I have written a few automotive essays in the past for English class is college. It is getting to be the end of the year, and these are from a past semester. I am parsing these out over the course of once a week. I have five different essays. Excuse the noticeably academic writing. Enjoy.
The deafening rattle of open headers is universal for most types or racing; however, attacking mother nature where few have before in a vehicle is rare. The simple definition from Dictionary.com of an off road race is "existing, taking place, or designed for use off paved or public roads or in rugged terrain." However, the definition leaves too much of the activity undiscussed. In the 1980s, a series named Group B began to race in the woods of England. The cars were stock cars that had at least 200 cars of that model produced for the masses. After only five years, the group was deemed too dangerous, and the sport was disbanded. A simple definition of cars racing on an off road environment does not seem to discuss why a format of racing was deemed too dangerous after only being held five years. Instead, the sport is a constant battle between human innovation and mother nature. It is a fight between the best machine that humans have to offer and the worst that mother nature can throw at them. As a result of the constant power struggle between man and nature, the definition describing an off- road race as a race "off paved or public roads or in rugged terrain" blatantly misses the mark.
When the thought of a race comes to mind, the usual thought is of a lightning fast car driven by a man gritting his teeth while passing his rival. On the contrary, the King of Hammers race is not that sort of event at all. Given that the event is timed, the true aspect of the event is to see which vehicle would finish. The event revolves around a massive stretch in the desert where there are competition hills, and a vast amount of land in between them. A vehicle has to be able to travel about eighty miles per hour on untreated and unproven ground from one obstacle to the next only guided by a passenger and his GPS. Once the vehicle reaches the base of the hill, it is faced with traveling up near vertical rock faces and devastating drops. Therefore, low end gears become prevalent, and the suspension is put in the spotlight. As a result of the suspension geometry, the vehicle either completes the climb, or crashes out. However, it is not just the machine doing the work. In this battle of man vs. nature, man has to decide whether to just power the machine up the hill and risk losing it all, or strap up a time consuming winch system so that the vehicle would have a more stable platform. As a result of numerous decisions being aptly made and wrongly made, only a fraction of the participants finish. Therefore, patience has to be balanced with experience so that some of the most advanced vehicle systems in the world could finish the race. However, even then only one fifth of the million dollar machines finish. It seems like the race is not just about speeding around on dirt. Astonishingly, there are some formats of racing that are even more strenuous than the King of Hammers race.
Fitting more of a race definition, the Baja 1000 focuses largely on speed; however, the Baja 1000 consists of more than just pushing a pedal down. The participants of the race endure a jarring experience for more than 24 hours straight. The drivers deal with night visibility and daytime heat. The participants who ride on dirt bikes ride for hours on end in the open elements. The participants consider fuel consumption and average speeds that need to be maintained from one pit stop to the next. Dirt bikers place removable film over their goggles so that they can actually see through layers of dust that collect on their goggles. All of those calculations then need to factor in the possibility of breaking down with a flat tire. It is a harsh reality that on a 1000 mile long course, someone will fall off of a motorcycle due to an unexpected obstacle, or even flip over a truck as a result of poor judgement. Sadly however, the odds of facing a tragic spectacle is multiplied due to the actions of some spectators.
As a direct result of spectators knowing the path of the race, the spectators of the Baja 1000 very routinely set up booby traps. One of those popular traps consists of a trench that is dug feet deep, and then filled with water. The result would be a puddle that looks to be only three inches deep which is really three feet deep. Knowingly, drivers have to keep that in mind whenever they race through a leg of the race. Time has to be planned so that a group, even if they are not involved in the crash, can stop and help out the hurt motorist. As a result, the race is less of a rival race between two men and more of a challenge against mother nature with men being their best. Even though the race is defined as just a couple of trucks riding on unsurfaced roads, it is hard to think of an event in life that is more pure and good spirited than racing the Baja 1000.
There is one even crazier form of off road racing however, that truly puts the simple definition to shame: rally racing. This format of racing consists of drivers driving on a mixture of surfaces while avoiding both trees and spectators. The thought of averting spectators is even more dangerous than it may seem. Retired rally drivers have said in the past that if they had thought of the spectators as actual people, they would have quit racing. Spectators crowd the streets in order to watch the rally cars travel at them. Within the last one hundred feet, the crowd finally disperses while the hundred mile per hour car hurtles at them. It might seem like that if the cars traveled slower, the race would be safer. On the contrary, the thought brings up another issue. In order for the cars to turn, there needs to be an absurd amount of downforce, and if the driver is not going fast enough around a turn, the car simply will not turn. Put simply, if the turn was taken at a normal rate of speed, a nasty crash would ensue, but if the turn was taken at a hundred miles per hour, the turn would be completed. As a result of the dangerous nature of the sport, each car has to have a co-driver. The co-driver is the person who researches the route days before and had decides all of the necessary speeds and gears. While the driver is focused on the road, the passenger barks out where, how long, how tight the upcoming turn is, and what gear should be used. The result is a breathtaking spectacle that showcases the limits that a human can endure, as well as what can be accomplished. The race is by no stretch of the imagination just a fast car off tarmac.
An off road race is physical proof of how far humans can go, and how mother nature can be conquered. It is amazing that the moon was reached fifty years ago whilst not one vehicle can climb or conquer a sundry of obstacles in this world. The depth of engineering and research that goes into the field of racing is very intensive and yet some things are still left unaccomplished to this very day. People risk their lives in search of conquering the worst that mother nature has to offer. The result is a variety of vehicle related sports that impose levels of danger that are not talked about based solely on the fact that it is implied in the sport. People reach their limits today by putting their life on the line and within a year or two, that person's record is beaten by a great margin. Off road racing is the stage that lets the spectacle of the limit of humans play itself out, and can not just be simply defined as a race on rugged terrain.