Contrary to what might sound logical, four-wheel drive is not ubiquitous in off-road racing. In fact most of the super hot race winners at an event like the Baja 1000 are rear-drive. But that might be starting to change, as builders are figuring out how to match 4WD systems with today’s epic long-travel suspension.
Forty years ago, a hardass like Rod Hall could handle 4WD Baja racing because he was as tough as the solid axles he sat on. The suspension tech of the era simply didn’t allow for the incredible range that race rigs run today, which meant for a pretty rough ride.
Two-wheel drive’s domination of desert racing basically boils down to simplicity and durability. It’s tough to build a 4WD setup that’s flexible enough to work with a desert truck’s long travel suspension and tough enough to survive the high-speed miles of Baja.
Straight front axles are typically the optimal accessory for 4WD off-road vehicles, but they’re heavy and cumbersome for bounding through dunes. CV axles, which work fine on modern pickups at civilian speeds, simply can’t survive 1,000 miles of competitive abuse.
At least, they haven’t been able to until now.
RPM Off-Road owner and racer Justin Matney has been touting his new “trick truck,” built by race-frame experts the Geiser Brothers, as what may be the future of off-road racing at the highest level of competition.
His 6,305 pound racing vehicle runs a 4WD system with independent front suspension featuring 23" of wheel travel. As you can see in this video, the truck can be treated like dirty laundry and keep on cruising.
Race-Dezert says that between those front wheels sits a 488 cubic inch V8 pouring out 903 horsepower and 798 pound-feet of torque, the same amount of juice that 2WD trucks are putting down.
Race organizing outfit SCORE International reports that this 4WD rig made its competitive debut last September at the Imperial Valley 250. Keep your eyes on the scoreboard at this weekend’s 2016 Baja 500; Matney’s truck has a lot of potential to be a trendsetter.