This year's Baja 1000 didn't go as planned. Here's why.
Set to be unveiled this spring, the Ford Bronco is one of the most hotly-anticipated cars of 2020. Ford wants to compete directly against the Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited, so preparation work is vital. Part of that was to compete in this year's Baja 1000. The Ford Bronco R was the heavily race-enhanced prototype chosen to compete. Unfortunately, it was not one of the 145 vehicles of the 264 to finish the grueling endurance race. So, what happened?
Trucks.com has detailed information from Ford about specific incidents and other troublesome areas having been part of a team that followed the Bronco R in a chase truck. Ford was studying the prototype during the race to acquire a better understanding of what works and what doesn't. It's also important to note that the prototype contained many production vehicle components, such as the powertrain and body-on-frame architecture.
Fortunately, plenty of things did work. These included the stock turbocharged EcoBoost engine, automatic transmission, transfer case, and a front differential. The independent front suspension and five-link rear chassis also performed well.
But a lot didn't work; time wasn't on the team's side. Because of an extremely limited five-month build time, the Bronco R was really more of a skunkworks project. Ford wanted it ready to race to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rod Hall's 1969 Baja 1000 win in a Bronco. Aside from a late build start time, a lot of testing, component adjustments and replacements were all done on dusty roadsides and dirty trails. A Trophy Truck also rolled on a hill and landed on the Bronco's front driver's side. Not only was damage caused to the passenger-side lower control arm, but the Bronco was pinned until a third vehicle arrived to pull it out.
There was also some skid plate damage, leaving underbelly components vulnerable to rocks. And then there was the mud. Very thick mud. Heavy rains not only caused thick mud but also destroyed all the lines scouted in the team's pre-run. At around the 580-mile mark, the Bronco R began to overheat, which required a tow to the pits.
Although the SUV was fixed, Ford opted to pull the plug on efforts to finish. The good news is that a lot of lessons have been learned and Ford has promised to return to the Baja 1000, hopefully for next year.