Updated: Jan 7, 2022
Written & Photographed by Micah Anderson
Original article featured on OffRoadExtreme.com
From time to time, Off Road Xtreme is invited out to participate in pressers, media days, special events, and once in a lifetime experiences. Most recently, we got a call from Kahn Media to join them for a day in the desert with Optima Batteries backed off-road racer Christopher Polvoorde. The schedule called for trophy truck ride-a-long hot laps and helicopters.
With less than 24 hours’ notice, I was not shy about accepting the invitation. After a few texts and emails exchanged, I was confirmed and set for what was to be a pretty rad adventure.
The entire event was to arrange for a handful of media types, and a few VIPs to feel and experience Christopher Polvoorde’s #294 Trophy Truck Spec / 6100 vehicle. This is a purpose-built off-road race truck designed and crafted by Mason Motorsports in Lake Elsinore, California. It is nearly identical to the Unlimited Trophy Truck version but with a sealed LS spec engine that the race classifications mandates.
Early the next morning, I arrived at the hangar to find a Bell 206L helicopter, configured as a former medivac, prepped and waiting. Flying out of French Valley, our destination was Plaster City, California about 35 minutes away. There were two pilots, as well as myself and one other passenger. Christopher and the rest of the Polvoorde Racing outfit would already be on-site and set up by the time we landed.
Before taking off, the primary pilot had surveyed all passengers and luggage for approximate weight in which they would determine fuel load and range. I had a small gear bag with photography equipment, my helmet, and my race suit. At that point, a brief safety meeting occurred and we loaded up and took off.
As a fan of everything designed to move, fly, or float, I enjoy anything mechanical. I am a novice when it comes to aviation, but I do often use an app called FlightRadar24 which has helped me identify various aircraft just by spotting their unique characteristics. Having flown in a helicopter a number of times before, it is always an experience to travel low and slow which is still fast. My favorite part is the elevated perspective flying over the area you have only ever seen from ground level. Either way, I was geeking out.
Located north of Interstate 8, east of Ocotillo, and west of El Centro, the Plaster City OHV Open Riding Area is designated BLM land. It is well known and often used by the Southern Californian-based off-road industry to test and tune vehicles due to the very rough terrain. For many years up until the late 2000s, there were many off-road races held out here under the name FUD, and then MDR. SCORE-International held one event in the area about ten years ago, and now District-38 is the only organizer hosting any competitions which are for off-road bikes and now UTVs.
Racers and car builders still come out here to test because the desert mimics what can be found in San Felipe which is known for having huge whooped out holes. Racers know if they set up their vehicle to withstand and handle Plaster City, they should fare well in San Felipe and any other race for that matter.
We flew southeast towards our destination, and from far away I was able to pinpoint Polvoorde’s pit setup. The pilot did two once-overs circling the area to determine the best landing site and skillfully brought down the skids. Bossman Chip Polvoorde, myself, and Trent from SEND-IT Official grabbed our gear and departed the helicopter. The other pilot flew to the nearby El Centro airport to ferry out a few more passengers who had flown in by plane.
On the ground, Christopher greeted me with a friendly smile but also was surprised to see me. We have known each other for some time and Off Road Xtreme has recently started publishing regular recurring articles in the Off-Roading With Christopher Polvoorde series.
Polvoorde’s stable for the day included the Mason Motorsport race truck which was still filthy and tattered from the 2021 Baja 1000 peninsula run down to La Paz for 1,226 miles. The truck finished the race in a hard-fought 8th place. Since the race, only a week prior, it had not been changed, prepared, or updated in any way besides being filled up with VP Racing Fuel. Also on site was Christopher’s classic 1967 bump-side Ford F100 PreRunner, and a fleet of support vehicles.
Trophy Truck Ride-A-Long Hot Laps
Once everyone was greeted and got settled in, Christopher wasted no time in selecting his first victim, or passenger rather. Social Media personality and cay guy @TheCraig909 already had a fire suit on and climbed in the truck. He was strapped into the Recaro Automotive carbon fiber full containment seat with the 5-point Simpson Race Products safety harness. With Polvoorde behind the wheel, they took off out of the pit and drove away into the desert.
The trails being used made up a lengthy loop course of about 15 miles out around down and back. Various terrain features included dry sandy washes, hard pack and rocky dirt with scattered scrub brush, and the occasional Ocotillo Bush. It was all very rough desert that would pose a challenge and slow down any vehicle besides an unlimited style off-road race car.
All sorts of GoPro cameras were placed around the cockpit to capture the reactions from all of the passengers as well as picking up a little taste of the rough terrain. After about 15 minutes, Polvoorde brought the truck in and swapped out passengers. As each person climbed out wearing an ear-to-ear grin, you could definitely identify the look of shock and awe. This transpired over a dozen times with multiple ride-a-longs throughout the day and also allowed me to get some awesome aerial shots from above.
My Turn To Ride!
After four others had gotten to feel the thrill of high-speed off-roading, it was my turn to go for a Trophy Truck Ride-A-Long Hot Lap. I put on my old Jump Champs race suit, and Polvoorde’s Crew Chief Jimmy Davidson kindly fitted a Mag Lock adapter to my Simpson Devil Ray custom-painted helmet. I was a little nervous about fitting my 6’4” frame into the tight, for me, confines of the race truck. But I slipped in and strapped down without any issues. I hooked up the communications line to my PCI Race Radio wired helmet and plugged in the hose that fed me A/C cooled air.
As your Off Road Xtreme Editor, I grew up recreating in the desert but was also fortunate to spend a lot of time involved in desert racing. This gave me a unique opportunity to co-drive and navigate in various desert racing classes which included 1450 sportsman, Class 7, Class 8, and Trophy Truck. Christopher acknowledged this with a blunt inquiry, “You have been in a big truck before?” My response was just as short; “You know it! Feel free to hammer down and please do not hold back.”
Trophy Truck Ride-A-Long Video From Christopher Polvoorde
How Does A Trophy Truck Ride-A-Long Feel?
Riding shotgun at speed is truly thrilling. The trails that we ran were mostly wide open and high-speed. As the truck slows down to rail corners or to transition over obstacles, Christopher shifts gears and the truck takes off. When afforded a straight-a-way, we can nearly hit triple-digit speeds and even go flying into the air off of ramped-up jumps. The truck easily ate up every hole and bump thanks to the massive King Shocks and burly Toyo Tires. As one body bag of flesh merely strapped in, it was a considerable experience. From the time Polvoorde hit the gas to when we came to a stop, I can only try to describe it. Perhaps picture a very violent roller coaster or a non-stop plane crash.
From Polvoorde’s young twenties youthful perspective, he claims that you just got to be loose and go with the flow. As an out of shape forty year old, I felt like I got my butt kicked in a brawl. It is physically violent, but we were driving over the roughest of the rough and at speed. Having been in a number of purpose-built trucks, I will admit that each vehicle is built around and for a specific driver. The seat and the configured position are purposefully aligned for their individual stature, not mine.
Despite that, it is an experience I gladly accept every time I am afforded the opportunity.
Highway High-Speeds and High Flying Air
This particular desert presents a lone stretch of paved road called Evan Hughes Highway that parallels a long off-road straight-a-way. The scenario allows for a vehicle to drive down the road and chase the off-roader driving through very rough terrain at high-speed. If you are a fan of produced off-road videos like the Dezert People series or follow some known off-road profiles on Instagram, you might have seen some of this action.
After my ride in the race truck, I hopped in a Ford Raptor, and we rallied down to stage the truck at the bottom of the corner. We timed it perfectly because, within minutes, we could see the #294 Optima BatteriesFord Truck ripping through the desert and racing towards us. The driver of the Raptor hit the gas and we were soon matching pace with Polvoorde who was hitting speeds of 50, 60, 70, 80, then topping out over 90 miles per hour.
Christopher sent it off a natural ramp that launched the truck at least 10 feet in the air and more than 30 feet out. It was totally epic. I had to go back for more and positioned myself to capture some awesome ground-level photography when he came around the next time.
Helicopter Chasing At Low Altitudes
The highlight of the day, for me, was doing something I have always dreamed of. Chasing an off-roader in a helicopter was a bucket list item and now I have gotten to check it off the list. I spent years of my life going to dozens and dozens of desert races. I loved every minute of it, for sure, but like I stated earlier; It is all about the perspective of an elevated view. If possible, I would position myself high up on a hilltop, close enough to see the action, but high enough to track them coming in and watch them race away.
As previously mentioned, I have flown in helicopters before. I have had to fuel up a helicopter in the middle of Baja with a 55 gallon drum. I have even got to fly around Johnson Valley during King Of The Hammers in a helicopter. But chasing Polvoorde’s Spec Trophy Truck at what felt like 30 feet off the ground and watching it dance through the desert, hitting all the same obstacles that I had just experienced, was a sight to behold.
Christopher Polvoorde’s Desert Racing Venture
Everything about the day was pretty rad. The whole program is top notch. Their new desert racing venture is first class and just like his short course racing program, they are doing everything right. Christopher, racing a Ford Ranger Pro Lite was crowned 2021 Great American Short Course Champion before he headed down for the Baja 1000. I was happy to finally catch up with him and ask him how it has been going.
“It has been a wild ride and a very busy few months. We received the Mason Motorsports rolling chassis only in June. Our plan was to race Best In The Desert’s Vegas To Reno in August. My Crew Chief, Jimmy Davidson and the rest of the team worked hard to get it trimmed out and ready. We fired it up for the first time four days before the race. We were able to go shock tuning with SDG Suspension and then clean it up and head straight to Las Vegas.”
“I drew a #1 start and proceeded to qualify with the fastest time in arguably the most talented and competitive class in all of desert racing. That was just crazy and an amazing feeling. Our team was super excited and we went on to lead the race for the first 400 miles until we had some defective parts take us out of contention.”
Trophy Truck Ride-A-Long For BITD Vegas To Reno Qualifying
“After that, at the SCORE-International Baja 400, I went and qualified #1 pole position again. For the Baja 1000 we joined forces with some talented and respected racers known for doing well in the Mexico races.”
Trophy Truck Ride-A-Long For SCORE Baja 400 Qualifying
ORX: “Were you nervous about handing over the brand new truck to your teammates?”
CP: “Oh yeah! The whole Baja 1000 race plan kinda came together last minute. Once we committed, I could not sleep. I was really nervous about finding the right drivers, and knew my driving team would be critical to a successful effort. I wanted to pick Baja guys with good Baja experience. Wheelman known to bring the truck in.”
“Steven Eugenio won the 2014 SCORE Trophy Truck & Overall Championship, and Dale Ebberts is just an off-road legend. It was a solid team with a solid plan. I got to start and raced to mile 370, and the last section, mile 1050 to the finish. Really the best parts of the race.”
“Unfortunately, we broke a steering rack early on and this put us way back down 3.5 hours. From there to the end of my section we were racing and passing all the lower divisions, even Class 11 stock VW Bugs. I finished my section and my guys did the rest. They raced hard to get us back up and we finished the 1226 mile race in 8th place.”
Photo by Brandan Gillogly
“We were pumped on finishing the peninsula run. It was a great team effort and we did a lot of homework! My favorite part was bringing it to the finish on some super fast wide open trails. We were having fun going almost 120 miles per hour. Our top speed was 118 at 6500 rpms.”
The truck is ripe for a win and Christopher is the kid to do it. Besides another season of the Great American Short Course series, the desert racing plans for 2022 is to do the SCORE series and King Of The Hammers.
I really want to thank Kahn Media, Optima Batteries, and The Polvoordes for inviting Off Road Xtreme to be a part of the media day. They were very gracious and humble hosts. I felt lucky to be included for sure. It truly was a thrilling once in a lifetime experience.