Ivan Stewart's Baja Protruck Off-Road Racing Series - How did it all begin?

When one thinks of off-road racing, a typical image that comes to mind is a big burly truck with performance suspension jumping through the air or traversing across some treacherous desert terrain. Well those are both scenarios that often occur during off-road races; however there is a lot that goes into putting on an off-road event and even more effort goes into establishing an entire series. So how does one begin a highly-recognized racing series, let's take a look into Ivan Stewart's Baja Protruck Off-Road Racing Series.
Ivan Stewart is seen here standing by his Toyota Protruck
Ivan "The Ironman" Stewart is standing by his Toyota Protruck

The Ford Protruck of Rich Voss was displayed at the 2008 Off-Road Impact Show
The Ford Protruck Voss Motorsports was displayed at the 2008 Off-Road Impact Show
Protrucks, including this Voss Motorsports truck, use an AEM Dryflow Airfilter to protect their engines.
Protrucks, including this Voss Motorsports truck, use an AEM Dryflow Airfilter to protect their engines.

To understand the Baja Protruck Off-Road Racing Series, you have to understand the man that started it all, Ivan ''The Ironman'' Stewart. It was a stroke of luck that kicked off Ivan's career in off-road racing. In 1973, Ivan was set to co-drive the Ensenada 300 in a Class 1-2 buggy. As fate would have it, the scheduled driver broke his leg, not wanting to pull out of the race; Ivan decided to drive the car himself. Ivan ended up driving the entire event and winning the race. After 10 years of continued efforts in off-road racing, Ivan joined the Toyota Factory Racing Team in 1983 and the rest is history.

During Ivan's time with Toyota, he racked up a total of 82 career wins. To make up those 82 wins, Ivan holds a record of 17 wins in the Baja 500, three Baja 1000's, 17 in the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) Stadium Series and several SCORE International events. Individual races aren't the only thing that Ivan was winning in his heyday; Ivan has ten points' championships under his belt. Those championships include the four highly-respected SCORE World Championships and three MTEG Championships. Ivan's career was nothing short of miraculous up until he retired from racing in the year 2000.

So what does an off-road racing legend do after he retires? It's actually quite simple; he continues to be a crucial member of the off-road racing community. Ivan has maintained his relationship with Toyota and together they've released a limited number of the ''Ivan Stewart Ironman Edition'' Toyota Tundra. These trucks come equipped with Toyota Racing Development (TRD) exterior upgrades and performance modifications such as a TRD supercharger package. Let's not forget the years of invaluable feedback that Ivan has shared with Toyota regarding off-roading and suggestions on advancing Toyota truck's on- and off-road characteristics.

Ivan's involvement in off-road racing doesn't end with Toyota however. We have to understand that off-road to Ivan is not only a career but it has become his life. In a business endeavor, Ivan went on to become the founder of the Baja Protruck Racing Series. Ivan created the Protruck series after many years in the racing scene and realizing the void for a spec off-road racing organization. In this respect, all of the racers are equally matched with specifically built trucks. The Protruck organization has generated a more competitive racing environment. According to the Protruck website, ''We've developed the most evenly-matched off-road racing series that pits driver against driver and features a rugged, lightweight spec truck and the toughest, most dependable products available.''

So what does it mean to have a Protruck? Having a Protruck means you've invested into a durable, cost-effective, dual-purpose race truck that's built with the latest technology in mind. The term dual-purpose refers to the ability to race the vehicle in both short course and long course venues at low speeds or high speeds. The cost of building a true off-road racing vehicle can easily skyrocket. For Protruck, they're able to offer race trucks that are extremely capable, but with closely controlled pricing because of the limited amount of trucks being constructed.

Now to touch on the details, all Protrucks are based on full-size trucks from Chevy, Dodge, Ford, GMC, and Toyota. This means the exterior of a Protruck will look like an offering from one of the five manufacturers mentioned. Under that factory-appearing bodywork however is a space frame tubular chassis. This chassis is custom designed with 21 inches of front wheel travel and at least 24 inches of travel in the rear. Then based on whichever manufacturer you choose to go with, you'll install the matching manufacturer for the engine. The engines are small-block V8s. There are some restrictions to which engine can be selected, but all have a maximum displacement of 360 cubic inches and a maximum compression ratio of 9.5-to-1.

Some of the other components of a Protruck are handled by specific manufacturers as well. For the wheels, Alcoa Wheels are used and wrapped with tires from General Tire. The shock absorbers are left to the suspension experts from Bilstein Shocks. Mastercraft Racing supplies the seats to keep the drivers safe. To keep the engine safe, AEM Induction Systems is the official air filter of Protruck. All Protruck racers use an AEM DRYFLOW high-performance 14-inch round air filter to keep harmful dust and debris from entering the engine.

Once the construction of a Protruck is complete, the end result is a high-performance off-road race truck that is fitted with suspension suited for the harshest off-road conditions, has plenty of horsepower on tap, is lightweight and easy to maintain and repair. Add a driver to this equation and loads of fun can be had out in the desert while being competitive in the Protruck Racing Series. Not too many people have the capability and resources to mastermind such an organization aside from the Ironman himself, Ivan Stewart.