FEATURE: LACEY’S MICKLEFAB RAPTOR TT


EDITION 40 FLASHBACK – THE ARB COOPERS PLAINS MICKLEFAB RAPTOR TT

Looking for an Australian built truck to rival the American heavy-weights starting to dominate the Extreme 2wd category, Mark Lacey turned to master craftsman, Gavin Mickle for a home grown solution…

Sitting on the side of the dusty Australian Safari track in 2004, Mark Lacey was on the spot when Reg Owen and his White GU Wagon broke down in front of him. Reg, with a few choice words about the Patrols preference to lay down and die, was greeted with Lacey’s cheery greeting and an offer to buy the Nissan there and then. 

Mark Lacey and his son Oliver are protected by Stilo Carbon Fibre Helmets with top air delivery and HANS devices, while communication is via a Stilo Offshore system.

A deal was done and Mark informed his wife, Fiona, that he would be driving home and to cancel the plane ticket.  This was the start of the offroad racing escalation, having previously piloted an RX2 rally car and dabbled in cross country rallying with a Rodeo. This courtship with the dirt and dust developed to become a passionate affair, with a cab cut, V8 and MCA shocks transforming the Patrol over the next few years.

After converting production 4WDs into race cars for the best part of 10 years, another trackside experience marked the next step in the relationship. A trip to Finke in 2011 to watch the Trophy Trucks smash the whoops left Mark with little doubt as to what would follow next.

The chassis is built from the ground up on a laser cut table and each pipe is clamped accurately in position before welding. The chrome moly tube is laser notched and part numbered. Making it completely reproducable.

Finding an Australian fabricator was a high priority and Gavin from Micklefab soon sprung on to Mark’s radar. With runs on the board producing the immaculate Tundra TT for Anthony Kuhn, the Denham Safari Triton and the first of the new mid-size Aussie spec trucks nearing completion for Ivan Robertson, Mark didn’t hesitate to “throw all of the previous toys out of the cot” and take the reigns of the second Micklefab Raptor TT.

Working in partnership with ID Designs, the team behind B.J Baldwin’s current Baja winning Trophy Truck, a mid-sized truck was developed for the Australian market and US 6100 Class. The chassis arrives as a flat pack of pre-notched and bent tube ready for Gavin to work his magic on with the TIG welder. Every piece of the chassis is laser etched with a part number and in combination with the table and jigs, a whole new level of accuracy has been brought to this build. Plus in the event of an on-track incident, the truck can be put back in the jig and repaired to the original specifications.

While the trucks are available as a roller, Lacey engaged Micklefab to produce a turnkey package. Between the fortnightly email reports and regular phone calls, the project flowed smoothly. After one flight down to Sydney to test fit the driver and navigator (Mark’s son Oliver), Micklefab quickly finalized the build, turning out an impressive and lightweight truck in time for the start of the ARB Off Road Racing Series at Paringa in April 2014.

The finished truck measures in at 85” wide (outside of tyre to outside of tyre) with a 118” wheelbase and tips the scales at 1930kg with 120 litres of juice in the tanks. Making it a much more nimble package for the tighter Australian tracks than some of the US built heavy metal, that are well in excess of 2 tonnes and 92+” wide. Another point of difference is the positioning of the fuel tanks. The two 117ltr fuel tanks are mid-mounted in the chassis, rather than hanging out past the rear axle of the truck, resulting in a bias change from front to rear of only 3% from full to empty.

The Shane Wilson race engine was built under the instructions that Lacey “wanted torque not horsepower”. The end result is an LS2 with Heads, roller rockers, a forged crank and 580hp and 510Nm of torque.

The V8 power plant is managed by an Autronic SM-4 and partnered by a Motec PDM and Dash which logs everything from water temps, brake pressures through to GPS speed. Which was wired and tuned by Troy from TZ Tuning. A K&R Radiator mounted front and centre looks after the cooling, while the exhaust featuring 1.75” primaries and a 3.5” collector was built by Gavin.

Safety was a major consideration for all the components during the build, from the chassis through to the seats and the 6 spot CNC Calipers that have to halt the 37” Toyos at the end of the straights. A multi-point fire suppression system with 6 nozzles has also been installed to add another level of protection for the team.

The Motec dash, shift lights and UHF keep Oliver informed with the vital stats. While Mark keeps the truck motoring via the Momo steering wheel, reverse pattern shifter and CNC pedals. A Willwood brake adjuster is also easily at the drivers hand. The crew are strapped into their Sparco seats, with a set of Schroth belts designed specifically to integrate with the HANS devices.

With the truck has come a wealth of knowledge and resources for Mark and the crew to draw upon. Chase Borden, who races an ID Designs 6100 truck has been an asset in the development with the Fox Shock package, while locally Ivan Robertson and the extended Micklefab family, including Gavin Mickle and John Grey, Cam Ritchie from Racer Imports, Shane Wilson and Troy from TZ Tuning have all worked hard to get the truck up to speed. Ian Allaries and Peter Munday are a vital part of the team, both in the shed and on race day, while Fiona completes the picture as pit manager and co-ordinating the logistics. 

Taking a day and half each to fabricate, the tig welded rear trailing arms are a work of art. The 1380mm long arms are built from 4130 Chrome Moly plate which is lasercut so all the pieces interlock. Two internal plates run the full length and are also welded to the end uniballs and the outer plates go over the top to make it a fully boxed section. The arm is internally vented so no air pockets develop during the heat treatment, which takes place after the welding. The final step is the machining the front and rear uniball cups to an interference fit. No rod end adjustment is required as the chassis is fully jigged.
The body kit was designed by Mike McQueen from MPD in the States. The moulds were shipped over and manufactured locally, weighing in at just 44kg. The rear bed-side panels are fixed to rock solid plate mounts.