The Inside Story of Ford's Baja 1000 EcoBoost Race Trucks

Ford's EcoBoost Race Trucks Complete the Baja 1000
Words and Photos by Matt Kartozian for PickupTrucks.com

Years of work developing the first twin-turbo direct-injection six-cylinder gas engine for a light-duty pickup truck paid off for Ford over the weekend. The company’s F-150 EcoBoost race truck completed the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race in Mexico in 38 hours, 20 minutes, running on an engine that’s seen the equivalent of a decade of hard work.

This year’s 1,061-mile Baja 1000 was a point-to-point race that started in Ensenada, Mexico, about an hour south of San Diego, and finished in La Paz, a mere 100 miles north of the resort town of Cabo San Lucas near the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Imagine racing from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., off-road, non-stop over a route filled with rock climbs, silt beds, fan-laid booby traps and many other terrain features just waiting to destroy your vehicle. That’s a pretty good idea of the Baja 1000.

The race was the culmination of Ford’s marketing efforts to convince skeptical truck buyers that a six-cylinder engine can do the job of an eight with the same reliability and durability.

Merrit-2-560

The engine that powered Ford's Eco Boost racer was pulled off the assembly line months ago for a torture test that began with the engine racking up 150,000 miles on a dyno in Dearborn, Mich. Then it was put into a truck and used as a line skidder at a Northwestern logging company, dragging logs around the job site. From there it went to Homestead racetrack in Florida to tow an 11,000-pound trailer with two racecars around the track for 24 hours. Finally, the engine was put into Mike McCarthy's F-150 race truck to tackle Baja.

Randy Merritt and the Mongo Racing team raced a second F-150 with another EcoBoost V-6.

SCORE International, which normally doesn’t allow turbo gas engines, gave the two an exception allowed them to race in their own class of Stock Engine Truck Class, but the pair would mix it up with their normal competition in Stock Full and Class 8 on the track.

SCORE CEO Sal Fish gave us his thoughts on the program before the race. "I'm really excited. It is going to bring a lot to the sport. We are opening the doors and taking a look at this to see what happens and then reevaluate them for 2011."

Merrit-3-560

The two EcoBoost-powered teams faced problems and adversity throughout the race, but both got their trucks to the finish line. While planning for the race, the team predicted an average of 3 mpg, but as the race progressed, they found they were actually getting 8.5 mpg. That prompted the team to change pit and fuel strategy.

McCarthy ran clean all the way to Loreto at Race Mile 750, where his missed his fuel stop, and while it would not have been an issue, McCarthy got nervous and fueled the truck at a local Pemex gas station. The gas was dirty and clogged the fuel filter, forcing McCarthy’s team to stop and change it out and costing them time. Baja also took its toll on the tires, and the team had to change a few, which is normal during a long race like the 1000. Without any other problems, McCarthy finished the race in the dark of night in La Paz with a time of 38 hours, 29 minutes, 58 seconds, with an average speed of 27.57 mph.

McCarthy, who is a man of few words, said, "It was awesome. We had a good day."

Merritt and Tracy Rubio had a much longer day in their EcoBoost F-150 and watched the sun rise and set twice over the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez in a brand-new race truck with less than 50 test miles.

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They started clean and passed all of the Stock Full trucks in the first three miles and passed seven other vehicles before Ojos Negros at Race Mile 40. The trouble started near San Felipe at Race Mile 180, where a hole in the back of the radiator took a few hours to repair. Things got worse when they broke a spindle near Bahia de Los Angeles at Race Mile 380. The spare parts were far away in a chase truck and by the time it was repaired, the team was down for five hours. Later in the race, the right front shock failed, and the only thing holding all the parts together was the spring on the coil over. They limped it with the bad shock over 300 miles, further slowing the duo.

In the closing hours of the race, they were caught in a booby trap built by local fans who dug a big hole and covered it with powder, Merritt said. The truck rolled on its side, damaging spindles, shocks and upper A-Arms. In the end, they crossed the finish line in La Paz but about 70 minutes past the 45-hour time limit required to be considered an official finisher.

Despite the problems, both drivers were big fans of the new EcoBoost V-6.

"The turbos were awesome," Rubio said at the finish. "We did not know what to expect, but it works surprisingly well. It’s a wide power band, so once you get there, you can be lugging it and get on the gas and with lots of power with less gear changing."

Merritt was equally pleased and plans to run the engine for the full Best in the Desert season in 2011.

"It was long. It was a real challenge," an exhausted Merritt said at the finish. "The truck is beat to hell — it’s in bad shape." Speaking of the EcoBoost V-6, he said, "It has way more power than the V-8. It’s much faster.”

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Comments

I was wondering why i saw bob running around with that shovel and gas can down there.

It's amazing how some fans feel threatened and set up traps because they don't want to see Ford succeed! Morons! I welcome new technology no matter who it comes from, it keeps competition fearse and makes for a great truck market!!

@ Mike Levine

I wanted to point that in the 4th paragraph you said "... skip loader..." I believe it should say, skid loader.

Great article otherwise! That EcoBoost is an incredible engine!

@Andrew: Thanks for the catch! I've seen it referred to as both skip and skid but in any case, it's changed. :-)

@ Andrew
@Mike

Actually - "loader" should not appear in the description. (Unless Oregon loggers have their own unique terminology).Generally speaking, there are two kinds of log skidders - line skidder and grapple skidder.
Line skidders use a winch and manually set choker cables to skid the logs whereas a grapple skidder uses a grapple to pick up a "bunched" load of logs.
The EB powered truck was working more like a line skidder.

ErikL - booby traps are not set to "trap" specific brands but generally for the amusement/entertainment of the fans watching the race. Perhaps you did not detect @smtrthnu humor with his remark.

This really makes me think I should cancel my order the 5.0L V8 and switch to an EcoBoost.

@ Mike Levine,

When are we going to see a thorough review on the 5.0L?

@Lou, @Andrew: Changed to line skidder. :-)

@Phil: I'm trying hard to get a 5.0-L ASAP. We plan a very thorough test. Stay tuned!

Congrats Guys!!!! Well deserved.

I wonder if other Auto makers will follow suit.

This says a lot.

Well I'm glad both trucks made it and the drivers, co-drivers, and crew are safe. This is turning out to be one of the biggest marketing campaigns not just for a product but for a company as a whole. Showing a product is one thing, but to show what that prduct can do is another thing! It time for the competition to put up or shut up!! The V8 has a target on its back and its just a matter of time it will be just a memory. The only thing Ford has to do now is to post feul economy and put the 3.5 EB in the Raptor!?

I've been cautiously optimistic about the Eco Boost in the F150. As these tests and reviews come out, I find more and more to like about the new 3.5. I've been wating for a big negative reason to pop up as reason not to buy it, but there hasn't been anything yet. The Nascar towing and the Baja race really proove it's endurance. I think the only thing that will throw a wet blanket on this thing would be MPG under the 5.0 and that seems unlikely. The Cleveland Engine plant better get ready for some serious overtime hours because this looks like it's going to be a huge success.

don't get you hopes up too much, from what i can tell is you can only get the 3.5 EB in the long wb truck. ie, 8' bed reg cab ect., it will be part of the HDGVWR package. i tried to build a short bed reg cab 4X4 just like the Baja racer. couldn't do it. That would be a nice truck!!! Still the 5.0 in the sb 4x4 will be nice, just missing the high mpg when you try to hypermile

Im still assuming Ford didnt release it yet, but Im liking that the team/teams had to adjust their fuel strategy on the trucks, while racing at full thorottle. I hope that means the fuel economy numbers for the EB F-150, when released, will be higher than predicted by all the media outlets.

That said, and I know that PUTC doesnt report on SUV's, but when will the EB make it into other applications?
Ecoboost Expedition and Expe. EL, Lincoln Navigator...Hell, Even the E-series!

Mike, advise if you have/get any details.

With gas prices rising on a daily basic, with no relief in sight. MPG's will be much higher on the minds of buyers. The EB empty numbers should be quite good. It looks like a keeper...

I find it interesting that the race teams based fuel stops on a 3 mpg average and the 2 EB trucks ran 8.5 mpg.

I think that these engines will get a decent mpg rating.

If they get just a few mpg better than the equivalent gas - that probably would not be a big enough gap for most people to consider the complex technology and cost to be worth it.

GM's 5.3's direct competitor would be the new 5.0 Ford.
The EB 3.5 is aimed at the GM 6.2, Ram 5.7 and Toyota 5.6.
If the EB 3.5 can get better mpg ratings than GM's 5.3 the EB 3.5 will sell well.

@ Lou

Thanks for the info on the skidders! Now it makes better sense.

@ Fordman

I've been wondering the same thing since I first started hearing about these four new engines. The EcoBoost would be awesome in the Expeditions and the Navigators. It would be nice to have a formidable engine to compete against the GM 6.2L in the Denalis and Escalades. Maybe a Limited Edition Expediton or Navigator with the 6.2?! One can only hope...LOL

ecoboost is nothing new....and like every year ford try to put you people sleeping ,and they very good ,,,do you thing the order company just look the train going, maybe in the ford world.in reality,toyota,dodge and gm coming whit new engine,,,for the ford people keep dreaming...in your ford world along ..dont forget the glob still turning.

I'm guessing English is not miath's first language.
This marketing campaign for the ecoboost has definitely been a success for me. I was pretty doubtful. I'm still not completely convinced, but I have more hope for the ecoboost engine everyday. I'd strongly consider it if I was currently in the market for a new truck. I'm much more excited about a possible 4 cylinder ecoboost though. I thought I remember hearing about that but I haven't seen any mention of it for a while. Anybody know when that might be available in the f-150?

@ miath - the francophone Bob = plen de merde

Yawn...

Ford did the same amount of durability testing on the piggish modular motors and they were plagued with spark plug issues from 1997 until at least 2007.

NONE of their testing caught that major "issue".

So all of this stupid chest thumping from Ford about their V6 that drinks fuel like a V8 is pointless...sure it makes for great video ads on the internet, but here in the real world...things WILL be different. After all, it is Ford we're talking about.

They couldn't get spark plugs right for 10+ years...why should anyone believe that they can get DI, Ti-VCT, and twin turbos right? That is a bit much for Ford.

@smtrthnu. The fans of the 1000 are a main ingrediant in the madness that is Baja. They were not ambushing new technology, everyone has to deal with the traps. As quoted by Sal Fish himself, "everyone knows that if you see a crowd of fans, you slow down." Thats baja, sometimes the course wins.


Aw, come on "P"! Dust off the old "P71" moniker ya troll!

What's it like getting kicked off almost every auto board on the net?

P.S.: your troll drivel is very predictable and recognizable,loser.

Alan Mulally is doing a great job. Great coverage Mike! Keep it up!

@ "P"rick is back.
That would explain the basso profondo flatulence emanating from this site.

Man OH man ............... how about a courtesy flush from the site administrator.

"The engine that powered Ford's Eco Boost racer was pulled off the assembly line months ago for a torture test that began with the engine racking up 150,000 miles on a dyno in Dearborn, Mich."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I recall reading Ford ran an equivalent stress to 150k miles on the engine dyno.

can't stand the people who come on this site just to hate, rather than contribute to the conversation. anyway...has anyone been able to 'build' an f-150 on the ford website with the EB engine? I've tried, don't see it anywhere. i'm curious about the cost; to build an F-150 right now than can do +10K lbs towing requires the LARIAT! $43K is way too much for a crew cab short bed f-150, I can do a decently equipped f-250 for $40K with a 13K lb tow rating. I'm not planning on doing more than 10K lbs, but I like to tow at about 70-75% of tow ratings or less, so 9K lbs is not enough.

@Lou, I was referring to the spectators mentioned in the article....I did get the sarcasm in smtrthnu comment LOL....I assumed that it was meant for the Ecoboost truck and didn't realize that it was set for whom ever came through...That's what I get for ASSuming LOL!

@EricL - thanks for the clraification. Too many trolls, keeps some of us regular posters edgy. Sorry if I came across a bit harsh.

@ Zack J
- my understanding is that the EB engine will be released in the spring of 2011 at the earliest. EPA ratings haven't been released yet.
I think Ford is pairing the EB 3.5 and 6.2 V8 with the "premium" packaged trucks as a cost recovery mechanism. That is the same reason why the Raptor is only available with a luxury trim package.
Profits are much higher (up to 15,000) in the luxury trucks.

Here is an exerpt from this site:

According to Ford F-150 marketing manager Mark Grueber, relative to the all-new 3.7-liter V-6 entry level engine, the 5.0-liter V-8 will carry a $1,000 premium over the 3.7. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 will carry a $750 premium over the 5.0 and the 6.2-liter V-8 will carry a $1,995 premium over the 5.0.

From that I take it that the pricing will be as follows:
5.0 L = $1,000
3.5 EB = $1,750
6.2 L = $2,995

The 5.0 L will be standard in the SuperCrew so I am assuming that that option will be at no extra cost.

@Lou,

Too many options to choose from.

@ Frank - that is what the competition is saying! or should I say - what competition? (the bobsie boys have been very very quiet lately)

@Lou,

Perhaps I should have said "Too many GOOD options to choose from."

Too bad the Bobsie twins can't give credit where credit is due, but i'm sure they are hiding in their troll house.

They were really quiet during the V6 Worktruck shoot-out.

LOU... pauvre English...ford,ferail,ordure rebut déchets,fabrication ordinaire,réparation dispendieuse..LOL

"LOU... pauvre English...ford,ferail,ordure rebut déchets,fabrication ordinaire,réparation dispendieuse..LOL" - TROLL

Huh!

So all this great engineering into the motors, but why the leaf springs still? Hasn't Ford seen Dodge yet?? I know it's too much to ask for IRS right now but at $45k to $55k solid axels are so yesterday.

@ Miath - tu es fou
GMC = ordure rebut déchets (Garbage Made in Canada)
I know why GM doesn't have the "man step".
The sheet metal isn't strong enough to support it.

@ Frank - francophone Bob is upset that I told him that he was full of crap!

As a memeber of Randy Merritt's Race team, our 5.4 engines have an average of 4 mpg on race day and Randy drives it very hard and to date has had very few problems in almost 7 years. We built this new truck and only put approximately 40 mile of testing on the Silver Ford F-150 before going to Mexico so we did not have a baseline to schedule fuel stops. We used our old truck as the baseline and were very impressed by its fuel economy in race conditions. Most trucks need several hundreds of test miles to see wear for possible issues and correctly get the suspension valved and tuned, but we did not have that luxury. The truck finished the race and late yesterday we were told SCORE is adjusting the finish line closing time for several cars and trucks who got caught in man made holes causing severe lose of time. For Randy Merritt's race report visit www.mongoracing.com in next few days as we will get it up as soon as possible.
The Eco Boost engine performed very well and still runs great!

@Draper - great job guys.

On Score International's web-site both Eco Boost trucks are now listed as official finishers and Thank you Lou.

Ford may have put 150k miles on the race engine but they don't tell you how many times they replaced the turbos and/or other parts necessary to make them function correctly.

My advice to you is to let somebody else be the guinea pig. Turbos are a long term maintenance and reliability disaster. Before you jump on the turbo train, let some other guy drive the Ford for a while and see what happens. Turbo engines aren't new and there's a reason why they haven't enjoyed widespread consumer success to date.

@texmin -
No.
The engine is not a race engine.
The "hero" engine was randomly selected and placed in an F150 for testing.
(dyno test,logging test, NASCAR tow test, Davis Dam test, Baja 1000 test)
It was pulled from an F150 test mule and put in a race truck chassis for the Baja test.
The whole point of the exercise with the "hero" engine was to run it through all of these tests to see how it held up.

I was referring to the "engine used in the race", not necessarily a specially built or modified race engine. Regardless of what they put this off the line motor through, they have not said a word about the maintenance necessary to keep it running. I highly doubt those turbos and their associated plumbing have never been touched since they pulled it off the line.

In any case, when you get a V6, or V6 turbo, in a full-size truck you are SETTLING on your powertrain. Nobody makes that point better than Ford with their effort to tell us their Ecoboost engine is "just as good as a V8". Well, hell, why not get the real thing then? The V8 is priced less and has no turbo to break down. What's the point of the Ecoboost? If you're concerend about a few MPG's you shouldn't be looking at full size trucks to start with.

We're being suckered into accepting an inferior powertrain so Ford can goose their CAFE numbers. Ford is marketing the hell out it to convince us we're getting a heck of an engine even though we're paying more and getting less. If consumers accept this now, next they'll be offering you a super sweet four cylinder... Shove the Ecoboost back down their throats and demand a proper engine in your truck.

They might as well cancel the Baja 1000 race in the future. When you have so many screwed up in the head people down in Mexico creating booby traps, trying to injure or kill racers, it's time to move it to another country. This has been going on year after year. Enough. Add to that the murders, and kidnappings, and it's just not worth it. The Ford team couldn't even buy a tank of gas without something going wrong. Give it up. There are lot of other places to race, with fans who have decency.

Their difficult to find toughness details, however would want to enjoy a person intended for discussing the product quality information with us.



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