Between running Baja Banditios, pulling off a first in class finish with Toyota in the Baja 1000, and a recent trip to Chile with Toyota to concur a volcano, life has been busy for Ryan Millen. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his adventures with Andy Bell down south and to see what he’s got on tap for the rest of 2015.
Ryan, first and foremost, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. It looks like it’s been a whirlwind last six months!
My pleasure, it’s certainly been a busy couple of months, but I wouldn’t change a thing!
The 1000 win must have been pretty awesome. You guys really looked like you brought it home as a team, even though that truck looked pretty rough. How was this race compared to previous 1000 races?
Thanks! Winning the Baja 1000 has been something I’ve been working on for over a decade. So to finally taste the champagne in La Paz was a dream come true. In stock vehicle class, we start pretty close to the rear of the field. So by the time we get to the silt beds or hill climbs, the course has seen a few hundred vehicles. You can just imagine how torn up the course is! This year was no different. In fact, I’d say this year was a little more challenging thanks to Hurricane Odile. Odile hit a month before the race and pretty much destroyed every road south of Guerrero Negro. I lost count of how many river crossing we had to navigate.
Rumor has it that Andy Bell is a bit of a lead foot. Is that true?
The Bell man is a lead foot for sure. My old man spent a lot of time teaching me as a kid about throttle control. Andy never got those lessons. He uses pure brute force to climb hills, moto style. Which was actually fun and I feel like I learned a thing or two from him. I know he learned a lot about how good Toyota’s traction control system is from me.
We heard you just back from Chile climbing a volcano in Toyota Tundra! How long were you down their for?
I was in Chile for a little over two weeks. The film crew had scouted most of the locations before I arrived. It was my job to make sure it was even possible to climb a volcano.
Your behind-the-scenes photos that you posted to your Facebook page look incredible! Was Chile what you expected?
Thanks, photography is passion of mine that has slowly been growing. Chile is the South American equivalent of New Zealand. It’s a beautiful country. They have a great roadway system. I never felt unsafe or in danger. So yea, pretty much the opposite of what I expected.
What surprised you most about being there?
Chilean Spanish is way different to Mexican Spanish. With any new country the language barrier is always tough to get over. But I found most of the Chilean people to be more than accommodating with my gringo Spanish.
The off-roading on a volcano looked pretty gnarly! What was the terrain like? Could you compare it to anything else you’ve driven on before?
It was wild! I was expecting it to be similar to sand, and it some places it was. But here’s the kicker, underneath most of the older lava flow is silt. We could never properly determine if a hill-side was going to be stable or solid until we were on it. On day one we got a little cocky and miss judged the stability of a ridge and nearly lost a truck to a 4k foot drop! Definitely one of the gnarliest things I’ve done in my off-roading career.
We heard the volcano next store erupted the week after you left. Were you guys worried at any point?
Villarica erupted two weeks after we left! I was really so bummed that I missed it, but the director made a good point. If it had been erupting while we were down there it would’ve been chaos and we wouldn’t have been able to shoot. But a chance in a lifetime missed…
We got the video from Toyota ….
So, we have to ask, what’s on tap for the rest of this year?
I’ll be rallying this year for Toyota in a Rav4. We just started building the car this week actually. Rallying is not a new discipline in the Millen family. Both my brother and dad have extensive careers in rallying. I based my career more around off-road racing. So I’m excited to be following in their footsteps. It’s a tough discipline because it puts much more focus on being as fast as possible over a relatively short course.
Not that you have any free time, but what do you do to unplug and take a break from it all?
I’m headed to Baja this weekend to free dive with Whale sharks and pet baby whales. Does that count? Haha, I love camping and riding my mountain bike. Anything that takes me out of the day-to-day thoughts and puts me only in the present is what I like to do.
Okay, last question. Peanuts or pretzels?