The other day, I was relaxing in front of my TV and was scrolling through Dish Network's high-definition offerings. On HDNet I came across Drive Like Hell, a feature-length documentary film by the Essex Television Group about the 35th anniversary running of the Tecate Score Baja 1000. The 90-minute documentary was filmed in Baja California, Mexico (I know you know where it is, but someone reading this might not) and is a behind-the-scenes film about the race.
I thought I would glance at it and move on. After all, how many off-road race or TV shows can you watch? Most of us would rather be doing it, not watching it. An hour-and-a-half later, I was sad to see the ending credits of Drive Like Hell scrolling across the screen. It was really, really good!
The film profiles four teams (Terrible Herbst Motorsports, Honda Motorcycles, Enduro Racing, and Centrix Financial Racing) as they prepare for, and then race in, the 1000. The film also follows the travails of race organizer Sal Fish, who has been staging the race for more than 30 years, as he lays out the racecourse and deals with the politics of racing in Baja. It's interesting for both those who are familiar with what goes on before and during the 1000 and for those who don't know a Class 8 truck from a toaster.
As I was watching, I was thinking about how popular the Tecate Score Baja 1000 is, as are other off-road racing venues, and the reason for that popularity. Think about it - can we buy a car and immediately go racing at the Indianapolis 500 or at a Nascar race? Off-road racing is different. Newcomers can and do go racing in events ranging from grassroots racing to the full-blown Score Baja 500 or 1000. Do they win? No, not very often. Most of the time they end up as a DNF on the results page. But they do get to race and compete, not only with the other competitors in their class and the race, but with the desert and themselves, maybe the biggest competitors of all. This opportunity off-road racing gives to everyone is, in my opinion, one of its major draws. Even if we'd never really do it, we could if we wanted to.
Drive Like Hell was enjoyable as, well, you know. Check it out yourselves either on HDNet or by visiting www.essextelevision.com/projects/highdef/drivelikehell.html.
I also just spent a week in the backcountry with engineers from DaimlerChrysler. This wasn't an official DaimlerChrysler function for magazine editors, but an annual get-together of engineers from Jeep and Dodge who, for fun, like to go out into the backcountry to off-road together. That they do this is important to us, because the things they find they need to do to their vehicles many times trickle down to new vehicles in the showroom. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and the Dodge Power Wagon are two vehicles that come to mind. Every year, these engineers go off-roading and bring some new hires along to "break them in" and let them see the things regular people do to their vehicles off-road.
I missed the last two years of this get-together, and it was fun to go out onto the trails with the DC people again. It was especially interesting to see that most of the old hands hadn't changed their personal vehicles since I had last seen them three years ago. Their vehicles still worked great, too. It just goes to show that these engineers, when they get something right, can resist changing things for change's sake. That's something I'm afraid I'm guilty of. My motto: "If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is."
This is our annual suspension issue with the polybag buyer's guide. Once you install one of these sweet suspensions on your off-road vehicle, don't forget the gears and locking differentials, too.
See you out there . . .