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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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CORR Nissan Off-Road Nationals – In Progress

 

You’ll never guess what I signed a waiver to do a few days ago. I must be certifiably nuts.

It began with a brief presentation at a recent meeting of the Motor Press Guild. Someone there told us about an upcoming motorsports event, adding that there would be a Press Day in advance of that event. It sounded interesting so I decided to go.

The actual event is being held on two successive weekends. The Press Day, which I attended, was held first.

 


Thrilling off-road action

The event is the Championship Off Road Racing (CORR) Nissan Off-Road Nationals presented by Lucas Oil. CORR is billed as “the premier off-road racing series in the United States.” I have no reason to doubt that. This event is a really big deal, with guaranteed prize money totaling $332,000. Best of all, it is right in our backyard, in Chula Vista at the Otay Ranch Off-Road Raceway.

The event dates, spread over two successive weekends, are September 24 and 25 (the “CORR LUCAS OIL SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS”), and October 1 and 2 (the “NISSAN SHOOTOUT”). By the time that you read this, the first weekend will have already passed but hopefully the second weekend will still be coming up. This promises to be loads of fun and excitement. Even if it is just for a day, go. Otherwise, enjoy these photos and words, and hope it comes back soon.


Close racing

The photos that I took really do tell a lot of the story, although the engine noises and flying clods of dirt certainly do add to the experience. I must say, however, that my experience was especially exciting. You see, I not only watched but on Press Day I also got to ride shotgun around the “Desert Classes Long Track Extension” and the “CORR Classes Short Course,” which is surrounded on three sides by grandstands. I rode with Dave Mason in his insane little BMW-powered racecar.


Dave Mason airborne

Just how insane is this racecar? As I learned from their website (http://www.allgermanmotorsports.com/baja500-2005/), it was raced 419 miles in just over ten hours in this year’s Baja 500! Yes, dear readers, I was taken for a wild ride that people like Robby Gordon do for kicks, but at first I did not yet fully appreciate that fact. So, in blissful ignorance, I casually pulled on the helmet that they gave me, carefully followed their directions for where to put my feet as I climbed up the side of the car to the level of the roof, and then lowered myself down into the snug racing seat below. Then they securely buckled me in. This is no ordinary car, or even an ordinary dune buggy.

Then I heard a voice in my head. Was it a sign that I was going crazy? No, actually it was the two-way radio connecting me to driver Dave and, on occasion, to some other disembodied voice too. Was I about to launch into space? Yes!

Let’s see, how can I begin to describe the experience to you? For starters, there is a reason why we used a radio to communicate. The engine noise was so loud that even with the speakers right in my helmet there were times when I couldn’t make out what Dave was telling me. It probably has something to do with why it only gets 4 miles per gallon. I did, however, hear Dave tell me that if he was driving too fast I should let him know and that he would slow down. Was he kidding? This was an opportunity of a (hopefully long) lifetime!


An enormous racing venue

We headed for the long desert track. The only problem was that while the road went one way, we dropped violently down off of that road and took off on a barely visible, extremely rough and undulating dirt path.

This was quite a violent experience. My neck sometimes makes a slight cracking noise when I move my head the wrong way, and it was really thrown the wrong way once on this path. I briefly worried that I might actually break my neck. That was a scary thought, and it prompted me to look more closely at our path so that our sudden changes in direction and elevation would not catch me so off-guard. Anticipating and bracing for the roughness was much better.


Right on the edge

Eventually we left the desert track and entered the stadium section, complete with grandstands and lots of whoop-de-do’s. I’ve got to tell you, even though it may look like the scariest part of the adventure, flying through the air is GREAT! The more air we caught, the better.  It was like we were floating. Okay, so we were actually floating. It was during these relatively quiet times that I could ask Dave questions – and hear his answers.

I noticed that when he shifted gears he was just moving levers forward and back, and not side-to-side – as in a conventional manual transmission. I learned that this car has a sequential transmission. Boy, I could sure use one of those in my autocross car to help me not miss shifts. The only trouble is, one of these transmissions costs more than I paid for my entire Miata sports car. The transmission’s price, if you are interested, is $25,000!

I could have done the aerial stuff for hours, but I think I’ll leave the off-road desert stuff to the pros.


Spectators have great views


Motorcycle stunt action between the races

When you go be sure to bring your camera and, if you have one, use a telephoto lens so that you can zoom in on the action. You’ll see the cars and trucks way up in the air, as they launch from multiple jumps. Going around the corners is amazing too, with all of the suspension movement.


Boris Said

In addition to regulars that include Jason and Josh Baldwin, and Carl Renezeder, the driver lineup was set to include seven-time Supercross Champ Jeremy McGrath making his Pro Race Truck debut, and Boris Said, who has never raced off-road vehicles before. He was scheduled to drive for Nissan in a CORR Titan.

Concerts and a Manufacturers Midway were also scheduled for each weekend, with plenty of free parking.


Carl Renezeder

This motorized madness winds up on the weekend of Oct. 1-2 (the “NISSAN SHOOTOUT”). To get there, take the 805 south to the Olympic Parkway/Orange Avenue exit in Chula Vista and then head east for two miles. The turn-off will be on your right. Watch for it carefully because if you miss it (like I did) you will not be able to make a U-turn – at least not at the next two traffic lights.


Racing through the air

To see multiple race cars jockeying for the same small pieces of bumpy real estate and airspace defies description. For more information, go to www.corracing.com. Tickets are being sold through Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com, under the category of “Motorsports”). Prices are $30, $40 and $50 for adults, with children under 12 getting in for $15. Special packages are also available.

Oh, and while there are ample grandstands, since this is an off-road event, be sure you wear clothes that can get dusty. Hope to see you there!

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com. Enjoy the archives and more at www.AutoMatters.net. Drive safely and do join me again next time.

 

Copyright © 2005, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #158r4 AutoMatters

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