Saturday, July 13, 2024

Honda to debut new Talon at Baja 1000

Honda Factory Off-Road Racing will bring a new and improved Honda Talon to the Baja 1000 on 13–18 November. Revealed on Friday at the Sand Sports Super Show in Costa Mesa, the new “Gen-2” Talon is based on the consumer-model 2023 Honda Talon 1000R’s two-seater version.

The new Talon’s platform is a contrast to its predecessor that used the four-seater model. Although the first-generation car has enjoyed success with eight major victories, its larger size clashed with driver Zach Sizelove‘s more reflexive driving style. The original Talon has 77 inches of track width with a 35-gallon fuel cell, while the Gen 2’s track width is narrower at 72 inches and its fuel cell holds 28 gallons.

On the rear, the car features rear-mounted radiators and a dual exhaust arrangement; the latter is inspired by Honda’s CRF250R dirt bikes with exhaust piping that travels up and out the back to lower the centre of gravity for the spare tyre along the rear. The smaller fuel cell sits below the driver’s seat and also assists in dropping the centre of gravity.

“It was really built to stay on top of the whoops and run long races down in Baja was built to win the Baja 1000,” team principal Jeff Proctor stated about the first-generation car. “With [the Gen-2] car, with our driver Zach Sizelove, he’s a driver that drives with a lot of finesse. He’s an incredible driver, extremely skilled driver, and we thought that we could take the platform and lighten it up a little bit.”

The new car features a naturally-aspirated 999-cc engine, making it eligible for competition in SCORE International‘s Pro UTV Normally Aspirated category like the previous one. As such, Proctor stressed the need to “be fast corner to corner. We spent a lot of time trying to lighten up the platform and just make sure we’re lightning fast without sacrificing the durability.”

Light manufacturer Baja Designs provided LED lighting for the Talon while FOX Racing supplied shocks. Wilwood Disc Brakes, KMC Wheels, and tyre maker Maxxis are also involved with the project.

After Baja, the new Talon will compete at the Red Bull Scramble Series‘ season-ending Sand Scramble in Glamis on 9 December. Ethan Ebert, who drives the team’s Honda Ridgeline after being promoted from the Talon division, will pilot the car. Like its UTV cousin, the Ridgeline has a Gen-2 successor introduced in 2023; compared to the original Ridgeline that raced in Class 7, the new truck is eligible for Trophy Truck categories and ran its first race in such a division at the Vegas to Reno in August.

Honda Factory Off-Road Racing was established in 2020 shortly after the Talon’s release. The first-generation Talon won the 2020 Baja 1000 in Pro UTV Unlimited with Elliott Watson and 2021 in Pro UTV NA with Elias Hanna. Sizelove scored class wins at the 2022 Mint 400 and Baja 500 before signing a two-year contract extension for 2023, and he continued his momentum by repeating at the 500. He and Ebert finished second in class at last year’s Baja 1000.

“It’s going to be a huge logistical challenge,” concluded Proctor, who raced the Ridgeline before retiring at the end of 2022 as the Baja 1000 Class 7 champion. “We’re up for début on a new car and hope to put this Honda on the podium.”

The Honda Talon hopes to add another level to an increasingly competitive UTV field. Polaris’ new factory team has enjoyed success in SCORE with their race-built RZR Pro R, while Can-Am recently introduced the 2024 Maverick R that has been touted as the most powerful side-by-side vehicle to date. Although SCORE has multiple UTV categories with different rules, being the best performing car overall is a source of pride for the victorious manufacturer.