Racer Profiles: Racing Against the Current, Matt Trainham’s Electrifying Journey

May 27, 2024
WESTx 1000

Matt Trainham, a 44-year-old racer from California, has been involved in off-roading since he was a toddler. Born in Antioch, CA, and raised in Colfax, CA, Matt’s early experiences with dirt bikes, Jeeps, and trucks laid the groundwork for his passion for off-road racing. His first memory of the sport dates back to watching the Parker 400 in 1985 with his grandfather, an event that left a lasting impression on him.

Matt’s journey began with family and friends, surrounded by a community that enjoyed various off-road activities. From the Rubicon trails to riding in the desert and racing in the dunes, he was always in the thick of off-road action. His formal racing career started later in life, inspired by a year of planning and preparation following a visit to the 2023 Mint 400. Watching that race sparked the idea to compete in an electric vehicle, an ambitious plan that quickly took shape.

Before driving in the Mint 400, Matt had a diverse racing background, including amateur enduros, drag racing, and land speed efforts at the Bonneville Salt Flats. However, most of his experience came from working as a team engineer or crew chief. His technical and engineering background played a crucial role in his transition to driving, especially in the innovative field of electric vehicle racing.

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Matt's mentors have had a significant impact on his career. He worked closely with Peter Treydte at Gale Banks Engineering, who guided him in both professional and racing pursuits. Another key influence was Bill Burke, a friend and off-road training expert who shares Matt’s passion for preserving and enjoying off-road recreation.

Heroes in the racing community, like Johnny Campbell, Danny Hamel, and Larry Roeseler, inspired Matt throughout his journey. He also admires innovators in the off-road engineering field, such as the creators of the Landshark and Pflueger’s Trevor Harris-designed IRS truck.

Competing in the Mint 400 as the first electric vehicle to finish was a monumental achievement for Matt. The preparation involved rigorous planning, vehicle tuning, and securing sponsorships. His team, a dedicated group of volunteers from Rivian along with a handful of friends, played an essential role in his success. The crew’s combined efforts, technical skills, and support helped Matt navigate the challenging Mint 400 course and achieve this historic milestone.

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Reflecting on his racing goals, Matt is committed to promoting electric powertrains in off-road racing. He aims to demonstrate their capability through continued participation and success in tough races, hoping to inspire more competitors to embrace this technology.

During rough races, Matt focuses on staying present and appreciating the privilege of racing in such unique environments. This mindset, combined with his love for the desert, helps him maintain his energy and enthusiasm. Lining up at the start of the Mint 400 felt surreal for Matt and his co-driver, Jordan Sellers. The realization of their dream was both thrilling and daunting, but they embraced the challenge with determination and excitement.

Looking ahead, Matt plans to compete in the California 300 in Barstow this October. This event marks another step in his journey to push the boundaries of what’s possible with electric off-road vehicles. Matt’s racing accolades extend beyond the Mint 400, however.

He holds an FIA ‘flying-mile’ land speed record and has been part of various successful racing teams, including a BITD Trick Truck championship and a Baja 1000 finish. His technical contributions to projects like Pikes Peak and diesel drag racing have also earned him recognition in the motorsport community.

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Winning his class at the Mint 400 was an emotional and exhilarating experience for Matt. The transition from hyper vigilance during the race to the realization that he had achieved his goal was a roller coaster of emotions. Crossing the finish line and celebrating on the podium was a moment he will never forget: "Finishing the Mint 400 as the first electric vehicle was surreal – a dream realized and a historic moment for off-road racing."

Matt credits his triumph to the support of his wife, family, team, sponsors, and everyone at Rivian who believed in the project. Their collective efforts made this groundbreaking achievement possible.

If he could offer advice to his younger self, Matt would encourage taking more chances and saying yes more often. His journey exemplifies the rewards of embracing challenges and pursuing one’s passions with dedication.

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Want to follow along Matt's race efforts? Check him out on Instagram @offgridevracing.