(MAIN) It looks spectacular, but stay
airborne too long in short course off-road
racing and you’re just losing speed and
time. (BELOW LEFT) For Kyle LeDuc,
working out unusual places to pass is one
way of getting an on-track advantage.
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“Bubba” Stewart, the way he can scrub a jump, save speed and get
back on the ground and get going. We can’t scrub in a truck, but
there are ways to do it, by tapping brakes and things like that. It
feels slower because you’re not flying so high, but when you get on
the ground and the other guy’s still in the air, you’re squirting.”
As MacCachren notes, every jump is di;erent. “You have to
manipulate your speed coming up to it,” he says. “Some you
can hit wide-open throttle, some you have to get on the brakes
– but that can compress the truck into the ground and give you
an awkward takeo;. You’re manipulating the throttle and the
brakes going into every jump, trying to optimize.”
That all influences how you land, which can be critical to
being quick. “The optimum is to take that tabletop, clear the
top and land on the downside, so you get a lot of suspension
compression, forcing the tire into the
dirt for better traction,” says MacCachren.
But turns and jumps aren’t stand-alone
items to conquer individually; to be fast
around a lap, transitions between elements
must be done with smoothness and finesse.
That might mean setting up for a turn even
as you’re launching over a tabletop.
“It’s about linking sections together, not
just hitting that tabletop and seeing what
happens next,” explains LeDuc. “Linking
the tabletop, getting a good approach for
the next turn, going fast enough through
that turn, still pitching it and, last second,
squaring it up to hit the next tabletop.”
It all comes down to thinking ahead,
including how you’re going to land o; a
jump to prepare for the next corner, says
Naughton, driver of the No. 54 Stronghold
Motorsports Ford. “I like to land nose-low
so I get a visual of where I want to go.
When you land nose-high, you can’t see it
until it flops the front down, and that
makes coming into the corner more
di;cult because the truck kind of
unweights when the front slops down.”
“The amount of ‘roost’ that comes
o; these trucks is incredible,” says
Naughton. “It feels like someone’s got a
firehose full of dirt clods and they’re
blasting you with it. That’s what it feels
like being behind two or three Pro 2s!”
Putting in a fast lap is one thing; doing it being shoved around is quite another…
Kyle LeDuc (right) puts a move on Carl
Renezeder. When it happens in an unusual
place, others will soon be trying it, too.
For Kyle LeDuc, a two-time Pro 4 winner in the
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, setting up a pass
begins early. Really early. As in the day before.
When he passed Carl Renezeder for the lead
and eventual victory in Round 7 at Miller
Motorsport Park, he did it in Turn 4, a tight hairpin
in between a tabletop and a rhythm section, where
no one thought passing would happen.
“That’s exactly why I did it there,” he says. “It’s
In the races that followed, all of a sudden Turn 4
that element of surprise; that’s a huge advantage. To
be able to create that takes two days of practice to
find. I credit myself for being creative in the driver’s
seat, coming up with moves that are kind of unique.”
That’s part of racecraft, finding an advantage
the other guys don’t. But once you do it, you’ve
lost your edge with that particular maneuver.
presented a viable passing option.
Those little surprise gifts don’t always manifest
themselves. Sometimes it’s just about steady
pressure and defensive moves.
“You have to protect the inside,” says Pro 2
defending champ Rob MacCachren. “But at the
same time, you also want to get past the people
in front of you. So it’s a balancing act between
attacking and not letting anybody get by you. If
you leave the inside open, somebody’s going to
drive down in there, stick their nose in and possibly
lean on you and move you out of the way.”
The easiest way to pass is when your target
makes a mistake. The masters of racecraft do what
they can to help their opponent find that error.
“You just want to apply the pressure, because
their spotter is telling them you’re inside, you’re
outside,” explains Rob Naughton. “If you’re
constantly hearing that, it can kind of take you out
of your game. You want to let them know you’re
there, keep showing a nose, make them think about
you instead of concentrating on what they’re doing.”