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Off-Road Championship Gran Prix : Fender-Bending Expected at Rose Bowl

May 03, 1986|TOM HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix is billed as the first auto race in the Rose Bowl in nearly 40 years, but tonight's competition may resemble a demolition derby more than a desert race.

The tight, man-made course constructed of dirt and clay is supposed to simulate desert racing, but the majority of the sport's stars were predicting plenty of bumping and collisions in the featured mini-pickup truck class.

"If there is any passing done, we'll be rubbing fenders a little more than normal," said Ivan Stewart, Toyota factory driver. Stewart was recently penalized for rough driving during a series race at the Houston Astrodome.

"You're going to see a lot of kicking and gouging," Stewart said. "It's going to be a barroom fight."

Defending class champion Roger Mears called the track "the tightest course I have ever driven on" after a practice session Thursday. Mears has failed to win in four previous races this year.

"I think there's going to be some collisions because the turns are so tight," Mears said. "Personally, I'd rather race and not have to collide with anybody. I'd rather make a clean pass."

Mears has experienced shock absorber and suspension problems in the four previous races but said his Nissan pickup is ready to challenge the field.

"My teammate (Sherman Balch) did some testing this week, and I think the truck is back to where it was handling so well last year," Mears said.

Steve Millen, Stewart's Toyota teammate, is the class leader. He will be competing against his brother, Rod, in the feature race. Rod Millen has signed to drive for Glenn Harris' Mazda team.

The event will also include racing in single-seat dune buggies, ATVs, Odysseys and motocross bikes. Defending Supercross champion Jeff Ward is scheduled to compete. Gates will open at 4 p.m., with the first heat at 6:30.

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