One could argue that the greatest achievement in racing is to leave behind a legacy and make a contribution to the sport for future generations to come. The Hardesty family has certainly achieved this and their legacy continues to live on. The family has been winning races and earning championships for 3 generations, and BILSTEIN Shock Absorbers has been a trusted partner since the very beginning. In the early days of off-road racing, BILSTEIN helped pioneer the sport and build the empire that it’s become today. It was in the early ‘70s when BILSTEIN recognized the need for a more robust shock absorber capable of withstanding thousands of miles in the unforgiving Baja terrain.
One of BILSTEIN’s Mercedes Dealers (who was an off road enthusiast) proposed utilizing a BILSTEIN monotube shock in an off road application because it was extremely durable and could be mounted upside down, as opposed to the existing twintube shocks being used at the time. At that same time Earl Hardesty was just starting to make a name for the Hardesty Dynasty. He came up through the limited 1/2-1600 buggies where he learned how to go fast while keeping his equipment together. Earl worked closely with BILSTEIN throughout his racing career, and it paid off.
“Doug (former President of BILSTEIN) was always interested in off road racing, and BILSTEIN kept a lot of people going,” says Earl, “Their shocks were the best out there; they had remote reservoirs, and you could take them apart to modify the valving. I used to send my BILSTEINs over to Mickey Thompson and he would do his valving tricks on them. BILSTEIN helped us to win the Baja 1000 several times and become the 1980 overall points champions over Rod Hall. We ran BILSTEINs on the BFG Chevrolet truck I raced with Johnny Johnson. BILSTEIN was a huge international company at the time. I feel blessed that they were helping us desert racers out.”
Winning championships became a family tradition when Earl’s son Darren also started racing in the desert. “For me, BILSTEIN was part of my career from the very beginning,” Said Darren, “We did extensive testing and development with BILSTEIN on our class 10 and class 1 car from 2004 to 2007. They were more than partners, they became like family. We would make changes after every race, and they were always as willing and curious as we were about making the car faster. They gave us a lot of valuable input that led to our success. When my Son Darren Jr. began racing short course, BILSTEIN was in his corner. In the Pro Buggy class, it’s so competitive, subtle changes may get you a tenth of a second on the race course. That’s usually the difference between winning, and second place. The engines are limited so any gains you get are due to braking, handling, and acceleration. All those attributes are affected by your shocks.”
Darren “HotSauce” Hardesty Jr. decided to go a slightly different route than his Father, and Grandfather. Instead of competing in the desert, he chose to race in the dirt on a short course. The racing there is very intense. Sometimes the split second decisions are done purely on instinct, and Darren’s instincts are good. Since moving into the Pro Buggy ranks, he has won back to back championships in 2016, and 2017. In 2018, he is going for 3 in a row. “When I started racing it was almost a given that I would be racing with BILSTEIN,” said HotSauce, “I used to be the little kid that tagged along with my Dad when we went to BILSTEIN. They are more like family than a sponsor. They took a chance on me and together we have risen to the top. They have been involved in my career through marketing, video production, and support. They have been a key component to our team, taught me a lot about shocks, and have helped me become a better driver.” Much more than just a good driver, Darren Jr. has become a multi-time champion and carried on the family’s winning dynasty.
Just like in Earl Hardesty’s day, BILSTEIN continues to set the pace in quality, design, and performance. Check out all their latest shock applications that range from bolt-on shocks to greatly enhance the handling on your daily driver, to performance engineered suspension packages made to dominate professional racing.