Anaheim Off-Road Championship Gran Prix : Rod Millen Wins Main Event on Big Night for Mazda

Times Staff Writer

Considering it was a hand-me-down, Rod Millen's mini pickup truck certainly was the class of the field Saturday night in Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix at Anaheim Stadium.

Millen, driving in only his seventh stadium race, passed Walker Evans on the third lap and held off a late-charging Ivan Stewart to win the main event before a sellout crowd of 65,158.

Millen's truck, a 1986 rotary-driven Mazda, was introduced two years ago by team captain Glenn Harris. Harris gave the truck to teammate Jeff Huber last year, and Huber won the series championship.

Millen is now driving the white-and-blue truck, and he looks like another potential winner after taking an eight-lap heat race and then the 10-lap main event. Stewart finished second, and Huber was third.

Toyota, with factory drivers Steve Millen and Stewart, has dominated the sport for the last five years, but the Mazda entries of Ron Millen, Huber and Harris were faster most of the night.

Ron Millen made an auspicious debut with an unlikely win in the first heat race. Millen trailed leader Jeff Huber throughout most of the eight-lap race but got a big assist from a slower vehicle driven by Dave Ashley on the final lap.

Rounding into the last turn before the checkered flag, Huber and the Millen brothers attempted to pass Ashley. Steve Millen collided with Ashley and rolled his Toyota. Huber slowed down to avoid a collision, and Rod Millen delighted the capacity crowd by moving ahead for the win.

There was some doubt whether Steve Millen's truck would be ready for the second heat race an hour later, but the veteran was stationed in the rear of the 10-truck field for the race.

Steve Millen wasn't a factor in the second heat race as Rod Millen's Mazda factory teammates, Harris and Huber, dominated the race. Dan Esslinger held the lead for three laps, but Harris' overtook Esslinger on the fourth lap.

Harris went on to win the race with Huber placing second. Drivers in the rotary-driven Mazdas finished 1-2-3 in the opening heat and 1-2 in the second heat.

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