld Commando P.R.O. beadlock wheels. The new LED light technology from Baja Designs was absolutely amazing – especially in heavy dust. We had some bad luck, but overall it would be hard to ask more from an adventure like this.”
KORE is currently building a new race truck that uses never-before-seen navigation and communication technology sourced from U.S. military. The first race for this new vehicle should be the 2007 SCORE Baja 500 in June. Currently the number of race trucks on KORE’s 2007 DESERT ASSAULT® team is six.