This Just In
•Where's Willard Scott? Jeep isn't the only company celebrating a centennial this year. Chevrolet was founded in November 1911 by racer Louis Chevrolet and General Motors founder William C. "Billy" Durant. The Bow Tie folks promise "a year of anniversary activities" to celebrate.
•Welcome back, Grand Wagoneer. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters at the North American International Auto Show to expect "an upper-scale Grand Wagoneer" by early 2013. The seven-seat SUV will be built on the same platform as the Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, but it will be priced higher than the premium models of either SUV.
•How's that, Commander? During Marchionne's announcement of the new Grand Wagoneer, a reporter asked him how it would differ from the Commander, which was discontinued last year. "That car was unfit for human consumption," he replied, as quoted in Automotive News. "We sold some. But I don't know why people bought them."
•Grassroots racing grows. Lucas Oil and Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California have expanded their regional off-road racing series partnership in an effort to expand grassroots short-course off-road racing. The Lucas Oil team will develop uniform rules and safety standards for new racing classes, including Full and Mini Stock Trucks and Mini Open Trucks, creating opportunities for off-road racers at all levels to compete safely in short-course racing. Go to www.lucasoiloffroad.com for more info.
•Race KoH, help the land. For the second year in a row, Rock Zombies 4x4 Club member Travis Carpenter of the 4405 Land Use team is running in the King of the Hammers to raise funds for land use efforts. The team is asking people to make pledges to the BlueRibbon Coalition based on how many miles Carpenter travels in the race, or you can make a flat-rate pledge. Visit www.sharetrails.org/4405 to make your pledge.
•Congress defends our access. In January, Congressmen Wally Herger, Tom McClintock, Kevin McCarthy, and Dan Lungren cosponsored a bill to clarify the implementation and enforcement of Travel Management in California. This bill will restrict funds for the Forest Service's Travel Management Rule (TMR) until the agency has performed the project-level review under the rule. The bill also addresses the very contentious issue of the Forest Service banning OHV use on dirt-covered and roughly graded logging roads in rural sections of the state.
Dakar Highs & Lows
Celebration and frustration were among the emotions felt by American off-road racers who competed in the new South American version of the Dakar rally. Mark Miller and copilot Ralph Pitchford finished Sixth in the T1 Auto Class driving a VW Touareg, while California-based motorcycle racers Quinn Cody and Jonah Street completed the rally in Ninth and 12th place, respectively.
Our friend and fellow auto journalist Sue Mead was the first American female driver of record at Dakar, copiloting a largely stock Ford Raptor with longtime race and rally driver Darren Skilton. Not only did Mead and Skilton finish the grueling 14-day, 9,000-kilometer (about 5,900-mile) rally, but they brought the Raptor across the finish line in First Place in the Open Production Class. According to reports coming back from the race, the Raptor completed the journey with few mechanical issues beyond a broken shock mount and some overheating while running for several hours through deep, soft sand.
Robby Gordon and Team Hummer weren't so lucky. Gordon was disqualified after Stage 4 (of the rally's 13) for failing to start a special segment on time due to delays caused by a seized wheel bearing. Several days later the second Hummer on the team suffered a rollover in Stage 8 and then a broken transmission early in Stage 9, putting it out of competition.
You can read all about Team Hummer's adventure and watch in-car videos from the race on the blog toyotires.com/dakar-rally-blog.