From SCORE JOURNAL | Story and Photos by Matt Kartozian
What do you do after spending a couple of years in a limited class and end up winning the 2014 Championship? If you are the SCORE Trophy Truck Spec champ Taylor Mills you look up! Specifically to the pinnacle of desert racing, the Unlimited Trophy Truck class. The Mills Motorsports team only had to finish the 2014 SCORE Baja 1000 to claim the title, but after a 100 mph crash early in the race, the team had to pull out all the stops to get the job done.
The crew is largely made up of active and retired military, special operations personnel, law enforcement and firefighters. Each chase and pit crew is modeled after a U.S. Operational Detachment Alpha team. Much like the Special Forces A Teams, as they are sometimes known, the crews are small but staffed with what Team Manager, driver and U.S. Marine Kent Kroeker calls “Baja Operators”. Each member is an expert in his field and the small crew can perform the job of a much larger normal crew. The hard work of the specialists resulted in not just a finish but also a championship for the team.
For 2015 the Mills team is venturing into uncharted waters. While driver Taylor Mills has a solid amount of seat time using a Trophy Truck to prerun, racing is a different animal. Despite the challenge, the team is upbeat about its future and feel they have an ace in the hole with their engine program. Developed by both the team and Arrow Racing Engines, the truck will run a V10 power plant that weighs just 500 pounds and puts out over 900 horsepower. The team named the engine the 512 Gustav after the Schwerer Gustav, the largest artillery piece ever made. In their eyes, the 512 Gustav is a distinct advantage in both power and reliability.
The team’s Class 8 truck runs the same engine, and after 4300 miles of racing and pre-running , they pulled the engine and sent it back to Arrow for inspection. “ Lee Carducci at Arrow Racing analyzed the motor and it was good to go and told us there was no reason to pull it from the truck,” said Taylor Mills. He also spoke to the reliability of the drivetrain. “ Another great thing is that we don’t have to run a reduction box, just a 5:29 rear end and a Turbo 400 transmission. It’s a bullet proof drivetrain from one end to the other. “
The potential for the engine and drivetrain combination really gets exciting when you look at the power curves. “ Our torque and horsepower comes on at 1500 rpm and the torque and horsepower go up at a 45 degree angle all the way to the 7800 rpm redline. At the peak it is making 925 horsepower and 860 foot pounds of torque. You come out of a corner in second gear and 30 yards out, I switch to third for traction and then you pull guys ahead of you up the hills and down the straits. It gives us a competitive edge. The horsepower, torque and reliability of the Viper motor,” says Mills.
The team is also seeing improved miles per gallon with the V10 motor program. They averaged 2.6+ miles per gallon at the Bud Light SCORE San Felipe 250, and expect more than three miles per gallon at the SCORE Baja 500. Most traditional Unlimited Trophy Truck motors average two miles a gallon or less in a 250 mile race.
Despite the obvious power, weight and fuel economy advantages, Mills sees his biggest challenge in moving to Unlimited Trophy Truck as knowing when to back off. “You have no previous history to judge your speed against,” he says. “In Trophy Truck Spec you are 100 percent on the throttle and easy on the brakes to keep your momentum. In Unlimited Trophy Truck, the technique is hit hard on the brakes, feather the throttle. The entire theory is flip flopped.”
Mills knows he’s the one driving and will ultimately have to take responsibility. “The biggest challenge is going to be me,” he says. “There’s the pressure of trying to make my teammates proud. I am comfortable in the truck, however. I’ve pre-run with the V10 Geiser at every race for the last year. My thing is to not race other drivers, just finish. Run 80 percent, get a finish, and that will give us a good idea of how to proceed. We’ll either push harder or back off.” After coming off the Trophy Truck Spec championship, Mills has a lofty goal for the 2015 SCORE race season. “My goal for the year is to finish every race, every mile, and win another Milestone award. “ Mill’s next race will be at the Bud Light SCORE Baja 500 June 4-7 in Ensenada. SJ