EL CAJON, Calif. — While no one would ever call off-road desert racing easy, its evolution has seen the races become more challenging and strenuous on both the drivers and the equipment. The long and diverse list of 2012 championship-winning athletes show what it takes to win in some of the most demanding racing styles in the world.

Running everything from 68-horsepower 1/2-1600 cars to 800-horsepower trick trucks, each class of off-road race vehicle has its own unique demands. This year’s desert champions relied on their suspension systems, among other things, to outperform the competition.

“We started the season with a win at Laughlin and then backed it up with another at the San Felipe 250,” SCORE 1/2-1600 champion Cody Robinson said. “In a lightweight, single-seat car like ours, it’s all about suspension performance. Our FOX bypass shocks allow us to keep it wide open in the worst sections. The rougher it gets, the more time we make on our competition.”

In a class like 1600 where the cars are limited by strict rules, racers need to drive at the absolute limits of control to win. Every race, including the longest and roughest in the world like High Desert Racing Association’s (HDRA) Reno 500, Best in the Desert’s (BITD) Vegas to Reno and the Baja 1000 are now sprint races because of the incredible level of competition.

There is no other strategy than to go all out from the start, racers say. That same level of intensity is true for the trophy truck and trick truck classes as well.

“The unlimited trucks are being pushed to higher and higher speeds,” BITD Trick Truck Champion Rob MacCachren said, “Races like Reno to Vegas and the Baja 1000 used to be about strategy — how fast you can go without hurting the truck. Now it’s full speed the whole way; there’s no holding back.

“Not only do our FOX shocks handle the punishment but they control the suspension so well it’s actually easier to drive. The stuff we are driving through now without even lifting is incredible. With the new External Cooling System we will be going even faster. It’s just amazing.”

Champions who went all out in the 2012 BITD series include Steve Sourapas and MacCachren for the Trick Truck Class, Bryan Folks in the 1100 Class, Troy Vest in the 1200 Class, Troy Messer in the 6000 Class, Jim Riley in the 6100 Class, James Burman in the 7100 Class and Sean Backus in the 7200 Class.

Cody Parkhouse won the 2012 SCORE Class 1 championship. Other 2012 winners in the SCORE Series are Robinson in the 1/2-1600 Class, Elias Hanna in the 7SX Class and Otoniel Huerta in the Score Lite Class.

Winners in the 2012 HDRA include Mike Mitchell in Class 1, Rob Archibald in the 1/2-1600 Class, David Norris in Class 10, Todd Stemmerman in Class 12 and Brandon Arthur in Class 1400.

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