Toyota Tundra: The Taking of the Baja 1000

See how far a mostly stock Tundra pickup can go.

By Jacob Stumph - February 26, 2016

This article applies to the Toyota Tundra (2000-Present).

Toyota's performance and aftermarket parts arm, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has long been involved with motorsport in North America. TRD is the enthusiasts' resource, as their motorsport efforts ultimately trickle down into parts and pieces available through Toyota for consumers' street machines. It seems that whatever TRD touches turns to gold. With some modifications, they converted a Sienna family van into a track taxi, complete with stiff suspension, sticky tires, and lap times in line with some sports cars. If they can do that with a minivan, imagine what they can do to a truck.

For 2015, Toyota tasked the TRD team with developing a Tundra capable of tackling the almighty Baja 1000 race through Northwestern Mexico's Mexicali territory. While you would expect a large manufacturer like Toyota to be capable of fielding an unlimited budget Baja trophy truck build, they went the other way entirely. Utilizing a Toyota Tundra TRD Pro truck, like the one available at your local Toyota dealer, the goal was a win in the "full stock" class, which as you could expect, allows for minimal modification.

Component Breakdown

The Baja 1000

The SCORE (Sanctioning Committee for Off-Road Events) Baja 1000 is an annual race held through the Mexico's Baja California peninsula. Started in 1967 by motorcycle and off-road enthusiasts, the Baja at first was a for-fun challenge held through the California-Mexico borderlands. Being held annually, it evolved into a sanctioned and timed race, with many different classes for 2-wheel and 4-wheel creations of all sorts. Depending on the specific race and class entered, the Baja can either be a point-to-point event, with varied courses, often exceeding 1,000 miles in length, or a loop type race where your race starts and ends in the same place.

toyota tundra truck off road baja 1000 winner TRD pro
Figure 1. The official 2015 Baja 1000 logo.

Toyota has fielded entries in the Baja over the years, participating in varying classes depending on their goals. For 2015, their goal was to run in the "All-Stock" class with their newest Tundra model, and were victorious, yielding a 1st place finish in class and finishing 69th out of 131 total finishers. It should be noted that many entrants do not see the checkered flag at all, so finishing alone is an impressive feat.

The Truck

TRD's goal for the 2015 Baja 1000 was to showcase the aptitude of their 2015 Tundra, even in a modestly modified state. With this in mind, they started with a production Tundra TRD Pro truck, just like the one that you can purchase from your local Toyota dealership. Starting at around $42,000, the TRD Pro model is a potent truck right out of the gate. With a 5.7L i-Force V8 kicking out 381 horsepower, 401 lb/ft of torque, a 6-speed automatic transmission with "4WDemand" adjustable 4WD with electronically controlled transfer case and limited-slip rear differential the powertrain in this truck, it is no joke and can embarrass some lesser sports cars off the line. Backing this up is a trick Bilstein suspension with remote reservoirs for superior shock control and consistent performance. A 38 gallon endurance fuel cell and a number of TRD accessories round off this package, making for a truck that seems Baja-ready as is.

toyota tundra truck off road baja 1000 winner TRD pro
Figure 2. Toyota Tundra TRD Pro series truck.

The Modifications

As the class name of "Full-Stock" might imply, this truck is not a heavily modified one-off. In fact, the suspension appears to be standard TRD Pro affair with its Bilstein dampers and remote reservoirs, and largely standard components throughout. The largest additions come in the form of the roll cage (required), an expertly crafted Herbst Smith Fabrications affair, a unique fuel cell (again mandated by event rules), an accusump oiling system, which adds three liters of oil capacity to the engine and helps prevent oil starvation, custom 4.88 rear gears for better acceleration, racing seats, and 37" off-road tires by BFGoodrich. Many components that enthusiasts commonly upgrade, like wheels/tires, brakes, intake and exhaust and off the shelf parts, that TRD would be all too happy to sell to you. If an enterprising Toyota enthusiast attempted to recreate this build, it could be done for approximately $15-20,000 depending on the particulars. Not cheap, but for about $60,000 all in, you would have one hell of a race truck that would spank any Ford Raptor that tried to play tough.

toyota tundra truck off road baja 1000 winner TRD pro
Figure 3. Tundra TRD Pro Baja 1000 truck.

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