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Mongo Racing Talks Racing Success in Their EcoBoost-Powered 7200 Truck

20.03.2020

Few motorsport disciplines put both car and driver through the wringer quite like off-road racing. Endurance events like the Mint 400 have a tendency to exploit even the smallest of flaws, a reality that Randy Merritt and Mongo Racing know all too well. An equipment operations engineer from Parker, Arizona, Merritt is a life-long racer with a career that dates back to Class 8 competition in the 1990s. After a stint in the 8100 class, he joined forces with the Ford factory team where he would take a podium at the Baja 1000 in the then-unreleased first-generation F-150 Raptor.

These days Merritt and the Mongo Racing team are mixing it up in the Best of the Desert’s 7200 class with an Ecoboost-powered Ford F-150, where they’ve been racking up wins in their hunt for the 2020 title. We recently caught up with Randy to get some insight into the team’s formula for success.

Mongo Racing Talks Racing Success in Their EcoBoost-Powered 7200 Truck

Can you tell us a bit about the class you’re currently racing in, and the truck the team is campaigning?

7200 is basically an unlimited mid-sized truck class, but you have to use a V6 engine, so we run the 3.5-liter Ford EcoBoost that’s paired up with a TH400 transmission from Hughes Performance. You can do whatever you want to the engine in this class, but I like to focus on reliability, so the engine makes about 480 horsepower in the configuration we’re running it in.

The truck itself is tube chassis F-150 with 22 inches of suspension travel at the front end and 27 inches at the rear, and we run four-inch ADS Racing bypass shocks, with a 2.5-inch coilover in the front and a three-inch coilover at the back.

What’s your tuning and setup strategy for a truck like this?

This is very much a “friends and family” type of team, so we’ve had to figure out a lot of it on our own, and we’ve put a lot of time into figuring out how to make this EcoBoost work. But it’s worth it because Ford Performance puts awards up for teams running this engine, so a race win is worth $7,500 rather than the $4,000 it would be with a different V6. So there’s a big difference in winnings, and it’s also a very reliable engine.

We’ve had some help from SPD Performance, who worked on the exhaust manifolds and some of the turbo system components, as well as Livernois Motorsports, who does all of our tuning. With Livernois we plug one of their data loggers into the truck, go do some runs out in the desert, then we head home and email that data to Livernois. They look at that data, determine the changes that need to be made, and send us back an ECU tune based on that data.

When we plug that new tune into the truck, suddenly there’s more horsepower and performance. It takes a lot of back and forth to do that, but it’s been working really well for us.

What’s your tuning and setup strategy for a truck like this?

How’s this season been going for the team?

My son and I split the driving time in events now, and this Best of the Desert season started off with the Parker 425, which we won. After that, we went to the Laughlin Desert Classic, which is a two-day event, and we won that as well. At the Laughlin race, we figured we’d see how it went, and if there wasn’t a lot of damage to the truck, we’d also try to do the Mint 400.

Laughlin ended up being the muddiest race I’ve ever been in, so the truck was kind of a mess afterward, and we only had 12 days to get the truck ready for the Mint 400 when normally it takes us at least a month. But the guy who built the truck had never done the Mint before and really wanted to do it, so we partnered up on it. The truck went to his shop for about a week to help get it prepped, but we were still working on it at our campsite on the night before the race. And then we ended up winning the Mint 400, too.

How’s this season been going for the team?

So what’s your overall approach to a race like the Mint 400?

You have to remember that you’re racing the course more than the competition. Every curve is different, and the track changes over time. The pits also play a big role – a lot of the races are won in the pits. The teams that can get fuel stops done fast obviously have a big advantage, and if something breaks, you need to know how to fix it quickly.

And little things can make a difference. For instance, there’s a sprag in the back of our transmission, and after every race, we’d have the gearbox rebuilt and find little pieces of that sprag on the bottom of the transmission pan.

Before the Parker race this year, we had the transmission rebuilt and we decided to fill it with Motul ATF. During the Parker race, we had an issue with a driveline vibration, so we needed to pull the transmission out to work on that, and we had Hughes check out the gearbox since that was part of our normal routine. They told us that it was the cleanest the transmission had ever looked – there was nothing in the pan. So we went and ran the Laughlin race, and then also ran the Mint 400 without a rebuild in between, and it was flawless in both races. Heat is the enemy, and the transmission is running noticeably cooler now.

So what’s your overall approach to a race like the Mint 400?

Any specific goals for this season? And looking further down the road, any changes planned for the truck, or new classes you might compete in?

The only goal we’re focused on right now is winning the Best in the Desert championship. But for the 2021 season, we’re going to be working on a new truck that will run in the 6100 class.

They call it Trophy Truck Spec, and most of the teams in it are on the LS bandwagon there, but what we’re looking to do is a 550hp 3.5-liter EcoBoost Raptor engine. We might end up being the only team running one, and we’re looking forward to it. It’s such a solid engine, and it’s the future – everything’s going to go turbo eventually.

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