Off-Road Racing has come a long way but still has a long way to go. It’s always been disturbing to me that the factories who sell billions of dollars in trucks are not currently directly involved with factory backed sponsorship of race team and events. Now finally Toyota is back! And back with a vengeance signing BJ Baldwin to a multi-year deal. Will we see the re-ignition of the level of program Toyota ran with Ivan Stewart? Maybe this is just what the automotive industry needs to get involved in the most exciting motorsport on the planet! After all how many vehicles have Toyota sold with “Prerunner” emblazoned on the side of them? My guess would be tens of millions. I have owned four Tacoma’s myself and I can safely say they have outperformed and outlasted every other vehicle I have owned. Does this signal a full size Toyota “Raptor” style vehicle in the works? I know a lot of people who would buy one including myself. Maybe I am just getting ahead of myself but it’s progress non the less. I caught up with “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin to ask him a few questions about what’s in store for this exciting new relationship.
Congratulations on your new deal. Tell us about your new sponsorship deal with Toyota?
Thank you, thank you very much. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s something that we’ve been working on off and on for a year and then pretty heavily this last 6 months on this relationship with Toyota. It’s exciting. We haven’t had a manufacturer come into the sport or 16 years since Ivan’s Toyota program. It’s super exciting to be the first guy to have a manufacturer be re-involved into our sport.
Tell us about your relationship with Ivan Stewart?
We have a great relationship, he is super cool. Any time I get a chance to talk to Ivan, I’m always trying to get intelligence out of him. He’s a really good guy and it’s good to learn from a guy who has that much experience and that much talent. He’s definitely helped me accomplish some of my goals and winning a couple Baja 1000s, and soloing a couple Baja 1000s. It’s always good to hear, to get some advice from Ivan and learn from him.
Talk about those “Ironman” wins specifically because it’s one thing to win the Baja 1000, it’s completely another thing to solo it and win it, especially in this day and age where you’re competing with such a stacked field of drivers and technology.
Truck racing is getting more and more competitive in last recent years and having a relationship with Toyota has helped re-motivate me and help me focus on some of my weaknesses in my program. We’re just really excited about the relationship and we want to make these guys as happy as possible. We want to make Toyota as happy as possible, go above and beyond, exceed their expectations as to what we can provide for them.
What do you see as your biggest challenges going forward?
Well, now my goals are to provide more value outside motorsports and continue to pursue our goal as it relates to winning more championships and more races. We’re undergoing a huge evolutionary change in our motorsports program and our vehicle and we think that we have a much more competitive vehicle than we’ve had in recent years. If we could just get everything to stay together I think we’ll do really, really well. These days the field is pretty stacked. It’s more competitive than it’s been in recent years and my challenge is always in the equipment as with any other off-road team. Some of us try our best to be competitive and we have fast trucks and fast drivers and sometimes we have streaks of bad luck and sometimes we do very well. My biggest challenge is trying to keep my truck together here lately. Our truck’s evolving and it’s getting better and better and more and more reliable. I’m trying to increase the reliability of the truck and get it to where we can really, really abuse it when we need to and conserve our equipment when we need to as well.
Are you going to be doing more forms of racing?
I would definitely like to do more. This is the very, very beginning of this relationship and I was telling some of the people before, just getting your foot in the door is really difficult in terms of procuring this kind of commitment from a manufacturer. We have lots of different things that we can do in the future and we intend on capitalizing on all our opportunities with Toyota. Hopefully I’d love to do some road racing in the future with Toyota and other forms of racing, perhaps rally. You know me, I’m always down to do all sorts of stuff.
What is your race schedule going to be?
The Baja 500 we’re going to do, we’re going to do Vegas Arena, we’re obviously going to do the 1000 and then we’re going to do one more race. We haven’t really picked that race yet. Then we’re going to film “Recoil” and we’ve got a few other film projects that we’re going to do.
Speaking of that When can we expect the next Recoil?
Probably in early November. Right now we’re in the process of modifying the other race truck and outfitting it with a Toyota powertrain and a Toyota Tundra body, so that’s going to take some time.
Any people you want to thank or acknowledge?
Yeah, I’d just like to thank my family and my team and all my sponsors and marketing partners. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to create the value and exposure I’ve been able to create in recent years. I’ve been fortunate enough in my motorsports career to be around intelligent people, starting with yourself, Matt. We put some stuff together and you did a great job making things happen. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to learn from other people and build on my opportunities.
Photos: Vincent Knakal of Mad Media and Larry Chen