Three things happened when BFGoodrich invited me out to Las Vegas, NV. I learned a great deal about the company, the way they test race tires and the effect it has on the truck industry – especially racing – especially Baja off-road racing. Coming away from the event they planned and SEMA, I discovered that BFGoodrich is the big kahuna of the Baja 1000.
Way back in 1870, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich founded the BFGoodrich Company (now BFGoodrich). Among many notable firsts: they were the first American tire manufacturer to make radial tires, the first American company to produce pneumatic automobile tires, the first U.S. company to develop tubeless tires and so on… leading to becoming the premier off-road racing tire manufacturer.
BFGoodrich also developed and produced some of the most successful line of off-road tires for light-trucks and passenger vehicles as well.
On day one of my BFGoodrich trip, I experienced a few different products including a new tire developed for side-by-side ATVs, the Ford F-150 Raptor with BFGoodrich K02 All-Terrain tires and, most enjoyable for me, a pre-runner buggy powered by a LS6 V8 – driven by Baja 1000 champ Rob MacCachren. That vehicle is built specifically to run the race route in advance of the race. It also has two passenger seats, this allowed me a chance to run some of the same route that’s used in the Mint 400.
We passed over 100 mph on many off-road sections, which was friggin’ awesome. Large holes in the ground and deep ruts were laughed-off by the pre-runner. It felt more like a dirt-bike than a car as the suspension crashed and lept in time with the unearthly howls of the Chevrolet LS6 mounted way out back.
Driving at MacCachren’s level is the domain of very few, being able to do it successfully for decades is nothing short of amazing. We had a chance to pick race-tire engineers and MacCachren’s brain regarding how racing tire technology has advanced over the years. There was a time when brave souls used bias-ply tires. As time progressed, basic rubber gave way to a concoction of high-tech, stronger and lighter compounds mixed with rubber.
The level of tire reliability and strength has increased the distance drivers need to travel before they need a swap.
The next day, we attended SEMA and had a chance to meet a few of the racers that represent BFGoodrich. We got a firsthand look at older Baja 1000 race vehicles and how the technology has progressed over 50 years. Not just engines, transmissions, chassis and suspensions, but tires as well.
That evening, we were invited to watch the qualifying for the 50th running of the Baja 1000. A race dominated and heavily sponsored by BFGoodrich. Qualifying took place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s off-road course. While the setup of the off-road course favors stadium trucks, (lots of jumps) – it represents some of the terrain the racers will encounter during the Baja 1000.
As a bonus, BFGoodrich set up a ride with a pre-runner for journalists. Naturally, for the sake of my journalistic sense of continuity and accuracy, I immediately volunteered. Going weightless, bounding from one corner to another at unbelievable speeds was a thrill-ride and a half. It was exciting and informative as I got a real sense of some of the rigors these tires have to cope with. I also got a sense about the connection the tire maker has with this community.
All in all, I had quite the adventure and learned a bit about the connection BFGoodrich has with the off-roading community. It was illuminating to say the least as I was woefully ignorant as to the financial and technical importance this tire maker has with the Baja 1000 and its community.
I can’t wait to learn more.