Mad Max in the Desert: Off-Road Racing Kills Eight

California 200 crash

Who ever could imagine this kind of racing not producing a deadly accident? Trucks and various kinds of off-roaders bounce over rock piles and desert dirt, kicking up clouds of dust so they cannot see the racers in front of them—all at night, all without crowd barriers.

The modified Ford Ranger driven by Brett Sloppy (whose unfortunate name may never be forgotten) went out of control over the “Rock Pile jump” at the California 200 race last Saturday near Lucerne Valley (about 100 miles east of L.A.). The truck landed upside down, killing eight and injuring 12 more in a reported scene of carnage.

“The truck came over the hill then pitched sideways,” said Kimi Perez, 24, whose husband and brother were injured in the crash. “As it fell sideways, it hit a bunch of people, …then it turned completely and flipped over into the crowd. People were running and hollering for the other trucks to stop because they were still coming over the hill.”

See video of this after the break.


There are no barriers to keep the crowds back, as the video shows, so you had people within five feet of the speeding cars in an environment that one commentator referred to as a “‘Mad Max’ atmosphere …with too many people and too many machines crammed into too little space.”

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls the use of these lands and issues permits for such races. Clearly, they can be faulted, but how can you control a crowd of 1,000 hyped-up crazies who so love off-road events like this that they consciously put themselves in danger? This kind of racing has been going on for years.

State vehicle laws don’t apply, since the race was sanctioned by the BLM, and Sloppy will not be charged. You can bet there will be lots more scrutiny if the sport is allowed to continue.

Do you think off-road racing will survive this latest catastrophe? Can it (or should it) be regulated?

—jgoods

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