As populations grow and urban sprawl increases, the threat to open lands able to be used for multiple types of recreation, including off-road racing, grows larger every day. The famous Johnson Valley OHV area, home to the King of the Hammers race, is currently under the threat of closure right now. And if some authorities in the off-road and environmental communities are accurate in their predictions, eventually all off-road racing may end up on privately-owned lands.
This may shift where off-road racing events are held: While the Southwest corner of North America has been home to 90 percent of off-road racing since the first sanctioned races in the 1960s, off-road racing may be moving east in search of vast quantities of private land. And though Baja Mexico is in the heart of every off-road racer (and Mexico would seem like a natural alternative to U.S. racing), current violence south of the border has deterred tourists, spectators, and off-road racers who may have otherwise spent a lot of money in the less populated and less regulated region.
The first stop heading east out of the Southwest is Texas—coincidentally a state that is the largest in the continental United States and 90-percent privately owned. The climate can be a little harsh a few months out of the year, but a lot of it is sparsely populated (despite being the second most populous), Texas is definitely truck friendly, and guys like BRT co-founders Chris Leitner and Shannon Boothe, along with Greg Atwell and countless volunteers have already started doing the footwork to set up an off-road racing infrastructure in a state known for wide-open plains. With its central location in the country, it opens up doors for go-fast enthusiasts who live in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
Baja Racing Texas (BRT) is Leitner’s and Boothe’s dream come to reality as they took the time to scout locations, mark tracks, and create a points series for off-road racing enthusiasts outside of the southwestern United States. BRT put on two races last year, and will finish three this year. May 4th’s Cinco de Baja BRT race in neighboring New Mexico will have already happened by the time you read this, but it’s not too late to make the Chupacabra 300 in Blackwell, Texas, on October 11 at the Texana Ranch.
We stopped by the Texana Ranch (home to the majority of BRT races), met the ranch foreman, Matt Parks, and Chris Leitner of BRT, and checked out the 5,000-acre venue during a big Raptor event put together by Trey Palreiro and BRT in mid April. While there weren’t any races going on that weekend, we were able to hit the entire truck track in a modified Raptor. What we can tell you is this: It’s not like racing in Baja. The 43-plus-mile Texana Ranch track is technical, and if race vehicles don’t have good approach and departure angles then there is going to be body damage. It’s rough and it will chew up tires, and four-wheel drives will definitely benefit (though we did the entire course in 2WD with Greg Foutz driving). There are only a few short stretches that racers can reach 80 or 90 mph on, but otherwise corners and climbs limit speeds to overall averages of 40 mph.
BRT is currently scouting and adding more racing venues including loops over 100 miles and hopefully a point-to-point race. It plans to run four or five races for 2013. While every course is different, we can guarantee that racing in Texas will make seasoned off-road racers learn a few new tricks, and it will definitely give more people a chance to race that could not have otherwise. Perhaps your race truck and team will make it out to Texas to see what the new go-fast tracks of the Lone Star State look like. We’ll see you at the races.