So you are looking to start racing desert, you bought a UTV and now your ready. But where should you race? A good place to start is to ask yourself what do you want out of it? If I were getting in the sport of UTV Racing here is a list of things I would want (in no particular order).
From that list I would start to narrow down my options. In my world Baja is king!!!! But I also am not totally comfortable bringing my family to Baja to chase me through a race. Nevada race series’ like BITD are great, very competitive, huge fields of cars, many pro teams but most races are ZERO Pre-run and dedicated pit locations only which really limits even the chasing experience for teams. Fans are not allowed to drive into the desert and watch the action which all but eliminates any sort of fan fare minus The Mint 400 and UTV World Championship.
This past weekend I attended my first Mohave Off-Road Enthusiasts (M.O.R.E) event, the Sierra LED 250 held in Barstow, CA. As I pulled into the dirt I noticed a very odd site. There was a ton of pre-runner style trucks and they actually appeared to be ready to run and work, not just parking lot pimping like most pre-runners at say a BITD event. Loaded with spare tires and parts these trucks head were set to head out on the race course to explore lines, mark dangers and look for speed zones. I hit the media tent and paid my $25 BLM fee and was given a wrist band and a handshake. I unloaded my car and headed towards the desert. It was almost too good to be true!
The week leading up to the event I downloaded the GPS from the M.O.R.E. website and loaded it in my MotionX app on my iPad. I had the course marked, the cooler stocked and I was on a solo mission to scout the race course. By about RM3 it started to set in, I am pre-running a legit race course in Barstow. As a life long desert rat the ability to pre-run is the best. I could set my own pace, I could stop at anytime and take in the views or I could put the wood to it and hold on. This element alone made it 100% worth going. The 38 mile course was flat out nasty. Barstow’s desert floor is some of the nastiest terrain you will find. There is no rhythm or flow. Its like taking your guts to a gang fight.
After I finished my lap )I only did one because I was beat) I started working my way down Barstow main. The pits looked like a holiday weekend in the desert. RV’s, trailers and trucks were everywhere. BBQ’s, kids running around and there was an awesome family feeling in the air. I don’t want you to think safety is not a factor. M.O.R.E requires each pit to be set up 150′ in front of the camp to service the vehicle during the race. This keeps the families safe and things very organized.
Another unique thing about Barstow is this desert is used by enthusiasts all year long. So the desert is open. This allows the fans to work their way into some cool spots and get a front row seat to the action. Again safety is an issue and M.O.R.E and the BLM are on it. If you’re in a bad spot you will be asked to move. As a fan you can come pre-run the course, find your ideal spot, find an access road in on race day and you’re set. As a racer, seeing fans out in the middle of the desert cheering you on is a great feeling and even though most racers do it for the love of the sport and not for the fans, there is still something special about going flat out past a pack of dusty fans who packed it out to the middle of nowhere just to see you charge by.
We got to spend some time with our buddy Jerry Staggs who was one of only two UTVs competing. He was racing his 2016 Yamaha YXZ1000R. Staggs is a known desert racer and like many is looking to branch out try other series’ for which to compete in. As the UTV class swells at BITD, racers in the class are starting to look at other series’ such as the AVE / PURE series, SNORE and of course M.O.R.E. to get out and have some fun. Many are also looking for a more affordable option to compete as the cost for competing at the high levels at BITD and SCORE are reaching new highs every year. We should note, Staggs did awesome in Barstow and gave all the buggies a run!
So lets see how we did, 1. Fun, desert racing is fun, pre-running is fun, the pit is fun and fun is fun, 2. Family, Bring the family to race, bring the family to pre-run or bring the family to spectate, 3. Adventure, The pre-run is the adventure for me, 4. Value, I am not sure what the cost is but it seems like M.O.R.E puts all the money raised into the program and there is actually some decent payouts arranged per class for racers, 5. Prerun, for the next race I will arrive early and pre-run more. By the way, did I mention how fun pre-running is? 6. Camping, bring your crew and circle the wagons, come one come all, 7. Chase, this is a very cool deal, I saw many teams out in the desert recovering broken machines, 8. Pits, I liked the safety aspect of the pits, I also liked how the pit was in front of your camp, its a front row seat for friends and family at camp to watch the action, 9. Fans, seeing the fans in the desert takes me back to when I was a kid, 10. Competition, this is where M.O.R.E lacks in regards to the UTV class. There is no silver bullet to attracting more competition. The need for a UTV OEM or company to step up and create a purse would be a great start. This is grass roots at its finest!
I for one will be back, I hope next time I see more UTV teams pre-running, chasing and racing with M.O.R.E.
You can learn more about M.O.R.E here: http://www.moreracing.net/
Words & Photos by: Rusty Baptist // UTVUnderground.com