New Ford Raptor off-road truck will be at Terrible’s 250

Look out, Nevada. There’s a new beast running loose in the desert this weekend and Greg Biffle is right in the middle of it all.

fordraptor041609thumb1The new Ford F-150 SVT Raptor R off-road truck is taking part in this weekend’s “Terrible’s 250” Best in the Desert Racing Association event in nearby Primm, and Ford engineers asked Biffle if he would be interested in taking it for a spin. That’s like asking Winnie the Pooh if he’d like some honey.

Biffle jumped at the chance and stopped by the desert course for about three hours on Thursday before heading to Phoenix for Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 500. He had never done any sort of competitive off-roading before and was like a kid in a candy store as he drove Ford’s newest offering around the three-mile course.

The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is an extreme off-road vehicle and is the type of truck that no manufacturer has produced – until now. With over 11 inches of suspension travel in the front and over 12 inches in the rear, the truck is designed to excel in off-road environments. The production version will be in showrooms later this summer.

Even though I had already booked my flight to Phoenix, I wanted to see this personally, so after arriving at Sky Harbor International Airport Wednesday morning, I got in my Ford Focus rental car and hit the road. Armed with my trusty Garmin GPS unit, I deftly maneuvered the rugged desert terrain averaging an eye-opening 37.8 miles per gallon during the 299-mile drive to Primm.

And it was worth every second.

Even though the wind was kicking up and desert sand was flying everywhere, those on hand enjoyed themselves as they watched this two-time NASCAR champion do something he had never done before.

After first getting a slow-paced reconnaissance trip around the course with professional off-roader and Las Vegas native Rob MacCachren, the next step was to experience it at real speed. Biffle rode shotgun as MacCachren nimbly steered the truck left, then right, then getting airborne as he accelerated over one of the many humps you’ll find in the desert.

Biffle emerged looking like a wide-eyed kid who had just gotten that shiny new bicycle at Christmas. He was lost for words and just kept repeating phrases like, “It’s unbelievable,” and, “ I can’t describe what it feels like.” Even though he talked previously about driving on the dunes in his sand car, this obviously wasn’t the same thing.

Then it was showtime. Biffle donned his helmet, strapped himself in behind the wheel, and hit the ignition switch. The truck roared to life and everyone anxiously watched as he pulled onto the course. Truth be told, I was secretly holding my breath hoping he wouldn’t re-injure his tender ribcage. I had these troubling visions of Jack Roush coming up to me at the race track on Friday morning wondering what I did to his star driver.

Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about. Biffle didn’t flip over and while I’m not an expert on off-road racing, he looked to be a natural. My feeling was that if you gave him a full weekend to gain some experience, he could be competitive. MacCachren felt the same way saying that if Biffle ever wanted a second career, he should give him a call.

I don’t think Biffle is quite ready to give up his day job just yet, but you never know when the beast is going to come calling again.

To learn more about Ford Racing, please log on to http://www.fordracing.com. If you would like an opportunity to win a trip for two to Ford Championship Weekend and a 2010 Ford Fusion, please go to http://www.weraceyouwin.com and register today.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, please go to www.fordvehicles.com/f150raptor/.


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