SEELEY – When Roger Norman took over the SCORE off-road racing series after the end of the 2012 season, he promised changes that would strengthen the sport’s connections to its competitors and fans.
One of the major experiments by the “new” SCORE will take this place this weekend with the inaugural running of the Imperial Valley 250 on an 82-mile loop course between Plaster City and Superstition Mountain.
This is the first SCORE race on Southern California ground in almost two decades and the first SCORE desert race in the United States allowing motorcycles.
The Imperial Valley 250 is being run through a partnership between SCORE, business interests in El Centro and the Bureau of Land Management.
“We’re having this event because El Centro wanted to have a SCORE race,” Norman said earlier this week. “If it wasn’t for El Centro, this wouldn’t have been possible. We’re just running it.”
But if the inaugural Imperial Valley 250 is successful, it could become a twice-a-year fixture of the SCORE World Desert Championship Series.
Tentative plans have SCORE possibly returning to the Imperial Valley in September (possibly replacing the Laughlin Desert Challenge).
“We’re excited to see what happens,” said Norman, who is expecting more than 150 competitors and between 20,000 and 30,000 fans for the race that starts at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
The motorcycles, ATV and UTV classes will go first with the majority completing their two or three laps before the featured classes (trucks and buggies) begin their three-lap races starting around 1 p.m.
Two spectator areas have been set aside for the race. One will be at the start-finish line. The second will be along West Evan Hewes Highway (north of the I-8) near Plaster City. Spectator parking and access is limited to the two areas.
To reach the Plaster City spectator area, exit I-8 at Octillo and follow the Hewes Highway to the marked spectator area on the south side of the highway. The race course parallels the highway to the north side.
“I’m really excited about the preparation by all three partners in this event,” said Norman. “We will have hospitality areas with services at both spectator areas.
“There will be excellent viewing areas on a hill at the start-finish line. You will be able to see two pits and several miles of the course as it winds back-and-forth at the start-finish line.”
Viewers in the Plaster City spectator area will see some of the fastest sections of the course.
“I think it’s important to the future of the sport to have a desert race that is in close proximity to off-road racing fans,” said Norman. “This course is easily accessible to racers and fans from San Diego, Los Angeles, the Imperial Valley and Arizona.”
The inaugural Imperial Valley 250 actually started Thursday with qualifying on the course near the start-finish line. Friday’s activities shift to the Imperial Valley Mall with tech inspection and a freestyle motocross exhibition from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The only negative thus far is the size of the motorcycle field.
“There hasn’t been much support from those guys and they were the ones seeking to race in SCORE events in the United States,” said Norman.
“Their future is up to them. The door is open, but only temporarily.”
Norman said that because of increased medical requirements for races involving motorcycles, it costs SCORE considerably more to open races to motorcycles.