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Top 8 Off-Road Races You Need To See Before Kicking the Bucket

Posted in News on April 9, 2015
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Which off-road race stands out in your mind as being the best you’ve ever seen? That’s just the question we were kicking around at our latest Four Wheeler Network weekly meeting. As you can imagine, we’re a rambunctious bunch with varying degrees of interest in all forms of off-road motorsports. While some of us get a kick out of gnarly action in the rocks, others will start salivating at the mere mention of Trophy Trucks. This got us to thinking. What races does an off-road enthusiast need to check out before kicking the bucket and checking out of this world.

Since we really couldn’t agree, even after a long grueling session of leg wrestling followed by a tie braking rock, paper, scissors showdown, we decided to give you our best picks for the best off-road races that we’ve ever witnessed.

One thing’s for sure, this list is sure to add a whole lot of adrenaline to your life so make sure you read it sitting down, preferably in your off-road rig of choice!

2008 BAJA 1000 - Ali Mansour, Technical Editor - Jp

The best off-road race I have ever attended has to be the one I was involved with in 2008. It was the Baja 1000 and I was lucky enough s get a spot riding with Ford. The company was getting ready to launch the F-150 Raptor and wanted to come out strong. The custom race Raptor was put into the Class 8 group and fought hard to not only complete the 1000, but land a third place finish. The entire week spent leading up to the race was filled with challenges and exciting last-minute wrenching. It all came down to the wire on race day, but the crew managed to pull it together. The rest as you know is history!

2012 TOP TRUCK CHAMPIONS’ CHALLENGE - Ken Brubaker, Senior Editor - Four Wheeler

What off-road race stands out in my mind as being the best I’ve witnessed? Well, my fav so far is the 2012 Top Truck Champions’ Challenge (TTCC). This was Four Wheeler’s 20th anniversary of Top Truck so we invited all of the past champions back to Hollister Hills, California, for an epic competition. All total we had 18 drivers return and it was five days of awesomeness. The racing was insane. From Matt Thorson’s big air in the Frame Twister to Geby Wager’s end-over-end spill in the Obstacle Course, to Steven Montpas hammer-down mega show in the Tank Trap, it was non-stop action. The event was eventually won by Dave Green, the 2009 Top Truck Challenge champion. Read a story about the Tank Trap and watch some video from the event HERE

1973 BARSTOW TO VEGAS - Matt Emery, Editor - Dirt Sports + Off-Road

The best race I ever saw was the 1973 Barstow to Vegas. The Barstow to Vegas motorcycle race was a big deal. Put on by the San Gabriel Valley MC on Thanksgiving weekend, it was the jewel in the crown of District 37 desert racing. The course was typically 140-160 miles, or roughly twice the distance of a usual desert race.

Mitch Mayes was mounted on a 400cc Husqvarna. It had been a very successful year for Mayes, and he would carry the number 1 plate in 1974 for his efforts during the ‘73 season. He was definitely the man to beat at the 1973 B2V. The number 1 plate holder in the 250cc class in 1973 was Jim Fishback. For the 1973 B2V however, Fishback decided that he wanted to go for the overall win and was therefore mounted on an open class 400cc CZ.

From the drop of banner it turned into an epic duel with Fishback dogging Mayes all the way to Vegas. The two battled the entire race, at times being only feet apart. Mayes opened up a slight lead at the end, but finished less than a minute ahead of Fishback. Even after all this time, this race still stands out in my mind as one of the best I ever saw.

BAJA 1000 - Fred Williams, Editor - Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road

I don’t really follow off road racing, but I did once go to Baja Mexico during the Baja 1000 and it was an awesome trip. I was driving my old Suburban and the steering column fell apart and it would shake so bad that the truck would shut off, and I’d have to figure out how to get it running again while running down the road at a high speed. Also on that trip some of my friends got really tired of each other and didn’t really want to be on the trip together making camp extremely awkward. Plus my burb broke down at one point and I got towed some 30 or 50 miles on a tow strap through the night in Baja to the next city so we could get it running the next day.

I have zero idea who won the race, nor do I care, or what we fixed to get the burb running again. And I’m pretty sure some of the folks on that trip no longer talk to each other. But none of that matters as I had fun and remember driving down a Mexican beach in my big burb with a smile on my face, and that makes it my favorite off road race because it was an adventure. Don’t be a spectator, go find your own adventure.

MONSTER TRUCK MADNESS - Christian Hazel, Editor - Four Wheeler

I don’t cover a lot of off-road races, but by far the coolest 4x4-related motorsports event I’ve been to has to be back in 2004 or so at the Arizona Firebird Raceway. We were covering the show and had all-access passes to be down on the course. The tough truck competitions were cool, but then the monster trucks came out. Holy crap, it was entertaining. I don’t follow them enough to know the drivers (or even vehicles) by name, but if you ever get a chance to go to a monster truck show in person, I highly recommend it. Those guys are just insane in the membrane. They were doing stuff with those huge beasts I wouldn’t try with a remote-control monster truck!

BUDGET RACING IS FUN! - Verne Simons, Technical Editor - Four Wheeler Network

I’ve never really gotten into off-road racing, but I have been to a few off-road races over the years. I’ve mostly attended rock crawling competitions like KOH and a few old school rock crawling comps from the early 2000s. Those were cool, but it was only a matter of time before big money moved in and made things about deep pockets rather than achievement, driving, and competition. Back in ’01 or ’02 I got to ride in a race prepped Jeep Speed Cherokee in the California Desert. It was a rush going well over 100mph in a prepped grocery getter in the dirt. I really like the idea of a budget class like Jeep Speed, 5-1600, or SCORE class 11. Seems like a better ratio of fun over money, although I know people toss tons of cash at those too.
Photo Credit: Harry Wagner

CHASING BITD VEGAS to RENO - Agustin Jimenez, Staff Editor - Four Wheeler Network

The best off-road race that I've ever witnessed isn't actually a race I was spectating in. Chasing for a Best In The Desert race last year had my adrenaline pumping a lot harder than any Baja 500 or 1000. Baja is a whole different beast but actually working with a team chasing down a race truck and trying to get it to the finish is like running near redline from start to finish. I was lucky enough to get to chase for the Off Road Evolution Discount Tire 4451 EVO1 race Jeep at the Vegas to Reno race in 2014.

The race might start on Friday morning but the mental game begins on the nights before, from hauling the crew, gear and race truck out, to prepping the race truck for tech inspection. Even after tech you'll find yourself putting together pit boxes late into the night while working out race strategies and contingency plans before heading out early in the morning for the green flag drop.

At this point you have to expect the unexpected and anything that can happen, typically does happen. Zip ties are your friend but being prepared to swap out parts at a remote pit can mean the difference between finishing in the dark or finishing the next morning if you even make it that far.

Every step of the way you're listening to your co-driver call out their location all while moving from pit to pit to be ready with fuel, tools, spare parts and watchful eyes to catch any potential problems. Heck, sometimes all that can be transmitted is the audible scream of the motor which is a good indication that all is well. It’s definitely an adventure and by the end of the race, the race truck is no longer an inanimate object, it's a living, breathing best that wants to reel in and cross the finish line. That day, we were the fastest Jeep of the race. Even the Jeepspeed class was nowhere near our finish time. Spectating is fun but being a part of the race action is one of the best race experiences you can ever have.

2008 CHAMPIONSHIP OFF-ROAD SHORTCOURSE RACE - Shaun Oschner, Associate Editor, Dirt Sports + Off-Road

What stands out in my mind as the best off-road race I have witnessed would have to be the 2008 Championship Off-Road Shortcourse Race. It was Pro-4 and “The Wildman” Adrian Cenni was one lap down and racing a bright orange truck with the leaders. Cenni comes around the last turn and rides the very top of the catch fence to make a pass on the leaders. That move today is still one of the most talked about moves in shortcourse racing history. The move was replayed all weekend on the jumbotron and television show. What transpired afterwards was less talked about. Cenni’s spotter was involved in an altercation in the spotters stand which spilled into an altercation later that night in the pits. The next day CORR officials decided to fine and suspend Cenni from the race. His famous “wall ride” still got attention throughout the day.

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