Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, November 20 -- After nearly 2000 miles of the most punishing off-road racing in memory, GM's Vortec I6 Powered Chevrolet TrailBlazers finished second and third in the Trophy Truck class, and third and fourth overall out of 262 entries in the Baja 2000 race in Baja, Mexico.
Teams prevail despite challenges on the road from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas. "Despite some dramatic incidents that the Chevy TrailBlazers experienced, the Vortec I6 engines performed perfectly throughout the grueling event, " said Al Alvarez, Vortec brand manager at GM Powertrain. "We are ex tremely pleased with the results of our successful off-road racing program this year."
For many years in off-road racing events, there has been no replacement for displacement and cylinders: big V8s have dominated in virtually every type of desert and hill climb competition, explained Alvarez. "We set out at the beginning of 2000 to prove that common wisdom wrong," Alvarez said. "The Vortec I6 is the 'Six that beats Eights' and the results from Baja, together with decisive victories at the Baja 500, the Best In The Desert Nevad a 2000 and the 2000 Adelphia Pikes Peak International Hill Climb events earlier in the year, clearly show that this is the case."
The Vortec 4200 I6 will be standard in the new 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada, GMC Envoy and Chevrolet TrailBlazer. It incorporates high-technology production features such as dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing and an aluminum block and cylinder head and is a prime example of GM's intent to be the industry leader in product innovation.
Both Vortec I6 race and production engines share the same advantages over their V8 competition in performance, efficiency and durability. "These advantages are what makes the Vortec I6 race motor a winner on the course," said Alvarez. "They are the same advantages that will make the Vortec 4200 I6 p roduction engine a winner in the marketplace."
This year's 1,700-mile race was the longest of its kind since off-road racing started on the Baja peninsula in the early 1960s. The Vortec-powered Chevy TrailBlazers -- Ragland's led much of the early stages of the race -- and were easily the fastest vehicles in the 2000 field.
At one stage, the deficit to the lead was as much as 1=BD hours but, as darkness began to set on the narrow strip of land that runs south straight down from California on the Pacific Ocean, it was down to a mere eight seconds. The Chevrolet TrailBlazer driver Larry Ragland was pushing the Vortec I6 (racing against V8 engines) to its full potential -- as he had been doing for some 31 hours straight -- prior to the closing moments of the race. Knowing he had no chance to pass once darkness set in, Ragland was on the gas hard -- only to have the truck veer off course and roll over onto its side. With minimal damage and with the engine still running, Ragland quickly got back on course.
At the same time, the second Chevy TrailBlazer -- driven by Mark Miller -- continued to close the gap to the leader and Ragland, just minutes behind. The two trucks -- both of which suffered dramatic incidents during the race -- would race on to second-place and third-place finishes in the Baja 2000 Trophy Truck class.
"I'd worked for half the race to get the deficit down to a visual contact with the lead truck," explained Ragland. "My goal was to pass at Todos Santos. We needed to get it done there before night set in. So, in the end, it was the whole day that caused the accident."
If the misfortunes that struck Ragland's truck weren't enough, Miller 's Chevrolet TrailBlazer slid down a 300-foot ravine just moments from the start of the race and, once it was finally dug out, found itself dead last of the 262 vehicles entered.
In fact, it was the effort of the Vortec I6 and the Hydra-Matic transmissio n that put an exclamation point on General Motors' weekend in Baja.
The Vortec I6 engine performed flawlessly, according to GM Racing's Ed Keating. "We put this motor up on the dynamometer for the first time this past January. And to come this far in such a short time is incredible. Look at this engine (Keating pointed to the Vortec I6 on the truck Ragland had rolled). It's just run nearly 2,000 miles flat out, was rolled upside down and I don't see a drop of oil coming out of it. That's just amazing."
Ragland agrees with the assessment of his vehicle. "We had, by far, the best vehicle out there with the Vortec I6. The only thing I had to worry about was trying to be disciplined and maintain a speed that doesn't damage the vehicle. The I6 definitely has as much power as any V8 out there".
On par with Ragland's run for the title were the superhuman efforts put forth by Miller Chevrolet TrailBlazer team. Coming from absolute last place after getting stuck and weaving its way through slower traffic on two-track dirt roads, wash outs, woods, beaches, narrow highway roads and farmers' fields -- while all along being choked and blinded by dust -- was a feat that will be talked about for years to come in off-road racing.
"Obviously, I was really bummed," said driver Miller about the accident. "But the first thing Barry Beecham, (Miller's co-driver) said to me was 'Hey, let's get this thing out of here and go finish this race we're not out of this yet.'" It took three 100-foot long tow straps and about three hours of tedious work and Miller and Beecham were back out racing. "I think we passed 150 cars in the first 400 miles," added Miller. "We were coming up on guys like they were parked. We drove very aggressively, but didn't touch another car. Our equipment was so superior and we knew we would finish this race."
GM Powertrain is a global producer of engines, transmissions, castings and components for GM vehicles and other automotive, marine, and industrial OEMs. Headquartered in Pontiac, Michigan, GM Powertrain has operating and coordinating responsibility for General Motors powertrain manufacturing plants and engineering centers in North America, South America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region.