Alexander Rossi has already one iconic win in a Honda, so why not try for another?
The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner will step out of his Andretti Autosport Indy car and into a Honda Unlimited Ridgeline pickup to compete next month in the SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.
Rossi will team with Jeff Proctor, a two-time Baja 1000 class winner in the prestigious event on Nov. 16-17 that covers more than 806.76 miles of treacherous off-road racing. Rossi was simple in explaining his interest in trying the grueling race.
“It’s just one of those iconic races,” Rossi said Wednesday following an INDYCAR test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “There’s a Honda connection, so I just figured why not?
“I had always wanted to do it and called Honda and was like, ‘Do you have an option for me?’ I had met the team owner (Proctor) at a Honda event a couple years ago. They were like, ‘Yeah, we’d love to have you,’ so it kind of just came together in a week.”
The 27-year-old Californian has already spent two days testing the Ridgeline in preparation for the Baja 1000. The work will begin in earnest in advance of the event, when he and Proctor will drive the course to learn its nuances.
“You spend almost a week and a half doing pre-running down in Mexico,” Rossi explained, “so you’ll kind of drive your section of the course multiple times for a couple days with your co-driver and navigator, and make close to 800 notes for 200 miles.
“You’ll have a good idea of where you’re going, then once the race starts, you kind of just go by the seat of your pants a little bit.”
There is a 36-hour time limit to complete the event, though the fastest finishers do so in less than half that time. Rossi will join the likes of Parnelli Jones, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Buddy Rice and Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay as Indy 500 winners to take on the Baja 1000 challenge. Jones was a winner in 1971 and ’72.
Other Indy car drivers who have attempted Baja include Sebastien Bourdais, Robby Gordon, Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Rossi, who finished second in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series standings with three race wins. “Something new, something different. Looking forward to the experience.”