The Mint 400 annual desert race – beloved by the off-road community and known by normies as “that scene from Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” – has added a competitive class for military vehicles. So Humvees, army jeeps, and various light tactical vehicles could be going fender-to-fender against trophy trucks, dirt bikes, and VW Beetles on mud tires. It’s going to be quite the Mad Maxian storm of calamity out there!
For those of you who’d like a little more context on the Mint you can get a historical primer on the race’s website here. The event has technically been around since the ’60s. Today, it’s pretty much a day-long loop race in the Nevada desert in which various types of vehicles drive huge laps around open country and try not to fall apart or crash into each other.
Terrain is very rough and rocky. And while vehicles are categorized into classes for direction competition, all kinds of hardware shares the course so if you’re in a Bug you’ve got to keep a close eye on your mirrors if you don’t want to get squished by 40-inch tire from something faster. Some classes do more miles than others, but essentially everybody takes laps that pretty much take all day.
It’s similar to Baja racing (and most other open-desert races in general) in the sense that the fastest rigs are trophy trucks, the lovable slowpokes include vintage vehicles, and a huge portion of the field is made up of UTVs. UTVs make excellent desert race vehicles because they’re ready to go off a showroom floor with relatively minimal prep. Military vehicles, on the other hand, would not be nearly as practical but probably a lot more fun to watch. Here’s a little background on the spark for this idea from a release issued by the Mint 400 organizers:
“Last year, several military vehicles competed at The Mint 400 as part of the Military Challenge including Green Berets with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who raced their General Dynamics Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1s, and the Warfighter Made organization who entered their Flyer 22 Vintage Military Light Strike Vehicle (LSV) manufactured by Flyer Defense and a 1988 AM General M998 High Mobility Multi Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) aka Humvee. However, their entries came very close to race week and before a full rule set could be structured for the 2020 event. The new class structure will help solidify its place at the storied race, and The Martelli Brothers and Mint 400 Technical Director Bill Savage are now working on class rules.”
A statement from Mint 400 co-owner and COO Josh Martelli was in the release too: “We had some bad ass vehicles show up to compete last year, and one of the highlights was seeing a fully loaded GMV leave the startline in combat ready condition! What we realized in that moment was these guys aren’t interested in taking parade laps – they want to race! So we’re investing some more time into structuring the class rules to let them go toe to toe out there this December… There are some fantastic US military vehicle makers out there including GM Defense, Flyer Defense, Oshkosh, AM General, and Polaris Defense, and we want them all to get involved with this class!”
I mean, I’m inclined to agree with him. Seeing what monolithic defense contractors would do with an in-house motorsports build would actually be pretty awesome. But I’d also be kind of excited to see some old military hardware that’s been languishing in various desert barns get trotted out to go racing, too.
If you don’t feel like schlepping out to the wastelands west of Las Vegas to check this out, the Mint 400 has done a great job livestreaming the race out to the internet in the last couple of years so it should be easy to follow when it goes down in December.