Desert racing is a tough game. Dust chokes air filters and quashes visibility. Rocks seem to jump from their resting places and lodge themselves in seemingly impossible locations on race vehicles. Welds and bolts are put through the wringer. Some survive, while others don't. Add in a whole spectrum of racing classes, ranging from the smooth and fast to the choppy and slow, and you've got the recipe for a true test of vehicle prep and human will power. Then, take away the lights.
Without the sun to show the way, racers at the MDR California 200 relied on off-road lights and GPS systems to steer through treacherous terrain while dicing with other vehicles. Reliable wiring harnesses, together with GPS programming and reading skills, became equally important as throttle finesse and shock tuning. SCORE Trophy Truck driver Travis Coyne recently shed some light on the subject of driving after dark: "It's a whole different ball game. Most of us slow down at night, but others such as Robby Gordon actually speed up, since they figure that they're able to concentrate more fully on the course with no other light to show what might be off to the side."
There's yet another aspect of driving after dark: The desert cools off. Corners of the desert that are normally unbearable under the summer sun cool down to comfortable levels when the bright-orange orb dips below the horizon. We ventured out to Lucerne Valley on a balmy summer night and managed to snap a few photos of racers who don't quit night comes.