Who were those first guys that created a love for off-road? The ones that took a Model T or other such early motor vehicles and got them ripping through snow and mud? The world may never know, but whoever they were, they were trailblazers for a hobby that has exploded today.
Mankind’s fascination with automobiles has made for some of the coolest, most interesting stories in history – Andre Legache’s first win in the inaugural 24 Hours of Lemans in 1923, Mickey Thompson’s unprecedented Challenger IV ride across the salt flats, Vic Wilson’s victory at the first Mexican 1000 in 1967.
I tend to really feel like off-road has hit its high-water mark whenever I go to a premier event like King of the Hammers or the Mint 400; I see thousands gathered in one place to watch hundreds kick up dirt and battle the elements and other racers. Still, the truth is that we have a long way to go to match the likes of Formula One or NASCAR. It’s a game of numbers, and we need to recruit more adherents to our cause.
One metric I use to judge the acceptance of a hobby is its reflection in mainstream visual media. How much TV airtime does it get? Are movies made about it? What about video games? If and when enthusiasts are portrayed in these formats, are they positive or negative? NASCAR got The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (I’ll be generous and lump in Days of Thunder, too), Formula One got its nod in the brilliant Rush, tuners and import guys got The Fast and The Furious, and so on.
Meanwhile, any reflection of off-road racing has been in months-later productions on the Mint 400, Baja 1000, TORC, LOORRS, and King of the Hammers, long after the buzz surrounding the race has died down. Almost no movies have been made about the topic, aside from documentaries like On Any Sunday and Dust to Glory (the latter with a soon-to-be-released sequel in the works, releasing around this year’s Baja 1000).
Video games seem to have written off desert racing or short-course racing as a viable subjectmatter to let players experience. Spintires was the last game to really give off-roading the spotlight, and that was almost three years ago now. No hints about a sequel have been confirmed as of this writing.
So how can we spread the love of off-roading to the masses? The internet is probably our greatest tool for recruitment. YouTube, in particular, has made it possible for everyday guys to upload their adventures and gain a loyal following. ExpeditionOverland has had great success with going that route, and maneuvered the social media landscape well, with active posting to Facebook and Instagram to keep its fanbase on the up and up.
Websites like Reddit have the potential to broaden our message, too. Subreddits like r/4×4, r/trucks, and r/battlecars are constantly growing in subscriber counts, and attracting others to go out and buy their own rig to take out on the trails.
What do you think are the ways we can give our hobby better recognition and acceptance? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.