It's not a short-course race, but it does have twists, turns, side-by-side racing, and steep-faced jumps. It's not a wide-open point-to-point long-course contest either, but it does have miles of isolated two-tracks, complete with tire-swallowing ruts and nasty braking bumps. It's not a stadium race, but it does have grandstand seating, concession stands, and a jumbotron. It's the Laughlin Desert Challenge, and it's been a winning event for racers, fans, and vendors alike for more than a decade.
The 2005 edition of the Laughlin Desert Challenge saw a record-setting 244 car and truck entries, with teams hailing from an ocean away (Australia and Japan) and across a border (neighbors Mexico and Canada), in addition to the teams from the United States whose journey to Laughlin was merely a few freeway hours away. Held in mid-January, the Laughlin Desert Challenge treats racers and fans to cool-yet-comfortable temperatures and scenic, rugged terrain. "We're always excited to welcome SCORE's desert-racing fans to Laughlin," remarked Meg McDaniel of the Laughlin Visitor's Bureau. "For years, fans have relished our town's untamed surroundings by day and enjoyed the amenities of Laughlin's nine resorts at night."
Amenities? For most desert racers, a typical weekend's stay near a race venue includes a motel room for the fortunate, an RV bunk for the very fortunate, or a space inside a rock-floored tent for the not-so-fortunate. Desert racing is logistically difficult most of the time, so Laughlin's array of hotels offer a welcome change from a racer's typical digs. Laughlin's casinos offer varied attractions, in addition to the wallet-draining games of chance that are the town's financial pillar. Fullsize movie theatres and classic-car displays are among the many nongambling amusements. Casinos are great people-watching venues, too. We learned that slot-machine zombies come in all shapes and sizes, speak with a variety of accents, and quite often are cancer-stick connoisseurs Good times.
The LDC is a four-day event that kicks off with the Laughlin Leap contest on Thursday night, features a course-orientation session and Pit Crew Challenge on Friday night, and is followed by two days of wide-open racing Saturday and Sunday. Total prize money and contingency postings came to more than $400,000 this year, giving the competitors a chance to take home much more than trophies and bragging rights for their hard work.
As the racing wound down and racing teams and dedicated fans packed their trucks for the drive (or flight) home, we were glad that the Laughlin Desert Challenge has taken its rightful place on SCORE's schedule for the past 11 years. We've heard speculation that development in Laughlin will change the LDC as we know it. We hope the speculation is nothing more than just that and the winning tradition known as the Laughlin Desert Challenge will continue far into the future.