The 28th anniversary of the Best In The Desert “Casey Folks Vegas to Reno” race held on August 18, 2023, handed out more than the usual challenges for the Honda Factory Off-Road Racing Team. The 534 mile course started outside Las Vegas, NV, and wound its way through the brutal, dusty desert and mountainous terrain to end just outside Reno, NV. The week started with 248 entries and by the end of the race, according to unofficial results, only 159 finished.
Unfortunately, for Team Honda, both the No. 9 Honda Ridgeline and the No. 1925 Honda Talon were among the many who suffered DNFs.
On paper, the results aren’t what the Team had in mind, but the prep and race don’t count as a loss according to Team Principal, Jeff Proctor.
“I can’t express how much we learned about our new Honda Ridgeline race truck the past few weeks,” said Proctor. “We’ve spent a lot of extra time getting this Ridgeline race ready – from working with Honda engineers to days and days of desert testing. But there comes a time when you just have to rip the bandage off and get into the race for real-world data. And I’m glad we did. It was a great test of the new systems and while some theories proved true, we discovered new gremlins, as well.”
The performance of the new Honda Ridgeline race truck started strong. Driver of record, Ethan Ebert, impressively qualified the No. 9 Honda V6 twin turbo powered Ridgeline P7 in the C/T Trick Truck class against the unlimited V8 trucks, with a time of 9:44.629. Ebert’s efforts meant clean air and limited course degradation for the Ridgeline team as they started the race and the next phase of testing.
The No. 9 Honda Ridgeline team took full advantage and held a Top 10 position all the way through to their DNF just past Pit 12 around RM 460, despite fighting through multiple new truck gremlins along the way. The drivers and crew took care to work through a failed brake master cylinder and replaced a drive shaft, not to mention the usual race chaos that unfolded on-course. The DNF came down to a power steering failure. A much needed function in the twisty miles leading to the finish.
Proctor said, “Looking past the disappointment of the DNF for the Ridgeline, I’m very encouraged by the results. The Honda V6 Twin Turbo has proven to have pace in the Trick Truck class. That’s an amazing note for our team as we take everything we’ve learned to get the Honda Ridgeline ready for the Baja 1000.”
The team’s No. 1925 Honda Talon with Zach Sizelove in the UTV N/A Pro class entered the race with momentum from wins at the SCORE Baja 500 and The Mint 400. His momentum showed with Sizelove quickly taking the lead position in the class. But in true desert-racing fashion, even the best have bad days and unfortunately, Sizelove’s race ended early with a catastrophic suspension failure that the team couldn’t overcome.
Sizelove said, “This one is rough for us. I work hard to be consistent on my strategy and race craft. The Team is great at delivering a race ready Honda Talon. We have a proven race record. So when something that isn’t consistent like this happens, all you can do is fix it and move on.”