After a two-year hiatus, the SCORE Desert Challenge returned to the series schedule at the end of September. The short heat-race format was popular with the series for 18 years. Former Trophy Truck racer Marty Coyne and SCORE CEO Roger Norman worked diligently to bring local businesses in the cities of El Centro and Imperial together to help promote and sponsor the race. Coyne owns the only private land within the Superstition Mountain OHV area and has created a motorsports park there complete with grandstands, fencing, and an infield with no shortage of whoops and jumps. SCORE first used this property as part of the course earlier in the year for the Imperial 250. Coyne and Norman worked to bring in vendors and sponsors. Several spectator areas were free to enter. There was a paid area where fans could sit under tents, drink beer, eat food, and, of course, have a front-row seat to the race action.
Fans flock to the “Big Air” Competition
When SCORE CEO Roger Norman bought the series from longtime owner Sal Fish, Norman vowed to bring back the popular race and surrounding events. One of those events is the “Big Air” competition. Formerly known as the Laughlin Leap, Unlimited vehicles try to jump their trucks as far as possible to set SCORE records. Under the lights at the Imperial Valley fairgrounds, race fans packed the grandstands to watch racers chuck trucks and buggies off of a huge dirt jump leading to the infield. To sweeten the pot, local businesses helped sponsor the event adding to a $9,000 cash payout to those who jumped the farthest distance. Local racer Jeff Dickerson broke the SCORE record. Dickerson jumped 173 feet in his Alumi-Craft open wheel desert car. Larry Roeseler was the previous record holder, jumping 163 feet in a Trophy Truck in 2009. Steven Eugenio won the Trophy Truck competition jumping 161 feet. Eugenio was presented with a check for $2,000, which he promptly announced would be donated to the relief efforts in Baja after Hurricane Odile.
Heat, Dust, and Wind
As the events started in the Imperial Valley on Thursday with recon laps on the course and the Imperial Street Fair, racers, fans, and vendors were dealing with record triple-digit temperatures. Add humidity to that and all you want to do is hide in the air conditioning or soak in the pool to cool off. Several teams’ motorhome air conditioners were working overtime. Staying hydrated and always having a cold bottle of water at the ready was the order of the day. Fans and teams braved Friday’s triple-digit heat as they took vehicles through technical inspection and contingency in downtown Imperial. By Friday night, the sun had set and temperatures cooled off, making things tolerable. It was time to go racing. Saturday’s temperatures were much cooler, but another factor of desert racing came into play: dust. SCORE officials did everything they could to water parts of the seven-mile course, but it seemed it was never enough. The dust was so bad when the Trophy Trucks started at 11 a.m., drivers and navigators could not see in front of them and many relied on their GPS to navigate around the course. When the race was over, several drivers complained to SCORE officials. The decision was made to move the second Trophy Truck race to Sunday morning, starting them before the motorcycles and quads. SCORE officials would regret making that decision. Saturday night, the winds arrived blowing a thick layer of dust everywhere. As the race started Sunday morning, there was zero wind and zero visibility. Drivers said it was like being stuck in a heavy fog. Race officials threw the checkered flag after only four laps due to the unsafe conditions.
Heat Race Format
Keeping the traditional desert challenge format, the races were divided into six groups. Each group ran two heats. The points were awarded from the combined overall times of both heat races. Each heat had a time limit of 1½ to 2 hours to finish the race depending on class and most running a total of 16 laps. Colton Udall on the Honda 1x was crowned the fastest motorcycle rider of the weekend averaging 62 mph on the course. In Class 1, the overall trophy would be awarded to Cody Parkhouse. Parkhouse was locked in tight battle with Second Place finisher Justin Lofton. Parkhouse would finish overall just 24 seconds ahead of Lofton. Justin Davis, driving the Green Army Class 10 car, was out front over Mike Johnson. Davis said on the last two laps of Heat 2, they lost an alternator belt forcing the car to finish on battery power.
With all of the dust problems in the Trophy Truck race, Steven Eugenio had no problem securing the overall win. Eugenio is from nearby Brawley, so this race is right in his backyard. Eugenio is used to the dust and the terrain. Eugenio said, “This is my first Trophy Truck win, and we’ve been there all year and close, but we’ve had some misfortunes.” Eugenio, coming off winning the “Big Air Competition” in the Trophy Truck group, took that momentum to the track. Eugenio is part of a two Trophy Truck Team under Galindo Motorsports owned by father-in-law Fidel Galindo. Galindo also raced a Trophy Truck at the Desert Challenge with teammate Larry Roeseler. Eugenio won the first heat race, so he says he knew he had time during Sunday morning’s second heat and didn’t need to push as hard.
Imperial Valley’s Future
There is no doubt that racing is going to come back to the Imperial Valley. The Imperial Valley 250 has already been announced on SCORE’s 2015 race schedule. The Coyne Powersports Complex is sure to be a part of the course. Marty Coyne and Roger Norman both have worked hard to bring racing back to the Imperial Valley after the departure of the SNORE Series at Plaster City. Ever since Norman moved into the role of race promoter, the Imperial Valley is always on his schedule. The SCORE events help the economy and the local businesses. Judging by the response, they are fans of off-road racing. It helps to have the city and county backing you as well. Coyne says he has a conditional-use permit to run six events a year at his facility. Coyne will continue to develop the area so fans have a place to come out and watch some great racing action. It pays off to own a piece of land within one of the largest OHV areas in the Imperial Valley!