Originating in 2009, The Off Road Championship (TORC) is America’s only national off-road racing series. Since its inception 5 years ago, TORC has grown to monumental proportions, with races appearing on the Speed Network, ESPN, ABC, and NBC. (Check out some of last year’s coverage below)
Of course, none of this would be possible without the fans. In recent years, there has been a huge growth in off road participants and fans. Places like Southern California and Death Valley are particularly enthralling to off-road junkies. That is why- in order to accommodate the surging popularity- there have been thousands of miles cleared across the country.
Jalopnik writer and off-road enthusiast, Wes Siler, says, “Death Valley National Park has something like 1,000 miles of dirt roads, running the gamut from graded and maintained to stuff you actually would need that lifted Jeep to get down.”
Off-roading no longer belongs to a small sect of people, which explains its recent meteoric rise to the national stage. The growth of the sport is very similar to the origins of other big time sports, which first started at the grassroots level before reaching coast-to-coast prominence and national television audiences.
Because of this, in February of this year, NBC and TORC announced a television deal (starting in 2014) in which the peacock network would broadcast race coverage and a docu-reality show about participating racers.
TORC president BJ Birtwell thinks that race coverage is exactly what the sport needed. He says, “This announcement heightens the prestige of TORC’s National Championship…by offering our fans and sponsors a large audience from a TV partner that is widely distributed and known for great automotive programming.”
Birtwell also believes that the docu-series is a fantastic idea, saying, “These racers and teams pour every ounce of energy and effort into becoming a TORC Champion. Documenting that coverage is important to our fans as it gives them an inside look into the pressure that exists within the teams and between other competitors. Not surprisingly, some of this drama plays out on the track which makes for great TV.”
These are exciting prospects for TORC and NBC. In recent years, boxing has also tried to develop a similar structure around their matches by including the critically acclaimed 24/7 docu-series. The show has earned the sport hundreds of millions of dollars, including a record $150 million dollars for the last Floyd “Money” Mayweather fight.
Last weekend, the TORC season officially kicked with Adrian “Wildman” Cenni taking an electrifying first place finish at the Primm Valley race. More exciting, though, is the fact that this race will be nationally broadcast on April 25th, marking the beginning of the NBC coverage and a promising future for TORC.