Off-road desert racing is possibly the most grueling form of auto racing in the world. Recognized around the globe by races like the SCORE Baja 1000, “Best in the Desert” (BitD) Racing Association’s 500-mile Vegas to Reno, and the 1400-mile Dakar Rally, it also is the ultimate proving grounds for manufacturers to push production vehicles to their limits. It is also the reason why HUMMER teamed with racing legend, Rod Hall 12-years ago to create Team HUMMER.
Today, Team HUMMER consists of H1, H2 and H3 race trucks, all driven by the legendary Hall family of off-road racers. Family patriarch Rod Hall began competing with HUMMER vehicles in 1993, soon after the first civilian vehicles went on sale to the public. Although larger and heavier than most competitors’ race vehicles, Hall’s decades of off-road experience and the HUMMER’s considerable off-road prowess immediately made for a competitive – and winning – combination. In their first Baja 1000 in 1993, Hall’s H1’s took first and second place, and sent shock waves through the off-road racing world.
The Hall team competes in the Full Stock class, which features production-based vehicles with stock frames, stock suspension designs and production-based engines. Only specialized racing shock absorbers, tires and other minor modifications are allowed, along with the required supporting components and mandatory safety equipment. Minor modifications are allowed to the powertrain, although the rules stipulate it must be based on the stock engine and transmission combination.
“With 42 years of experience in off-road racing, I can comfortably say that HUMMERs are the most capable and rugged vehicles I’ve ever driven,” said Rod Hall. “With only minor modifications, we take the H1, H2 and H3 that a consumer can buy at their HUMMER dealership, and race it across a 1000-miles of the most intense desert conditions.”
In just 12 short years of racing, the Hall family and Team HUMMER have built a resume that would be the envy of most race teams around the globe. In total, the Team as tallied a total of 10 class wins at the Baja 1000; 41 podium finishes in the Best in the Desert series races; and five BitD class championships. In fact, the Team is still today the only American team to finish the infamous Dakar Rally in the stock class – a feat it achieved in 1996.
Introduced in October 2005, just a few months after the H3 began production, Team HUMMER debuted the H3 race truck at the Best in the Desert Racing Association’s “Vegas to Reno ” 500-mile competition. The H3 is piloted by off-road racing legend, Rod Hall, and in only three races, has delivered two first-place finishes in the 3100 class (for stock mini and mid-sized production SUV’s), including the world-renowned Baja 1000.
The #4101 H2 is driven by Rod’s son, Josh Hall. The H2 first entered the off-road racing circuit in the 2003 “Vegas to Reno ” race and battled for a fourth place finish. The team learned quickly, and in the 2004 race, Josh Hall shaved nearly ten hours off his previous year’s finish time to take the checkered flag. That was the beginning of a eight-race winning streak for the H2 team, which included every race entered by the H2 in 2005, and resulted in the H2 team’s title as the Best in the Desert 2005 points champion for Stock SUV.
The new #8102 H1 Alpha race truck is driven by Rod’s other son, six-time Baja 1000 winner, Chad Hall, and debuts at the Terrible’s Town 250 in April 2006. The H1 has a strong history in racing, having been the focus of Rod Hall’s race efforts since the 1993. The truck’s durable performance has rewarded Team HUMMER with countless race wins and several championships. The H1 is in its element while racing in the desert over the most brutal terrain, according to Hall.
Much of the team’s success can be attributed to a cooperative relationship between Team HUMMER and the GM development engineering group based at GM’s Desert Proving Ground in Arizona . The close-to-stock configuration of the race vehicles provides engineers a valuable method of observing the H2 and H3 in extreme driving situations (only the H2 and H3 are engineered by the General Motors, the H1 is engineered by AM General).
Engineers from the H2 and H3 production development teams perform a valuable role in building the race vehicles at the Desert Proving Ground and delivering them to Rod Hall International in Reno , Nev. , for further fine-tuning and testing. “The engineering group is an integral member of our team,” said Hall. “We showed them where to put the safety equipment, but they built the vehicle with an inside knowledge of the H2 and H3 that we simply didn’t have.”
In addition to building the race vehicle, the development engineers provide technical consultation, parts support and even crew member volunteers for all races, with increased support for longer races such as the Baja 1000.
Evaluations of the vehicles’ performance provide valuable feedback that can be used in the continual refinement of current products and the development of future HUMMERs. "We can do a month’s worth of research in a day," says Thad Stump, H2 development manager and H2 and H3 racing liaison. "We’re taking these vehicles to speeds and distances through terrain that the consumer may never see."
“Everyone at the proving ground is excited to be part of the racing effort,” said Thad Stump, engineering liaison. “A lot of us are off-road enthusiasts, so the chance to contribute to Rod’s team has been a dream come true.”