It was a hot weekend at the 2014 Lucas Oil Off Road Expo at the Fairplex in Pomona, California - in more ways than one! Despite the sweltering temperatures, the crowds were even more numerous than last year. The beer lines were long and the indoor displays were jam-packed, as people sought relief from the heat. It wasn't just the weather that was hot though, catch this recap of the hottest things trending right now in the off-road industry!
Racing sports have always played a large role at the Off Road Expo, but this year the presence was felt greater than ever. From a rock-crawling, trail-riding Jeep owner’s perspective - everything and anything racing seemed to dominate this year, from motorcross, ATVs and UTVs, to trucks, rock buggies and Jeeps. There were plenty of autograph sessions with top drivers from all sports, everyone from Red Bull Athletes to Baja 1000 racers attended the event. Going on all weekend were on-site motorcross time trials, vehicle ride alongs, race demonstrations, telecasts on massive LED screens at the SCORE display, and of course, plenty of vehicles on display to drool over.
Ultra4 racing continues to see amazing growth - and its presence could be seen throughout the Expo with many of the top drivers’ vehicles on display. Combining the best of high speed desert racing with the toughest rock-crawling trails, Ultra4 is exciting to say the least. Qualifying events are held throughout the year as drivers compete to earn a spot in the toughest one-day race in the world, King of The Hammers. I’m sure founder Dave Cole knew that having us watch The Element of Survival on the big screen at the vendor after-party would get people excited and making plans for 2015 Nitto King of The Hammers during the rest of the weekend!
Last year, it was the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited that was everywhere you looked, this year it was trucks. While plenty of Jeeps were still around, trucks were everywhere - trucks for off-roading, trucks for racing, and trucks for hauling toys.
Taking to the Trail
For the Jeep crowd this year there was a chance to get a taste of the revered Rubicon Trail, as professional drivers took riders through an off-road obstacle course in Jeeps accessorized by Pro Comp, Rubicon Express, G2 Axle & Gear and Smittybilt. The course obstacles included a 40-foot long rock obstacle, steep incline/decline, off camber curve and articulation moguls. For those just getting started in off-roading, this was a great way to get a little taste of what a Jeep can do.
JeepSpeed introduced a new, intermediate 3750 race class for 2015. Created to be a more budget-friendly class, 3750 will allow for inclusion of 4DR Wranglers. With rumors of a possible JeepSpeed class race being added to King of The Hammers, I know that there are many Jeep enthusiasts who are excited to see how this develops.
Owned to Drive
The O'Reilly Auto Parts Show-N-Shine Corral gave off-road fans the chance to show off their daily drivers and compete for Best In Show. Some of the rigs looked as good (or better) than show vehicles, and some controversy ensued when shiny new vehicles were announced as winners over well-used, battle-scarred rigs. I don’t doubt that the pretty rigs were daily drivers and used on trails, many friends have Jeeps that look this good and are used regularly on the trails, but many people are also big fans of the classics. The winners were:
1st place – Joe Riley, ’13 Rubicon
2nd place – David Sawyer, ’11 Rubicon
3rd place - Rick Lopez, ’14 Tundra
Hot & Cool
Although there was a Bikini Contest taking place on the Bud Light Stage, I always hear that the gals at Poison Spyder Customs are a not-to-miss sight. I don’t know how these ladies manage to look so cool while standing out under the blazing sun all weekend long!
Noticeably missing from the event, claiming to bring the off-road world together, was much of anything to do with overland and expedition off-roading. I would love to see a larger presence of overland gear manufacturers and Toyota Landcruisers, 4Runners, Range Rovers, Nissan XTerras, and their aftermarket products. I dream about seeing EarthCruisers and Unimogs on display at the Expo. There is a large segment of the off-road population who aren’t interested in racing sports or extreme rock crawling, but other than a few roof-top tents and the Rubicon Trail Ride Alongs, there wasn’t much to appeal to this market specifically.
Here’s hoping that next year doesn't bring another late-season heat wave to the Expo, two years in a row is enough!
What other major off-road trends have you noticed? Leave a comment below!