“The Spirit of the Race” is a cursory introduction to desert racing that never quite makes it to the finish line. Those more familiar with the sport, or even racing in general, will find this documentary to be lacking in depth and scope, while other viewers may be left wondering why there isn’t more information.
Brenden Mulligan (the producer and director) utilizes some standard desert shots; a bit of race footage; and a few interviews, including ones with racers Keith Naylor and Andrew Musbach, in order to exhibit the desert racing lifestyle. Unfortunately, all one gets from “The Spirit of the Race” is that desert racing is a challenging sport that is family oriented. There is much that isn’t examined, and that weakens the film.
Being a racing fan myself, I miss the fact that there is nothing in this documentary about egos, raising money for your machine, environmental concerns, or what ultimately drives these competitors. In all fairness, though, “The Spirit of the Race” does stress the danger involved in this type of racing, even pointing out that there have been a few deaths. I’ve actually done a little motocross activity in the Mojave, and it is difficult work. What this film doesn’t reveal is how it feels to be thrown from your bike onto the hard desert ground, the grit that gets into every pore of your tired body, and the thrill of making that impossible jump (or the agony of failing). That’s what racing fans want to know about, and it is what those merely curious about the sport need to hear in order to become hardcore addicts. In that, “The Spirit of the Race” comes in close to last place, though it is a nice attempt to expose the sport to gearhead virgins. Too bad it didn’t offer more.