The Valley Off Road Racing Association, or VORRA, has been synonymous with the Northern California and Nevada racing scene since 1975. Founded by Off Road Hall of Fame Inductee Ed Robinson, VORRA established itself as a family-friendly organization that kept costs down.
A LOOK BACK AT VORRA
Over the years, a typical VORRA season would be a hybrid short course and desert series. The season would kick off in the spring at famed Prairie City SVRA near Sacramento. VORRA held 4 events there. Each class would run two races with points being awarded based on placement. At the end of the day, the driver with the most points won.
After the first two events, the VORRA family would head off to the northern Nevada desert for the next three events. Towns like Lovelock, Hawthorne, Reno, Fernley, Fallon, and Virginia City played host to VORRA. The races were the traditional desert format with racers going against the clock.
In the fall, Prairie City would once again play host as the racers would settle the championship battles. Like any other offroad race promotion, there were several different classes of buggies and trucks. When I first experienced VORRA in the late ’90s, they also had a Honda Odyssey class. These days, VORRA also has a motocross and UTV class.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH VORRA
Like I mentioned, I first saw a VORRA race live in the late ’90s. At the time, I lived about an hour away and could easily see a race. Even after I moved, I kept up with what was going on and in 2003, I had the privilege of becoming part of the VORRA crew for the season. I got an inside look at a race organization, getting to know some of the racers and crew; and of course, experience racing from the viewpoint of a :cough: media :cough: person.
After another move, I sort of kept up with what was happening with VORRA. Through several different ownership changes and a vastly different schedule, the 2021 schedule was released several months ago.
I also noticed a familiar name who now owned VORRA, BJ Butcher, and his wife Laurie. BJ was a VORRA racer from way back. In 2019, during a conversation with Ultra4 owner Dave Cole, who owned VORRA at the time; ownership of the promotion changed hands.
I sent an email to BJ, got a reply, and then realized that the VORRA story needed to be told as the promotion stands now. I asked him if I could interview him and here we are.
King of the Hammers has had to do some unprecedented work to be able to take place this year with COVID. Having spent some time in Nevada in the last year, I can see that you will have no issues there. But California is a different animal. Are you confident that VORRA will be able to power through and the racing will go on?
We are very impressed with King of the Hammers mitigation plan for COVID. Obviously, we are on a much smaller scale, and that really helps when it comes to event planning with these kinds of obstacles. We are confident and have been assured that the races at Glen Helen and Quincy will happen is they are privately owned. The biggest restriction we may face this season is limitations on spectators at races. But we will cross that bridge if necessary as we get closer…
The end of the year race at Prairie City would be our biggest concern being that it’s a state park. We are currently working on a backup plan if needed
When I first saw the 2021 VORRA schedule, I was happy to see a full race schedule. Although I have been aware of the changes in ownership in the last few years and the drastic changes in schedule; I was also surprised by seeing Glen Helen.
We were fortunate enough to basically inherit VORRA from Dave Cole. In our first year, we wanted to test the waters and not overstep our capabilities as first-time promoters. Heading into 2020 we had planned to have 5 races, but COVID put a damper on that.
With that said, we were still able to pull off 3 great races. The Fallon 250 was the biggest race VORRA had ever held on its own! And we were able to bring back Yerington, a racer and fan favorite and it definitely did not disappoint!
Heading into 2021 we have 9 races planned. Learning what we have the last couple of years, along with learning from COVID we are feeling pretty confident.
With the announcement from LOORS at the beginning of December, our phones started ringing off the hook immediately! People still want to race, so we are filling that void. Glen Helen has been very welcoming and the racers reaching out from down south has been very encouraging!
Has VORRA raced that far south before?
Glen Helen will be the furthest south VORRA has ever gone. This year’s X-treme short course series will be a test of the waters. If it goes well, we plan to expand the series with several more short course races in 2022.
The name Glen Helen is up there when it comes to legendary venues in offroad and MX. Do you believe that the turnout will be one of the larger turnouts that VORRA has experienced?
Most definitely! At the Fallon race in 2020, we had 130 racers. We are expecting people to have the itch to get out and do some racing. If nothing else, to use our race as a tune-up for those going back east to race the Midwest series. We also know we may not see many of our normal racers due to the distance and being a short course.
Although, the amount of people we have had reach out is rather impressive and we are excited for the 2021 season to start!
So going back to your history with VORRA. You’ve basically been a part of VORRA all your life. How many years is that now?
I started with VORRA when I was 4. Going into this season, it’ll be my 35th year of being part of VORRA in some fashion or another. We attended the last race of the year at Prairie City in 1986. At the time, my dad’s best friend was the flagman. Going into 1987, the deal was made that if we were going to attend, my parents would volunteer, and our job (with my brother Tristan) would be to pick up the trash after the races. After that, my parents held just about every volunteer position at one time or another. My brother and I were always happy to help out where needed, then when I was 13, we ran our first checkpoint at a Yerington race.
What classes did you race? How many wins? Championships?
My brother and I teamed up to race a couple of classes with VORRA. We started with basically a stock Dodge D-50 in class 7. I was 15 at my first race, and in an 8-lap moto at Prairie City, we would get lapped at least 2 times… But racing the truck taught us a lot about holding lines, watching the fast guys’ lines, and building a knowledge base on how to be a race car driver.
We then moved into an older class 10 single-seater. Dennis Kordonway built the frame and gave us a great deal on it. We raced in the semi-pro class, which at the time had a ton of entries. Desert races were never our strong suit, as we were just a bunch of kids working on it with very little mechanical knowledge. We did win a few Prairie City races and in our best year, we finished in 2nd place for the year-end points.
What was your favorite race?
As a young guy, my favorite race was the Virginia City race. But that was because as a little kid there was a lot to do before and after the races in town. Then Yerington quickly became my favorite race, from the town to the track, and the people, Yerington was always a ton of fun! That’s one of the reasons we wanted to bring it back so badly. And although VORRA was racing on a new track in 2020, the town showed us so much support! So much so, we are going back 2 times this year, and I am happy to say we will be racing both the new track and a majority of the old racetrack.
What made VORRA special?
This one is easy. The people. I’ve raced many other organizations in the last 15 years or so… But simply put, I believe no other organization offers the family atmosphere that VORRA does. This season we are offering youth short course classes, and we are extremely excited to host the classes, so the entire family can have a good time!
When I was associated with VORRA either as a fan or the season I spent doing media; Prairie City seemed to be VORRA’s home. As I understand it, there are some issues that are preventing VORRA from running more races at Prairie City?
Somewhat. Other than VORRA, the last several years there have been several organizations that have raced at Prairie City. With that, there have been some accidents that are now requiring more safety for the fans and racers. The plan is to have barriers and safety fences installed. Adding to that, being the track is open to the public most of the year, all jumps, and berms must be removed after the race. This leads to more tractor work which means more money to get the track in racing condition. However, we are working with Prairie City and we are excited for what the future may hold for VORRA going forward!
Besides the full slate of races on the 2021 schedule, VORRA has expanded. There are motorcycle and quad classes that will be racing in the desert also. Has VORRA run these classes before and what was the turnout like?
Yes, there were motorcycles and quads at the Fallon 250 in 2019 and 2020. Each year, with a very minimum promotion we expanded our entries. This year, we are starting early and promoting now. We have brought in both Stephen Helms and Colton Scudder to help with the promotion, and gain new sponsorships. So far, the Mx and Quad triple crown is looking very promising! We will be holding races at Hawthorne, Yerington (the 1st race), and Fallon.
Where do you see VORRA being in 5 years
This one is tough. Honestly, when we took over VORRA, my 5-year plan was to do exactly what we are doing this year. So, we are two years ahead. LOL! I want to continue to promote a family-friendly environment. In no way are we trying to become a big nationwide series. BITD, SCORE, and all other race associations out there have great platforms, and with that, the cost is extremely high to race them. Our goal is to have exciting races, at great venues, but keep the expense down so we can have the families, the do-it-yourself guys, and the kids. VORRA is for people like we were looking for a fun and safe place to race.
VORRA 2021 AT A GLANCE
- GLEN HELEN – MARCH 19-21
- HAWTHORNE, NV – APRIL 9-11
- QUINCY, CA – APRIL 17-18
- YERINGTON, NV – MAY 28-31
- RENO, NV – JUNE 19-20
- FALLON, NV – JULY 9-11
- YERINGTON, NV – SEPT 3-6
- QUINCY, CA – 24-25
- PRAIRIE CITY SVRA – OCT 29-30
It is great to see VORRA come back strong. Through multiple ownership changes and COVID, the organization has had plenty of challenges through the last several years. We wish the promotion and racers good luck as they progress forward to provide northern California and northern Nevada great offroad racing action.