It takes more than a bit of courage and tenacity to purposely speed your truck over rocks, ditches and hills on a dusty desert trail.
So the annual Powder Puff Race for the Cure, an off-road event exclusively for female drivers, could be considered an empowerment event.
``We're considered the fairer sex,'' said Powder Puff driver KellyAnn Steinberger. ``This gives the men a chance to see how capable we are to drive these cars.''
The annual event, held in October in Barstow, is considered the world's largest all-female racemen are allowed to help out on pit crews. All the proceeds from the race are donated to Cedar Sinai Breast Cancer Research.
In the past three years the race, sponsored by the Mojave Off-Road Racing Enthusiasts (MORE) and Royal Purple Synthetic Oils, has grown in participation and funds.
Last year the competition registered nearly 200 racers and raised $118,000. Drivers ranged from the wives of professional racers to more experienced drivers who compete in other races throughout the year. Many participated because of the rare opportunity for novices; some had family members or friends diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ron Matthews, MORE race director, said a couple of women approached the organization about six years ago asking, ``Why not have an all-ladies race?'' he recalled. ``We decided if we do it, we do it for charity.''
Thus the race sports a lot of pinkthe official color for breast cancer awareness. Ms. Steinberger's team wore t-shirts emblazoned with ``Breast Friends Racing.'' She encouraged six friends to participate as her co-drivers and she stopped four times during the race to change partners.
Mr. Matthews said a majority of the drivers race only in this event and it is usually wives driving their husbands' off-road racing vehicles. The husbands are very supportive of the race, he said. ``Some guys now are building cars for their wives.''
Ms. Steinberger is usually found trackside supporting her husband, Scott Steinberger of PCI Racing, a Team General Tire driver. When she got behind the wheel of his prerunner truck at the Powder Puff Race last October, she won first place in the 1400 Class. She completed more than seven laps of the rigorous 20-mile course during a four-hour heat.
She had some previous off-roading experience and placed third in the Powder Puff race in 2007. Her strategy to win was taking chances with speed. ``I like to stay out of the front car's dust so I find a way to get around them really fast. I push how much faster I can get through certain sections,'' she told Tire Business.
Mr. Matthews said the race ``absolutely'' contributes to attracting more women to the male-dominated sport of off-road racing. The MORE Web site set up a page devoted to the Powder Puff race, complete with photos and a message board for participants to exchange information in preparation for the race.
Ms. Steinberger said she also believes the race encourages more female involvement. ``It empowers women to get out there and face their fears. Hopefully it will bring the men's daughters and wives into it.''
The cutesy name apparently belies the competitiveness of the race. ``A lot of girls are just as competitive (as the men),'' she said.
``It's funny. The women say they will be nice to the other racersbut drop the green flag and it's for blood,'' Mr. Matthews said.
The racers speed along a 20-mile course of rocky off-road terrain and try to complete as many laps as they can in a 3½-hour period. The race was divided into two groupsthe faster, more experienced drivers ran in the morning followed by the slower group in the afternoon.
Tire Business Staff Reporter Kathy McCarron can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]