It’s not that surprising and at least Ford had a go at it instead of sitting on the sidelines

In Ford’s attempt to gain even more hype and publicity surrounding the returning Bronco SUV, it surprised a lot of people, ourselves included, by entering a prototype version of the Bronco R racing truck at the legendary Baja 1000 off-road race. Unfortunately, Ford’s best-laid plans for the prototype racer were no match for the excruciating desert trial. The Bronco R not only failed to finish the race, but it suffered one issue after another, ultimately leading it to break down even before it got a sniff of the finish line.

What Happened to the Ford Bronco R at the Baja 1000?

Ford was confident that the Bronco R could have a strong presence at the Baja 1000, despite the fact that it was still a prototype. But that wasn’t the case.

The Bronco R didn’t only fail to finish the race, but it experienced one issue after another before ending up completely broken and in need of serious repairs.
The New Ford Bronco R Couldn't Handle the Baja 1000 Exterior
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Ford Performance was upfront enough about all that ailed the Bronco R. In a conversation with Jalopnik, Ford communications manager Mike Levine laid out all the issues the Bronco R prototype experienced during its run in the Baja 1000. The race truck damaged a skid plate after getting hit by a trophy truck, leading to damage to the transmission cooling lines. The team fixed the skid plate in one of the early pit stops but was unable to detect the transmission leak until after it started slipping. The series of unfortunate events continued when the Bronco R’s fabricated lower control arm broke and the aftermarket cooling fan started malfunctioning. In the end, all the issues piled up one on top of the other, causing massive delays due to repairs.

At some point, Ford Performance deemed it was better to just throw in the towel instead of fixing the Bronco R and letting it finish well after the official time limit’s expiration.

Like everyone at Ford Performance, Levine expressed his disappointment over the Bronco R’s DNF result but, if you think about it, there are some positives that could be taken from the race truck’s run at the Baja 1000. So while it is a facepalm moment for Ford, it shouldn’t feel too bad about the result. Disappointed? Sure. Embarrassed? No.

The Ford Bronco R Prototype Wasn’t Ready for The Baja 1000

It’s easy to look at the Bronco R’s failed run at Baja 1000 and scoff at its ability to meet the challenges the race had to offer.

But remember, this isn’t a full-blown race truck that has spent years in development specifically to compete at a race like the Baja 1000. The Bronco R racing truck is a prototype so, while Ford would have wanted to finish the race, the main objective was to gather as much data and information as possible so that improvements can be made to make the Bronco R more formidable in the future races it competes in.

The New Ford Bronco R Couldn't Handle the Baja 1000
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Ford achieved that, at least to a certain extent. That should count as a notch on the “win” column, even if it doesn’t feel like it considering how things turned out. Besides, it’s not like everyone finishes the Baja 1000.

The Baja 1000 Isn’t Easy By Any Means

The New Ford Bronco R Couldn't Handle the Baja 1000
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There’s a reason the Baja 1000 is regarded as one of the toughest races in the world, and every team that competes in it has an understanding that there’s a good chance that they may not make it to the finish line. That’s how brutal of an endurance trial the Baja 1000 is.

This year, only 54 percent of the event’s 264 entries completed the 800.5-mile route.

The Bronco R’s Run in the Baja 1000 is About Developing the Production Model Too

Ultimately, Ford’s decision to enter the Bronco R in the Baja 1000 has as much to do with continuing to develop the race truck as doing the same with the upcoming production model.

Earlier this month, Ford revealed that the 2021 Ford Bronco is scheduled to debut in the spring of 2020.

Ford hasn’t confirmed a lot of details about the upcoming off-road SUV, but we have learned through numerous reports that the Bronco will come with either a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine under the hood that makes 270 ponies and 310 pound-feet of twist or a slightly bigger 2.7-liter, V-6 EcoBoost with 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque on tap. Ford has also reportedly partnered with Getrag to build a manual transmission for the new Bronco, dubbed MT88. The belief is that this particular transmission will have seven gears and will be bolted to the V-6 engine.

The New Ford Bronco R Couldn't Handle the Baja 1000
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A performance-spec Raptor version with a V-8 engine could also be in the mix, and if you really want to get excited, a Bronco-based pickup is also reportedly in the works.

Final Thoughts

You have to give Ford some credit. The Blue Oval probably didn’t need to bring the prototype Bronco R racing truck to the Baja 1000. It definitely didn’t need to race it, especially since the racer is still a development model. But Ford did it anyway, in part because it wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rod Hall’s iconic win in the desert off-road race.

It’s easy to look at Ford’s rough time at the Baja 1000 and chalk it up to the automaker getting a little too ambitious with the development of the Bronco. It didn’t turn out the way Ford expected, but at least it learned some lessons along the way. Given that the Bronco and the Bronco R race truck are still under development, these lessons could go a long way in helping Ford create an off-road SUV that can live up to the legacy of its name.

Source: Jalopnik

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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