More than 50 years ago, a loose band of hot-rodders decided to run their motorcycles – and eventually the first Volkswagen-based dune buggies — through hundreds of miles of Mexican desert, practically inventing the field of Baja desert racing. Today, Volkswagen revealed its homage to that history – the Atlas Cross Sport R – and its plan to go racing in the 2020 SCORE Baja 1000.
Built from a variety of Volkswagen and custom racing components, including a 480-hp, 2-liter turbo four-cylinder, the mid-engine Atlas Cross Sport R concept will be the first four-wheel-drive vehicle to compete in Baja’s Class 7 Open Production Unlimited.
“Racing as a sport has historically been limited to a very privileged group,” said Saad Chehab, senior vice president of VW Brand Marketing. “However, Volkswagen virtually invented the people’s sport of Baja racing, and we’re excited to help keep the fun, youthful spirit of the competition alive by way of our Atlas Cross Sport R.”
Founded in 1967, the SCORE Baja 1000 ranks among the most dangerous races in the world. Designed for adventure seekers, the race stretches across 1,000 miles of sun-drenched, rock-strewn mountain roads, from Tijuana to La Paz, Mexico.
The long and dusty competition is open to any off-road enthusiasts who can pay the race entry fee and use an eligible car (trucks, motorbikes, and Beetles are all welcomed). The race has historically attracted a wide range of thrill-seekers, from everyday racers to Hollywood petrolheads.
With a long history of Baja success, Volkswagen hopes to continue its run next year with recent U.S. rallycross champion and Volkswagen R brand ambassador Tanner Foust at the helm.
“I know what this combination of engine and drivetrain is capable of,” Foust said. “I’m really excited to see this bit of Beetle DNA live on in the Atlas Cross Sport R and am itching to get behind the wheel.”
Built with the assistance of Rhys Miller Racing, a detuned version of the Rallycross 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder will be used to power the race truck. Atlas Cross Sport R concept will feature an all-wheel-drive system and braking system similar to the Beetle R and Polo WRC cars.
The four-wheel independent suspension offers 24 inches of wheel travel, with Fox bypass and coil-over dampers to absorb the worst thumps the desert has to offer. The turbo truck’s body will take its cues from the Cross Sport with an added twist: designers from schools and colleges nationwide to participate in the design of the Atlas Cross Sport R concept’s race livery.
Stay tuned for more details on the 2020 competition and the Atlas Cross Sport R concept in early 2020.