Here we go again – this was a sentiment shared by both attendees and organizers the night prior to the start of Raptor X 2018. As we all stood in a light rain, there were flashbacks of some of the muddy and rainy action from last year.
Being from the Midwest, we love a little mud. However, as we have learned from attending past events, mud and West Coast wheelers don’t exactly mix. Little did we all know that this would be some of the best January weather ever seen in Texas.
Texas Raptor Runs (TRR) organizer and founder Trey Palreiro is known in the community for having events that take place during or immediately following rain. He takes it all in good stride and there can be no argument that TRR provides some of the best Ford Raptor events in the country. Raptor X, held at the Rally Ready Ranch just outside of Austin, Texas, is one of those events.
In particular, Raptor X is a unique event. Participants are welcomed by challenging terrain created specifically with the purpose of testing both driver and vehicle against the clock. No other organization provides the chance for Ford Raptor owners to go head-to-head in a timed race style event.
This opportunity is especially important right about now. There has never been a more controversial time in the Ford Raptor community. The reason for this is that when the newest generation Ford Raptor was introduced it made a lot of loyal Raptor owners turn up their noses at the new power plant and the various other features of the second-generation truck. Displacement loyalists touted the six-cylinder twin turbo motor as being unworthy of a performance application like the Raptor.
This event creates a unique opportunity to put the two generations of Raptors into a scenario involving identical weather, track conditions, and timing to identify which truck truly has the right to claim the championship podium position.
The Rally Ready Ranch in Dale, Texas, and its owner, Dave Carapetyan, really stepped up this year to create obstacles and a track that allowed for high speeds and more than a few technical challenges along the way. It made for a total of 2.6 miles of track that required drivers to traverse hill climbs, jumps, sweeping turns, and a large wooded area. The short track allowed competitors in the stock, modified, and unlimited classes to run the course multiple times, with a total of three timed laps.
The weather could not have been better and our comparison of the first and second-generation Ford Raptor was underway. About halfway through the event, it became clear that first-generation Raptor owners were getting their feelings hurt.
The second-generation Raptor comes from the factory with a pretty distinct advantage on paper. The truck is lighter, has higher power and torque output, larger shocks, and more suspension travel than the first-gen truck. However, probably the most notable difference in track times came from the driver’s experience in off-road driving techniques.
For the stock class, the winner came in at 4 minutes and 26 seconds, followed by the runner-up’s time of 4 minutes and 38 seconds. The mod class was separated from the stock class by the addition of aftermarket gear such as upgraded shocks and bump stop kits. This winner of this class clocked in at 4 minutes and 31 seconds.
The unlimited class is identified by no limits to the amount of modifications that can be made to the vehicle. This class saw a best completion time of 4 minutes 30 seconds. The winner of this class, Steve Sours, was only able to complete one full timed lap due to power steering issues. “I would have beat the other guy in the stock class, but I blew my power steering pump,” Sours told us at the end of the event. Why does all that matter?
It matters because the fastest time of the event was posted by a second-generation 2018 fully stock Raptor. The blue truck, owned by COBB Tuning, was driven in the event by their Senior Engine Calibrator, Mike McGinnis. The event, according to McGinnis, “was a great baseline for what the truck can do in stock form. I focused on thinking about what I’d like to improve based on the driving experience, which mostly came down to removing some limiters. These are the things COBB Tuning will look into, as well as designing mechanical improvements. I’m excited to see what they cook up.”
Despite the stock truck, no doubt a substantial factor in the win is that McGinnis is an award-winning driver and past champion of multiple events. McGinnis gave us a brief rundown of his driving history: “My performance driving started in 2001 with SCCA and BMW club autocross events. I started driving rallycross in the mid-2000s. 2006 was my first road course track day.” In 2007 he was driving and instructing, and the list goes on from there.
When asked how many races he’s won, McGinnis stated, “I haven’t kept track of all the races I’ve won, sorry.” While his driving experience is certainly a factor, we found it interesting to learn from McGinnis that “aside from driving it home the night before the event, I had never been in a Raptor. It was my first truck race and I had a blast, so I look forward to more in the future.”
Last year’s champion and this year’s modified class winner Tim Jackson noted that, “It feels really good to win two years in a row. I just wish I had racing shoes so I could have been faster then the professional rally car driver.” Being a two-time champion at this location, we asked Tim how he felt about this years track. “I loved the open flat areas at the start where you can get the truck up to around 65-70 miles per hour,” he said. “The wooded areas were technical, as was the last sweeper coming into the finish.”
Win or not, the same sentiment was held by everyone who attended the event, even those who were just there to watch. Angelina Garcia, a spectator and co-driver at this year’s event, summed it up best: “The TRR events are more like family reunions. My favorite part is always the off-roading. But catching up with friends and hanging out at base camp is as much of the experience as the trails.”
Jackson agreed, saying that for him “the best part is just hanging out with old friends and making new ones. It’s always awesome to get adrenaline flowing and racing for a win, but it’s about the friendships for me.”
Jackson capped it all off thus: “I want to give a huge shoot out to Dave at Rally Ready for the amazing prep work to build the track. I also want to give thanks to Trey, Laura, and the team at Texas Raptor Runs for making all this possible.” We couldn’t agree more!