Because we taught her everything she knows. Okay, not really.
We still remember the day when she first showed up at our old offices in the San Fernando Valley back in October of '88, a photographer from New England spending some R&R time on the West Coast and looking for a different kind of assignment. She joined us for a week in the backcountry, camera in hand, shooting action at our 1989 Four Wheeler of the Year test---and as it turned out, it was her first foray into automotive journalism.
It certainly wasn’t her last. In the intervening 20-plus years, Sue Mead has literally driven the four corners of the globe, documenting every imaginable kind of four-wheeling challenge---from Baja to Dakar to the outback of Mongolia---for publication in numerous magazines. (Including, of course, our own.) This year, to celebrate her 60th birthday (that’s what she says; we don’t believe she’s anywhere near that old), she did herself one better, flying down to South America to cover the 2011 Dakar Rally as a competitor in the Stock Production class.
And wouldn’t you know, Sue and her co-driver, longtime desert racer Darren Skilton (pictured), piloted their Fab School-General Tire F-150 Raptor to a class victory yesterday in Buenos Aires after 6,000 grueling miles of desert and mountain driving. Sue and Darren not only finished First in class (and 40th overall), their truck was the only Stock Production rig still running at the end of the race.
This certainly speaks volumes about the build quality of the Raptor itself. While the truck was modded for Dakar by a few mandatory bolt-ins---Soltek LED lights, Odyssey batteries, Cobra Racing seats, Crow safety harnesses, Walker Evans beadlocks and General Grabber tires---it’s otherwise a plain-ol’ factory-stock rig. It also speaks volumes about the skills of the drivers, since they’ve got to keep their vehicle intact while pushing its performance parameters to their limits.
Sue has already agreed to share her Dakar experience in an upcoming issue of Four Wheeler, but until she returns Stateside, we’re wishing her loads of congratulations. Fame and good fortune couldn’t happen to a better (and all-around nicer) person. (Photos courtesy of Chris Collard.)