INTERVIEW WITH 3X CHAMP CASEY CURRIE
For the last five years we’ve been a part of an amazing run Casey Currie has put together out in Baja. Casey has brought home three Baja 1000 Hammer Truck 1st place wins in a row (2017, 2018, 2019). With many other victories thrown in there, including a 2019 Winter X Games Gold Medal, it’s safe to say he and his team have been on a tear. You don’t get to this level of success by accident though. Casey and his team spend countless hours in preparation and training. That kind of work ethic translates well into our space, and the foundations of Magpul as a whole.
With his most recent victory at the 2020 Dakar Rally Shakedown Day, we held an interview with him to talk about his past and look to what’s to come.
Three Baja 1000 class wins in a row, what an achievement. In a race where just finishing is an accomplishment, what do you think are the main factors that have contributed to this dominance in the desert?
“We started racing desert full time 4 years ago and it’s a big learning curve. First it takes great partners to be able to make it happen and Magpul was the first to step up and become a partner. We have a great group of guys that travel all over Baja chasing us during pre running and during the race. We spend over 2 weeks down there taking notes and making sure we know all the course. The Trophy Jeep is a complicated machine with 4 wheel drive, 800hp and IFS in the front. We do a lot of testing and tuning to keep pushing forward and developing it more and more. 3 years and 3 wins is a huge accomplishment for anytime and just to finish the Baja 1000 is a huge undertaking. I’m very proud of everyone involved. The race takes on average 20 hours and to have a race truck last that long takes a great group if guys prepping it and building a radical race truck.”
You come from an interesting racing background, where did you get started and how did you make your way to Baja?
“I have been racing short course off road for the past 10 years, I felt the sport was going away and not gaining traction. I have always dreamed of racing Baja, and when Magpul came to us and said let’s race the Baja 1000, the dream took off! We started building the Trophy Jeep! I wanted a unique vehicle capable of racing the Baja 1000 and King of the Hammers. I wanted over 800 horsepower and trophy truck travel all while being able to flex and articulate to get through the rocks. The Trophy Jeep truly can do both great.”
In preparation for the Baja 1000, you “pre-run” the course a week or so before the race as the layout changes year to year. During that week, are you typically memorizing sections or making notes on what to look out for? After several years in Baja are you starting to get a handle on some of the iconic sections of the course?
“Yeah Baja is a unique place that we get to race all types of terrains. We try and pre run the race course 1-3 times depending on the section. We want to know all the short cuts, all the difficult sections and all the slow sections to make sure that we don’t loose time anywhere. We also need to know where all the pits are going to be and all access roads so we can get chase to the race car in a situation where it’s stopped. Before the race even starts we spend hours on the computer studying terrain and roads.”
We know your team gets the race truck dialed for the race, how do you prepare yourself physically and mentally for the event?
“I spend lots of hours studying old course notes and studying google earth. I try and make it that when we go down for the first time I already have an idea of where I am and what I’m looking for. I also head to the gym daily, ride bikes and play hard with my kids on bikes and dirt bikes to stay in shape.”
The Baja 1000 is considered the toughest off-road race in the world, what makes it so tough on the vehicles and people involved?
“The Baja 1000 is the toughest single day event in the world for sure! The amount of miles we race with no breaks is insane. Once you take the green the next time you stop is at the finish. I think close to 35 percent of all competitors go home early. Trucks and buggy’s break down everywhere. The terrain is so abused and so torn up that it’s rough all day. Rocks, sand, silt, mud, whoops and dust for hours on hours. Also for the team they have to drive through the night to get to all the pits. That makes it hard. No sleep for over 24 hours is tough!”
You’ve won on both the point to point course and the loop course, do you have a preference?
“I love them both. Point to point is what I wanted to win. It’s the big one. It’s the longest and toughest. It also is toughest on the team as it’s the longest drive.”
The traditional top class at the Baja 1000 is Trophy Truck, what differentiates your Ultra 4 race truck from those monsters?
“Trophy Trucks are unlimited everything as well as Ultra 4 vehicles. When we built the trophy Jeep there were no 4wd trucks racing in Trophy Truck. We had some disagreements on the body with the organization and they wanted me to race it in Ultra 4. I feel it’s been a blessing as we are here not only to race Baja but to race it with my Jeep family. We use Jeeps as chase support, we use the Hammers family for support in Baja. overall my goal is to reach a bigger audience with the components we use. As a Currie and my family background being drive trains, all the components on the drive train on the trophy Jeep are products we manufacture in house at Currie. It’s a great development tool and learning tool. We have ideas on building a new vehicle to race Trophy Truck one day but for now we love racing the Hammers Class.”
We definitely have some folks that want to know some numbers on the race vehicle. So weight, hp & torque, suspension travel, and tire size numbers please…
“Trophy Jeep is 850 aluminum block engine based off LSX, turbo 400 Tranny, Atlas T case. We run it at 19 inches of front travel and 29 inches of rear travel. It weighs 6,500 pounds and we run 40 inch Nitto tires.”
What sort of terrain does the Ultra 4 truck excel in while racing in Baja?
“There are all types of places in Baja that have step climbs and having 4 wheel drive really help, also when it’s sandy it loves to excel. You spend a lot of time spinning in sand and having four tires digging helps move forward faster. This year, with all the mud it made it a lot better as trucks were sliding and crashing all over.”
We’ve heard the course changes when the sun goes down and the lights come on, do you have any sketchy moments from racing in the dark?
“There are all types of places in Baja that have step climbs and having 4 wheel drive really help, also when it’s sandy it loves to excel. You spend a lot of time spinning in sand and have four tires digging help move forward faster. This year with all the mud it made it a lot better as trucks were sliding and crashing all over.”
This year your brother Cody shared piloting duties with you, do you tend to let him run the race his way or being the big brother, force him to get onboard with your race strategy?
“Cody does a great job getting the trophy Jeep to the finish. He knows when to go fast and when to slow down. He excels at driving through the night and has done a great job. And, yes it’s good to have him drive as he has learned with me on how I like things done and does a great job accomplishing goals.”
The race itself has always lured in athletes and celebrities from outside the desert racing community. Vehicle manufacturers pour millions into their racing programs just for this race and test future vehicles as prototypes on the course. What do you think makes this race so prestigious and important?
“The Baja 1000 is the toughest single day event in the world. There is no time to fix it. So if you can say you can race and finish the Baja 1000, then you can say you built the toughest vehicle on the planet and everyone will agree. I don’t care what class you’re in, if you race Baja and finish, you deserve it! There are no short cuts and no easy way. It’s difficult for everyone. “
The latest crop of sport UTVs are so good off-road right off the showroom floor, with capability that rivals the purpose-built machines. Do you think a normal person and a buddy in a stock sport UTV could complete the race?
“The Baja 1000 is tough, but if you take your time and buy the correct components, it’s doable. It’s very hard and you have to have a perfect day, but we pre-run the race in Can Ams and do the compilers course with no issues. UTVs are changing the game for all off road enthusiasts”
Lastly, are you going to try for 4 wins in a row in Hammer Truck Unlimited?
“That’s the goal. We love it.”