The actual race trucks aren’t typically used unless they require some additional testing before the race, so we piled into a stock, yellow, 2008 HUMMER H2. You may be asking yourself the same thing I did – ‘I thought they didn’t make yellow H2s in 2008?’ They didn’t. This was one of the engineering trucks that was pre-production, before the decision came down to ax the color for upcoming model year. Although it was a stock vehicle, some adjustments and additions had been done to the suspension – and for good reason.
The difference between off-road driving and off-road racing is immediately apparent. Instead of slowing down when leaving the payment, that first feeling of dirt underneath the tires triggers our driver to rapidly accelerate down what is the start our 84 mile (1 lap) pre-run. The race starts out quick and with a little laughter when one of the guys in the front turns on the A/C only to fill the entire cabin with a sudden burst of blinding and cough inducing dust. The dust in the lines is presumably left over from the San Felipe 250. Our driver today is Thad Stump, an expert engineer that focuses on racing for General Motors at their Arizona proving grounds. Sitting shotgun and taking in course details was Chad Hall, pilot of the 2008 HUMMER H3 Alpha. Chad makes special note of certain obstacles that may require extra attention come race day.
The ride is surprisingly (relatively) smooth considering the terrain and our speed. For wash-board style gravel roads, the H2 we’re in easily glides along at a steady pace. Our average speed for the pre-run was 28 MPH, which included pulling over for several buggy-style racers that were pushing a little harder during the pre ‘fun’ run. 28 MPH may not sound very fast, but that’s over terrain that most vehicles can’t go over, and most non racing off-road drivers would typically crawl over.
That’s not to say we didn’t move quickly. On what I would consider a rough dirt road we were hitting speeds of around 65 MPH. Our top speed was 96 MPH (this particular vehicle’s top speed) over a dried lake bed that was relatively smooth. There was one small on-road portion that for pre-run purposes was limited to 45mph, but race day, anything goes. According to Chad, his brother Josh set the Racing H2 speed record during that portion when he hit 116 MPH.
Tomorrow is the last day before the race, when the last few details and inspections are completed. More to come – stay tuned!