Two Roads to The Taupo 1000
Leaden skies, freezing-cold mornings and muddy roads in endless, damp pine forests - the Taupo 1000 is the longest, toughest, meanest off-road race in the southern hemisphere, and one of the best-kept secrets in motorsports - until now... SPEED takes you along for the ride with two high-energy teams as they compete to win this incredible race. Tune in to see how an amateur team and a pro team handle the challenges in "Two Roads to The Taupo 1000!"
Taupo 1000 “101”
- What? The longest off-road race in the southern hemisphere. It’s 1000 km (620 miles) in total distance, split evenly over two days of racing around a 35-mile course (that’s nine laps per day). The race is open to purpose-built buggies and production-based race trucks.
- Where? The Kaingaroa Forest, located approximately 20 miles from Lake Taupo on New Zealand’s North Island.
- When? Every two years (the next will be in 2009), in early September – which is the last throes of winter down in New Zealand.
- Why? Why not?
Thirty-six-year-old Kevin Necessary over the past year has had what you’d call a crash course in off-road racing. Talk about learning by fire, with no prior off-road racing experience, Kevin decided to turn his daily driver (an ’06 Toyota FJ Cruiser) into a racecar and enter it in last year’s Baja 1000. “My brother and I had always dreamed of racing Baja, so I decided just to grow a set of stones and do it. I had been looking for a used 1600 buggy when I bought my FJ, but I was catching heat from the wife about buying two cars. I tried to tell her the FJ was to tow the racecar, but she wasn’t buying it. So, I said screw it and tore into the FJ.”
Kevin and his boys managed to make it to Baja, only to fall prey to its infamous perils. The truck made it 870 plus miles before calling it quits. “Overall it was an amazing experience, but it also was devastating. We were so close.” Flash-forward seven months, and Kevin hears about another race, this time the Taupo 1000, halfway around the world in New Zealand. “After the outcome of Baja I just had to finish a race. It’s hard to beat the Baja 1000, so the next great adventure needed to be something epic. You’d of thought we’d have learned our lesson after last year’s Baja, but I needed redemption.”
Kevin’s FJ hadn’t been touched since last year’s Baja and needed a lot of work. Kevin and his crew jumped into action. “With one off-road race under our belts it was hard to take that experience and apply it to a totally different-style race. One thing we did know was the front suspension had to be better. We put in an additional set of shocks up front and it felt like a totally different truck. We thought we could prep the truck in two weeks, which turned into ten. I kept asking myself, what the hell did I get myself into this time, and how am I going to get myself out of it.”
Finding the time to rebuild the truck in between photo shoots wasn’t easy, but Kevin and his crew pulled it off. After weeks of sleepless nights they managed to beat the truck into shape, and just in time for the shipping container destined for The Taupo 1000, the longest, most brutal off-road race in the southern hemisphere.
Living in Southern California, one might look at 23-year-old Ryan Millen and expect him to be riding a surfboard, not a big off-road truck tackling some of the toughest races in the world. Yet that’s exactly what he does, having run the treacherous Baja 1000 several times and coming oh-so-close to a class win in the MillenWorks-prepared FJ Cruiser Racetruck in 2006.
After a brief fling with circuit racing, the son of five-time Pikes Peak Hill Climb overall winner Rod Millen and brother of drifting ace Rhys, has set his long-term sights on something a little more adventurous: off-road racing. His latest challenge is New Zealand’s infamous Taupo 1000.
This time he’s not only the driver, but also the team manager responsible for truck preparation, transportation and all the logistics of running a race half a world away from his Orange County, California, base.
He once again works with his right-hand man from Baja, co-driver and engineering ace Adam Dupre, who both handles truck preparation and rides in the right seat. “He’s there because he’s so talented when it comes to mechanical things. We both work well together.” But this time they’ll have to do it without Rod Millen as one of the drivers, the senior Millen and New Zealand native having chosen to observe his son’s “rites of passage” adventure.
While the Taupo 1000 may seem like an easier task than Baja – a shorter distance, with only some 35 miles of course run several times, and broken into two halves so there’s time for actual sleep – the vehicle of choice is still a Toyota FJ Cruiser not too far removed from its road car siblings, and very similar to the one that carried them down the Baja peninsula in 2006.