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  • Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Visits Lake Elsinore, and I Ride Along

Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Visits Lake Elsinore, and I Ride Along

Benson Kong
Jul 6, 2009
Photographers: General Tire
The inaugural season of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series has been in full swing since April, and with Rounds 5 and 6 taking place in my neck of the woods, I took a short trip down the I-15 to visit the site where the racing would be taking place, the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Complex. With a freshly built track, these two rounds would be the first-ever short-course races held in Lake Elsinore.
Photo 2/7   |   carl Renezeder truck View
The LOORRS is the latest short-course endeavor sponsored by Lucas Oil and a host of other major companies involved with the off-roading world, including Geico Powersports, General Tire, and E3 Spark Plugs. The series features 7 classes--Unlimited 4, Unlimited 2, Unlimited Lite, Super Lite, Unlimited Buggy, Limited Buggy, and Kart--and some of the biggest names in off-road racing today. A 2009 season schedule is available at the end.
While short course off-road racing is nothing new, its enthusiasts and promoters have been hard at work boosting its public profile. And the arrival of the LOORRS could not have come at a better time, considering the recent departure of the now-defunct Championship Off Road Racing series. When CORR went bankrupt late last year, it opened a lot of questions surrounding the future of short-course racing. The insertion of the LOORRS schedule not only keeps drivers in their rides, but opens another avenue where off-road enthusiasts can support their sport.
Rounds 5 and 6 have taken place this past Saturday and Sunday (June 27-28), but I made my visit on Friday, June 26, during the media/press event. The event featured speakers, an early look at the trucks during their practice sessions, and a ride-along.
The beginning of my trip to Lake Elsinore was an uneventful one, with a bit of traffic on the 91 and smooth sailing down the 15. After getting lost for a bit in Lake Elsinore, I found the entrance to the complex was tucked away down a dirt path, which ultimately led to a muddy parking lot. These conditions ensured my car's wheelwells would need a good cleaning.
Upon arrival I was informed to look for a big white tent, which was acting as a pre-designated "Cool Zone." Just as I had gotten lost looking for the complex's entrance, I ended up wandering around where all the race vehicles and their support trailers were stationed until I stumbled upon the aforementioned white tent. Now that I knew where the tent was, it was actually located across from the grandstands. All I had to do was walk straight down from where I had entered.
Photo 3/7   |   carey Hart truck In Air View
When I entered the shade of the tent, a media briefing was already underway. Once that was completed, a couple speakers took the podium, which included event staff and a couple drivers. The speakers expressed their gratitude in being able to take part in the series, and I was especially pleased to hear driver Robby Woods' comments on the camaraderie and family-friendly orientation present in the off-road community. While so much of high-profile racing is shrouded in secrecy, million-dollar contracts, and what seems like endless bickering, it is refreshing to hear a motorsports series can still have that down-to-earth feeling.
Photo 4/7   |   rob Naughton with Truck View
With the media event's conclusion, it was time for the ride-along. My pilot for the on-track ride was Unlimited Lite star Robert "Fig" Naughton. With over 30 years of racing experience and a couple of championships underneath his belt, Naughton gave me a first-hand introduction to the world of the short course. The on-track demonstration was three laps around the one-mile course, which featured numerous jumps and sharp turns that were sure to be the site for many a collision.
Since we were taking smaller Baja trucks and not Naughton's own truck, there wouldn't be any door-banging or driving heroics here. My experience began by encasing my head in a Shoei helmet, which came complete with an air-feed tube and a communications port. After getting my noggin in its protective shell, I was strapped into the Recaro passenger seat, which was actually quite comfortable. The interior of the truck was exactly as it should be, bare and driver-oriented, with a large number of switches running along where the center console would be.
Photo 5/7   |   rob Naughton truck In Air View
Naughton, being a gracious host and driver, made sure numerous times that I wasn't going to have a nervous breakdown, wet my pants, or something along those lines. Since he hadn't had time to take a sighting lap, Naughton informed me we would take it easy in the initial run before ramping it up a bit. Unsure what to expect, I merely checked my surroundings and sat tight as we made our way toward the first hill. Since I was seated further back than standard driving position, and I'm not that tall, I could barely see over the hood of the truck, adding to my excitement and anticipation.
What happened for the next five minutes can best be described as a roller-coaster ride where the rails and wheels are on its last legs, and the ride was built on muddy land. As we ascended the first hill, the race-prepped engine roared in its own exuberance as we reached the peak. Then, nothing.
We were probably in the air for a grand total of just two to three seconds, but you'll always remember that first time you're suspended in the air and unsure as to what the landing is going to be like. Or if you're even going to stick the landing, for that matter. I had recently watched an old episode of "Top Gear" where they decided to drop a vehicle from the top of a crane lift. Suffice to say it wasn't pretty, yet that was the first image that flared in my mind. Thankfully, the mud was decently forgiving, the drop was nowhere near as high, and in Naughton's capable hands we were soon making our way around the track. After a couple more jumps, and a near-encounter with a barrier, Naughton had upped the pace and we were positively flying.
While we probably weren't moving at race pace, it was definitely quick enough for me as a first-timer. Naughton assured me the experience was quite different with 20 trucks out there, all willing to hit each other and knock body panels off to get ahead. I'll take his word for it. Up until now, I had only been on road courses, where good old cement adds a certain level of predictable handling. On hot tarmac, keeping rubber on the ground is a pretty high priority, but in contrast, the Baja race truck eagerly took the jumps and muddy turns with relish. Two different worlds, two different styles, both with their own merits.
Photo 6/7   |   carey Hart truck View
One aspect of short-course I definitely enjoyed was having mud flung all over the place as we made our laps around. Whether we were landing, turning, or just going down a short straightaway, mud made its way into the truck's cabin--and onto me. In my opinion, bringing some of the track back with you is all part of the experience.
We were supposed to make three laps around, but I believe we did four laps. After a couple more near-misses with barriers and hearing the engine bounce off its rev limiter, we finally pitted where we had originally loaded. I thanked Naughton for his expertise, removed my helmet, and climbed out of the truck.
Photo 7/7   |   carl Renezeder truck In Air View
So what have I taken away from this experience? Of course the ride along was a big part, but I won't forget Alan Plueger's hearty "Aloha," Carl Renezeder's geniality, and the just plain cool Carey Hart. I'll be hoping the LOORRS succeeds at the highest of levels and carries on for a long time.
2009 Season Schedule
April 4-5: Primm Valley Motorsports Complex, Primm, NV
May 2-3: Speedworld Off Road Park, Surprise, AZ
June 27-28: Lake Elsinore Motorsports Complex, Lake Elsinore, CA
July 25-26: Lake Elsinore Motorsports Complex, Lake Elsinore, CA
October 17-18: Speedworld Off Road Park, Surprise, AZ
November 14-15: Primm Valley Motorsports Complex, Primm, NV
November 16: Championship Banquet, Primm, NV
December 11-12: The Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, Lake Elsinore, CA

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