SEMA 2019: Rhys Millen’s Class 1 Buggy, “Jackal”

Shell’s outdoor booth at SEMA comes packed with incredible cars and trucks. We love stopping by this outdoor attraction to check out some of the sweetest builds on display, and this year, there were a lot to choose from. One that stood out from the rest was Rhys Millen’s Class 1 Buggy, also known as “Jackal.”

Rhys is no stranger to racing. It’s in his blood, as evidenced by his father, Rod, and brother Ryan. Rhys has participated in multiple forms of motorsport, including drifting, rallycross, and hill climbs. Of course, off-road racing delivers some of the biggest thrills around, and Rhys has gotten very acquainted with them over the years.

Rhys Millen's Jackal challenges the status quo of Class 1 buggies.

“Racing has always been based around vehicle dynamics and car control,” said Rhys. “Off-road racing is an extension of that. It’s a way to apply technique, experience, skill, patience, and smarts. In my career, I’ve found that anyone can make it fast, but getting to the finish line is what’s most important.”

Supporting all of those personal factors is the vehicle, and in that regard, Rhys has one of the best around. Called the “Jackal,” it’s a SCORE Class 1 unlimited buggy that was built fresh for 2019. But the Jackal is quite unlike its fellow classmates, as Rhys explained. “Typically, a Class 1 is two-wheel-drive with an open differential and weighs about 5,000 pounds,” he said.

“The engines make about 800 horsepower, but that much power will break transmission on a locked diff, so drivers have to leave the diff open,” continued Rhys. “If they go through loaded corners or surfaces that have different grip textures, they’ll lose traction. Also, the tire and wheels tend to weigh about 100 pounds per corner, which is a lot of weight. We went to a manufacturer and asked if we could get a combo that weighs half that, and they worked with us to make one that weighs 68 pounds total.”

Another modification that gives the Jackal an edge is its powertrain. “We went for four-wheel-drive,” said Rhys. “Every surface is slippery down there, and having four-wheel-drive makes us that much more equipped to deal with the terrain.”

The Jackal turns Class 1 on its head. Mainly, it's thanks to four-wheel-drive and significantly lighter wheels and tires.

The Jackal began construction in April 2018. From there, it was a long road of many weeks and months of getting it ready. “From starting the design to testing in the dirt, it took about 11 months,” commented Rhys. “The most difficult parts were predicting how this setup would do in the dirt and figuring out cooling.”

Now, on the cusp of the 2019 Baja 1000 and with the Jackal ready to go, Rhys is confident his machine can take on Baja. “This is my sixth Baja 1000, and we’ve logged 4,000 miles in the car with no issues,” he said. “For a first-year car, it’s been incredible. We had a 2nd place finish in the NORRA 1000 and 4th place finish at the Baja 500. There’s no path that we cannot make it past. My team is ready for a big win in Baja.”

The Jackal runs on a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, Sadev six-speed sequential 4×4 transaxle, Alcon disc brakes, Tensor tires, Method wheels, and Fox coilover and bypass shocks.

Rhys Millen has the skill and his Jackal has the speed – putting the two together will make for some intense and awesome racing at this year’s Baja 1000. Be sure to check out the Rhys Millen Racing website and Facebook page to stay on top of the team’s upcoming competitions.

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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