rxspeed presents

Holy Bajamole!

Tackling the deserts, mountains, torrential rain and all-terrain in a race-ready Baja buggy is the best way to experience Baja.

Holy Bajamole!

Last year, before RxSpeed even launched, I was invited to take part in the BFGoodrich launch of their All-Terrain T/A KO2 tire down in Baja California, Mexico, and take routes that are in the Baja 500/1000. And while the story is old now, I never really got to explore how amazing it was. I wanted to revisit it here.

South of the Border South of the Border South of the Border South of the Border

South of the Border

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With $4,000 in camera gear cooped up in little more than a piece of sheet metal with a plastic clip holding it together, we barrel into it at a decent clip. If I had to judge based on our last GPS reading, we were doing about 25 mph.

 

I’m praying the tin trapezoid up front deflects the four or so feet of water that is about to rain down on us. For some reason, I had the foresight to put the protective rain cover on my Thule bag and also to throw my brand-new (at the time) iPhone in there. One benefit of seeing an approaching storm across an open plain: You can guess what’s coming.

 

In a moment eerily familiar, like the rogue wave from The Perfect Storm, the scene in front of my eyes is unfolding similarly, albeit in an imaginary way. Daylight, daylight, daylight, then a surge of brown, black, brackish sludge comes rolling up and crashing down, encasing the buggy, my passenger and myself in a few layers of sediment and thick bronzed mud.

 

Thankfully, you’re breathing through an in-helmet ventilator, because these Baja buggies have no windshield and without them we’d probably be hacking up some Mexican mire.

Storm Ahead Storm Ahead Storm Ahead Storm Ahead

Storm Ahead

“Awesome” is an often overused adjective, but this was truly awesome. It was one of those high-five moments between my co-driver and I — a nerdy automotive accomplishment that I’m rekindling here for obvious reasons.

 

Here I am, in Baja friggin’ California, in the middle of nowhere, to test out the new BFGoodrich KO2 tire. It was heralded as the greatest thing to happen to rubber since the prophylactic. Here we are sitting sopping wet in a 175-horsepower, open-cockpit buggy specifically engineered to drive this route and, in this particular case, push an OE tire to match the limit. Sure, this was a “press trip,” but it was far from the pampered, routine experience they usually provide.

 

The route would start at the northwest tip of BC in the sprawling town of Ensenada, the starting point of the Baja 500 and 1000. We would head to Horsepower Ranch — a meeting place for all things fast — and get acclimated to the buggies and Ford Raptors we would be driving for the next two days.

 

While the buggies don’t wow you with horsepower figures like some of the road cars on the market, these 175-horsepower, water-cooled Subaru EJ25 four-cylinders are simple and reliable, which, out here, could keep you from life-threatening situations. Attached to the Subaru power is a beefy Weddle four-speed transaxle with succinct, direct manual shifts. The Weddle is a pleasurable, no-strings-attached way of rowing through gears that’s race proven and positively indestructible.

Buggah Buggah Buggah Buggah

Buggah

The motor might not produce much power, and in turn, you have to work for your speed. It’s a Miata for the Baja. Instead of just blasting through the route with an unlimited tap of horsepower, you find ways to set up smartly turn after turn. Luckily, the pre-programmed GPS route offered accurate corner data to the exact meter, allowing topography and obstacles to be accounted for.

 

You’re not going to be getting anywhere near Trophy Truck speeds out here, but approaching 100 mph feels fast, especially when you’re putting your trust into a GPS computer and the hope that you won’t run out of talent — and, honestly, that your tires won’t fail you.

 

A massive 18 inches of travel with a Bilstein/Eibach setup allows some serious fluctuations in terrain to not affect the composure of high-speed trail running. It’s seriously amazing letting a suspension with this much ability do its job. You could probably balance an egg on a chopstick when barreling over rocks, stumps, clumps of dirt and any airborne encounters along the way.

 

A tire gets no glory. It gets no ooohs and ahhhs from 99 percent of drivers. For automobiles, one of the most important aspects of staying safe, reliable and able to control a glorified bullet is what’s in contact with the road. (And they’re the only thing that actually touches the road.) Tires are the equivalent of the really good mechanics of the car world: Their selfless dedication to keeping you in constant contact with the road goes mostly unnoticed.

Modelo Moment Modelo Moment Modelo Moment Modelo Moment

Modelo Moment

A tire’s job sucks.

 

With the All-Terrain T/A KO2, BFG set out to create the ultimate all-weather, all-season and all-around reliable tire suited for varying road conditions, from snow to sludge and from rocks to road. In order to fully test out the KO2’s toughness, we set out on this 300-mile drive to find out if the past seven years spent on development delivered a tire worthy of the Baja brand.

 

If you’ve never watched the Baja races on TV, check them out on YouTube, and then realize that video coverage does not showcase the intensity — the sheer cliff faces, rocks the size of Kim’s ass — of the terrain unless your wheels have been on the ground. This place is no joke, and the mere handful of humans who have touched the surface and raced on it can attest to that. Sure, crawling over the surface can be done, but these cars, trucks and motorcycles are usually going triple-digits speeds over a surface the moon would be envious of. This is hell on Earth, and luckily, the past seven years of relentlessly pushing the envelope created a tire that can withstand abuse — which isn’t just based on a lineage of rubber but a badge of Baja toughness.

 

Hours later, our clothing is now hardened to the same consistency as conformable fiberglass, while our minds are crossed between ecstasy and sheer depletion. The fact is we just completed some of the most grueling terrain on the planet. Yes, we had support teams, mechanics on standby and spare tires. But we never used any resources other than our intuition and perseverance.

 

What’s amazing is that while this was a press trip, you can actually do it if you have the money. Wide Open Baja offers the exact same experience on a weekly basis. So yes, it’s all well and good that I had a good time, but you can too. Racing on a track is still one of the most exciting times for me as a driver. There’s something to be said for cracking open a Modelo after six hours in a Baja buggy cockpit, after the skies have opened up, the mud is everywhere, clothes are ruined, and I’ve had the best drive of my life.

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