Peter Brock
Peter Brock
10/9/20 9:23 a.m.

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the June 2008 issue of Grassroots Motorsports]

While the rest of the world’s avaricious sanctioning bodies wrangle incessantly over control of all forms of racing on pavement, the sad result is that the once spectacular American open-wheel oval and road racing scene is almost dead. NASCAR’s suffocating tentacles control the electronic and print media almost to the point of gag reflex, while Formula 1 has priced itself out of all reality. 

America’s ongoing political battle for dominance in road racing’s two top endurance series, the ALMS and Grand-Am, is still in bitter dispute. Drag racing, although still a popular spectator sport in the Top Fuel classes, long ago lost its mass appeal for the home-prepared diggers. The once powerful American auto industry, which had supported this niche, simply lost its way by forgetting that fun and quality, above all, are what sell cars.

Almost unnoticed in this miasma of popular American automotive consciousness is “off-road” desert racing. This type of competition has quietly gone from strength to strength, gathering momentum in the last four decades to emerge as one of the least media-recognized, but still most popular, forms of motorsport. 

Desert racing began as simple regional events, primarily in the Southwestern states and Baja California, but off-road competition is now hugely popular in the Midwest and South as well, with growing acceptance all over the world. It’s easy to understand why: The planet has more unpaved roads than paved ones. And racing on dirt, especially in simple, lightweight tube-chassis racers powered by production-derived engines and components, appeals to anyone with a sense of adventure and a comparatively modest budget. 

The best-known of these rally-raid events is the famed Dakar, thanks to years of worldwide TV coverage. The event spans two weeks and runs from Lisbon, Portugal, across Spain, down to and across the Mediterranean, and finally southward along the west coast of Africa to Dakar, Senegal. 

This year, unfortunately, the threat of terrorist attack in Mauritania caused the Dakar to be canceled. The French organizers have promised the event will return next year, probably in South America, with warmup events in Eastern Europe and the wealthy Middle Eastern nations around Dubai. Top teams from VW, Mitsubishi, BMW and Nissan spend millions each year to reap the promotional benefits of winning these prestigious events. Millions watch and follow the action from homes around the world.

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thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter)
thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/9/20 2:02 p.m.

Love me some trophy trucks. Seeing videos of those things blasting through 3' whoops at 100 mph is mind blowing. 

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