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Isuzu Amigo Wins Baja 500 Class 3

17 June 1999

Amigo Prepped for Stock Mini-SUV Takes Class 3 Win

    CERRITOS, Calif.--June 17, 1999--American Isuzu Motors Inc. congratulates Isuzu Amigo-pilot John Kearney for his Class 3-winning drive in the grueling Baja 500 off-road race.

    The off-road race held June 4, 5 and 6, 1999, in Baja, Mexico, is one of the tough, truck-destroying SCORE Desert Racing Series events.

    Isuzu teamed up with Land Off-Road Racing to compete in the Stock Mini-SUV Class. This class limits performance modifications to the vehicle making it more representative of what you can buy off the showroom floor.

    "Essentially," said Kearney, "all we could do to prepare for the Stock Mini-SUV class was install a fuel-cell, roll-bar, some stiffer springs and torsion bars, along with a set of longer-than-stock-stroke high-performance shocks and remove the catalytic converter.

    "Class 3 is different. You can install full-floater Ford 9-inch rear axles, full-race heim-joint suspension systems with coil-over shocks, and race-modify the engine.

    "When we decided to race the Isuzu Amigo in Class 3 we knew we would be up against vehicles with more racing modifications than our Isuzu Amigo had. We also knew the Isuzu Amigo is a tough and powerful truck right off the shelf, so we gave it a shot and came out on top," Kearney said.

    The Amigo finished over four hours ahead of its closest Class 3 competitors, a V8-powered Ford Bronco and last year's Baja 500 Class winning Kia Sportage.

    Kearney and co-driver Gerry Bill kept a steady pace during the first 250 miles and maintained a strong lead from the start of the race with Kearney giving the Isuzu Amigo's V6 engine and push-button- controlled four-wheel-driveline much credit for the win.

    "I race the high speed stuff in two-wheel-drive," said Kearney, "then when I come to a sandy wash or I need to climb a rocky hill, I hit the four-wheel-drive button and I'm gone. With that stout V6, even with stock gears, it'll climb anything in second."

    At race-mile 155 the Amigo pulled in for a routine pit stop, where the pit crew discovered a torn CV boot. Short on time, the pit crew opted not to change the boot, but simply pack it with grease at every pit stop. At race mile 250, John "Lucky" Copeland replaced Gerry Bill as co-driver/navigator with Kearney still at the wheel.

    Together the two raced the Amigo from Valle de Trinidad, across to the Pacific Coast and back to Ensenada. After racing for 16 hours straight, across some of Baja's roughest terrain, the Land Off-Road Racing Isuzu Amigo took the checkered flag.

    This win puts the Land Off-Road Racing Amigo team within eleven points of first place for the overall class championship of the 1999 Score Desert Racing Series. The Amigo competes next in the Score Desert Race Series Fireworks 250 on July 17, 1999 in Barstow, Calif.