The Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 in Mexico is one of the most challenging off-road races on the planet, and my team recently took part in a 1988 Range Rover Classic – a vehicle that has repeatedly survived the brutal conditions and attrition rate of this defining race.
The main reason the Range Rover has made such a superb performance is attention to detail in race preparation – races are won and lost at the workshop. Our rebuilt Range Rover has a 4.6-litre V8 with a race cam and ported cylinder heads, mated to an R380 manual gearbox. Apart from that, the axles, differentials and brakes are all standard.
To give the vehicle a shakedown, – and my team some experience of what night-time support is like in the pits – we entered a 300-mile night race in the Mojave desert as preparation.
As the Range Rover took centre stage in our makeshift pit, willing helpers and team members started to prepare their pre-assigned tasks. The drinking water tank was filled and numerous ‘power bar’ snacks were jammed into dash crevices.
The driver/navigator ‘cooling system’ was a crude home-made insulated ice box with an air vent/filter and compressor. The idea is that the incoming air is filtered, then passes through the ice to cool it; the cool air is then passed through to the team’s helmets. During races that are long enough for the ice to melt, it can be used as a cold drink.
To qualify, my Range Rover needed to complete two laps around the course – starting in daylight, finishing in the middle of the night. My goal for the day was not to overdo it, but to give the vehicle a good shakedown before replacing every nut and bolt and torquing everything before departing for the Baja.
I strapped on my helmet, hooked up the comms, tightened up the safety belts and gazed out at the Mojave Desert. I felt my pulse quicken as my eyes focused on the road ahead in anticipation. With a push of the ignition switch the fire-breathing 4.6 engine roared to life. I was next in line...
As the lights changed, I slammed the throttle to the floor and the Range Rover raced across the desert, devouring ruts and rocks that would incapacitate lesser vehicles. Where the topography causes a jump, it takes flight and defies gravity for what seems like eternity before returning to earth with a bang, dampers working overtime to absorb impacts.
As the evening moved into night, the constant drone of racing vehicles became more intermittent; racers were dropping out... but my Range Rover was still running. I averaged around 28mph over the extremely rough terrain. And the reward for all that? First in class!
I pulled around to the pit area and came to a halt between the cones. The shakedown was complete; the next job was to replace the badly broken gearbox, check the engine, suspension and replace every nut/bolt. Our team was off to Baja...
Gerry would earn second in Class in the Baja 1000 – congratulations, Gerry!
This owner review appeared in the February 2016 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.