Trucks & SUVs

This 550-HP Honda Ridgeline Is a Baja Blast

Trucks can race, too. Some, like Ken Block, modify trucks for drifting or hill-climbing. Others, like the man behind the V8 Mini pickup, for drag-racing. But one of the premier truck-racing scenes is Baja. There, Trophy Trucks like the Bronco R and SCG Baja Boot battle rocks, sand, heat, and time to finish. And there’s one truck that’s been a dominating force. It’s the Honda Unlimited Ridgeline, and it shares quite a bit more with its showroom-counterpart than you’d think.

Building a Honda Ridgeline for Baja

2019 Honda Ridgeline
2019 Honda Ridgeline | Honda

To be fair, the Unlimited Ridgeline doesn’t share a lot with the production truck. The normal Ridgeline is a unibody, mid-size pickup.

But, as Motor Trend and Automobile reported, the racing Ridgeline uses a TSCO Racing-built custom tube-frame chassis, instead. Although, at least the fiberglass panels mounted on the outside resemble the showroom truck’s. But the suspension is completely different.

Honda Unlimited Ridgeline at 2018 Baja 500
Honda Unlimited Ridgeline at 2018 Baja 500 | Honda

The springs are replaced by ones from Eibach, and the dampers are from Fox. Fox actually customized the whole suspension system. And because of all the rocks and holes, the Ridgeline will face, suspension travel is dramatic. There’s 24” of travel in the front, and 34” in the rear. And the whole thing rides on 37” off-road racing tires.

Driving the Unlimited Ridgeline, Motor Trend’s Scott Evans reported more roll than the street truck. Although, with the long-travel suspension and tires, that was to be expected. The racing truck also weighs about 5200 lbs fully-loaded. However, the whole point of the chassis and suspension is to make sure the truck can survive the brutal Mexican desert. Which, as the Bronco R demonstrated, not every truck does.

What lets the Honda Unlimited Ridgeline fly over the sand

But the suspension is just one part of the Honda Unlimited Ridgeline’s formula. And while the exterior resembles the road-going pickup only superficially, it’s a different story under the hood.

The ‘Unlimited’ part of the Honda Unlimited Ridgeline’s name refers to its racing class. It competes in Class 7, which is an unlimited class for 6-cylinder, production-based pickups, and SUVs. However, as Hooniverse noted, Class 7 requires the racing vehicles to keep some normal production parts. Specifically, in the engine.

Honda Unlimited Ridgeline at 2019 Mint 400
Honda Unlimited Ridgeline at 2019 Mint 400 | Honda

The Honda Unlimited Ridgeline uses the same block, cylinder heads, and crankshaft as the production 3.5-liter V6. But the Honda Off-Road Racing team installs quite a few racing-spec parts on top of that. The team also adds two turbochargers. So, while the racing Ridgeline’s engine is the same size as the stock Ridgeline’s, the racing version makes 550 hp, almost double the stock truck’s 280 hp.

The transmission is still a six-speed, only it’s a sequential manual, not a conventional automatic. And instead of front- or all-wheel drive, the Unlimited Ridgeline is rear-wheel drive.

How it’s fared in racing

Unfortunately, as Autoweek and Hooniverse reported, the Honda Unlimited Ridgeline didn’t reach this year’s Baja 1000 podium. However, it did win its class at the Mint 400 and last year’s Baja 1000. Team Honda Racing also won the 2018 Baja 500 outright. Neither the team nor the truck has declared a “code red” yet.