No matter what anyone tells you, there is no automotive race on the planet that exceeds the strenuous rigors and multiple dangers quite like the Baja 1000. Conducted over less than a day across 800-plus miles of desolate desert, high mountains, beachside cliffs, and paved highways, it’s a race that separates the strong from the weak – but more often, it’s the lucky from the unfortunate.
Every off-roader who’s ever dreamed of racing has dreamed of competing in the Baja 1000, and that’s where it started at Valvoline’s headquarters in Covington, Kentucky. The project was called “New Terrain,” a nod to Valvoline’s inexperience with racing off-road, but also the excitement that comes from exploring what lies ahead. The kicker was a partnership with Cummins, spawned from the source vehicle (a 1989 Dodge Ram pickup) and a mutual desire to see just how far the idea could go, both in terms of planning and actual race miles.
Across five episodes, the New Terrain team went to work crafting the perfect truck, training drivers, handling problems in development, and solving all sorts of logistics issues on the way to and from Baja. In Episode One, it’s all about laying out the scope of the idea, and how Valvoline and Cummins worked together to make the project a reality.
In Episode 2, Michael R. Wedding, senior application engineer, New Terrain crew chief, and the progenitor of the entire idea, is experiencing just what he bargained for; slowly, he realizes he has only seven months to convert a 25-year-old truck into a race vehicle, using a 24-valve 5.9-liter Cummins. Though he’s thankful to have the help from Cummins, the work is difficult and many crew members have different ideas on what direction to take.
In Episode 3, we’re introduced to the drivers, Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck, who also are newbies to the off-road racing scene (their fortes are in drifting). It’s good to hear from their perspectives, as they will be the ones actually behind the wheel when race day arrives, and the two offer insight into how the cab should be built to fit their needs. With the wrap finally on and the truck dialed in, the team heads out to do some testing, first in Indiana, and then in California.
In Episode 4, it’s “Viva la Mexico” as the team makes its final preparations and heads to Ensenada, where the race always begins (and sometimes ends). Prerunning Baja is a must, no matter if a race team is new or seasoned, and the New Terrain crew finds it as exciting as it is forbidding.
In Episode 5, the finale, everyone is waiting with bated breath as race day approaches. Contingency and tech inspection day blurred by as the team kept its spirits high. We get to see firsthand the feeling of hope as Forsberg and John Nachtigal, the navigator, set off at full speed into “the Wash.” All goes well until nightfall, when the truck suffers a breakdown after hitting a jump and destroying its transfer case and transmission. It marks the end of the line for the New Terrain crew and all of its hard work, but it’s an experience that none of them will ever forget, and many want to live through again.
What did you think of Project New Terrain? Let us know in the comments below.