Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series 2015
Season Opener / March 20-21
Lake Elsinore, California
When people think about what “American Motorsports” consists of, they’re usually brought to visions of oval race tracks, big beer sponsors, a quarter mile drag strip, and the roaring of V8 symphony. Often overlooked, off road truck and open-wheel buggy racing was nearly born in the US, and within the demanding deserts of the southwest, it has been put through the crucible of design to perfect the off-road race vehicle.
The Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series is an enclosed dirt track based circuit; consisting of large banks, berms, jumps, and whoop type sections. Although this series is not geared towards endurance like desert racing is, it opens many opportunities for truly successful racing drivers to overtake and battle, which often leads to vehicles colliding mid-air, fiberglass bursting, three-wheeling at full lock, and the inevitable flip or roll. This series is truly exciting to witness, as their are multiple classes which are dictated by technical specifications, creating a variety of racing machines and competitive noise for hours.. the view isn’t that bad either..
As the sun goes down, the air cools, the wind begins to lift, and the parade lap ensues for the upcoming class of racers. Each machine ironclad like knights with wrapped carbon fiber, aluminum, or fiber glass panels, decked in sponsors. Although in off-road racing V8’s tend to dominate the field, there are other classes, utilizing less power and little more.. finesse.
This finesse lies within the Pro Buggy class. These open wheel buggies are quick and agile; weighing in at only 1800 lbs (that’s including the driving), boasting a (1.6-1.8 ) liter 4-cylinder which can produce up to around 210 HP on race gas, and having a minimum track width of just 93 inches. These numbers may not be that impressive, but it opens room for drivers to learn to control their vehicle in the dirt, and utilize the suspension and light-weight chassis to overtake opponents. Open wheel racing comes with cons though.. and while these drivers don’t intend on bumping and driving over each other, it happens, especially when they’re hucking them off jumps and drifting tandem into turns in large herds.
Then come the trucks… there are a few different classes of trucks that race within the Lucas Oil series. A Pro Lite class with limited horsepower, Pro 2 class which consists of 2-wheel drive trucks with horsepower in the higher end of the spectrum, and a Pro 4 class which is essentially the same as the Pro 2 class except the trucks are now 4-wheel drive. Utilizing a ridiculous amount of suspension travel, lightweight tube-frame chassis, and very powerful naturally aspirated V8 engines, these trucks are propelled through the course with immense speed. Overtaking in these classes becomes more of a brawl than a precise movement, and although it may seem to be momentary madness, one winner always arises from the barrage of mud that is flung through the air and into the other drivers faces.
When it comes down to it, these drivers are having more fun than most, and doing what they love all the while. Appreciation of the fan base is seriously alive here, and while they seem to be mud-clad knights driving into battle with one another, most of them are family people, and down to earth petrol heads. A lot of the younger drivers are supported by their families, and the commitment it takes to fulfill a race season in almost any motor-sport is more of a full time job than most would think. To be a racing drivers is a dream to many and a complete lifestyle to a lucky few.
While all the racing and mad energy is being propelled from the dirt circuit, the Lucas Oil series offers something very incredible unlike most other motor-sports; being able to walk the pits freely, as any spectator. There is a ton to see: from unreal fabrication work that could only don the title of Artisan or Master, sponsors booths, aftermarket off-road hardware, and even a few celebrities! Here Tanner Foust, aka “The Golden Boy,” featured directly above was speaking to fans after a qualifying run. Known for being a Top Gear USA host and having direct connections with almost any off-road or unorthodox motor sport including even drifting, WRC, and GRC! Not to mention one of the most easy-going drivers you could have a conversation with. He wasn’t actually driving a Volkswagen that day, but more appropriately a Pro 2 truck showing off a Ford grille at the front of the industrial grade chassis.
Us here at Turn 12 would highly recommend this series to anyone who could potentially attend it; the fan energy, the competitive anxiety, and the pure motor-sport feel of how powerful and dynamic these vehicles are is more than enough to bring people back again and again.. and again. We aren’t exactly the off-roading types here, but we have more than enough respect for the guys who do it. Racing like this demands a different level of concentration and whit that could send any normal human being crying back to their mommies. Until next time, we salute the drivers who are in the thick of it, as we hope your face that was completely slapped in mud was worth it, because it sure as hell was for us!
Here’s some more photos, enjoy, and thank you for reading!!
Photography by: Michael Wnek
Words by: Chase Weber