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Off-road racing resumes in the desert

August 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Motorcycles roared through the desert in an off road race Saturday in the same area where eight spectators died on the course a week ago.The Bureau of Land Management gave the green light for the race, but only after what it called, "a very detailed review" of the permit.

Race organizers said they went above and beyond what the BLM asked for, including having extra rescue crews and ambulances on hand. The rule most strictly enforced: no spectators allowed within 50 feet of the course.

Last weekend's deadly accident was on the minds of racers, but they said Sunday's race was much different.

"We keep the spectators back away from the riders," said Jerry Grabow, president of the American Motorcycle Association District 37. "We're really not a spectator sport like you would have seen last weekend where massive people were standing right next to the course."

The home video of last weekend's deadly crash shows several people lining the course, standing just feet from the speeding trucks.

Spectators gathered around a popular area known as "the rockpile" to get an up-close look at the action. One truck lost control and barreled into the crowd. Among the dead, 12 others were seriously hurt.

"Safety's a big factor," said John Roberts, a racer in Sunday's event. "We start out with rules for the clubs, the district we all kind of follow."

Those rules include marking off the course where spectators gather and keeping them 50 to 100 feet back from the course.

Extra police and agents from the BLM patrolled the race to make sure everyone stayed safe and the rules were enforced.

"We're making sure that the promoter has done everything he should," said Stephen Razo of the BLM.

The BLM is now reviewing all off-road racing permits nationwide.

The department has also suspended future permits for the promoter behind the Aug. 14 race.

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