Everyone likes choices, and when it comes to racing, there are choices aplenty. Which one is right for you? Before you fill out an entry form or part with hard-earned dollars for an entry fee, we'd advise asking yourself a few questions first.
What motivates you to race?
This will probably be a multi-faceted answer, but the first part should be, "It's fun!" If it's not fun, why race? The next part of the answer should tell you what style of racing is right for you. Do you want adventure? If so, Baja is calling your name. Do you want door-to-door competition up close and personal? Short course is the answer. If your answer is "to get rich," then we'll tell you that the best way to end up with a million dollars from off-road racing is to start with two million. While there are people who make money racing off-road, they are few and far between.
Will you buy or build your race vehicle?
If you're long on time and skill but low on funds, building your own race vehicle is the way to go. The downside is that it might take a while. If you're longer on cash than on skill and time, buying an already-built race vehicle is the answer. If you're one of the lucky ones, you can commission a top fabricator to build something just for you.
Who can help you race?
No one gets there alone. Most grassroots teams rely on family and friends to fill the roster. Professional teams often have a paid staff. Desert racers can often take advantage of coalitions like F.A.I.R. (First Association of Independent Racers) or volunteer pit services like Locos Mocos or Baja Pits. Furthermore, some manufacturers offer pit support to racers who use their products, most notably BF Goodrich tires' stellar pit support in Baja.
What other resources do you have?
The best-built Trophy Truck is useless without a trailer and a tow rig, and it won't get to the finish line without chase trucks and other pit support. You'll also need a garage or shop to prep the vehicle between races. A driveway will do in a pinch. You'll also need spare parts and fuel.
There are more questions, but these are the basics. If you're already racing, no doubt you've already answered these questions for yourself. If you've never raced and you're itching to get to a starting line, remember that almost everyone has to start near the bottom and work up from there.
Where should I race? We've assembled a rundown of desert and short course sanctioning bodies for your perusal. Each has its own schedule and set of rules, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them before committing. Remember: above all, have fun!