By: Jonathan Brenthel
The SCORE International Baja 500 is one of the most challenging off-road races anywhere. Just completing the course is extremely demanding, thanks to both grueling terrain and world-class competitors. When I lined up to race the 47th annual Baja 500 earlier this year, I had one additional challenge: I would be racing against my brother, Jordan in the same 6100 Spec Trophy Truck class.
Jordan and I own Brenthel Industries. My company truck and his matching Falken Tire truck are both built by our shop and run the same Falken WILDPEAK A/T tires. Manufacturing off-road race and recreation vehicles of all types is our business, and we race to test the limits of our products. At the Baja 500, our trucks were not the only thing tested.
The 500-mile course starts on the paved streets of Ensenada, Mexico before dropping into the wash. The wash can be dry or flooded with water. This year the wash itself was dry but SCORE watered the course to keep the dust down. It was the first test for my Falken WILDPEAK A/T tires. Slimy mud and a generous application of throttle caused me to get a little sideways going off a jump at 80 miles per hour. The Falken WILDPEAK A/T tires gripped the dirt when I landed and allowed me to regain control.
We started the race in the #872 Brenthel Industries truck at a very fast pace. By mile 40, I had already passed three trucks on the course putting us in fourth position on the road and leading the race by 30 seconds on corrected time. Every competitor is racing on the clock. Drivers start at timed intervals and the one with the fastest time on the course wins. We started seventh but soon outpaced the other trucks in our class. We were faster than anyone else.
All we had to do was continue the same pace for the next 460 miles.
The course includes flat-out sections on dry lake beds, tight twisty mountain trails and bottomless silt beds. If you get held up behind a slower driver, you may have to follow them for miles until you can pass. You can also get stuck in the silt when the truck ahead stalls. In the silt, you need to keep your momentum up and pick a line that will provide some traction. If you are on another truck’s bumper and they get stuck, you get stuck too. That’s what happened to us. We lost 15 minutes when the truck ahead failed to make it through a section of silt. We had to dig ourselves out. While we were stopped, we lost time and were passed by two trucks. Once we got free, we were back up to speed.
The silt beds were where our Falken WILDPEAK A/T tires really proved their mettle. We had so much grip compared to the competition that we were able to start making up a bunch of time. The truck was really fast and we made up five to six minutes in the next 30 miles. That is, until the next challenge: silt hides rocks and roots on the edge of the course and unfortunately I found a hidden boulder that damaged a wheel and tire.
While mounting the spare, a Trophy Truck came through the silt sideways under throttle and slammed into the front of our truck. We were both clear but the impact to the truck broke the steering rack, ending our race.
Off-road racing is very challenging. It takes driving skill and a capable vehicle. It also takes incredible planning and logistics. Both Jordan’s Falken Tire truck and my Brenthel Industries truck carry spare parts to fix numerous mechanical failures that are typical when stressing vehicles this much. However, a complete steering rack is not part of our spares. Normally these are stout pieces that do not fail and, regardless, carrying a complete rack would add too much weight.
Unfortunately, it would be a frustrating day for Jordan in the #873 Falken Tire truck. He rolled off of the line in 13th position, but raced up to third position before he had to retire with a mechanical problem.
We would have preferred a different outcome, but that’s competition. When we come back for the Baja 1000 in November, we’ll be very, very hungry for a win. With the same speed we had in the 500, Falken’s unparalleled grip and a little luck on our side, it will be a very good race for us.
Until then, our Falken tires continue to serve us well. Jordan and I just finished up a weekend at a Lucas Oil Off Road Series race at Glen Helen Raceway where Jordan was victorious in the Open V8 class. Still, the Baja 1000 is on our minds….
Jonathan Brenthel and his brother Jordan own Brenthel Industries, a constructor of Trophy Trucks, Class 1 buggies, Spec Trophy Trucks, Class 10 cars and Pre-runners. Learn more at www.brenthelindustries.com, on Facebook (facebook.com/brenthelindustries), and Instagram (@brenthelindustries).