1999 Kia Sportage Page 1

"She eats up the small ones pretty well, don’t you think? " yelled Darren’s voice through my helmet’s radio. "She" was the Kia Sportage race car that was taking us on a run for the money in "The Richest Off-Road Race in Nevada." The "small ones" were the lesser, but numbingly continuous, bumps and grinds along this 250-mile off-road course that ran parallel to Death Valley. The "big ones," by contrast, were ridges and drop-offs that sent us airborne, often followed by a rush of sagebrush and dust that rained into the cockpit through the glass-less windshield.

 Typically, in backcountry driving, this rugged terrain would be traversed at slow speed. But this was a race, in fact, the last race of the Best of the Desert Series, called the "Terrible’s Town 250," and Skilton wanted to win. With the two of us held taut in our five-point harnesses, the majestic views and desert terrain went past at speeds that reached nearly 90 mph.

A combination of the Kia’s 104-inch wheelbase, 60-inch track, impressive angles of approach and departure, and supple suspension made this everyday SUV turned race car a dazzling dame at "eating up" the bumps. Ride comfort was a bonus for Skilton. But what really mattered were the Kia’s 185 horses channeled through a five-speed transmission with a 2WD and 4WD box. The combination is a competitive off-road vehicle that Skilton has driven to a number of victories over the past few years.

A 31-year-old Long Beach, California, resident, Skilton began his racing career just six years ago and has already garnered three SCORE Milestone Awards, for finishing every mile of every race he started, and some impressive wins, like two SCORE Baja 1000 titles. Following the "Terrible’s Town 250," he was named the ‘98 Class Champion in the Best of the Desert Racing series. All in the Kia Sportage.