Laughlin, Nevada was the site of the end of year collaboration between SNORE (Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiast) and MORE (Mojave Off Road Enthusiast) for the annual Rage at the River (RATR). This three-day event kicks off at the Tropicana hotel located in the center of the Laughlin strip.
The end of the year race attracts all likes of racers from the season veterans to the recreational privateers fixing to bump more than elbows on the race course. The entry list topped out at four hundred and seventy-five with more on a waiting list hoping to get in on the weekend’s action.
Friday: Qualifying, Tech, And Contingency
Friday morning Racers lined up by class to get a chance to run a short part of the course to qualify for starting positions. One by one drivers pushed their desert machines to the limits in hopes of gaining a higher start position on Saturday.
A higher starting position meant less dust and vehicle traffic to battle through during the race. Drivers would have to qualify by pushing their vehicles to the edge, where others would keep a conservative fast pace.
With high risk comes high reward, but also come high disaster. This is a game most seasoned racers know too well.
Technical inspection and contingency took places later in the day in the parking lot of the Tropicana hotel. Races teams pushed their vehicles through the small maze of race vendors supporting the racers.
At the end of contingency, the vehicles would be inspected for class specs and safety. We were able to catch up with a few seasoned racers, Bryan Blagg with his class 2000 Toyota truck, Jeff Musgrave with his Class 1450 F-150 names marshmallow, and the El Mofles Class 9 family team made up of the Galvan brothers Ulysses and Jesus.
Blagg has perfected his Toyota truck throughout the years but has been in a drought of an overall class win. “This is the most confident I’ve felt about my truck coming into this race,” Blagg said. “All the bugs have been worked there way out and she is mechanically sound.”
Musgrave an avid supporter of small off-road race teams and the growth of Class 9. He is a respected figure in the community. “My two co-riders have no idea what they are in for,” Musgrave said. “I start about 24th off the line and I plan to haul the mail to the front of the pack. Its gonna be a ride of a lifetime for those guys.”
El Mofles team brought two Class 9 cars for this race, a single seat that Ulysses would be driving and a two-seater that Jesus would be driving along with his longtime girlfriend Loretta as navigator. Ulysses recently changed out his old shocks for new class legal King shocks with finned cooling reservoirs to prevent shock fade. Jesus could not wait to get his car on the course and the team had over-prepped for the race and brought the garage with them if anything happened.
Saturday: Day 1 Of Races
Saturday morning was scheduled for multiple short heat races to accommodate the short-course layout and by class. The course was overtaken with 20 mph winds with gust up to 30mph.
This produced an advantage of dust being carried away very quickly allowing for more visibility, but also dangers of wind resistance and wind pushing vehicles off course. We were able to catch Ulysses and Jesus while staging for their heat.
Both cars would start in the middle of the pack just a few cars between each other. Both Cars battled hard for two laps before Ulysses would suffer a front upper ball joint failure after getting caught up with another Class 9.
Jesus bent a tie rod on the first lap which hindered him to finished their heat on Day 1. After being towed back into the pits The El Mofles pit team led by pit boss Loco Jones, had his work cut out for him for the rest of the day to get both cars ready for the next day.
A couple of heats later in the day, it was time for Musgrave and Blagg to share the course during their heat. Musgrave would start 24th off the line and Blagg would start 22nd in Class 2000.
Musgraves shot off the line and picked his way through traffic with ease until his truck suffered a mechanical failure and lost the belt tensioner. During the short time on the course, he passed eight vehicles before the failure. Musgrave was out for the day, but not for the weekend.
Blagg held a very fast conservative pace on course, each lap he was more consistent and higher place physically. Nothing would slow him down during the heat and would finish second in class physically.
The last heat of the day was the long-awaited Class 1, Trophy Truck Spec, and Trophy Trucks. Unfortunately, this heat was plagued with rollovers, vehicle fires, and bottlenecks which forced delays and a restart. After the restart, there was another rollover that caused a bottleneck and race organizers had to postpone the race due to time restrictions.
Sunday: Day 2 Of Racing
Sunday morning came with much-awaited anticipation to redeem from the day before and to hold the lead for the weekend. Just like the day before, wind gusts were consistent throughout the day.
More than a third of the field had been taken out of the races due to rollovers causing unrepairable damage. The El Mofles team got both Galvan brothers back in shape to take on the final heat.
Both cars would preserve and land finishes; 10th and 17th of 29 overall Class 9. Back in the El Mofles pits, there was one more thing to be done, Jesus proposed to his girlfriend navigator Loretta. She said yes.
Blagg and Musgraves both returned for their heat, this time due to the postponement, the Trophy Truck Spec vehicles would join Class 1450 and 2000. The Spec trucks would leave first followed by 1450 and then 2000.
Musgrave would again leave the line fast and made his full-size F-150 nimble, weaving in and out of traffic. After passing multiple vehicles just like the day before the truck would suffer another mechanical failure. Musgrave would snap a rear axle on the infield and take him out of the race.
Blagg started in the front of his class and was second of the line. While now tailing the Spec trucks and 1450s, he again used a conservative method to clinch his place in the heat. He would finish in the top three in the class physically.
“I knew it was going to be close between Joesph Cammans and myself, I had to limp the truck around with a broken exhaust hanging down,” Blagg said. “I was super happy when we found out, a lot of hard years of work and prepping finally paid off. It makes this a big win for us.”
The Final heat of the day consisted of the unlimited vehicles which most never had a chance to be on the course. Teams were allowed six laps to make up for the previous day delay. Unlimted vehicles would put it all on the line during this heat. Harley Letner would come out on top for Class 1 and Cole Potts would take home first in Trophy Truck.
The 2017 season may be in the books, but 2018 is just around the corner. We look forward to seeing all the teams back in competition for their chance at winning.