In the world of off-roading racing, no name garners more respect than the Baja 1000. The annual sprint down the Mexican coast is arguably off-roading racing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans or Indianapolis 500. So if you’re an automaker, what better place to show off your new performance truck?
With its unique ability to cover rough terrain at high speeds, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is about as close to an off-road race truck as any vehicle in showrooms. To prove that point, Ford is entering one in the 49th Baja 1000, which will take place November 16-20. The truck will also appear at the 2016 SEMA trade show in Las Vegas this week.
Driver Greg Foutz and his Foutz Motorsports team will enter a single Raptor, a pre-production version of the truck non-racers will soon be able to buy. Foutz has already raced the Raptor in a handful of events in 2016, but the Baja 1000 will probably be the biggest challenge yet. While in past years it has been a full 1,000-mile point-to-point race, for 2016 the Baja 1000 will be an 830-mile loop, beginning and ending in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. It’s held on public roads that vary in quality from paved highways to dirt trails.
Ford claims the Raptor will remain mostly stock for its Baja debut. Modifications include a roll cage, racing fuel cell, racing seats with harnesses, and added LED lighting. The Raptor retains its stock Fox Racing shock absorbers, but they were recalibrated to account for the extra weight of the roll cage. The truck will race on stock tires, and retain the stock Terrain Management System, which includes multiple driving modes for different conditions.
The 2017 Raptor is the second generation of Ford’s off-road performance truck. Unveiled at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, it’s based on the current-generation F-150 that debuted for the 2015 model year. It uses the current F-150’s lighter aluminum body, as well as a souped-up version of the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 used in other F-150 models. The EcoBoost engine is smaller than the previous Raptor’s V8, but is also more powerful.
As with other races, the Baja 1000 includes a mix of purpose-built vehicles and racers based on production models. Baja’s purpose-built Trophy Trucks and race buggies have a significant performance advantage, so the Raptor won’t be competing for an overall win. But just finishing the race will be quite an achievement for a vehicle that anyone will be able to buy soon.