The equator run is Mars' most anticipated sports event, a biannual, month-long race to and from Elysium. Hundreds of teams participate, most with heavily customized, if not purpose built vehicles. Heavy armament is also common, as the teams will often fight each other, the Tharsis League will do their best to shut down the race by force of arms, barsoomians will take the occasional shot at corporate sponsored teams, and desperate scavengers will set traps to obtain new gear.
The race is not held by any formal entity and has no formal rules, but it is generally agreed that sabotage outside of the race is classless (of course it still occurs), that winning through skilled driving is better than winning through combat (the race still sees plenty of combat), that only groundcraft should be used (flying vehicles are too obvious targets anyway) and that AIs should not be used (most teams use manual, non-computerized equipment wherever possible to avoid hacking in any case).
The entire event is illegal, but the Tharsis League has been unusually powerless when attempting to stop it. The league faces anarchists and barsoomians, who enjoy the chance to publicly flaunt league rules, and organized crime, who enjoy a boost in gambling profits. At the same time, the city militia are not in a position to deal with the largely rural race, and the rangers consider it beneath them and of infinitely lower priority than TQZ patrols and counter-terrorist operations. It is a well known secret that several hypercorps sponsor racing teams, a continued loss of face for the league.
The great length of the race (more than 21,400 km depending on the exact route) makes the event a test of endurance and survival as much as speed and combat. There is no specified, official route, meaning teams have to find drivable terrain while avoiding patrolled roads, and avoiding the Titan Quarantine Zone, which sits on a large portion of the equator.
Plot Hook: A hyperelite scion looking for a thrill will be riding with his company's unofficially sponsored team. A great deal of @-rep can be earned by kidnapping him on behalf of the barsoomians, or a great deal of credits by kidnapping him for a rival hypercorp.