Did we say that taking on the Mint 400, America’s toughest, most storied off-road race, in a near-stock Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is crazy talk?
Well maybe we were wrong…In Episode 3 of “Dealer to Desert,” Jerry Zaiden and the Camburg Racing crew shake down the completed race truck, do a little dialing in on the suspension and like what they see – it rides the terrain well and, crucially, it’s not afraid to take a punch or two. Perhaps this isn’t such a crazy idea after all?
“The truck’s amazing,” says Zaiden. “We’re ready to go win the Mint 400.”
Joining the Camburg crew will be someone who’s not only new to the Mint 400, but to off-road racing, period. Former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno is the ultimate car guy, but getting behind the wheel of the Tacoma TRD Pro for the race’s opening loop is a completely new challenge. Over 100-plus miles of unforgiving Nevada desert loaded with suspension-destroying rocks and gulleys and truck-sucking sand beds, Leno will have to know when to push and when to nurse if he’s going to hand it over to second-leg driver Zaiden in one piece.
“The beating this truck takes during the race is just…it’s almost, you can’t even comprehend it,” says Zaiden. “It’s like a controlled crash the whole day.”
To give Leno a taste of what’s to come, Zaiden arranged a test day in California’s Mojave Desert – and to give the rookie every chance of bringing it home on its wheels, he’s enlisted off-road and rally ace Ryan Millen to sit alongside him as the voice of hard-earned experience and an extra pair of eyes.
Lessons and advice hopefully noted and absorbed, next stop is Primm, Nev. – time to go racing. So look out for more episodes of “Dealer to Desert” on RACER.com as Camburg Racing counts down to the 2017 Mint 400, and find out more about Camburg here.