Sphere Of Influence
It's said that when you get to the top, there's nowhere to go but down. After winning off-road racing's most prestigious challenge, the Baja 1000, Roger Norman could have stayed in the competition game, making a run at the record books and etching his name multiple times in the sport's storied history. Instead, when Roger got to the top of the proverbial hill, he decided to elevate the hill itself and bring the rest of the off-road racing world to a higher plane.
"As a racer, it was impossible to influence changes in the sport the way I wanted to," relates Roger. "I felt there was a lot of room for improvement on the race promotion side." With this in mind, Roger decided to trade his fire suit and steering wheel for racing equipment of a different sort. Roger's new equipment includes a pen, multiple cameras, a TV studio set, and smart phones and computers. The first move was to revive the HDRA name, which had been largely dormant since Sal Fish and Walt Lott merged SCORE and HDRA (High Desert Racing Association) in 1985.
The HDRA series is run exclusively in the United States and features amateur-level entry fees, tough courses, and easy logistics. For 2013, the four-race schedule includes the South Point Vegas 250, the King Shocks HDRA 250, the Eldorado Reno 500, and the Laughlin Desert Challenge. The Eldorado Reno 500 is a radical departure from tradition because it will take place completely on private land, affording spectators a generous view of the course from a single vantage point, and will allow competitors unlimited prerunning.
Norman was happy to own and promote the HDRA series, but he felt the pull of something even bigger. "After I'd gotten HDRA going, I called Sal Fish," he recalls. "I told him about HDRA and what I was doing. I told him I was interested in SCORE, and if a list of possible buyers existed that I wanted to be at the top of that list. I also told him that I didn't want to buy SCORE until I had some experience behind me with the HDRA series."
The HDRA schedule for 2012 included five races: Redline at Stateline, Imperial 250, Fireworks 500, Dusk-Til-Dawn, and Rockin' on the River. Promoting these races gave Roger the experience he was seeking. Now it was just a matter of whether or not Sal Fish was ready to call it a career, accept Roger's offer, and hand over the reins of SCORE.
Sal had wanted to see his SCORE tenure through until after the 45th running of the legendary Baja 1000. Roger had wanted to learn all sides of race promotion before taking the SCORE helm. Late December 2012 turned out to be when all the pieces of the puzzle came together. The deal had been about a year in the works, but the announcement took many by surprise.
As you might guess, Roger has a lot of ideas about how he'd like to shape off-road racing's future. "It's not that I want to make it more professional, because there are already many teams with a high level of professionalism. I want to make off-road racing more prominent. We have the most exciting form of motorsports there is. It's just a matter of showing the world what we've got."
How will off-road racing become more prominent? Norman sees two major avenues: worldwide television and social media. "In Europe, there's a great deal of interest. Every European who experiences American off-road racing falls in love with it. First, they're amazed that we have the space to do this kind of racing. Second, they can't believe the capabilities of the race vehicles we have. This is the only motorsport where there are unlimited classes that are truly unlimited: no limits on the suspension, brakes, or horsepower. The only limits are the construction methods and equipment that are mandated for safety."
Of course, to showcase off-road racing to the world, you've got to have action footage. GoPro-style video camera technology plays a key role. During a race, HDRA and SCORE staff members have many of their own cameras recording the action, but racing teams are encouraged to submit their footage after a race. "Even if a team doesn't win," Norman says, "they've still got the chance to be part of the show."