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Off-road racers Pepper Junus, of Hesperia, Emme Hall, of Washington DC, and Mark and Martee Burke, of Barstow, prepare to get out on the course at last Saturday's Toys for Tots Holiday 200.

For fun and charity

M.O.R.E. races for holiday cheer

BARSTOW • On Saturday, off-road drivers took to the desert to indulge their love of off-road racing, while also helping to make the holidays a little brighter for some local kids.

Mojave Off-Road Enthusiasts staged the Toys for Tots Holiday 200, held in the desert behind the Slash X Cafe. The day was a success, with not only drivers enjoying getting out to conquer the wilds, but also the collection of between 700-1,000 toys.

Bill Markel, the truck race director at M.O.R.E., who also served as the start and finish flag person, is a longtime racing enthusiast who was glad to see the combination of happy racers and the support for a good cause.

“They’re short on toys this year at Toys for Tots, so I think we made a lot of happy kids today,” he said. “There will be some local kids who will get some holiday cheer who wouldn’t have otherwise.”

There were 83 entries in the race, which followed a two-course format. The unlimited, the faster cars, took off first on a 20-mile loop, followed by the slower, limited, vehicles, then they switch. The unlimiteds do a total of 192 miles, while the limiteds do 128 miles.

Markel likens the two classifications as ‘like a skateboard going up against a motorcycle’. While the limited vehicles can’t go as fast, that doesn’t diminish the experience for the drivers.

“The drivers of the slower cars have just as much fun as the ones in the fast cars,” he said.

Barstow’s Martee Burke, who takes part in many M.O.R.E. races throughout the year, is a devotee of the limited vehicles and sees it as a totally different experience than the faster cars. Dealing with the ‘whoops’, dips in the course, for instance, varies in different vehicles.

“It’s still challenging in the slower cars, in a different way,” said Burke. “You don’t have the acceleration or the suspension to go over the whoops in the course, so you have to go through them. It’s different.”

Burke finished second in her class. Former Barstow resident Cody Jeffers, who now lives in Wyoming, took first place in Class 10, and first overall, while Kathy Kirkmeyer finished sixth in Class 10. Emme Hall from Washington, DC, and Mark Burke from Barstow took second place in Class 1600, with Barstow’s Kyle Vizzo finishing sixth in Class 9. Jun Kun Ma holds the distance record, flying in from China to race in a new Class 1 car, finishing sixth, and Rhonda Parkhouse placed second in her 1450 Class race truck and took the championship for the season. Mark Barnes from Barstow had a good race going in his 12 car before engine problems kept him from finishing.

In the end, the fundraising aspect is a bonus for the drivers, who always welcome the opportunity to kick up some dust in the desert.

“I love racing, it’s so much fun. I always have a blast,” said Markel. “People bring their kids and their friends. I just love being out there, seeing all the smiles. It’s a big, happy event.”

The toy drive concluded this year’s slate of races, but M.O.R.E. will get back out on the course on Jan. 26, with the 2013 New Year’s 200. For more information, visit the Website at

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