Indy 500 winner Rossi takes to the ‘Dirt Tracks’
Honda racer Alexander Rossi, rookie winner of the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, is excited to tackle a new challenge – the SCORE Baja 1000 – as he joins the Honda Off-Road Racing Team for November’s 61st running of the legendary race.
“I’m super excited to be a part of the Baja 1000 with the Honda Off-Road team. This is my first time racing anything even remotely like this,” Rossi said. “I’m used to several thousand pounds of downforce and no power steering. To say this is unlike anything I’ve ever done is an understatement, but I’m confident in being able to perform in the truck right away.”
Rossi, who took runner-up honors in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season with three wins, will share driving duties in this year’s Baja 1000 with Jeff Proctor in the No. 709 Honda Ridgeline Baja Race Truck. Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be sharing the wheel with Alexander, Johnny Campbell and Pat Dailey this year,” said Jeff Proctor, owner/driver of the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck. “We’ve enjoyed getting to know Alex and introducing him to off-road racing. Baja is always tough, but we are feeling prepared to go to battle with a very capable Ridgeline, and look forward to continuing our momentum to end this season on a high note.”
“I did this to take on the challenge of off-road desert racing, plain and simple. Honda is a great partner of mine, and I’m appreciative they’ve helped make this happen with Jeff’s team,” Rossi said. “It will be cool to share the Baja experience with our fans”.
Rossi will be the sixth Indy 500 winner to take part in the Baja 1000. Other Indy winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Parnelli Jones, a two-time race winner (1971-72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay; Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Buddy Rice. Indy car season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.
“I got the chance to get in the truck for the first time a couple weeks ago, and it totally blew my mind,” Rossi said. “Jeff Proctor [team owner/driver] and my co-driver Evan [Weller] have been great teachers so far and I look forward to working closely with them in the coming weeks. Now it’s just counting the days until we get to Mexico for some pre-running time.”
Powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 produced by Honda Performance Development, the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck features a body designed by Honda R&D Americas’ Los Angeles Design Studio, with inspiration taken from the current Honda Ridgeline, which was also designed and developed by Honda R&D North Americas. Key design cues drawn from the 2019 Honda Ridgeline can be seen in the front fascia, hood, roof, bed and side profile.
Making approximately 550 horsepower, HPD’s 3.5-liter HR35TT engine uses the same block, cylinder heads and crankshaft as the production V6 engine that powers the all-new Ridgeline. Additional, custom elements of the powertrain include an HPD-designed intake plenum and custom Engine Control Unit programming.
The oldest, most prestigious and longest continuously held desert off-road race, this year’s SCORE Baja 1000 on Nov. 16-17 will be a loop race of 806.76 miles, starting and ending in Ensenada in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. The race is the finale of the SCORE World Desert Championship. The start/finish line compound will once again be adjacent to the historic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center in Ensenada. The car, truck and UTV classes will start at 10:30 a.m. PT on Friday, Nov. 16, with the first finishers expected to complete the race in approximately 13 hours.