TEAM ATK JEEPSPEED WRANGLER WINS THE 2009 BAJA 500 WITH REMANUFACTURED POWERPLANT Grand Prairie, TX -- June 19, 2009 -- Team ATK took a class win at the world famous SCORE International Baja 500 in Baja, Mexico with their remanufactured ATK ...
TEAM ATK JEEPSPEED WRANGLER WINS THE 2009 BAJA 500 WITH REMANUFACTURED POWERPLANT
Grand Prairie, TX -- June 19, 2009 -- Team ATK took a class win at the world famous SCORE International Baja 500 in Baja, Mexico with their remanufactured ATK Engines-powered Jeepspeed Wrangler. Team drivers Darren Skilton and Jon Krellwitz took turns behind the wheel in their Short Wheelbase 4x4 Class hardtop Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, to win their class by 14 hours and 4 minutes and average speed of 30.74 mph.
Saturday, June 6, was a perfect race day for the Baja 500, with a light breeze and 70 degree weather. At just past 11am and first off the line in their class, Darren and his father, 20 year Baja veteran Clive Skilton, charged hard out of the gates and moved relentlessly up through the mixed field of limited buggies, mini trucks and full size stock trucks, all of which started in front of them.
Having cut through the early traffic, by the 80 mile mark they had begun to move up through the class 7 vehicles (unlimited mini trucks). The Team ATK pairing was looking extremely strong when they rounded a blind turn and struck a large rock in the middle of the course. The impact broke the two wheels on the driver side. Luckily for Team ATK, their Wrangler carries 2 spares.
In a typical Baja scene, while Skilton attempted to change the damaged wheels some local spectators attempted to lend a hand. In their eagerness to be useful, they stripped a few of the rear studs. Luckily, Darren managed to thread a few lug nuts on the hub and limped their way to the BFGoodrich pits, which were only a few miles ahead.
After repairs and having taken on a full load of fuel, Skyler Gambrell replaced Skilton to co-drive during the very technical crossing of the Sierra De Juarez mountain summit. Darren Skilton and Gambrell ran clean and strong over the summit, their ATK-powered 4 wheel drive Jeep making up much of the lost ground from the rock incident. As they pulled into BFG pit 2, they held a comfortable 30 mile lead on the second placed Land Rover entry.
During refueling, the ATK team discovered a severe leak coming from the rear seal of the transfer case. The decision was made to swap the entire transfer case out, and an hour and a half later the Team ATK Jeep headed out with Jon Krellwitz behind the wheel and Gambrell staying on to co-drive.
With a 10 minute lead in hand Krellwitz and Gambrell headed west across the peninsula, directly into the brilliant setting Baja sun.
"The sun was so bright it was really tough to see anything for about 50 miles," said driver Krellwitz. "It was that way all the time until the sun set".
The Jeep Wrangler made its way smoothly across the peninsula to the Pacific coast where the third and last BFGoodrich pit was located. With darkness upon them, and a healthy lead over the second place in class Land Rover, Krellwitz and Gambrell opted to take it easy across the rough terrain and bring the ATK Jeep home to the finish, just after 1am on Sunday morning.
"We couldn't be prouder of the Team ATK Jeepspeed crew," said Peter Butterfield, CEO and President of ATK VEGE. "This win is a great follow up to the team's Class win at the 2008 SCORE-International Baja 1000."
The November Baja 1000 saw the Team ATK Jeepspeed Wrangler finished 31st overall in a field of nearly 400 entries.
The team did a great job -- the drivers, co-drivers and crew. All of them," said Clive Skilton, the team manager. "And of course, the ATK engine didn't miss a beat!"