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Ford Bronco launch will usher in a new era of off-road racing

The launch of the Ford Bronco has already begun a battle between manufacturers as well as up swell of interest in street based off-road vehicles. Since the launch of the Ford Raptor the pot has been beginning to boil with talk of new off-road street vehicles. While manufacturers have endlessly debated their next move, a healthy boutique of vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket upfitter market has blossomed to fill the void of demand left open by the large vehicle manufacturers. Now largely due to the continued demand for Jeep’s globally, and the explosion of the UTV market, the large manufacturers have begun to steer their massive ships towards the market that has always been a part of American automotive culture, a quality street /off-road vehicle.

The value of off-road racing is undeniable, from proving ground to a development platform and of course off-road racing true unlocked value is its marketing potential. We have incredible vehicles with incredible drivers giving wild performances at each race. The true value of off-road racing is yet to be fully unlocked, but we are inching our way towards that alignment. We just have to do a better job of shepherding these products and brands so they have a successful experience in off-road racing.

The Hummer has returned as an all electric version and Chevy is bringing back both the legendary Jimmy and the legendary Blazer, all of which have legacy’s in off-road racing. JEEP has even crossed over into the truck market with last year’s launch of the Gladiator. Don’t count out FCA, as they inch ever so closer to a comparable vehicle to the Raptor with their RAM Rebel. The crazy thing is they literally have the answer sitting on their shelves with the KORE aftermarket suspension kit transforming the platform into the most capable of all off-road street vehicles.

We also have Tesla Cybertruck as well as Rivian, Lordstown Motors, Bollinger, and all entering the EV truck market which could change off-road racing as we know it. There is no better place to prove new technology than off-road racing, it offers both the ultimate durability test as well as romantically powerful imagery of the wild west. The Shorter loop races would allow EV vehicles to swap out batteries at pits easily.

Then there is the Nikola Motors Badger, a Hydrogen-Electric Fuel Cell, 906HP, 600 mile range, with 980 FT lbs of torque boasting 0-60 time of 2.9 second and you can still drive it to Home Depot to load lumber into it! With that fuel range, torque and horsepower the Badger could make a fantastic off-road race vehicle!

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The team behind Formula E has launched an all electric off-road race series called Extreme E. The series will launch in 2021 with a 5 race series beginning in Dakar, Senegal on January 23rd seeming going toe to toe with the real Dakar that takes place in January in Suadi Arabia. A total of 12 teams are expected to compete in the inaugural season of Extreme E, including British outfit Veloce Racing, which is spearheaded by ex-Formula One driver Jean-Éric Vergne and renowned designer Adrian Newey. We will see if they choose to tackle the more brutal North American races like The Mint 400 or Baja 1000.

FORD has been a longtime supporter for contingency for Best in The Desert (BITD) and now they are the official truck of SCORE (Baja 500 + Baja 1000)  and King of The Hammers. They have also stepped up and sponsored 2x King of The Hammer Champion and 4x Ultra 4 Points Champion Loren Healy. It’s great to see a manufacturer choosing to sponsor a true champion of the sport and culture like Healy.

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Their goal is to take a piece of Jeeps market as well as maintain control of the large truck market. After all Jeep sold 4.65 million units globally in 2018 and with the emerging Chinese market Jeep has the perfect size vehicle to dominate that market. Many of the large size trucks such as Raptors are not allowed in the overcrowded cities. FORD has stumbled a bit with their foray back into desert racing. Although they tapped Geiser Brothers and enlisted a host of off-road racing icons from Cameron Steele, Johnny Campbell, Brad Lovell, Curt Leduc, and even Rod Hall’s grand daughter Shelby Hall. Somehow nobody raised their hand to tell Ford that this was rushed, not a good idea, and was going to end badly. The vehicle was built to a random spec and did not fit any specific class rather it was lumped into the catch all of Class 2000. To be fair the 2019 Baja 1000 was especially challenging due to mud from massive rains prior to the event.

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Racing stock street vehicles is a bad idea. You literally start compromised. And especially do not use stock componentry that will not support the aftermarket parts you must add to survive off-road racing. Put your engine and transmission in a race chassis, wrap in fiberglass that emulates your street vehicle’s body style and let’s go fast! Nobody wants to see your stock vehicle limping around the course getting nerfed and passed by UTV’s! I understand the desire to prove factory parts but I think we need to start with a proper race chassis to help guarantee success. Even in a further mis-step someone decided it would be good to go to the finish line and take pictures. You never, ever do this unless you finished. Off-Road culture sees this as stolen valor. We have teams literally fight for days to finish just to get that photo, a finisher medal and the bragging rights to say the finished. I am not disappointed in Ford as they are making a big effort to unlock the value of off-road racing. I am just disappointed that no one had the cojones enough to to tell FORD this was a bad idea. If any manufactures need a BS detector I am happy to oblige. We want you all in off-road racing, but we want you to be successful and connect the dots between off-road racing and vehicle sales.

The coming Bronco launch is the most anticipated truck launch in the history of automotive. Partially because of its legacy in off-road racing which led to its legacy in American culture. In 1969 when Rod Hall won the Baja 1000 overall in the first and only 4 wheel drive vehicle to do so he set into motion a global trend that is still in motion to this day.

Actors and athletes alike still covet the Bronco as a symbol of rugged individualism. Colin Farrell, Ted Nugent, James Garner, Jeremy Pivien, Simon Cowell, A-Rod,  and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson all own Broncos. We will be waiting with bated breath for the Bronco to launch!!!

Chevy has been successfully racing their ZR2 Chevy Colorado with Hall Racing for the past few years and has just started racing the full size Chevy Silverado which recently completed the Parker 425. It certainly helps when you have the son of off-road legend Rod Hall piloting your truck. Chad has more knowledge in his left ass cheek than most people who race will ever have. The platform has proven to be the perfect development platform for the Multimatic spool valve shock-equipped suspension that is the same suspension featured on the Chevy Colorado’s that come off the showroom floor. Additionally Chevy developed a group of factory-backed aftermarket upgrades from the race program that they offer for the ZR2 including everything from a Front Leveling Kit with High-Angle Upper Control Arms to  Long Travel DSSV Shocks. Hopefully we see Chevy step up into Trophy Trucks as well since they are the preferred power plant.

The complete design fail of the launch of the new Land Rover defender exponentially grew the boutique manufacture market. Icon 4×4’s sales immediately received calls from new customers after the launch of the 2020 Land Rover Defender which completely missed what the market was asking for. Vintage restored and upfitted  Defenders are going for north of 200k and still in demand!

Steve Mcqueen’s original Baja Boot has returned and it’s better than ever! James Glickenhaus is a dreamer and an automotive enthusiast that has put his money where his mouth is by re-launching iconic legacy vehicles. Fortunately for us he has turned his attention to the iconic funky Baja boot. There are two versions, one for just the street and one that is a race car. So don’t settle for a mass produced off-road vehicle snap up one of these limited edition Baja Boots!

Not a truck guy and you love Porsche’s? No problem, meet the Baja 911built by TJ Russell. With more than a foot of ground clearance, a unique suspension system, a reinforced chassis, and a purpose-built 3.8-liter, 365-horsepower engine paired with a specialized five-speed transmission engineered to perform for thousands of miles, day in and day out, in 100F-plus heat. Porsche has long been apart of off-road via their engine platform which has been the engine of choice in many of the open wheel buggy classes. Now you can rip down the Baja peninsula like a Group B rally pilot in style!

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Let’s not forget about the buggy that started cool. The mighty Meyers Manx which you can still order to this day directly from 94 year old off-road godfather Bruce Meyers himself. Whether you want traditional style Manx or the more modern Manxter you can drop one on your VW Bug chassis to complete yourself in your garage or bring to your local fabricator to complete.

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copryright: russoandsteele.com

We are ready for the dawn of the modern off-road era. Jeep, Chevy, FORD, EV or something more custom it really doesn’t matter, just get yourself off the black doom and go to a place where your cell phone doesn’t work. Less than 2% of the earth is paved, let’s go explore the rest!

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copyright: Flickr.com

Matt Martelli

Founder of Mad Media, a multidisciplinary creative and marketing firm and CEO of Off Road Racer and The Mint 400 Matt is one of the biggest influences in Off-Road Racing