Last year I saw the UTV event for the first time, and since my background is rock crawling, I really wanted to conquer the trails at Johnson Valley, aka "The Hammers". I spent most of the year making changes to my RZR to prepare for the event. I spent more than wanted to, but wouldn't change a thing. I will list the mods that I made to my RZR at the end.
My friends and I arrived at Johnson Valley on Saturday, we registered and received the GPS for the course. I was in SHOCK really, when I saw the UTV's would be racing the identical course to the EMC (Every Man Challenge team). I spent some time on the phone with Jon Crowley, who lives not far from me, about the course. We both agreed that we doubted that any UTV would finish the course ON TIME, because of the EMC guys blocking the trail. This proved to be my exact problem...but more later.
On Sunday evening, I asked my friend Ryan from Utah, if he would like to see Chocolate Thunder. So we popped in, with every intention of not pushing the RZR hard...but the desert got the best of me...and around 50 MPH I hit a bomb crater on the lakebed. (if you've been there, you know them). This was right next to the road that shortcutted, and it was deep. This would prove to a blessing in disguise. I hit the crater on my left front and launched into the air....I landed on the back wheel on my side (the passenger could touch the ground), in the chaos I turned the wheel right into the slide, the car leaped into the air and landed sideways on the left side...I turned into that...and the car finally came to a stop. I couldn't believe it didn't roll over. I started to drive away, and immediately knew something was wrong. We stopped and got out...and the tire had completely tore off the Beadlock....leaving a small piece sandwiched in the ring. The right rear Fox shock was puking fluid...it was done. So we limped back to camp, and broke the news to everyone inside....I had done something really stupid. That evening, I went over to FOX shocks...but they weren't there yet.
On Monday, we began pre-running the course. My friend Angelo, brought his WeRock rig to use for pre-running. So my co-driver took our Lowrance GPS out and ran Lap 1 and part of Lap 2 to Pit 2 on Monday.
That morning when Fox arrived...we headed over. No SXS shock guys on site...but they would arrive on Tuesday and bring new caps. The damage to the shock was...well...shocking. The bracket on the RZR had poked a hole into the Top Cap! That should NOT happen!!! The bolts were tight...there was no "egging" of the mount hole. The Fox guys called the SXS crew and told them to bring 2 shock caps. I also called my STI Tire guy, and was told I would have a tire by Wednesday night (EEK!!!). I didn't want to run the race with a spare and only have 1 tire left.
On Tuesday, the guys at Fox fixed the shock and re-valved all 4 shocks for me. They were AWESOME!! Phil and Regan. As it turns out, this was a Polaris Bulletin that some brackets weren't built to spec. If we had run the race in this condition, it would be unlikely we would have finished...so this was now a GOOD THING!! We put the car back together, ground 1/8" or so for more clearance and pre-ran some whooops....MUCH BETTER!!! My other teammate pre-ran the Rock section from AfterShock to Clawhammer...and it took 7 hours in a build Samurai on 38's. It didn't look good for finishing on time, as Jon had predicted.
On Wednesday, we took the new pit crew guys for ride to Pit 2, and on that ride....a SUPER HIGH pitch squeal started in the back....UH OH...not good. So we tried to figure out where it was originating, but could not. So we headed back, and my mechanic put the RZR on a trailer...took off the tires and we ran the RZR. That's when we discovered the bad news....the trailing arm was TWISTED and BENT! Not surprising given the blow...but it was a BIG blow to the team...we didn't have a spare. My pit crew member, Darin had brought his RZR 900, and offered to donate his trailing arm if we needed it. So I sent him off to find a set that someone might have. Turns out, HCR had a set laying around....and I instantly bought them. At 1PM we had a bent arm and no back up, and by 2PM we were disassembling the rear end to install the new arm. By 3:30PM I was off the trailer and pre-running again! My friends were AWESOME!
We woke up race morning, to find 2 new tires from STI laying by our trailer!! WE LOVE YOU!!! My crew leaped into action at 6am, while Scott and I got ready...and put on the new tire on our STI HD Beadlock wheels and installed it on the RZR. We now had 4 fresh tires ready to roll!!!
I drew 6th overall on the race, but I was running the Production 1000 class, so I ended up in line with 17 UTV's in front of me. I've grown up on the Rubicon wheeling jeeps, toyotas, atv's and RZRs.....so I REALLY wanted to race in the rocks. I set up my RZR specifically for the rocks!! So my plan was...drive conservatively in the desert and get the car to the ROCKS!!! Before the race, Jared Christie from Destination Polaris ran into me (I know him, as we're going to film a "RUBICON" segment this summer), so he interviewed me and my co-driver.
At the start...we took off....and kept a nice easy pace. Around mile 1, on the backside of Short Bus, we passed our first broken rig! I turned to my co-driver, Scott and said...WELL...we won't finish last. We laughed.
Out on the desert...some of the desert tuned HCR suspension guys starting passing me...maybe 4 or 5...I don't recall exactly. I let them go. As we got closer to Pit 1 at mile 38, I passed a few in the tighter turns out there.
At mile 48, was the steep climb in rocks or sand. I noticed all the RZR's waiting to climb the steep sand hill...my co-driver, didn't think it could be one-shotted...(it turns out it could). So I got behind 3 EMC rigs, mostly 4600 class or stock. We waited for about 30 minutes for our shot. We had to winch once...which took about 5-8 minutes and we were up and out. When I got to the top, my teammate, (car 1946 with HCR suspension) took the sand hill...and his co-driver was getting in....we passed them there...and never saw them again.
We rolled through main pit, as our pit strategy was start race, pit at Pit 1 (mile 38) and again at Pit 2(Mile 76) and finish 35 miles later. We took the turn and headed toward the first rocks....AFTERSHOCK!
We pulled into the first obstacle at Aftershock...and I was NOT HAPPY. There were many EMC rigs winch and struggling to get over. A few UTV's (1961) and a 4500 class EMC took the high bypass. I wasn't sure it was legal, and didn't want to risk it...Plus....I came there to tackle the KING OF THE HAMMERS, not the KING OF THE BYPASSES!! At this point...we were told we had a flat...so right there in line...we replaced our tire. And we waited....and we waited. Almost exclusively, we waited for EMC rigs to winch over the first obstacle. Over 1 hour we waited. My team, which was now watching from Pit 2 on an iPad, came over to watch. When we finally got to their hard spot....we were over in minutes....where they had spent and hour.
Aftershock gave way to Highway 19/20....we spent multiple times there, waiting for EMC rigs.....by this point....we had waited almost 2 hours!!! We had NO idea what position we were in...we had passed many UTV's...some broken...some not. We were finally headed to Pit 2....it was now almost 2PM....we had gotten to Aftershock around 11:30AM!!!
We pulled in the pits...fairly defeated...and ready to call it a day, knowing we couldn't possibly finish in time. When we arrived, my crew was jumping up and down to find the pit...we pulled in...and they were super excited. We were not...lol. They handed me and Scott a Ham sandwich, and the owner of my sponsor dealership was SUPER AMPED!! He said AWESOME JOB, as I took a couple bites....he said you're doing great! I said we are?? He said yes...you guys are in 4th place overall, and you're leading the Production 1000 class!! HOLY SHIT!! Down went the sandwich....and on went the helmet!! We were OUT OF THERE!!!
We headed up the ravine and up to the ridge line road....There....a Hammerking helicopter followed us for a while.....He would go around us (close too) a couple times as we were driving....I told my co-driver.....too bad I can't look...the helicopter looks bad ass!!
Through Jack Hammer without issue....and as we climb a hill....our second flat! SHIT! We popped out and changed tire in about 5 minutes and we were gone!! Never saw another vehicle...EMC or UTV.
From there, we came down hill into Chocolate Thunder and were blown away how many people were there. We had planned on one-shotting the Gatekeeper...but now with the Prod 1000 lead...decided to winch to save the rig. Only problem...we had to wait for nearly 30 minutes for 2 EMC rigs to go up. Once I had my turn...I came up, and Scott popped out to winch. We went up, and Scott tossed in the rope....we wouldn't need it again. One of my pit crew, filmed us going around the Big Rock.
Now were were on our way to Wrecking Ball...probably the most difficult part of the course. We breezed through the first sections of Wrecking Ball...until....Yes...ANOTHER EMC rig 4600 class...totally stuck. We sat there for ANOTHER 30 minutes, which this guy went back and forth...back and forth...then got sideways....and then FINALLY winched. Since he was there (and once again to save the rig) we asked if we could toss our winch line on...they said yes. We winched up, and then while my co-driver was removing the hook, the driver decides to leave!! The winch hook flings up around the bumper and pulls the gas line off! DOH! About 5 minutes later...the gas line is back on.
We continue up Wrecking Ball, and there is a route up and around a huge boulder...I decide to take that line...and when I hit a rock...we flop over! DOH! I try to turn the wheel hard LEFT and I go forward and backward to right a right the ship...lol..but it just gets worse. So I un-hook , stand on my door and climb out my co-drivers window. We ask some EMC guys now behind to lend a hand...they said No. Uh..Ok. So I get up on the rock and put my back against the roof....I start doing a leg press, while Scott lifts...and we upright the RZR and take off, ahead of the EMC guys who just said NO! As we near the top, there is Cherokee, trying to winch up the Waterfall at Wrecking Ball. He's going nowhere. His rig is wedged in...can't move. It passes 5pm and change....and we're done! Oh well.
2 hours later....we're still there at Wrecking Ball...this guy has cooked his winch and killed his battery. The EMC rig behind him...winches him up finally with a snatch block. The Staff, tells us to NOT go to Clawhammer, stop at Check Point 5, and head to Hammertown. So we winch up very quickly up the Waterfall....and that's when it got funny.
The EMC rig that winched the Cherokee up, was already pissed off due to the circumstances. So we try to LEFT around the big rock at the top, but the Cherokee backs in and blocks the trail. So in the dark, we back down, and go right...where the EMC rig is now struggling to get up the rocks. We sat there for a solid 5 minutes...wheels spinning...multiple attempts....and then he finally gets up. So I start to follow him, and as I approach...I hear...."HEY..you in the LITTLE THING...I'm trying to pull that guy home". My co-driver says...it's a RZR!! I said...NOBODY told me that...I would have waited had I known! Exasperated, he says well..HURRY UP and GET OUT OF HERE!! So now I have to climb the same section he struggled and he's pissed. Thank God I picked a great line...and went RIGHT UP!! So much for my "Little thing"!!! How bout some respect EMC guy....you left 1 hour before me...and here I am RIGHT BEHIND YOU....I didn't make up that hour by accident!!!
We headed back to Hammertown....SLOWLY....the last thing I wanted to do, was break something at this point....We got the camper around 7:30PM....almost 2 hours and 45 minutes since we started waiting at Wrecking Ball for the Cherokee.
Since then, I had people at home and my crew, that I was the 4th car overall…and I went the farthest in the Production 1000 class. At the award ceremony, Dave Cole said he wasn’t in charge of the UTV race standings, and they wouldn’t know the Production 1000, 850 or Beginner class winners until someone at HCR had gone over the IRC data. The UTV sponsors don’t put the same kind of money into it, that sponsors for ULTRA4 do….but they certainly expect to know officially how they did so they can leverage the event…same as the Ultra4 cars. IRC needs to get that data to HCR....
So….What did I do to my stock RZR?
Auburn Extreme Powersports in Auburn, CA
Custom Cage by Stoffregen Motorsports of Cool, CA
STI HD Beadlock Wheels
STI Black Diamond Tires
Rugged Radio with Helmet kits
Zbros Racing Radius Arm kit
Long Star Racing Lower A-Arms
Dave’s Super Bushing Kit
UTV Inc lower A-arm brace kit
UTV Inc Upper Shock mount brace kit
Hotz Racing Upper A-arm brace
Factory UTV ½ UHMW Skid plate
Factory UTV Rocker Panel Guard
Cobra Front Axles (I didn’t break any of them)
Polaris Horn kit (required)
Kartek Light bar, Amber and Blue Flasher lights
Pro Armor Doors
PRP Safety Net
Wicked Built Power steering by Unisteer
UTV Inc Frame rail reinforcing Kit
Warn XT40 Winch
UTV Inc Bumper and Winch bracket
Desert Moldings Air Box upgrade
Desert Molding gasket kit
Fox 2.0 Shocks (factory)
Twisted Stitch Seats
Pro Armor 5 Point harness
Odyssey 925 Battery
EMP Battery Box
it was a blast to be a part of it Ken and Scott thanks
My Business mention ATV Obsession and i will hook you up.
2006 Kodiak 450
warn 2500 winch, heated hand grips, and full custom skid plates with wrap around steel fender guards :) and 25" Bighorn tires
Paynes Creek 2016!
16 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec EPS SE
09 Yamaha Grizzly 700 FI 4x4 EPS
Kendo joke......That was the reader's digest version...ROFLhemingray wrote: Thanks, Ken, for the huge writeup!
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