As a kid, growing up in the 90’s, I was mesmerized by off-road racing and the legend of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart. Stewart, driving under the Toyota banner, racked up an impressive seven Baja 500 and two Baja 1000 Unlimited Class wins between 1991 and 1999. In addition to dominating the Baja races, Ivan won a host of High Desert Racing Association, SCORE, and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group stadium races for a total of 37 wins and six Trophy Truck Driver’s Champion titles.
It has been 17 years since Ivan secured a first-place finish for Toyota in the Baja 500, and 18 years since his last Baja 1000 victory. In fact, it has been XX years sinceit was 2000 when Toyota even last participated in SCORE races with an Unlimited Class entry. Toyota has instead chosen to wander the desert, focusing the last few years on the Stock Full Class with the team’s Lexus LX 570 (2009-2013) and Toyota TRD Pro Tundra (2014 to present).
That all changed on May 7 when Toyota announced they had signed a multi-year sponsorship with “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin. “BJ’s successful racing record, his adventurous attitude, and his ceaseless dedication to honing himself and his craft speaks volumes to Toyota’s core ‘Let’s Go Places’ and kaizen philosophies,” said Cooper Ericksen, Toyota vice president of , vehicle marketing and communications. “We look forward to having BJ and his Tundra involved in this next chapter of Toyota’s desert racing story that so far includes 11 Baja 500 and two Baja 1000 wins.”
Only one other driver, Larry Ragland, has won back to back first-places finishes in the Baja 1000 under the Ironman Spec, completing the grueling race as the single driver. BJ has a proven track record of winning but are his credentials enough to get Toyota to the promised land, a first-place finish? Toyota thinks so, investing heavily in Baldwin’s new flagship race truck, a new Tundra TRD Pro based Trophy Truck. The truck, built by ID Designs, is powered by a custom engine built by Kroyer Racing Engines specifically for this Trophy Truck applicationfeatures 26" of front and 30" of rear travel and a top speed of 145mph.
Not only is Toyota banking on BJ’s driving record, but they hope to tap into his media influence. BJ’s brings an added boost of energy to the Toyota team, which already supports drivers in the Lucas Oil Off Road Race Series, NASCAR circuits, and NHRA Top Fuel/Funny Car series. He has starred in Monster Energy’s #RECOIL series of videos, with the first two in the series racking up a combined total views of nearly 24 million.
His broader appeal as a driver reaches beyond the truck racing scene. Toyota chose to make the announcement at the Monster Energy AMA Supercross FIM World Championship for a reason. The event, co-sponsored by Toyota, saw in excess of 36-thousand fans braving rain and hail to watch the races. Most of these fans showed up in pickup trucks and countless stood in line to have their photo taken with BJ and Ivan. Toyota wants to leverage BJ’s name recognition in the market to help bolster sales of their Tundra and Tacoma platforms in a heavily saturated market.
BJ Baldwin’s Trophy Truck Specs:
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The event that helped start our original FJC Magazine - FJ Summit - happens this week, for the 10th time!
The Toyota Cruisers & Trucks team has been preparing for the event for quite some time, so we thought a little preview of what's going down this year may be useful.
It's time for your Toyota Fix!
We're excited to publish the Spring 2016 Issue of Toyota Cruisers & Trucks!!
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We've just learned that Toyota has signed a multi-year deal with Ballistic BJ Baldwin! The team will be racing a TRD Pro Tundra Trophy Truck in both the SCORE International and Best in the Desert (BITD) series.
When we built the TCT Explorer Tundra last year, part of our goal was to create an amazing truck with a 'TRD Pro' look. Judging by the fact that most people think ours is a TRD Pro, I think we've succeeded.
In this sponsored video, Stephen Elmer from AutoGuide.com takes a stock Limited Tundra, adds all the appropriate TRD Pro parts, and compares it to an Inferno TRD Pro Tundra.
With a long successful history in the mud-terrain tire market, Cooper has finally found an adequate replacement for their renowned Discoverer STT. After years of R&D, Cooper released their newest mud-terrain option, the Discoverer STT Pro. Cooper takes great pride in the STT Pro and they have every right to.
I've loved the 4x4 and off-road industry for as long as I can remember. After running this magazine for almost 10 years though, I've realized something. With little exceptions, none of us gets to explore as often as we'd like.
The desire to get on dirt, explore new places, and find adventure around every corner is not something that's easy to quench. Luckily, I've finally found an outlet that allows me to play...with a toy...and quench that thirst, for just a little while.
Overlanding through Utah’s backcountry should be on everyone’s bucket list. Utah’s overlanding routes enable the traveler to experience the land like no other. Not only does “ eye candy”—spires, towers, canyons, mesas, etc.—surround the traveler; but the many dirt roads lead to some of the best adventures in North America. One can canyoneer down a slot, mountain bike an epic singletrack, or hike in a desert oasis stream. It’s all available...in Utah. My friends, Dave, Barb, and Sam, joined me on this 12-day overland adventure into the wilds of southern Utah.
You read about the all new 2017 TRD Pro Tacoma back in February when Toyota announced it. As it turns out, Ryan Millen, Andy Bell, and a team from Overland International took the truck to the Arctic Circle (and beyond). Then they made a film.
East of El Paso, the Rio Grande carves a scenic path south of the Solitario Flatiron Mountains, through Santa Elena Canyon, and at the base of the Sierra Del Carmen as it turns northward. On the U.S. side of the river, the diverse geological structures spanning the Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP) and Big Bend National Park (BBNP) prevent uniformity, keeping things interesting for the traveler. Across the brown river, Mexico stands tall and beautiful, providing an alluring backdrop of seemingly unobtainable mountains.
For the adventurers seeking unpaved roads and 4x4 trails, these two parks, as well as surrounding territories, do not disappoint. Nestled between the two parks, the eccentric Texan communities of Terlingua and Lajitas offer unique dining experiences and night life. As with any locale off the beaten path, never assume a constant. Yes, each town has a gas station. That does not mean fuel is always available. Bring extra fuel canisters.
One can never get enough of the Big Bend region. Rare birds, frequent coyote sightings, and colorful sunsets illuminating the mountains redefines the meaning of being one with nature. Find the right spot and camping becomes a treat as the sun goes down and the stars bring the night to life.
An annual gathering of off-roaders and rock hunters usually occurs over the Christmas and New Year’s timeframe. For the Yota crowd, the event is organized in the Texas section of FJCruiserForums.com. Camp is based in the hilly Rancho Topanga Campground west of Terlingua. In 2015, an additional gathering took place over Thanksgiving week and I jumped at the opportunity.
The day before Thanksgiving, with passports in hand, we set out to cross the border into Mexico. The village of Boquillas del Carmen sits atop a hill above the Rio Grande. For years, tourists were able to park their vehicles in BBNP and cross the river via a small ferry to enjoy a cerveza or a pure cane sugar soft drink in Mexico. After 9/11, the border closed and the small village suffered financially.
The U.S. built a border patrol station and port of entry in BBNP at the exact spot, re-opening the border in April 2013. Despite the added bureaucracy, and the passport requirement, it is still worth the effort to take the excursion and enjoy some Mexican hospitality while taking in the scenery of Boquillas Canyon. We climbed into the ferry and crossed the river. Upon arrival, we paid the famous Singing Mexican, Victor, our $5 for the ferry ride and another chunk of cash for the donkey transport up the hill. I wasn’t keen on riding a mule, so I upgraded to a horse for an additional $5.
Dining, drinks, and shopping are typically all that occurs. Our group, made up mostly of rock hunters, went the extra mile…literally. We hired a local guide to take us to the Cave of Crystals. What that meant was we climbed into his pickup truck (some of us sat in the bed) and endured a trip to the trail head via 4x4 roads in a decades-old 2WD truck. We hiked up and down the hills for almost 2 miles toward Boquillas Canyon. Although the cave is near the river, it faces south and is thus hidden from one of the popular trails on the U.S. side. This neat little cave is completely made of crystals: floor, roof, and walls. Well worth the hike.
For Thanksgiving Day, we ventured up the 4.5 mile Christmas Mountains trail. These mountains are just north of BBNP on land owned by the University of Texas. While camping is not permitted, visitors can obtain a day use permit. Our guide, David Aurzada, led us with his yellow FJ Cruiser. The rough road kept us under 5 mph on average, or maybe it was the astounding scenery that slowed us. The route winds through valleys, across the sides of mountains, at the edges of steep cliffs, and eventually terminates at a high overlook at an elevation of 5,400 ft, which is quite high for Texas. We spent nearly an hour taking in the fabulous views of the mountains below.
The return trip was on the same trail, yet it felt completely different as the weather changed, the clouds cleared, and more mountainous scenery was revealed. Upon arrival at David’s cabin, we feasted on traditional Thanksgiving fare while discussing other trails we plan to conquer in the future.
While many people were venturing to their favorite retailers for Black Friday, we chose to hit the famed Black Gap trail in BBNP (cover photo). High clearance and 4WD is certainly a must for various sections. Tanya Cole guided us in her red FJ Cruiser on the 38-mile route. We visited the fascinating Marsical Mine remains. After we exited the unpaved roads, we drove up to the Chisos Basin where clouds greeted us as fog dancing around the peaks.
For our final day of off-roading, we first hit the Las Burras Loop 4x4 trail in BBRSP, which is only one of many 4x4 roads in this park. The tip of the loop stops near high caves.
After lunch in at the famed Lajitas Resort, we headed to the county roads north of Terlingua: a network of unpaved roads winding through medium sized canyons and smaller mountains. We did a 26-mile run that became a bit more challenging as darkness took over. As I led us back to civilization, my 7-inch Zero Dark LED lights lit up a black cat that was too big to be a house cat, but the head wasn’t quite big enough for a panther. What the heck did I see? Possibly a Jaguarundi. Google it.
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