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By Reid Wright

Deep in the cliffs of the ratlands — among the used condoms, moonshine distilleries and skeletons of would-be bank robbers with rusty m-16s — an alien beast crawls up an impossible ledge and snarls at the scorching desert sun.

Rock racing is the latest emerging sport to pit man and machine against mother nature. The 2009 XRRA Xtreme Off-Road Racing competition in Cortez Colorado features built-from-scratch rock buggies boasts hundreds of horsepower and 44 inch tires. They range in appearance from almost normal:

Probably not a Toyota

Probably not a Toyota

To the sinister:

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To the downright weird:

In a schizophrenic marriage of high-speed Baja racing and slow rock crawling, racers shred the unforgiving desert terrain on side-by-side courses for the best combined time.

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The first ledge on the outside track proved to be the most challenging for drivers. Massive tires spit dust and shifted boulders until the obstacle was almost impossible by the end of the day. This resulted in metal-twisting rollovers and several slain beasts.

Sad turtle

Sad turtle

After a thrashing roll-over, instead of reaching for the hip-flask to steady trembling hands, drivers promptly floored it, jerking the steering wheel back and forth to attempt to get the beast back on it’s massive tires.They were even given a chance to climb out and try to push it over, only giving up when a fireball erupted.

Dead buggies were extricated via  Mr. Beergut with the forklift.

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The survivors lined up for another dose of punishment.

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