Inside the Off-Road Race World with Hart & Huntington/Premiere Motorsports Group
Competition is in our blood, going back the beginning of time; the competitive edge helps to drive innovation and improvements. Racing has always been a great way to test one’s ability, and talents starting with foot races, chariots, and evolving to cars and motorcycles. Of course, more challenges had to be added to even out the playing field. Going fast and turning wasn’t enough, so the birth of off-road racing occurred a few decades ago. Heck, up until the last century, all racing was done off-road, before actual roads were built. Rough terrain, dirt, mud, rocks and jumps make for much more exciting and challenging racing. Your run of the mill race cars wouldn’t stand a chance on off road courses.Therefore, purpose built off-road trucks needed to be created with full roll cages, long travel suspension and high horsepower engines built to handle the rough desert terrain.
Here is the skeleton of a Pro 4 class truck belonging to Carey Hart #46. You can see the cross braced roll cage forms the foundation and shape of the truck with front long arm and rear link setups holding the FOX long travel coil overs in place. The Pro 4 class designates a 4WD based truck.
The Baja 1000 began decades ago and is open to all types of off-road vehicles for the long and sometimes unpredictable course through the desert. The top of the classes is the high-powered trophy trucks. However, a long desert race that takes place during all hours can be a difficult spectator sport. A few organizations began to pop up to organize short course races at various venues that would be spectator friendly and make for a much more intense racing experience. Like any race, may elements combine to allow the driver to be their best. Support from race teams, sponsors, pit crews and always evolving technology all play a factor on race day. On race day, the pit crew that built the high end trucks scramble to repair, replace and keep the trucks running in prime condition in order to allow the drivers to be their best as the races bring out some of the best racers around. The top spots can change in a split second as drivers lay it out on the line on each lap that includes table top jumps, kickers, berms and tight turns that almost guarantee contact and crashes.
One such team that has been on the rise in the short course world of off-road racing is the Hart & Huntington Off-Road Team under the umbrella of Premiere Motorsports Group. The group was formed back in 2009 as a small team to help support Carey Hart’s efforts in the off-road racing world and has grown each year adding new drivers and achieving greater successes at the races. At the same timethe early stages of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series (LOORS)was beingformed to help promote primarily West Coast based short course off-road racing events. The series has a two round race weekend at each event throughout the season.Currently, the Premiere Motorsports Group off-road team consists of 4 drivers in various classes with LOORS. Carey Hart has continued his motocross luck competing in the Pro 4 class with his #46 eBay Motors truck along with Josh Merrell in the #22 MAVTV truck. Rob “Fig” Naughton is coming off several Pro 2 class wins in recent years with the #54 Lunarpages truck. And on the rise is Ryan Beat competing in the #51 Lunarpages/eBay Motors Pro Lite truck.At the shop, the routine before each race is fixing any parts or damage from the previous race, and then testing and tuning and tweaking before everything is wrapped up nicely with the fiberglass body panels. The team has competitors racing in the top 3 classes of the LOORS series and with multiple rounds and practice throughout the race weekend, quick fixes, overhauls and tuning must be done on the grounds quickly.
Of course, the team needs support from sponsors in order to keep the trucks in top condition before and on race day. Current sponsors for the team include Hart & Huntington, eBay Motors, MAV TV, General Tire, Lucas Oil, Liquid Graphics, Baileigh Industrial, LunarPages.com, Roush Competition Engines, Go Pro, Miller Welders, Torchmate, Weismann Performance, Team Associated RC10.com, FiberwerX, Fox Racing Shocks, AEM Performance Electronics, Simpson Race Products, Competitive Metals, Thyssen Krupp, Beam Designs, Corona Motorhome Rentals, Pin Did It, The Fan Man, Advanced Transmission Design, Walker Evans Racing Wheels, and Gibson Exhaust.
In short course racing such as the LOORS events, the races are broken into classes based on truck level, from karts to pro-lite, to Pro 2, the top dogs of the race scene. These Pro 2 trucks are the brothers of the Baja trophy trucks. They are 2WD, pushing 700 plus horsepower and resemble full size trucks. The intricate roll cages provide protection and allow for the custom suspension to be mounted up. This power and size make for a rough racing weekend with bumping and crashes commonplace ensuring that the pit crews will keep very busy during the races. Many drivers cut their teeth and gained their fame in the motorcross world before tempting their fate with off-road race trucks making for some exacting races.
Technology and parts developed for the off road race trucks have found their way onto daily driven street and off road trucks. In the world of desert racing, suspension travel is the key. The goal of the long travel suspension is to suck up the impact of a truck weighing a couple tons and keep it on track without skipping a beat. The old adage of race on Sunday, sell on Monday still applies as many of the products in both form and function. Milder long travel kits, are available for every day drivers looking to have a little weekend fun off the road. These kits are likely available in stages from leveling to long travel setups involving control arms and link setups depending on the amount needed. Of course accessories such as LED lighting, guards, steps and seats inspired by the races are available for every day drivers as well.
Take a look behind the scenes to see what is involved in prepping and racing one of these insane off-road machines and see how with some upgrades to your truck, you can enjoy some of the fun yourself!
Hart & Huntington Off-Road
Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series
Premiere Motorsports Group
Text by Jason Mulligan
Photos by Jason Mulligan and Courtesy of PMG