Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Most Interesting Entry at This Year's Baja 1000
This year I am "awarding" (?) this title to an entry just showing up on the entry list.
Ikuo Hanawa is a long time Baja aficionado having run there a number of times as well as at Pikes Peak on occasion including behind the wheel of an electric vehicle.
For '14 Hanawa is coming to Baja with a completely new vehicle of his own design and build (from what I can decipher from the translated Japanese on his Facebook page). He also lists it as his Baja/Dakar vehicle so maybe we'll see it in South America in a few months as well? It certainly looks the Dakar part being VERY small looking with a non-existent rear end, and a wholly enclosed shell with dual spares almost completely covered.
The video Hanawa has posted lists the 2WD vehicle as having about 23 1/2 inches of front end travel and about 21 1/2 inches in the rear. King bypass and coils dampen the front while the wheels are wrapped in 315/70R17 Yokohama Geolander A/T-S. I'm not sure what type of transmission is in it but it looks to be a fairly stock version (maybe even a stock Nissan 370Z tranny?) as the video shows Hanawa rowing through the gears, certainly no sequential transmission present. The engine in the vehicle is a Nissan 3.7L VQ37VHR V6 out of a 370Z putting out around 332 HP, while the "body" is completely tube framed and yet the vehicle will somehow be classified as a Nissan Frontier in SCORE's class 7 for "Open Mini-Trucks". If there's a Frontier part on it, I'd be shocked.
It certainly looks like a foreign designed and built vehicle with an emphasis on a small size and light weight. How its rather spindly looking suspension and steering holds up to the roughness of Baja will soon be seen. I'll be rooting for him but having my doubts as to its ability to stay in one piece. I would have expected that Hanawa has enough Baja experience to know what he is asking of his vehicle and have designed it accordingly--so what do I know? My vehicle broke down every day I raced it the 2014 NORRA event, so clearly I don't have the answer.
As always for me, seeing something besides a Geiser Trophy Truck powered by some massive Cheby crate motor is the more captivating portion of this race. I'm in the minority but I'm more of an underdog, root for the guy who is likely to lose, sort of person. With someone like Hanawa and his Japanese engined, Dakar style buggie, some eyes might at least be pulled away from the carbon copy lineup one usually sees...if only for a moment.
To follow along with this effort, Ikuo Hanawa is #712. Tracking should begin tomorrow 11/13. The "other" Nissan Frontier in the race that I spoke of the other day is #2003. Best of luck to both of them!