First off, we want to thank FOX for stepping up as our coverage provider for this years Discount Tire Rally On The Rocks!! We are primed and ready for an exciting week of trail riding in our favorite off-road town, Moab, UT!
The Rally kicks off May 16 and runs through the 20th. Its full of fun and all centers around the epic trails of Moab!
UTVUnderground.com will be on hand to bring to you the excitement surrounding the trails and the event itself which will see the largest turnout of vendors and attendees ever! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @utvunderground all week for updates.
Here are some videos from past years to get you hyped up:
We first traveled to Moab for Rally On The Rocks back in 2010. I made the trip with Reid Nordin of Kawasaki. At the time I was still very skeptical of rock crawling. To me it was slow and boring. That trip to Moab changed everything. Not only did I become a fan of rock crawling, I became obsessed with building my own rock capable machine. My opinion of rock crawling had forever been transformed.
Another thing that changed for me that trip was where I told people my favorite place to ride was. Until that point I would answer with either Ocotillo Wells or Glamis. That trip in 2010 to Rally On The Rocks made me fall in love with Moab. Since then I have not missed a ROTR event and every time I am asked where I like to ride most I almost always tell the person Moab.
Moab is diverse. While rock crawling is the primary style of riding, not every trail is filled with massive rock obstacles. Rather, Moab is an off-roaders dream no matter what pace or what style of riding you want or prefer to do. Want fast trails? You got it! Want slow paced easy scenic trails? No problem! Want to play in some sand? Lets go Behind The Rocks! How about a super treacherous rock trail where winch lines are almost always a must? You know Moab has that! Moab has something for everyone, its diverse and its beautiful. Moab never gets old to me. Every time I make the trip I get to ride and see something new.
Since traveling to Moab my first time I have always said I wanted to take friends and family there to let them experience the beauty it has. I tell people all the time that the Rally is the perfect time to go to Moab as a first timer and for me to take someone and let them experience Moab for the first time is like reliving my first time over again. This year I was getting to travel to Moab with my good friends Rusty and Mike. Both are guys who played a role in getting me into the sport of UTV and now I was getting to take a week long trip with them to my favorite place in the world to ride.
Each year Rally On The Rocks gets bigger and better. Lanse Chournos and Jared Livingston took the event over a few years ago and since doing so have taken the event to amazing heights making it one of the biggest and best UTV rallys in all of the United States. This year 1000 people would sign up to attend making it the biggest year ever. The organization that takes place is amazing considering the size of the event. They have a wonderful staff of volunteers who are courteous and helpful. Their trail bosses are fun and always keeping the rides safe for everyone. Vendors flock to the event with every type of aftermarket accessory imaginable and even the industries top OEM’s all attend to offer demo rides and support. If you have ever wanted to travel to Moab to ride but have never been able to do so, going during the Rally On The Rocks is the way to go!
Earlier I mentioned how I had been dead set on building my own rock crawler after riding in Moab for my first time. In 2012 I began work on my Kawasaki Teryx 4 which was built with Moab and my family in mind. Unfortunately for my Kawasaki but fortunately for us at UTVUnderground.com the past 2 years Polaris had paid us to come to ROTR to film the event for them and to tell the story of RZRs at the Rally. This was a lot of fun for me and my crew and the RZR is amazing in the Moab but my poor T4 just sat home waiting for its first trip to Utah and to the Rally. Finally this year was the year and it was only fitting that I was able to spend the first day on the rocks in Moab with Reid Nordin! It was he that broke me and now I was getting to ride side by side with Reid and a host of other friends in my own machine, my T4 nonetheless. Reid took us to the Top Of The World! It was the perfect way to kick off the trip and break in my T4 in Moab!
My T4 was awesome in Moab but riding with close friends is really what made this years trip the best one ever for me. We did numerous trails and it was so much fun to see my buddys get excited about riding in the same place I fell in love with years ago. They too were saying all the same things I say every time there about bringing our families and sharing this place with everyone we know. Moab is off-road heaven!
While the riding is the highlight the event itself was amazing. We got to meet and see so many people and its always a pleasure catching up and spending time with old friends. We are thankful for the Rally On The Rocks event. It truly is one of our favorite events and its one that no matter what we intend to make every year!
Each year UTVUnderground.com picks one of the top UTV models on the market, and we travel all over North America to capture that machine in the mud, on the rocks, in the sand, on trails, and at the races. This year we covered the Polaris RZR – and man did we get some insane footage!
This is video #1 in our new six-part video series that showcases the Polaris RZR at “Rally on the Rocks” in Moab, Utah. FIlmed on location by UTVUnderground.com the clip features Joey “Joey D” DiGiovanni of UTVUnderground, and our friends from Pro Amor battling the rocks, sand, and slick rock of the beautiful trails of Moab, Utah.
Check out www.proarmor.com for all your rock crawling UTV accessories.
Visit www.rallyontherocks.com for more information on Rally on the Rocks.
Don’t miss our next video – factory Polaris racer RJ Anderson in a private test session out at Cahuilla Creek Motocross Track in Anza, California!
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Instagram @ UTVUnderground
Adult models – 16 and older. Be sure to get safety training. The vehicle displayed in this video is not intended for on-road use. Driver must be 16 years old with a valid driver’s license. Passenger must be 12 years old, and tall enough to use hand holds and plant feet firmly on floor. Always use cab nets, wear seatbelts, helmets, eye protection, and protective clothing. Do not operate on public roads. Avoid excessive speeds, sharp turns, and difficult terrain. Riding and alcohol/drugs don’t mix! Never carry more than the appropriate amount of passengers. Follow all warnings/instructions in owners manuals and on product. UTV Underground and their affiliates are not responsible for injuries that may occur from emulating or copying the riding, driving, or stunts performed in this video. Visit www.rohva.org for more information on safe operation off-road vehicles.
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Pro snowboarder Travis Rice said in Art of Flight, “Experiencing the world through endless second hand information isn’t enough. If we want authenticity we have to initiate it.”
Occasionally, in any given circumstance, those moments are initiated with new people and they get to share the same stoke you repeatedly have. That moment is magical. It is what life’s all about. Experiencing the World and sharing things with new friends and the people you love is just as much fun as discovering its beauty and allure for the first time. Baja is one of those magical places enhanced by the fact that you have the freedom to travel off-road via trails and roads and find the true beauty and experiences that only come from getting off the beaten path.
This exactly why we started Legends Rally; To share our dream-like days of off-roading, eating, and drinking amongst the hidden spots in Baja with new people and to teach them about our culture, our racing heroes and our values but most importantly to show them how much fun you can have off-roading through the warm embrace of Baja.
For our first Legends Rally we took 40+ people on two full days of riding off-road in UTV’s just outside of Ensenada. The group varied from seasoned off-road racers, to off-road industry leaders, news outlets and media, to off-road newbies. The group arrived at beautiful Horsepower Ranch just outside Ensenada at our headquarters. If you are not familiar with Horsepower Ranch you should stop in and check it out. It’s not only safe and comfortable with friendly english speaking staff but the bar/restaurant is adorned with off-road racing paraphernalia celebrating our sports fifty years of racing history.
The Legends Rally had full support provided by Horsepower Adventures, including full chase support for any type of breakdown including flat tires and belt failures (Miraculously we had none!) as well as full medical support with two American EMT’s and medical evacuation services. Additionally, participants were able to rent custom built UTV’s.
The Legends Rally is celebration of off-road culture and history. Our legend for this ride was recent Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee, “Lightning” Larry Ragland. No other professional off-road racer is more revered among their peers than Ragland. Humble and approachable, Ragland has more overall wins than any off-road racer in history.
There is simply no other way to find the “good” stuff other than getting off-road. It really doesn’t matter what vehicle you use but the UTV platform is so affordable and approachable anybody can buy or rent one. They are super easy to drive and safer than street style off-road vehicles. You can run stock, but we recommended upgraded cages from our partner Cagewrx, upgraded seats and harness, tires, wheels and radios, which are critical when going out into the never never of Baja. GPS is also recommended and we are currently using the LeadNav system running on a IPad 4 in purpose built Mob Armor mount.
After meeting and escorting our guests on the American side through the border crossing at San Ysidro, we followed each other down the beautiful highway one toll road to Ensenada and made our way Horsepower Ranch just east of downtown Ensenada. As guests began to arrive, they were greeted with a cold beer and a smile as they registered. After the guests settled in dropping luggage and unloading cars, we lined up all 26 UTV’s in front of Horsepower Ranch. The 26 UTV’s including a variety of Polaris RZR’s, custom Horsepower Adventure Polaris Rentals and two bone stock Kawasaki Teryx’s.
After a quick welcoming introduction and driver orientation, we sat down for a phenomenal meal on the outside patio near the pool. Dinner on Friday night was Grilled Hangar Steak, Farm Vegetable Lasagna with Lamb Bolognese Arugula Salad with Figs, Ratatouille and topped off with Pineapple Caramel Cake with Allspice Cream prepared by Claudette Wilkins and crew. The menu was created by Drew Deckman of Deckman’s en el Mogor.
We served standard beers and a variety of local wines including Bodegas Santo Tomas Merlot, Cavas Malvar Mezcla de Tintos, Las Nubes Selección de Barricas, Monte Xanic Chenin-Colombard and Las Nubes Kuiiy.
We offered mixed Mezcal drinks including El Humo Loco (Tamarind . Cucumber . Mint . Lime juice . Mezcal), a Mezcal Picante (Mezcal . Grenadine . Lime juice . Watermelon juice Habanero syrup . Soda water) and a Spice Mezcalrita (Mezcal . Lime juice . All Spice Nectar . Orange Juice). All of the Mezcal drinks were made with Pierde Almas Mezcal, an Artisanal Small Batch Mezcal from Oaxaca.
Perceived as some harsh homemade hooch with a worm in the bottom of the bottle, Mezcal has had a bad reputation with Americans for decades but this complex and diverse spirit has more range and depth than Tequila. With over 30 types of agaves, nine thousand producers and far less restrictions than Tequila, the variations of Mezcal are endless. Just like Tequila you can drink it straight, one the rocks, or mixed into a drink.
Our mixologist Irving Gonzales also brought some Chapulines or (toasted grasshoppers) for everyone to try. Widely consumed in Mexico and Southern parts of Asia as a favorite snack, Chapulines are roasted with garlic, lime juice and salt containing extract of agave worms, lending a sour-spicy-salty taste to the finished product perfect to pair with smoky flavor of Mezcal. Chapulines derived from the Mayan civilization where they were used as high protein snacks for “runners” who ran from town to town to deliver a messages.
Saturday started at 6:30am with Black Rock (Oceanside) coffee we lovingly refer to as “The Black Crack”. The nickname says it all. Breakfast was Tortilla Espanola with Wood grilled French Toast and Fruit platters. After breakfast, we loaded up and launched from Horsepower Ranch at 8am covering varied terrain through the rolling hills outside of Ensenada to our first stop at Ojos Negros. We briefly stopped to explain some of the interesting history of this beautiful valley.
Ojos Negros is an agricultural valley producing some of best wines, produce and cheese in all of Mexico. Some of the vegetables that we eat everyday are from this valley. The valleys name means “Black Eyes” named after two marshes that looked like eyes that have since dried up. The other story is that the name came from the eyes of a beautiful Kumeyaay Indian woman.
A photo posted by The Legends Rally (@thelegendsrally) on
The area was formerly called Real del Castillo and was founded as a gold mining town in the late 1800’s. In fact for a time it was the capital of Baja because of all the gold mining activity. Somewhere in this valley there is an old trail that connects north to Tijuana and then to San Diego created to transport gold back to the United States.
From there we headed East across the top of the valley on graded farm roads towards El Compadre Trail, where the course got a bit rough and technical. Our next stop was “La Huerta” an old Kumeyaay Indian campground that has been turned into a camp for locals and tourist. The Kumeyaay Indians have lived in this area for thousands of years existing on indigenous plants and animals. Acorns were a major staple of their diet. The drawbridge pictured above was created to cross when the wash was filled with water during rains that created a riverbed.
After the brief stop we started heading North. The pine forest or Bosque de Pinos is a federally protected preserve named The “Constitution 1857 National Park”. The mountain range we are in is the Sierra de Juárez mountain range that extends all the up to Tecate and is prized for its stunning beauty and multiple lakes. Pretty much only off-roaders and ranchers ever go through this stunning mountain range. We stopped here for lunch on a beautiful private ranch.
We sat down under canopies on white linen and had lunch prepared by Drew Deckman associate Chef Claudette Wilkens. The lunch started with Oysters with Mignonette appetizers sourced locally in Ensenada. Our lunch was a Pine Forest taco bar with pork shoulder tacos and all the fixins, cucumber-tomato salad with citrus vinaigrette, and a big ass cookie warmed over a fire of mesquite.
After an hour and half lunch and rest, we loaded back into our UTV’s and headed south back towards Ojos Negros until we came to Highway 3. As we headed out of the pine forest, the windy sand smoothed forest roads gave way to more technical roads with small rises and high brush on both sides occasionally opening up. As we crossed the highway and went back onto dirt at K77, the freshly graded course (Yes, there’s grading in Baja too) ran for 15 miles or so and quickly turned into to rocky whoops, sand washes and the rougher terrain Baja is known for.
We stopped near Tres Hermanos in a large open field and took in the beauty of Baja for a few minutes. This area is called Ejido Héroes de Baja where they have been farming cattle since the 1800’s. Throughout the ride we had been handed out playing cards sealed in an envelope for a poker run with prizes including:
$500 gift card from Polaris RZR
Set of Cannon lights from Vision-X
Horsepower Ranch 2-night stay
EZ up from Kawasaki
Wired helmet from PCI Race Radios
$100 Race-Dezert store gift card
The riding from Tres Hermanos to Ojos is one of my favorite sections with fast flowing medium rough roads mixing turns and small elevation changes which makes for a perfect Baja race track. We hit the road crossing at Ojos slowed down to cut through the edge of town and went out back through the blue gate
Now that everybody had been introduced to Mezcal the night before, they were much more ambitious with trying out the different mixed drinks as well as straight shots of Mezcal traditionally served with an orange slice and sal de gusano (salt of the worm) that is actually made up from ground up dried worms and various spices.
After a long day of riding everybody was starving and jumped right into the dinner that consisted of a 3 bean salad with chorizo, potatoes al ajillo, pulled pork shoulder, roasted mogor lamb, ensalada mixed greens, local Baja cheese, quince ate, grape flatbread on grill and marinated berries with cocoa crumble.
After dinner FUNKiachi showed up and kicked it up a few notches. The partying went on into the wee hours of the night with many more shots of Mezcal, beer and wine in the bar at the ranch affectionately known as “Clements Carrera Cantina” named after horsepower ranch’s founder Todd Clement. It’s easy get caught into the time warp of having fun at the ranch when you are surrounded by friends and drinks! The next days ride was a smaller loop so start time was 11:30 which allowed everybody to sleep in a bit.
The 4 Wheel Parts // UTVUnderground Garage semi trailer is in route to Moab, UT for the 2017 Rally On The Rocks (ROTR). ROTR is an annual UTV & SXS rally event that draws in enthusiasts from all over the United States. The rally consists of nearly a week of festivities including an event center with product exhibition, show & shine, raffle, cook outs, and of course trail riding. The ROTR has become one of the sports largest events and the UTVUnderground Garage is looking forward to participating.
While this may be the first year for the UTVUnderground Garage to display as a vendor, we are not tip-toeing in! We are bringing a full staff, over $100K in product inventory, and a host of vehicles for display. Whats cool is if you buy ANY part from us, we will install it FREE OF CHARGE! We are bringing multiple mechanics and will work through the night as needed to make sure your UTV is ready to go for the days ride!
If you are attending Rally On The Rocks then come check us out! Give the UTVUnderground Garage a chance to transform your UTV into the ultimate trail rig!
My First Trip To Moab (Rally On The Rocks)
By: Mia DiGiovanni (12 years old)
Rally on the Rocks is a week-long event held the second week of May each year, that takes place in beautiful Moab, Utah. It is an event put on for off-road enthusiasts, mainly side-by-sides, like the Polaris RZR. It is attended by what seems like thousands of people. The event puts on group and demo rides, along with allowing specific dealers to lead their own group rides with their very own vehicles. My dad, Joey D., first came to the event 6 years ago and he hasn’t missed it since. He fell in love with the beauty of the state and city, just as he did with my mom, Camille, and since he was unable to bring her this year, my dad decided to bring her mini-me instead. Me! This trip has been by far, my favorite father-daughter trip ever, and it will sure be difficult to top. My dad said if he was to bring me along, which meant I had to miss a week of school, that I was going to have to write a story on the adventure. So here is my report on my first time to Moab.
After a long 12 hour drive from our home in Valley Center, CA to Moab, UT we were spent. But I must admit, I was also very excited and I just couldn’t believe how beautiful Moab was. Upon pulling in you are met with some of the most beautiful mesas, cliffs and rock faces I have ever seen. It feels like you are driving strait into our earths history as you cross the Colorado River and can see how the water has shaped these canyons for millions and millions of years. We were going to need our rest as the week was all planned out and we had a lot of trails to see!
I could hardly sleep, despite being exhausted from the long trip, but I was super excited to get out and explore. We got up and unloaded our machine from the trailer. My dad brought along our 2016 Polaris RZR XP Turbo four seater. He has it all set up with roll cage, seats, harnesses, a windshield and some really slick wheels and tires. We gassed it up and met up with a couple of my dad’s friends and we began our drive strait through town. Unlike California, you can have your off highway vehicles licensed to be able to drive on the street. This makes it really fun to be able to drive down the road alongside other cars and trucks. Our RZR always turns heads, I get a little embarrassed at all the waving and looks our RZR attracts.
Our first trail of our trip was called Moab Rim. I mean, whats a better first trail to go on then Moab Rim?! This is one of the most popular trials in all of Moab. It has a lot of scenery and consists of lots of different terrain. Each trail has a set of obstacles usually. An obstacle can be as simple as a rock waterfall you have to crawl up, where some can be very nerve racking. I usually get out and just watch my dad when we get to the scary obstacles. But I also enjoy the rush. The first obstacle we reached is only a little ways up the trail. This is where at the Easter Jeep Safari held a couple of weeks prior to our trip, off-road legend Walker Evans, instead of making a hard left, kept driving forward right towards a cliff that goes straight down a couple hundred feet to the road below, which is right along the Colorado River. Luckily for him his back passenger tire got hung up in the rocks and he was unable to go forward anymore. Reid Nordin, with Walker Evans Racing, tried to recreate the scene just for a quick picture, but we were unable to do it. Reid is my dad’s friend and he was the first person to ever bring my dad to Moab back in 2010. It was pretty cool for both my dad I to ride alongside Reid and his wife Jill, they are really nice and very knowledgeable as it pertains to Moab and the surrounding trails. After getting up the obstacle we moved along to the top of Moab Rim. The rest of the trail was very scenic and beautiful. Utah defiantly makes you realize and understand that us, as humans, are only little accessories to God’s great creation; the Earth.
Our second trail of the trip was Hells Revenge. The name itself made me cringe when my dad said we were going there next. Hells Revenge is exactly what I thought of when he told me we were going to Moab. Its light pink slick rock trails are easy to follow due to the tire tracks the rubber leaves on the slick rock. I am not sure why they call the trails slick rock, it feels like sand paper, you quickly understand why its possible to drive up these rock faces with ease as the tires produce a lot of tracking on this surface. I did not like the steep hill climbs on the slick rock at first, that’s for sure! All my dad heard from the back seat where I was sitting was weird noises and, “Nope!” He would look back and laugh and we would scoot right up the face and I would settle back down. We made our way to the River Outlook, that view changed my perspective on a lot of things. You look one way, and you see the Colorado River flowing through a canyon. You look another way, and you see slick rock for as far as the eye can see. You look another way, and you see the snow capped mountains.
Moab is home to two of the nations most popular destinations, Canyon Lands and Arches National Parks. But just Moab itself, is a national treasure. Its so cool to be on these trails and see just how amazing the earth is. Its even greater that we get to explore the earth in these fun off-road machines. I could never imagine having to hike and climb to all of these remote locations. Being able to drive and crawl our way through and then be rewarded with such beautiful scenery was just awesome. We made our way out of Hells Revenge after playing around in the famous “Hot Tubs”. These tubs are actually big holes in the rock where water pools. Enthusiasts like us, drive into the big holes and try to drive back out. This was another place that I told my dad that I would be happy to get out and take pictures!
On day two, after a quick trip to the horse arena which is where the actual rally is held, we headed out on our first trail of the day named Strike Ravine. The beginning of the ride consists of mainly flat “S” shaped dirt roads that lead through cattle farms and open meadows. These roads are my favorite thing ever! Why you ask? Because I’m more of a pedal-to-the-metal kind of girl, rather than a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kind of girl. Considering I race a Polaris Ace 570, they aren’t that easy to drift or go around corners very fast in, so when we were in the 4 and 2 seat RZRs doing this, to me it was a blast! My dad prefers to keep it tame when I am in the vehicle but every now and then I can convince him to put the peddle to the floor and make that RZR go fast! The rest of the trail was more King Of The Hammers kind of stuff, that defiantly kept me on my toes! You might be wondering what King Of The Hammers is. Well, its a big race held in Johnson Valley, CA and its where the best rock crawlers in the world come to compete. They race up these crazy canyons full of jagged rocks. Its slower paced but very technical and it can really punish your machine. After climbing a few of these canyons we made our way to this outlook where we stopped and ate lunch and who knew the world could be such a beautiful place. Just being able to be with great friends and my dad, doing what we love, in a place we love, there’s nothing like it. We wrapped up lunch and made our way back through the trail and popped out in what is called Area BFE. I liked Area BFE, not just because the name is funny but because all of the trails are named after bands and musicians. You have Green Day, Brittany Spears, and Smashing Pumpkin to name a few. Whoever conquers a trail first gets to name it, maybe one day I will get to name one?
After a short break back at the arena my dad and his photographer Tom decided we should head back out to go do some photos. While it always seems my dad is out to have fun on these trips, and he does have fun, he also has to get some work done so we hooked up with Bill and Brandon Schueler of Jagged X racing and the guys from DWT Wheels to go take pictures of there really cool machines. We decided it would be best to do this back at Hells Revenge because the scenery is perfect for photos and its close to where we were all staying. My dad led everyone back to the river outlook where we stopped to have pictures taken of with the beautiful view in the background. Right when we were getting ready to go, my dad asked me if I wanted to drive, and automatically I said yes, because I will always take up the opportunity to drive! So I did, and it really wasn’t as nerve wrecking as riding because as the driver, you know what to expect. He spotted from the passenger seat explaining when to give the vehicle more gas and coached me for the first few minutes of the trail. Soon I was picking lines and repaying my dad with a little bit of the fear he likes to give me when we go on these off-road adventures. I drove our Polaris RZR back to the hot tubs, and drove, twice, through the Car Wash hot tub! The only thing I was worried about going through that was getting mud on my dads car! He hates getting his machines dirty, we all sort of tease him about that. I had to laugh when he asked for me to let him out to take photos when we got to the hot tub. It was the same thing I did when he was driving. Throughout the rest of the trail we went through and over a couple more obstacles, and just that section of the trail that I drove, made me so much more confident as a driver. I will never forget driving up and over the slick rock mountains with the sun dropping behind the canyons.
Day three would be our last day of riding in Moab. Our first trail was going to be Behind The Rocks. We partnered with the biggest group of the week, a bunch of my dads off-road racing buddies. You drive about a quarter of a mile up the trail before hitting the first obstacle which was a steep rocky climb. With this obstacle you defiantly had to choose your line carefully! This was the hardest obstacle of our trip so far but my dad spotted his line and powered right up. After we made sure our whole crew made it up that, we continued and ended upon the waterfall. Only about half our group did it, but honestly, I don’t blame the ones who did not do it! My dad has done it numerous times but since we were up front we decided to take the bypass route and spot everyone else coming down. This was a lot of fun watching our group heckle each other as they slid their machines down this very steep rock face. We continued to drive along windy, narrow dirt roads, with little ups and downs that made it seem like a roller coaster. We drove and drove until we made a lunch stop at the top of a cliff. The view, once again like everywhere else, was amazing. On our way back we stopped at the little sand dunes, and found a little line that had a fun jump! In the 4 seater it even created a little slap wheelie after you land! We finally made it back to the condos, and hung out for a while, before going out for our last trail of our trip.
For our last trail, we knew we had to choose a good one, so we chose Steel Bender. It started off with a water crossing, then it turned into Steel Bender, the more King of the Hammers kind of stuff. The trail was pretty rough on the neck, but the views, once again, made it all worth it. There were a few pretty extreme obstacles that none of us were able to accomplish, but the ones we did, still were gnarly! Right before we got back on the flat, windy dirt roads that I love very much, there was one more water crossing that was truly beautiful. Coming out of the water on the other side was a good little rock climb that one of our friends, unfortunately, broke an axel on, but was able to change it quickly. Then we were upon the flats again on our way back to the condos, and out of Moab the next morning around 5am.
This entire trip defiantly made me realize the most important thing in the world, family. I love my dad so much and this company and all the trips that come with it are what has brought us all together as a family. I am pretty lucky being able to grow up riding off-road, camping, racing and exploring parts of our world that most never get to see. If you ever get the chance to visit Moab or just Utah in general, I have two words for you. Do it. You won’t be disappointed.
I want to thank my Dad and his company at UTVUnderground.com for bringing me along. Thank you to the Rally On The Rocks staff for providing us with our accommodations and for showing us such a great time. I want to also thank Reid and Jill Nordin for guiding us on the trails and keeping us company as we explored Moab. Lastly, thank you to Polaris RZR for building such a cool machine for us to play in. We had a rockin’ good time!
When we spotted this new Polaris General at this years 2016 Rally On The Rocks event we knew we wanted to learn more about it! It came to no surprise that HCR Racing would be the first to develop an awesome suspension kit for this popular new machine and take its looks to the next level. We have ran HCR suspension for years, as a matter of fact the first suspension kit we ever ran on a UTV was an HCR kit that we installed on our 2006 Yamaha Rhino. The quality back then was the same as it is today, awesome!
HCR is long known for their innovative designs, quality craftsmanship and superior materials. Every suspension kit they make is tig welded to perfection. Their arms and parts are works of art and I always feel guilty when we lay powder-coat over the raw metal as the welds and fabrication is something to appreciate.
While HCR built this new 2016 Polaris General 1000 to showcase their new suspension I couldn’t help but take notice of the overall layout on this machine. The color scheme is simple yet pops and while the build itself is fairly simple it still had some great seats, wheels, tires and lighting that made this vehicle grab the attention of everyone who attended this years Rally On The Rocks.
While our phoographer Tommy Gun Images went off to shoot the vehicle for this feature I got the chance to catch up with the HCR crew to talk about our own General build which undoubtedly will feature this suspension kit! We can’t wait to get to work on our own General and see what we too can come up with!!
Model: 2016 Polaris General 1000
Builder: HCR Racing
Suspension: +5″ HCR Racing Long Travel Kit w/ 17″ of Travel
Shocks: King 2.5″ Race Series Shocks
Cage: Factory Polaris w/ HCR Aluminum Roof
Bumper: Factory Polaris w/ General DLX Winch
Lighting: 45″ Vision X LED Bar
Wheels: 14″ Raceline Sedona Beadlock Wheels
Tires: 30″ Arisun Aftershock Tires
Seats: King Of The Hammers Edition PRP Seats
Graphics: Toad Craft Custom Wrap
Words by: Joey DiGiovanni // UTVUnderground.com Photos by: Tom Leigh // UTVUnderground.com
HCR RACING POLARIS GENERAL 1000 LONG TRAVEL SUSPENSION KIT (ALSO COMPATIBLE WITH POLARIS 900 S AND 1000 S PLATFORMS)
HCR Racing is proud to offer the GENERAL Long Travel Suspension Kit. Following the aggressive and distinctive look of HCR’s Polaris XP-1000 long travel and 900 S kit, a new platform has been created. HCR combined the best attributes of strength and style to introduce the best performing, most capable GENERAL yet.
TRAVEL & DESIGN
OEM balljoints are reused to increase low speed steering and travel with minimal maintenance. 4130 Heat-treated, billet balljoint receivers are used instead of tubing for added strength and multiple weld points; eliminating a potential weak point on the Arm. A J-arm mounting style of the lower shock allows for longer stroke shocks and more travel. This +5″ kit adds 10” of overall track width and 2 inches of wheel base for better handling, stability and overall performance. High clearance front arms offer 1.25 inches of additional ground clearance. Achieve overall performance gains with 17+ inches of travel on all four corners.
HCR uses the same custom alloy as their popular Elite kit to manufacture the Polaris GENERAL 1000 suspension. This proprietary material boasts 30% stronger tensile and yield strength compared to 4130 series chromoly. The material goes through several processes and is hardened for better wear resistance and overall strength.
2.5 HCR Race series Kings are included with every HCR GENERAL Kit. These shocks include King’s wide range compression adjusters standard. Allowing up to 30% adjustment , these provide the ability to precisely adjust compression from super soft to super firm with the simple twist of a knob. The clearly marked knob offers 20 positive clicks of finely tuned adjustment. You can soften your ride when just cruising or firm up the compression when hammering rough terrain or carrying additional payload. You’ll have the ultimate in performance regardless of your pursuit.
•+5” Over kit adding 10” of overall track width
•17” of travel
•Manufactured with HCR Elite Material. This Custom Alloy Boasts 30% stronger tensile & yield strength compared to 4130 series Chromoly.
•Custom Valved King 2.5 HCR Pure Race Series Shocks. •CNC bent for accuracy •Laser Cut construction for precise fit and finish
•CNC 4130 billet mounting points for increased integrity
•RCV Axles 4340 Series Chromoly •Compression Adjusters allowing 30% adjustment for all terrains and driving styles.
•High Clearance Boxed A-Arm Design providing increased ground clearance and strength
•Each piece is hand tig welded for strength and aesthetics
•OEM ball joints to maximize lowspeed steering, ease & smooth travel with less maintenance
•New HD Sway Bar Mounts compatible with factory sway bar
•100% Bolt-on installation using factory mounting points
•Larger Delrin bushings for increased strength and durability The quality fit and finish, ease of installation, and top shelf performance of these kits are what sets HCR Racing apart from the competition. No kits are released to the public without numerous hours of vigorous testing in the rocks, desert, and dunes for true dual sport application.
* complete kit includes: 4 front arms, 4 rear A Arms shocks, shocks, axles & needed hardware
Each spring the side-by-side community descends on Moab, Utah for the annual Discount Tire Rally on the Rocks and this year was no different. With mild temps, amazing scenery, and more rock crawling side-by-sides than you can even count, the 2016 Rally on the Rocks proved that the industry is thriving and only going to get better in the years to come. Additionally, more and more manufacturers are taking advantage of this great event and taking the opportunity to get out and meet their customers and show off their latest machines.
One such manufacturer is Arctic Cat. Arctic Cat invited UTVUnderground to enjoy a day on the slick rock of Moab and check out the 2016 lineup of trail-ready Arctic Cat machines. Never ones to turn down a good time, we gladly accepted and we were set for a great day of riding.
Our ride for the day was a brand new 2016 Arctic Cat Wildcat Limited. With 1000cc’s, Elka Stage 5 shocks, ITP beadlock wheels, and less than 2 hours on the clock, UTVUnderground was ready to experience the best of what Arctic Cat has to offer and see just why the Wildcat lineup is such a popular machine in Moab. We attend a lot of events around the nation, but only in Moab do you see such a large concentration of Wildcat machines. It was our turn to see just why this machine has become so popular here in Utah.
Getting acclimated to the cockpit was a breeze, as the controls are nicely laid out and easy to operate. The adjustable steering was a nice feature and was easily set to the desired position. While the Cat lacked an adjustable seat it was never an issue as there was ample legroom and really no need for an adjustment. We enjoyed the low center of gravity the seating provides, you truly feel as if you are sitting IN the machine vs. ON it.
Once on the trail it was time for some fun as only Moab can offer! The trail for the day was the ever-diverse “Behind the Rocks” just outside of town. As we approached the first obstacle it was clear that this wasn’t going to be some dealer show type trail ride where we followed each other around an empty dirt lot with cones to mark the course. No, we were going to really test Arctic Cat’s machines on some of the best and most technical trails in Southern Utah, and test them we did. Through red sand dunes and up and down rock trails never imagined for four wheeled travel, we put the Wildcat through a gauntlet of trials and it emerged on the other side victorious every time.
After the group had gotten a chance to put the Arctic Cats through a few tests it was time to break for lunch. As we pulled up we could catch the aroma of BBQ drifting through the breeze and we quickly followed our nose to the tent where the Camp Chef crew had laid out an amazing spread complete with Tri-tip, pulled pork, and all the fixins. It was enough to make even the most trail weary of riders satisfied. We were here to ride though and once we had gotten our fill it was time to get back out on the rocks for some more fun.
Where the Wildcat really shines is in the technical rock gardens of Moab. A combination of it’s wheelbase and suspension geometry makes the Wildcat a great option for those who spend their time searching for challenging routes through the rocks. A low hood and cab-forward design offer great visibility while negotiating through technical trails, and push button four wheel drive with selectable diff-lock really holds the line on the rocks. If there were more time we would have liked to dial in the suspension to suit our taste a little better as the faster sections of trail felt a bit harsh. This likely could have been improved upon with some compression and rebound adjustment, both of which are easily accessible on the Elka Stage 5 shocks. All in all the Arctic Cat Wildcat handled everything we threw at it and came back for more and also offers a great platform from which to build a great custom ride. In the end, we did get it, we now understand just why the Wildcat is such a popular rig here in Moab. The wheelbase, power, agility and suspension make it one of the best rock-crawling UTVs on the market and we can’t wait to have the opportunity to play with them some more!
UTVUnderground.com would like to extend our thanks to Arctic Cat and it’s employees for inviting us on a great ride through some amazing country. Also, we’d like to thank Camp Chef for setting up shop in the middle of nowhere so that we could partake in some great food. Next time you are at an event stop by and say hi to both the folks at Arctic Cat and at Camp Chef, you’ll be glad you did!
Words & Photos by: Tom Leigh // UTVUnderground.com
It was a big year at UTVUnderground.com. From our launch of the inaugural UTV World Championship back in February to the introduction of the new Yamaha YXZ and our release of RJ Anderson’s XP1K3, it was a year no one will forget! We did a ton of riding this year from Dubai to Tennessee to everything in between. We took father and son off-road legends on a run through Baja, took a group of ill and injured combat veterans to Moab and once again produced some of the finest online content our sport has ever seen. We saw more relentless progression at the OEM level with Polaris introducing a new Turbo RZR, Arctic Cat announcing a partnership with Robby Gordon, and Yamaha changing the game with the YXZ1000R. Can-Am showed that their race team was nothing to ignore while Honda continued their push into the UTV market.
We thought we would take a look back at some of our favorite stories, videos and pieces that helped shape 2015 into one of the most powerful years ever here at UTVUnderground.com! As always we want to thank you, the viewer, for enjoying this look back with us and supporting UTVUnderground.com as we move into 2016!
Looking Back on The UTV World Championship Reflecting on the inaugural UTV World Championship Event
We kicked the year off in a big way in February! It was a huge deal for us to introduce a UTV specific race event. UTVUnderground had dabbled for years with sponsoring events but our dream of hosting the largest UTV race event in the world came true in 2015. Take a look back as we made history in Laughlin!
Remembering “Wally World” Saying goodbye to a dear friend is never easy to do…
2015 was a great year, but nothing is harder than having to say goodbye to such a dear friend. The UTV world lost one of our greatest pioneers when Rick “Wally” Wallace lost his battle with cancer. We did our best to memorialize Wally in the best way we could. His memory and spirt lives on at UTVUnderground.com.
UTVUnderground Heads To HAVASU! We travel to Lake Havasu for Round 4 of WORCS and have some fun
When the WORCS racing series headed to Lake Havasu we decided to go have some fun! We jumped in with the UTVUnderground Walker Evans Racing team and brought back one of the funniest and coolest race videos ever!
Taking on Moab with our Nations Heroes We headed to Rally On the Rocks with Warfighter Made
Its becoming a tradition for us to partner with Warfighter Made, a non-profit organization that helps injured combat war veterans and take a trip somewhere special. In 2015 we loaded up and headed to Moab, UT with some amazing veterans and got to know them and their stories.
BFGoodrich Releases KR2 UTV Tire The biggest name in off-road tires comes to play with the UTV crowd
To say it was a big deal when BFG announced they were releasing a UTV tire would be an understatement. What was cool for us is UTVUnderground.com was able to play such a large role in its release to the public!
UTVUnderground BREAKDOWN: 50 Shades Mudder We partnered with S3 Powersports to build our first ever mud machine
We have done a lot of builds over the years but 2015 marked the first time we ever took on a MUD build! We partnered with S3 Powersports to build us the ultimate Can-Am Maverick mud monster that we called #50Shades!
The Ultimate Father & Son Adventure We headed south of the border with off-road legends and icons
People dream of trips like one we took this year with some of off-roads most dynamic father & son duos. Chad & Larry Ragland, RJ & Randy Anderson and Bryce & Steve Menzies took time out of their busy racing schedules to just enjoy doing what they love to do!
July Was Military Month on UTVUnderground.com We used the month of July to raise awareness for Warfighter Made
We have a close connection and appreciated what our nations military, both past and present, do for our awesome country! In July we kicked off Military Month on UTVUnderground.com to help raise awareness and dollars for the Warfighter Made organization.
UTVUnderground BREAKDOWN: King Ranch RZR We partnered with SDR Motorsports to build the baddest 4 seat RZR 1000 EVER
Its no secret that when UTVUnderground and SDR get together some magic is going to happen! In 2014 we unveiled King Ranch to the masses at Camp RZR and then in 2015 we took it to the dunes to break it down and show just how awesome this RZR is!
Polaris Launches 2016 Lineup, NEW RZR Turbo Polaris dropped the biggest model year lineup ever
When Polaris announces a new model year the entire industry stops and pays attention. This year with great anticipation Polaris not only released the new Polaris RZR XP Turbo, they also dropped a new ACE 900, High Lifter Edition Ranger and much much more!
RJ Anderson Captures His First Pro 2 Win UTV racing icon RJ Anderson headed south to Ensenada and got a Pro 2 WIN
RJ Anderson is not new to winning, but when he stepped up to the premier short course truck racing class he definitely had his challenges. But it didn’t take long for the champion to find his groove and sweep Round 12 in Pro-Lite and Pro 2!
Yamaha Gets Back in The Game with The YXZ Yamaha released the 2016 YXZ 1000R and Turned the industry upside down
Easily the most anticipated and hyped up story of the year was the release of the new 2016 Yamaha YXZ 1000R. Yamaha fans have waited patienlty to see Yamaha step into the sport market and instead of stepping, the jumped in head first!
UTVUnderground Unveils NEW CageWRX Built Racer UTVUnderground & CageWRX partner and build their first UTV desert race RZR
We have been committed to UTV racing for years but not until 2015 did we take the plunge and put together our first UTV desert racing program. Togeather with the Ragland’s, UTVUnderground and Polaris unveiled their new 2016 BITD Pro UTV desert race RZR!
UTVUnderground Drops RJ Anderson XP1K3 The XP1K series has taken the UTV industry by storm! XP1K3 is HERE
When XP1K3 dropped the UTV world came to a halt and tuned in to see just what RJ and his RZR would do this time! XP1K3 rocketed across news outlets all over the world further putting the sport of UTV and the Polaris RZR into the mainstream!
The 2015 SCORE Baja 1000, Champions Crowned The grand daddy of all desert races, the SCORE Baja 1000 saw the biggest Pro UTV turnout ever
Every year in November off-road racers make the journey south to take on the grand daddy of all desert races, the SCORE Baja 1000. This year Wayne Matlock and Terry Hui took control and the win while Brandon Schueler and Jagged X would clinch the season championship.
UTVUnderground SHAKEDOWN: 2016 RZR-S 1000 We head to Tennessee to shakedown the all new 201r RZR-S 1000
Ain’t no party like a SHAKEDOWN party! This year we headed to Camp RZR East in Tennessee to shakedown the all new 2016 Polaris RZR-S 1000 and we had a blast. Take a look as we give you the inside scoop on this awesome new and nimble UTV.
How-To-Go UTV Racing, A Guide by UTVUnderground We give you the scoop on the ins and outs to starting your very own UTV race team
We get asked questions all the time by people wanting to start their own UTV race team. We finally took the time to break it all down and give you a basic guide on how to get your own team kicked off! Whether you want to race desert or short course, we spell it all out for you!
S3 Powersports Wins The Battle, UTV Inc Wins The War
The 2015 Best In The Desert (BITD) Pro UTV season championship would all come down to the Henderson 250, the final race of the year. Johnny Angal in the #1921 UTV Inc Polaris RZR and Justin Lambert in the #1918 Cognito Motorsports Polaris RZR were separated by enough points to make the final race extremely interesting. Brandon Schueler in the #1919 Jagged X Polaris RZR was still hanging in there but would need both Lambert and Angal to have their worst days while he had his best to be able to squeak away with his 7th title.
30 +/- UTVs would stage to take on the final race of the season solidifying the Pro UTV class as the largest of any class entered at the Henderson 250. Proof once again that the UTV class continues to grow and that the competitors are committed despite where they may lye in the championship standings.
As is the case many times throughout the season, the race claims to be 250 miles but UTVs alongside a few other classes would really only be racing 160 miles. Due to time constraints BITD shortens the race for certain classes to ensure enough time for the Unlimited classes to run the full 250 miles. It would be nice for UTVs to be able to run a full 250 miles and help further the challenge of these desert races making attrition a larger part. As it stands now, Henderson, Parker, the UTVWC and Silver State seem so much like a drag race versus a true long range desert race but nevertheless it still is fun and extremely challenging.
The Henderson 250 festivities are held in downtown Henderson but the race itself is held in Jean, NV on the course many are now familiar with as the current Mint 400 race course. BITD is referred to by many as BLADE IN THE DESERT because of their blading or smoothing of the actual race course. It is said by Casey Folks, head of BITD, that BLM and other agencies require this type or course maintenance which is a real shame. It seems as if the berms of the course are getting higher and even harder to move off of and the ruts and bumps seem to get squared and deeper than a natural trail just left to nature to rehabilitate. Whatever the case may be, the course by the second lap was harsh and rough in many spots and in others was soft and dusty.
One very positive change for this race was that UTVs were moved out of the Bike / ATV race which always starts with the sunrise. Anyone who has attended the Henderson 250 would know that this tends to be the coolest race of the year temperature wise and this year was no different. With UTVs now starting in “Race #2” at 9AM it allows for the temp to rise a bit which is great. Downside to this change is running with other larger 4 wheel vehicles. That means more dust and more larger vehicles to have to pass and or be passed by. With all that said, I doubt you would find any UTV racers that would want it changed back to the way it was for this race. We thought it was perfect and allows us to have some time to prepare on race morning while still being done with the race by 1pm or so.
Racers staged two-by-two, racing off the line every 30 seconds through a short 2 turn infield before meeting side-by-side in a race into the desert. Early in the field a racer on the outside line would dump his RZR onto its side in turn one and while BITD worked hard to right the vehicle they also continued to send vehicles off the line. The next 3-4 UTVs in the outside line were slowed to a major disadvantage until the rolled over RZR could get out of the way. Guys like Sims and Holz were 2 of the teams that were hindered by this mishap and while it didn’t exactly affect Sim’s race in the long run, Holz on the other hand would be able to look back on this early moment of the race and blame a possible race win miss on this incident. The rest of the start seemed pretty smooth for the rest of the field and the drag race for the win and season championship was under way!
A light breeze moved the dust along in many parts allowing for an even faster pace to be set. It wasn’t long before Dustin Jones & Shane Dowden of S3 Powersports in their Turbo Maverick began to set a pace that would be hard to overcome for anybody. S3 has had a fantastic rookie season. The mud riders from Louisiana blasted onto the scene in 2015 with a factory Can-Am sponsorship and no desert racing experience whatsoever, but what they had was some money, a lot of skill and a will to learn and do whatever it took to be the best. What resulted was a win at the 2015 Mint 400 and podium contention in many other races throughout the season. But as is the case with many in desert racing, you can only run that crazy fast pace for so long before something gives and unfortunately this season they had some parts let go keeping them from further race wins. Henderson would be different for S3 and their driver was also different which made this race win even more impressive! Dustin Jones would trade places with his usual co-driver Shane Dowden and give Shane a chance to wheel this entire race. Dustin did joke around prior to the race saying that if Shane was off the pace that he was going to pull him from the wheel but Shane fired back reminding everyone that he has beat Dustin before and that he would be just fine. Fine he was, Shane would wheel the #1978 to a first place finish at this years Henderson 250!
Now back to that early race mishap that happened in turn 1. Ryan Holz who was driving the #1964 Holz Racing Products RZR was one of the unlucky vehicles to get stuck behind the rolled over RZR. We would have to go back to see exactly just how long that delay was for Holz but here is what we do know. Ryan Holz would finish just behind Dowden in second place by only 37 seconds! 37 seconds is what separated a win from a loss here at the Henderson 250. Now we may be reaching to say that the start slowed Holz to the point of losing the race, we all know many things happen on course that cost racers seconds, minutes and many times hours. Regardless, the young 16 year old driver proved to everyone that he is no slouch and like his father Mark who rode shotgun and also built the #1964 RZR, we expect the younger Holz to compete at a very high level in 2016.
Rounding out the podium would be a name we have been hearing more and more throughout the 2015 season, Poelman. Dodge Poelman, like Holz, is the son of another talented driver. Dodge is 15 years old and has showed some signs of serious potential. The #1962 Supercross.com RZR has had its share of podium’s. For this race they would enlist off-road racing talent Doug Mittag to co-drive and then drive the second lap of the 2 lap race. Together the two would drive the #1962 RZR to a third place finish! While we are sure we will see more of Poelman, we also hope to see more of Mittag in the desert. We all know he has skills as a 22 year old short course racer, but we think there is huge potential for Mittag in the desert also!
While racing to win is always the name of the game, sometimes its the bigger picture of a season championship that takes precedent over ones approach. Fortunately for us fans, knowing that battle this season was coming down between Johnny Angal and Justin Lambert we knew it was going to be an all out fight and that neither would just “race to finish”. Johnny has an attitude about him that you have to admire, its all about glory and bragging rights, he wants to win and its first or last when you talk to the 50 year old who is only in his second year of professional off-road racing. The 40 year old Lambert is much like Angal when it comes to the will to win and being that he had to best Angal this race while knowing that Johnny is going to hang it all out, it put the pressure on Lambert to not only be on his A-Game but to also be perfect while hoping that Angal had a bad day, a really bad day! Well, Johnny Angal had a bad day, his worst in fact of the 2015 season and while Lambert didn’t have his best day he still finished in 4th place. Initially the calculations at the finish line showed that the results would have Lambert and his Cognito Motorsports Polaris RZR hoisting the 2015 season championship trophy. Justin & Justin stoop atop their RZR and popped champagne for the cameras and for a brief moment basked in the glory of winning the season championship, the first of their racing career. However, not much longer Angal and BITD began to take a closer look realizing that this race would actually be Angal’s one throw out race of the season. This result would actually have him edging out Lambert by 2 points to take down the first championship for the #1921 UTV Inc Polaris RZR race team!
Its hard to decipher whats more important, a race win or a season championship. Wins unless done in the biggest races are often forgotten about by anyone other that the team that won the race. Championships however seem to live forever. You look at Brandon Schueler and I could name a few of his race wins, but I always know that he is the 6-time BITD Pro UTV champion. I couldn’t be more excited for Angal and more bummed for Lambert at the very same time. Those who race and follow racing know just how hard it is to win let alone consistently perform to the level of winning a championship. Angal has done a lot in his short career as a racer. He has built something like 4 different race cars in 2 years, he has won the Baja 1000, and now has won a season championship. There aren’t many other classes in off-road racing that could allow a total rookie to just show up and compete at this level. Its something very special about the UTV class, it truly is a class for anyone and everyone all at the same time. Congrats to the entire #1921 race team on a season well done.
It should be noted that Lacretia Beurrier also won the 2015 Pro Unlimited Championship this year in her #2909 Polaris RZR. While she locked that championship up a race or two ago, it goes without saying that she earned not only numerous wins this year in the unlimited class but secured a championship for her team and sponsors. Much has been said that the class has never produced consistent entires & competition, and while that may be true that should not take away from the fact that the #2909 RZR showed up to compete at each and every race no matter what the class entries were. We would have hoped to see Turbo vehicles been placed into the Unlimited class for the 2016 season to better help grow that class but it looks like that will not happen. Whatever class Beurrier plans to compete in, we know she and her team will show up with a well built machine, a quality program and a will to win! Congrats to the entire #2909 race team on a season well done.
It was an exciting season of racing. The Turbo Maverick platform proved to be the real deal all while the RZR platform continued to dominate the standings and car counts. Many predict that there could finally be a championship looming for the Can-Am race program in 2016 as their team has had a full year of prep on their Turbo platform. With the creation of the Turbo class for 2016 they (Can-Am) could get ahead in the standings before those racing Turbo RZRs have time to really get them dialed in. So far the results for those competing on the Turbo RZR platform have been less than stellar. Because of BITD’s stance on keeping UTVs racing at the Parker 250 so that they can justify and pay for bikes to race, there is not much of an off-season for UTVs. This is a whole other issue for a whole other article, but as it stands it will be interesting to see just how ready those new Turbo RZRs will be come that first weekend in January. We know the Can-Am Turbo program will be strong in the newly created Pro Turbo UTV class, and its almost goes without saying that RZRs will continue to dominate the Pro UTV class. Our little race class is growing, thats a great thing, could 2016 be the biggest year AGAIN? Only time will tell….
Congrats to everyone who competed this season, thank you to all of you who continue to support our site as we look to continue supporting you!
See you in 2016..
Side Note: Huge props to our media staff this year. As has been the case for almost 7 years now, if you want the best off-road UTV racing coverage you come to UTVUnderground.com! Our team finished the year off with a bang and we have provided one of the best photo galleries of the season for you to enjoy!!
In June 2015, UTVUnderground.com in conjunction with Discount Tire, unveiled the all new RAGE Thunder tires to the UTV industry. The tire at the time was as new to me as it was to the public and our sport.
Today it seems that new UTV products, especially wheels and tires, are surfacing left and right. New companies are emerging while existing companies like Method Race Wheels, BFGoodrich, and Pro-Armor are introducing their own line of UTV tires. Its a good thing for consumers, we all like choices, but its also getting harder and harder to make a decision surrounding the purchase of a new tire, especially a new brand like RAGE. Fortunately for you, UTVUnderground.com is committed to testing and honestly reviewing these products to better help you make those decisions. While we always choose to focus on a products positives as we want to do right by the companies putting effort into our sport, we do feel obligated to give it to you strait and point out the areas that aren’t as favorable. Luckily for the RAGE Thunder, there is very little negative to discuss!
What is the RAGE Thunder? The RAGE Thunder is a DOT approved 8-ply radial that comes in 8 different sizes ranging from 26” tall to 30” tall and is available for 14” and 15” rims. We opted for the 30” tall, 10” wide Thunder on a 14” MB11 wheel for all 4 corners for our test. It’s a wheel and tire combo that’s perfect for the RZR XP1000 so we thought we would put the Thunder’s to use on our new 2015 Polaris RZR XP1000 Fox Edition. We knew we would be using this machine through the month of June with a big trip to Moab for the Rally On The Rocks so we could really see what these tires were all about beyond just “Shaking them down” for our UTVUnderground.com SHAKEDOWN video.
I have driven on just about every popular tire there is in the UTV segment and frankly other than some of the OEM tires that come standard on base model units, most tires coming out from the major brands are pretty dang good. Some better than others in certain terrain and scenarios but overall there is a lot of really good tires in the marketplace for UTVs. So it comes down to the little details such as your primary riding terrain or style, the sizes available that fit your machine, and of course how they look. If you ride the dunes, then you want a tire that is going to enhance that riding style, a set of paddles may be your best option. If you ride a lot of streets with your UTV then of course you will need and want a DOT rated tire. So the first thing is deciding what it is you need the tire to do and then go from there. For me, I want an all around use tire. I hate having to change wheels and tires out and frankly it seems that most of the riding I do requires a good all around tire as many of my trips consist of multiple types of terrain. Thats why I wanted to wait until we rode in Moab to write this review, because I knew I would get to feel the tires work in a vast array of terrain.
Our first trip out on the RAGE Thunders was captured on video (see above) for an initial SHAKEDOWN. We were very happy with the way the tires worked in the hard pack dirt and rally roads. We played with tire pressure and found that the lower we went in PSI the better they performed. In Moab I ran them at 10 PSI most of the time and they were AMAZING! As I mentioned, the Thunders are soft and sticky, perfect for rock crawling but also provide for a lot of traction in all terrain. As I run my machine down a graded dirt road, like everyone else, I love to flick the vehicle into corners and drift as far and as hard as I can. I noticed quickly that my drifting was cut short by the traction I had, even as the tires rolled over, they were hooked up and propelling me forward. At first it slowed me a bit, fearing they would hook up and put me on the bike, but then quickly I found myself driving the RZR in deep, trying to see how much and how far I could push the RZR with the traction I had. Before I knew it I felt like I was racing, finding the apexes and seeing how quickly I could get in and out of the sweeping corners versus throwing it in and seeing how far out I could slide the back end. I couldn’t help but think about how well these tires would do on a short course track with that compound and groove pattern which has great surface area but also a lot of spacing for clean-out of the lugs which allow you to maintain that traction even in a muddy or thicker loamy type dirt scenario.
Off of the hard dirt and into the rougher rocks I began to test the tires durability. I had a spare so I wasn’t afraid to put the sidewall into rocks or drive right at things that normally I would avoid. With that said, I wasn’t trying to get a flat, but I did want to see how much the tires would take. Needless to say they never once punctured or pinched. The MB11 wheels we are running on have a simulated bead lock so I was also pushing to see how well the bead of the tire would hold up since we had dropped the air down. On my final day of riding I was down to about 8 PSI and never once felt like I was about to pop the bead off.
The Thunders are some of the best tires I have ever used in rocks. The soft and sticky compound really shined in the slick rock terrain of Moab. Getting some weather was great for our test because we were able to see how they would do in a muddy and slick situation. What I found was that even when the tires were wet and the rocks got covered in mud, they cut through and put an amazing amount of traction down. While many in our group were slipping and sliding I was almost laughing as I rolled on the throttle and walked up obstacles as if the rocks were still dry. Others in the group also took notice and commented thinking I had some secret crawling technique that I wasn’t sharing.
Of course when the slick rock was dry, these tires really shined. Gripping the ground like they were glued to it and propelling us up everything. So much so that it felt like I was popping wheelies up some steeper obstacles, fearing I would backflip myself and crash!
Ok, so they can’t be all good right? There has to be a negative right? Well, honestly there isn’a whole lot I can pick on here. The trade off to having a soft and sticky tire like the RAGE Thunder is that they are going to wear down much quicker than a harder compound tire. We noticed the signs of wear after our first afternoon of riding for the SHAKEDOWN video but after a hard week of riding in Moab we could definitely see that these tires would need to be replaced much quicker than other tires we have ran on in the past. I am spoiled, so I spread my riding out to multiple machines so for me these tires will still last a very long time, but if you use your UTV multiple times per month then you might see the wear as a negative, but if traction and reliability are as important to you as they are to us then the wear is a very fair tradeoff.
Availability could be a problem for those of you who like to buy from your favorite off-road shop or UTV dealer as you can only get these tires through Discount Tire, America’s Tire, and Discount Tire Direct. Thats not a huge negative of course, you can find a Discount / America’s Tire in almost every major city in the USA and you can have them shipped directly to your door step through DiscountTireDirect.com. At $140.00 per tire (for this size we tested) you really can’t complain! Its a lot of tire for that price.
We are looking forward to playing with the Thunder’s throughout the year. We will also be testing the new RAGE Storm’s next. The Storm is another very cool looking tire and we will be testing it in a more utility type setting.
To Purchase: http://www.discounttire.com/dtcs/tires/rage_tires/product/byName.do?tmn=Thunder&typ=ATV
The durable 8-ply rated Rage Thunder is a cross between a Mud Terrain and All-Terrain tire and delivers exceptional performance even in the toughest of terrain. Available in 14-inch and 15-inch wheel sizes, with tire diameters ranging from 26-inch to 30-inch, the Rage Thunder fits a broad range of ATVs and UTVs.
• Stepped tread blocks improve stability and help reduce stone retention
• Wide void ratio and reptilian surface design for efficient clean out of mud and debris
• Radial design for optimal ride comfort
• 8 Ply rated construction for puncture resistance
• Wrap around sidewall tread lugs for improved side bite
Words by: Joey DiGiovanni // UTVUnderground.com
Photos by: Vincent Knakal – Jessica Katharsys – Ernesto Araiza // UTVUnderground.com
Our project Polaris RZR 900 s is a work horse. Because it’s not a show car and not a race car but is still capable and fun to drive it gets all of the high risk riding duties. Ferrying us around the Mint 400? No problem. Crawling (and rolling) all over Rally on the Rocks? Check. Need a car we can loan to a leadfooted friend? You guessed it.
This is why I was stoked to finally get to show this beast some more love. We already have an awesome (and functional, see below) cage from CageWRX, harnesses from Assault, and wheels and tires from Method and Tensor (among other things). It was time to hook up with the guys at Trinity and get this do-all machine some bark to match it’s bite.
The exhaust looks awesome with it’s matte black finish and billet aluminum bits and pieces leading into stainless headers with the Trinity logo at the crossover. It’s really a shame we have to cover it up so much! Anyways, on to the fun part.
So, you can see what we’re working with here. The first step is going to be removing the stocker in its entirety and that entails a fair amount of disassembly. First we removed the seats and harnesses, easy peasy. Next, remove the air cleaner lid and all of the Torx bolts holding the air cleaner cover on.
After removing the air cleaner cover, remove the four bolts holding the ecu in place, a Benchmark Performance massaged unit in our case. After removal, unplug the ecu and set it to the side.
Next, remove the six plastic push in fasteners along the bottom of the lower firewall and pull the entire shroud out, giving you access to the head pipes in all their glory.
Now moving around to the back, remove the 10-12 torx bolts holding the rear fascia on, gently pull it backwards and down to release it but don’t let it fall. Squeeze your hand in there and disconnect the tail lights by lifting up on the latching connector. Set the whole thing aside.
Now that you have a clear shot at the stocker, start pulling off all of the springs that hold it to the chassis and head pipe. There is one on either side of the exhaust and one underneath as well as two where the muffler meets the head pipe. With all of these removed you are free to pull the muffler portion off and set it aside. You can also remove the two lowest fender brackets at this point, they will get in the way.
Head around to the front and undo the six head pipe fasteners with a 6mm hex wrench. You will need something with a long shank or perhaps a universal joint style adapter because these can be a little tricky. Once you get them all off you can gently remove the head pipes from the vehicle, being careful not to damage the exhaust gasket if you are planning to reuse it.
Now it’s time for the fun stuff, putting all this goodness onto the RZR!
Start by loosely assembling the two mufflers into the two billet clamps with the hanger facing the RZR. Don’t tighten the bolts all the way, just enough that they don’t scratch the mufflers. Next install the two muffler L brackets with the welded nut facing down for the exhaust hangers, do not fully tighten. The two long brackets with a bend in them replace your old lower fender brackets and the center bracket gets bolted on with the upper motor mount bolt.
Next mount the head pipe with the stock hardware, again being gentle if reusing stock exhaust gasket. Use two springs to connect head pipes to crossover.
Mount up to the pre assembled exhaust, still not cranking down on everything. Insert the mid pipe from muffler to crossover and install 4 springs, two from crossover to mid pipe and two from mid pipe to mufflers. Use the supplied spring mount washers on the muffler end. Tighten down everything you left a little loose for wiggle room and then reassemble all the stock panels in the reverse order and you’re good to go!
The exhaust seems very high quality and fit and finish of components was all good. I wish it had been a little roomier where the head pipes bolt on or I had a swivel extension because getting to all the bolts to tighten them was kind of a bear. We also got no instruction with our exhaust but one call to trinity got me straightened out and ours was a very early production unit.
The sound is very impressive and just ripping around the lot near the office it sounds healthy and feels peppy, we will report back on long term performance. I just wish that the whole exhaust wasn’t hidden by the rear fascia. We need to find a company that makes a shorter one or bust out the sawzall and let these bad boys shine!
It seems that for most of my adult life I have carried some level of guilt around for not enlisting in the military. Both of my grandfathers were veterans, one served in the Navy and the other in the Army. A few of my friends enlisted right out of high school. I met with a Marine Corps recruiter named Sgt. Dorkus a couple of times but I just wanted to party and make some money back then and never took those meetings too serious. Needless to say my priorities were all screwed up as a teenager. Like many others after 9/11 I was all pissed off, wishing I was in the fight but I wasn’t in a position in my life to drop what I had going on to join the armed forces. Maybe too selfish?
As my career grew, I forgot about those temptations for being a military man. I still would indulge in History channel war docs and always loved a good war story. I remember some years ago (2006) I picked up an issue of Rolling Stone Magazine and there was a story about a US Iraq war veteran returning with severe mental and physical injuries, this was about the time that PTSD was really becoming a topic of discussion amongst the general public. Awareness was increasing in regards to soldiers returning from combat with severe mental stress and depression due to their time on the front lines.
What was ironic about that issue of Rolling Stone was a story about Marine Corps Sgt. Scott Thorne. It was crazy because I realized this was the Scott Thorne that grew up down the street from my brother and I. He was a very un-intimidating youth who played sports and hung out with my brother often. What I didn’t know until that story was that Scott had joined the Marines and turned into a modern day bad ass. While leading a patrol on the streets of Mosul on September 14, 2004 Scott and his patrol were ambushed by a group of drive-by insurgents. Scott was shot in the head, a bullet embedded into his brain while fellow Marine, Sgt. Jacob Demand was killed on site. Scott’s life was spared, his fellow soldiers quick actions saved his life and doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. did all they could to repair the damage. The bullet was left in Scott’s brain. Scott Returned to our hometown of Escondido, CA forever a changed man. But the article was more than just a story of a soldier wounded in war, it was about the after affects of war and their mental and physical injuries. I don’t remember every detail of the story, but what always stuck with me was how the story turned from bad to worse for Scott on a personal level. See, as Scott returned home to his wife a disabled man, she turned her back on him. Again, I don’t remember the details but I do remember how sick I felt knowing that this man, this hero, sacrificed so much for not just his family but for all of us, and the person he loved most turned her back on him due to the fact that he was a different person. It made me sick. It hurt me to read this. It left me forever wondering just how many men and women are coming back from war to a home or country that no longer understands them and what they had been through.
As far as I know, Sgt. Scott Thorne has gone on to live life, no doubt a fully changed person, but he is alive. His story has forever stuck with me and although I have not seen Scott since those high school years I would do anything for him and anyone else in his shoes that needed help.
As I have grown older and matured I have begun to feel deep regret for not doing “my part” as a young, healthy and albeit studly youth.. (my wife still calls me a stud so stop laughing). This guilt, or maybe its more of me just being grateful, has caused me to have deep compassion and empathy for our veterans. I have grown to be more grateful and proud of my own families history as veterans. I have also developed a passion to do what little I am capable of doing to supporting these heroes. Sometimes its as simple as handing that Vietnam War Veteran panhandling on the street a couple of bucks but as of late I have been presented with a greater opportunity. Robert Blanton and Warfighter Made has come into my life.
MSgt. Robert Blanton….
Last year I was introduced to Master Sergeant Robert Blanton, Marine Corps (Ret). Blanton is a Recon Marine which means he is one of the baddest dudes in the world, a guy you want on your side. To give you a little background on MSgt. Blanton, he is an Iraq war veteran who has been honored with the Silver Star Medal. The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration for valor awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces, Blanton was awarded this medal after rescuing and saving the life of a fellow Marine. The way I describe Robert when talking about him to friends is, he’s the kind of guy they make movies about.
The following is an excerpt from a MilitaryTimes.com page discussing Robert’s Silver Star Award. “The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Gunnery Sergeant Robert J. Blanton, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Platoon Sergeant, First Platoon, Company A, Third Reconnaissance Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), on 10 August 2008, in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM FY-08. As an element of Gunnery Sergeant Blanton’s platoon began clearing what appeared to be an abandoned house, it became heavily engaged with enemy small arms fire from a strong point located inside the building. Gunnery Sergeant Blanton immediately repositioned his element’s vehicles to support the engaged element. Bravely exposing himself to enemy fire, he dismounted his vehicle and began engaging insurgents as they presented themselves. Using initiative and quick thinking, Gunnery Sergeant Blanton returned to his vehicle and directed it to ram the building’s outer wall in order to expose additional insurgents within the building. He then led a small group of Marines to clear the building and recover a wounded Marine trapped inside. During the recovery, Gunnery Sergeant Blanton courageously transitioned from his rifle to his pistol and began engaging insurgents located in close proximity to his position. Once the recovery was complete, Gunnery Sergeant Blanton coordinated with supporting aircraft on station to deliver precision guided munitions directly on the insurgent stronghold, effectively ending the engagement. By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Blanton reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
That excerpt is just a glimpse into who Robert is, what he is about and how much of himself he has dedicated to being not only an honorable soldier & family man, but to being a protector of our country and his “brothers”. But I think whats most important about Robert is who he has become following his Military career. Alongside fellow veteran Brian T. Meyer and friend Butch Lynch, Robert founded Warfighter Made. The goal was to help ill and combat wounded veterans adapt and rehab by means of customizing vehicles to fit their injuries as well as take these veterans on trips which are referred to as Recreational Therapy experiences. In the few years Warfighter Made has been in operation, Robert and team have adapted numerous vehicles and treated veterans to numerous recreational therapy experiences and trips. To put it simply, Robert has dedicated his post military life to serving his brothers returning from war, putting others first just as he had done throughout his military career as a Marine.
While Robert bares no visible scars, in fact he’s still the epitome of a Marine in terms of physical stature, he does suffer what he refers to as invisible injuries. Robert like most who return from intense combat suffers from PTSD. These invisible injuries and his battle with them is what caused him to start Warfighter Made. He himself has been at the very bottom of depression. He has suffered deeply and at one point was on the brink of suicide. Did you know that 22 veterans commit suicide a day? Robert educated me to the statistics and let me tell you, its scary. Robert explained the psychological impact of war to me and just how deep and ugly the problem is amongst our combat veterans. His understanding of the pain, depression, anxiety and confusion is what has made him so effective in helping his brothers. He told me a story about how at one point he was on every form of antidepressant and medication, how he would go and visit head doctors who wanted nothing more than to talk to him and to tell him what was wrong with him and how to fix it. At one point Robert snapped on a psychologist and told him “why don’t you shut up and listen to me now!” See, unless you have lived it, seen it, smelled it and felt it, you can’t understand what he and all these thousands and thousands of veterans have seen and lived through. Sometimes you just need to shut up and listen, let them tell you how they feel. Sometimes, you just need to listen.
While Robert still and always will live life carrying the burden of PTSD, he has found a new form of therapy. He hasn’t said this to me, but I can plainly see that helping his brothers is now his means of maintaining. It is now his mission to save lives off the battlefield. The same lives he fought for in combat, he is now fighting for upon their return. He is a lifelong soldier, his enemy has shifted, he is now fighting against the after affects of combat.
Heading to Moab…
After meeting Robert and spending time with him and the Warfighter Made group we took to Mammoth last year (SEE VIDEO HERE) I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization at some level. I felt that up to this point UTVUnderground and myself had not done enough in the realm of charity and while we have done things over the years to support injured off-road enthusiasts we had yet to use our platform at UTVUnderground to really promote and support a cause as great as Warfighter. It was finally time to feel like I too can be a part of something special, and while it won’t replace the fact that I had never done my part as a soldier, in some way I feel like I can find solitude in helping serve and give back to the heroes who had served and given up so much for this amazing place we call home.
Since meeting Robert we have hosted the Warfighter Made group (in large part to funding from Polaris RZR) in Mammoth for an amazing Recreational Therapy experience, enjoyed their company at numerous Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Events (thanks to the amazing hosting by RJ Anderson & Todd Davis), and supported Warfighter Made via awareness through social media and UTVUnderground. But, this isn’t enough. Its not even close to enough. They deserve so much more from our site, our community and from me personally. On that trip to Mammoth I forged what I believe to be life long friendships with Patrick Walker, Rob Dickey AKA Rob5, and Brian T. Meyer. We made memories on that trip and I was able to sit, listen and learn about what they have gone through and what being a wounded combat veteran actually means.
Last week, after weeks of planning, we embarked on another adventure with the Warfighter Made organization to Moab, UT for the 2015 Rally On The Rocks. Up to this point Polaris RZR has donated 4 Polaris RZR Xp1000’s to Warfighter Made. Over the course of about 8 months Robert has done all he can to piece together some awesome RZRs for use by the veterans they wish to support on these Recreational Therapy trips. Many companies have stepped up to modify and adapt these RZRs into capable and accessible off-road machines. Of course, starting with a RZR XP1000, half the battle is won right off the showroom floor but these adrenaline junkies can punish vehicles, and they have done a good job of putting the Polaris RZRs to the test, this upcoming trip to Moab would be no different.
For this trip Robert would invite Marine Cpl. Michael Fox and his wife Erica. Marine Sgt. Gabriel Martinez and his wife Kayla. And Marine Cpl. Joshua Sust. Mike, Gabe and Josh were all victims of brutal IED attacks while serving in Afghanistan. Mike & Gabe both lost their legs in separate IED attacks. Josh was hit and nearly lost his foot and arm, 9 surgeries later he is able to operate with the use of both arms and legs but the visible and hidden scars are there for all 3 of these men. It was special for Mike and Erica to attend this trip to Moab, they both were married the week before! What better honeymoon to have right!!?? Erica didn’t agree, but it was really cool having them as well as Gabe & Kayla on the trip with us. Kayla & Erica are huge in both of Mike & Gabe’s recovery. These women have stood by their men through the most challenging of circumstances. They probably would’t agree, but to me, they deserve just as much credit for being heroes as their husbands do. This would be all of their first times to Moab and their first times really off-roading to this level in a RZR. It was set up to be an awesome week of riding!
After a 12 hour journey from San Diego to Moab, UT, we had arrived just before our guests. Mike & Erica came in from Texas, Gabe & Kayla from Colorado and Josh from Ohio. Its crazy because despite all of these Marines, including Robert, being from all different parts of the country, you can easily see these guys are all brothers. They all operate at the same level and speak on the same frequency. Its a special bond they share and after some time with the guys unless you notice their prosthetics or scars you would have no idea these guys have been through and live with the wounds of war. We immediately all hit it off and were anxious to get to riding at one of our favorite events in one of the best off-road paradises in the world!
The Rally On The Rocks event is held every year in May in Moab. This is the 6th year in a row that I have attended, every year I anxiously await this trip and since attending my first time I have enjoyed introducing Moab and the Rally On The Rocks to other friends. This year was special being able to bring the Warfighter Made organization with us. Once again, Polaris RZR backed our efforts and made sure that Warfighter Made had the resources necessary to make the trip and host these amazing individuals. We had a full Mad Media camera crew, a full Warfighter Made crew, Mark Epsky from Polaris, UTVUG Racer Mike Gardner & Myself, 3 condos, and a total of 9 Polaris machines! We were all set to take on this awesome event and week of riding.
Since Mike & Gabe are both double amputees, Robert did what he could to adapt the vehicles to be driven by them. The XP4 RZR that Mike would drive would be equipped with hand controls while Gabe opted to not use hand controls in favor of using his left leg (prosthetic) for controlling the throttle and brake in his RZR. While Mike did a fantastic job all week, Gabe was terrible… hahahaha OK OK OK, that joke was for Gabe, he was pretty bad, but he was getting it done and considering he was using his left leg to control both brake and gas he did a fantastic job navigating the difficult terrain. The fact that he took out 2 a-arms and a couple tires seems pretty minimal since I attempted to unload my RZRs after the trip driving like he did, with my real left leg, and I just about crashed. So Kudos to both of these guys for pushing through, conquering every obstacle and doing it all with a smile. Josh was able to wheel a new RZR XP1000 and he wasn’t afraid of anything. I had so much fun watching these guys ride all week and seeing them light up with every obstacle they conquered.
Rallying On The Rocks…
Moab may not be the ideal place to take new off-road drivers, especially those whom lack feeling in their legs. Rock crawling requires precision driving, touch and feel. One mistake and you can put your vehicle and yourself in danger. Then again, thats exactly what these guys are used to. But for the novice off-roader, driving loaner machines it may not be the ideal location for what we were doing. On the other end, its the perfect place to challenge people, to put them in uncomfortable situations and force them to overcome fears and obstacles. In addition, there is no better place in the world to ride RZRs and see some of God’s best work in creating the earth. We selected Moab and Rally On The Rocks because of its accommodations, its versatile trail options and we felt bringing them to the biggest UTV rally of the year would be added bonus.
We kicked our first day of riding off on a trail called Hells Revenge. Hells Revenge is an awesome trail, its prototypical Moab being made up of 90% slick rock. When you think of Moab you envision Hells Revenge. Its a medium to hard trail depending on your skill level. If you stay on the main trail you would really have to screw up to be in any danger, but off the trail are some exciting and challenging obstacles. We were met on the trail by our good friends Gregg & Tanner Godfrey of the Godfrey Clan. Gregg Godfrey is the mastermind behind the Nitro Circus brand, he has been a part of the action sports movement since the beginning and could be credited for putting extreme action sports into the mainstream with his work alongside Travis Pastrana, Johnny Knoxville and many others. Tanner Godfrey is Gregg’s nephew. Tanner whom we have featured many times on UTVUnderground.com (LEARN MORE ABOUT TANNER HERE) is an avid off-roader, he is also paralyzed from the waist down after suffering a sever spinal cord injury on his motorcycle some years ago. Tanner, who has overcome his own challenges teaching himself to walk all over again, has also put the Warfighter Made name on his back and is doing things to help support and raise awareness for the organization. They made the trip to Moab and met us on Hells Revenge for an awesome day of riding and filming.
As we hit the trail we were all immediately thrilled. There is nothing like the first ride of a long trip. I was playing trail boss all week so I felt this would be a great trail to acclimate everyone to their machines while still giving everyone the thrill of Moab with all of the views and terrain. As we had planned the day out we knew we wanted to really impress and reward the Warfighter Made crew and the guys at Camp Chef were there to help us do that. Last year for Mammoth the guys at CAMP CHEF donated a ton of outdoor cooking equipment. When they heard we were bringing the guys to Moab they once again wanted to show their appreciation and gratitude so they planned a surprise mid trail lunch. In typical Camp Chef fashion they pulled out all the stops hauling in on their Polaris Ranger a full BBQ Camp Chef cooking station where the entire crew could make some amazing pulled pork nachos heated in the Camp Chef Pizza top oven. It was an awesome treat and we did all of it right at the top of Hells Gate, one of the most challenging obstacles in all of Moab. While we all enjoyed lunch our pack of RZRs took turns heading up Hells Gate. For sure the highlight was watching Tanner Godfrey, who like Gabe refuses to use hand controls. Instead Tanner uses what he calls a “driving stick” to control the throttle and brake. This adds a massive level of difficulty for driving in this terrain but he conquered Hells Gate like a boss and not far behind him was Warfighter Josh Sust who powered his RZR up in exciting fashion. Watching Josh complete the trail and hearing the Warfighter’s and the others there let out a roar of excitement was the first of many chilling moments for me.
For day 2 we headed to one of my favorite trails in Moab. We would be taking on Gold Bar Rim, home of the famous Golden Crack obstacle. After a late start we hit the trail, once again with the Godfrey Clan. We blasted through the rocks and down a crazy steep faced rock obstacle. Shortly after the first of 2 a-arms would be destroyed by Gabe. Gabe is a crazy dude, totally fearless and you can tell he just wants to live on the edge. His wife Kayla is a sweetheart, calm and collected, almost the polar opposite of her hard charging husband. After assessing the damage the Godfrey Clan jumped in and offered to help fix the machine so we could all keep moving along. A quick call to our friend Scott McFarland who owns High Point Hummer & RZR in Moab and a new a-arm was on the way to the trail head where the Godfrey’s would meet up and get the machine fixed for us. While they were repairing the machine we all kept on to the Golden Crack. We spent time there playing in the crack, making jokes, filming interviews and simply just enjoying our time together. It was here that the guys would all conquer the crack one by one, even Kayla got into the drivers seat for her first time and drove through the crack like a seasoned pro. Once again I was humbled by being around these guys. Seeing just how much fun we were all having together and watching them once again traverse challenging obstacles just reminded me of how cool of a trip we were on.
Thursday would be our first day of riding with the Rally On The Rocks event. Lanse and Jerrod, owners of the event rolled out the red carpet for us. They covered all the fees for the Warfighter’s and made it clear that they were honored to have this awesome group as part of the ROTR event. Once registered we all staged to make way to one of the most challenging trails in all of Moab, the Cliffhanger!! We took a police escort through town to the trail head but on the way were hit head on with a massive storm. The sky opened up and heavy rain greeted us as we reached the bottom of the trail. None of us were too prepared for the weather but we decided to head onto the trail anyway. The trail is difficult when its dry, but factor in the wet and now muddy tires and the rocky obstacles were now slick and harder than they have ever been. At the midway point we made the call to work our way back out which still took us hours due to the group size and challenging obstacles. Nevertheless we conquered the trail one by one, each Warfighter putting their skills, will and machines to the test. Kayla & Erica were holding on for dear life as their husbands throttled down and pushed their machines up each of the challenging rock sections. We spent the rest of the rainy day relaxing and having fun. A few of us went back to the event site where we visited with all the Rally On The Rocks vendors and enjoyed the game night experience that ROTR hosted. We wrapped the day up with a homemade chili dinner made by Kayla at the condos. All was right in the world…
Friday would be our final day on the trails in Moab. With the weather still threatening we all made our way for our final ride on Moab Rim, another scenic trail with some gnarly obstacles right at the start. As we hit the trail we once again all conquered the trails gate keeper obstacle. The Warfighter’s all were operating like seasoned pro’s and we had a solid time climbing up the trail. Josh had one little mishap, laying his RZR on its side. We had a good laugh, righted him, made some fun of him, got strapped in, made some more fun of him, then got on with the ride. Of course we had a helicopter chasing us half the way thanks to Mad Media! That made things exciting!
We made our way to the rim where we overlooked the town of Moab, enjoyed some conversation, took photos and really just took in what would be our final ride together that week. Once we loaded up we charged hard down the trail running wide open giving the Warfighter’s a chance to let it all hang out. Everyone was ripping, having fun and I couldn’t help but reflect on the moment as being the reason we love to off-road. Seeing my friends enjoy themselves is what its all about. Even though Mike decided to roll coming down the stair step obstacle it just added to the stories and fun. We also made fun of him! I was worried if Robert would be bummed that his newly modified Warfighter XP4 was now scraped up. He said, “now she has some character!” A couple of scrapes, bumps and bruises is nothing new to these Marines. Its part of life for them, a couple scars on the vehicle don’t hurt, instead they tell the story of adventure, they truly do give the machine character!
With the riding done and the sky’s opening up we jumped back on the highway and headed to our condo’s and trailers. This would be the last I would see of these guys this trip. As they headed back to the condo I put the RZRs on the trailer to make an early departure to get back to California for our friends memorial service. The guys stopped as I was loading, revved the engines, threw me a couple of thumbs up and then motored on back down the road. Mission Accomplished.
These trips continue to change me. I am left with a sense of pride knowing that I was able to spend time with a few of the nations true bad asses. I can’t thank Robert Blanton, his team at Warfighter Made and Polaris enough for these opportunities. My life is filled with adventure, I am constantly surrounded by amazing people, I truly do live a blessed life, but being around guys like Mike, Gabe, Josh and Robert really are highlights. Robert says that these trips are supposed to teach these veterans that its not about what they have lost, but what they still have left. Well for me, its not about what I have left, its about what else can I do more to try and leave the same impact on them as they leave on me.
I will end this by giving thanks to the people that made this trip so special. First and foremost thank you to the Warfighter’s who made the trip. Thank you to Polaris RZR for making this all happen for us and providing us the resources to not only bring everyone to Moab but also to tell their stories via UTVUG. It was awesome having Mark Epsky of Polaris with us all week. Mark took on the trails with us and has instantly become a huge champion for Warfighter Made. Thank you to our team at Mad Media for their countless hours of travel and work. Without them we wouldn’t be able to tell these stories on video and share them with the world. Thank you to my co-dog on the trip Mike Gardner, it was awesome spending time with you on the trail and on the road. Thank you to Lanse, Jerrod and everyone at Rally On The Rocks for once again putting on the best UTV rally event in the world! Thank you to the Godfrey Clan for spending time with us, making us laugh and putting in all the work repairing vehicles. Thank you to Bill & Brandon Schueler and the entire Jagged X team for chipping in to help us repair a broken Warfighter Machine. Thank you to Scott McFarland for the awesome parts support. Thank you to Cody Currie of Walker Evans Racing and Jacob Shaw, UTV World Champion for spending time with us adding a lot of fun to the rides. Lastly, thank you to Robert Blanton for his friendship, support of our veterans and for dedicating so much to making all this happen. I am honored to call you my friend.
See you all on our next Adventure…
Please make a donation to Warfighter Made! Every dollar helps!! DONATE HERE
Marine Master Sergeant Robert J. Blanton (Silver Star)
Robert J. Blanton was born in Santa Rosa, California and enlisted in the Marine Corps on 26 July 1993 from Oakland, California. Upon completion of recruit training at MCRD San Diego, Ca, Master Sergeant Blanton attended the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, CA, and was assigned the MOS of 0311 (Basic Rifleman). Upon completion of school he was transferred to 3rd Bn, 1st Marines where he served as a Fire Team Leader, Squad Leader and Plt Guide. While assigned to 3/1 he was deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Oct 1994 to April 1995. During the months of February and March, he partook in Operation United Shield/Restore Hope in Somalia, holding key ground while the United Nations withdrew its forces.
In November 1995, Master Sergeant Blanton passed the Force Reconnaissance Indoctrination and was reassigned to 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, Camp Pendleton, CA. During his time at 1st Force, Master Sergeant Blanton deployed with the Marine Expeditionary Units on four separate occasions, deployed to Iraq twice, conducted a Hydrographic survey in Oman, protected food drops in East Timor, provided aid and security in Indonesia immediately after the Tsunami in 04, and was awarded for having compassion for local Iraqi’s, and for keeping their best interests in mind during combat operations. Also of note, MSgt Blanton was a part of the Force Recon platoon that inserted behind enemy lines before the ground war started in Iraq, March 2003 and are credited with being the first Marines in Iraq.
In Sep 2005, Master Sergeant Blanton was reassigned to 3D Special Operations Training Group (SOTG), Okinawa, Japan where he served as the Chief Instructor for Dynamic Assault (CQB), and instructor of Dynamic Entry, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) and Urban Sniper. During this tour he made multiple deployments to Guam and the Philippines, training both the Marines of the 31st MEU and Philippine Marine Corps. In May 2007, Master Sergeant Blanton volunteered for duty at 3D Reconnaissance Bn in order to take a platoon to Iraq. Master Sergeant Blanton deployed for a third time to Iraq in April, 2008 with 1st platoon, Alpha Co, 3D Reconnaissance Bn. During this tour his platoon conducted counterinsurgency operations, conducted two Combat parachute inserts, was tasked to provide R&S and security on a local village for follow on jump inserts, and was dispatched to set up a hasty combat drop zone that successfully inserted a platoon worth of Recon Marines in an urban environment, with only 45 minutes notice. His platoon was also credited with capturing one mid-level Al Qaida operative, and eliminating 12 members of a terrorist cell that was using suicide vests to kill coalition forces and local Iraqi’s, saving 100s of lives.
From May 2009 to May 2012, Master Sergeant Blanton served as the Operations Chief for Recon Training Company, then served as the Staff Non Commissioned Officer In Charge (SNCOIC) of the Basic Recon Course. During this time he recruited and trained 100s of Marines, helping them attain the title “Recon Marine”. Master Sergeant Blanton is currently assigned to 1st Special Operation Training Group as the SNCOIC of Special Training Branch. His personal awards include the Silver Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Marine Commendation Medal with a Combat “V” valor device, and gold star in lieu of second award, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with three gold stars in lieu of fourth award, and Combat Action ribbon with a gold star in lieu second award.
His military specialty schools include, Basic Reconnaissance Course, Basic Airborne, Combatant Dive School, Diving Supervisors Course, Survival-Evade-Resist-Escape (SERE) School, Military Freefall, Static Line Jump Master, Freefall Jumpmaster, Advanced Freefall, Close Quarters Battle package (X4), High Threat/Personal Security Corse, Target Analysis, Sniper, Urban Sniper, Recon and Surveillance Course, Dynamic Entry(Breacher)Course, Dynamic Entry Instructor, Dynamic Assault(CQB) Instructor.
Master Sergeant Blanton is married to Retired Chief Warrant Officer Halima Blanton of Inglewood, Ca and they have two children, Nicholas who is in the Navy and Jasmine, who is a junior in High School. He is also the Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director of the nonprofit Warfighter Made, which specializes in recreational therapy for ill, injured and combat wounded service members and veterans.
Marine Corporal Michael Fox (Purple Heart)
Marine Corporal Michael Fox was on his third deployment when he suffered the traumatic amputations of both of his legs in an IED blast in Musa Qala, Afghanistan on November 15, 2011.
The Fire Team Leader, Also Echo Co. 2nd Bn, 4th Marines, Cpl Fox and his men were looking for a suitable location to create a new patrol base. Upon entering a compound that looked like a good choice for the new base, Cpl Fox made his way to the top of a berm that appeared to have a good vantage point over the Wadi (dried creek-bed) and the surrounding hills. Turning to call to his designated marksman and alert him of the vantage point, Cpl Fox heard a blast as he was thrown into the air; dirt and darkness surrounding him. Hearing his squad calling to him, he realized that he could not move.
As the squad began administering life saving first aid, Michael learned that he had lost his legs. With four tourniquets in place, and a Landing Zone secured, a helicopter was able to transport him to Camp Bastion. Falling unconscious shortly after arriving at the local hospital, Cpl Fox was next transported to Landstuhl, Germany where he endured multiple surgeries while in the ICU to stabilize him for his eventual transport stateside.
Arriving at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, Michael endured many more surgeries over the course of the next month. Eventually transferred to Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego for treatments and therapies, Cpl Fox remained there until his retirement.
Cpl Fox enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Erica and hopes to return to college and study either automotive or photography. A racing enthusiast, he enjoys racing at the local drag strips. He also loves deep sea fishing.
(bio credit: Homes For Our Troops)
Marine Sergeant Gabriel Martinez (Purple Heart)
Marine Sergeant Gabriel Martinez was on his 2nd deployment when he lost both of his legs after stepping on an IED in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2010.
While conducting a route clearance mission, a vehicle in the convoy hit an IED; Sgt. Martinez and his team immediately began a foot patrol in search of any enemy in the area. As he approached the side of the disabled vehicle, Sgt. Martinez stepped on a second IED, causing the traumatic amputations of both of his legs. During the next moments, a third IED detonated, seriously injuring another Marine who was trying to assist Sgt. Martinez. Airlifted to a local military hospital, Gabriel was next transported to Landstuhl, Germany before making his way to Bethesda National Medical Center in Maryland, and eventually Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California.
Sgt. Martinez enjoys spending time with his daughter, outdoor recreation and many sports including hand-cycling and biking. He also participates in marathons and triathlons. Pursuing a degree to become a prosthetist, Gabriel would like to work with amputees to help them regain their mobility and independence.
(bio credit: Homes For Our Troops)
Marine Corporal Joshua Sust (Purple Heart)
Joshua Sust was born in January 20,1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Colerain High School in June 2006. 2 weeks after his graduation he was on a bus to the one and only Parris Island MCRD.
After 13 grueling weeks he finally accomplished his greatest achievement becoming a United States Marine. Upon completion of boot camp PVT Sust was headed to SOI East at camp Gieger, NC. After another grueling 3 months PFC Sust graduated SOI and was headed to the Fleet Marine Force with 2nd battalion 4th marines at Camp Pendleton, CA
Cpl. Sust spent a total of 6yrs with 2/4 and 3 deployments with them. His first two were the 31st and 11th MEU on his last and finally deployment CPL Sust was deployed to Helmand Provence, Afghanistan in September 2011.
On a day he will never forget which has come to be known as many others a his alive day. Nov 12, 2011 at around 0830 Cpl. Sust was on a mounted patrol when his Vic hit an IED causing his door to be blown off and ejected. His injuries are: shattered tib/fib left foot and open fractures to both bones in his left arm. After years of therapy and 9 surgeries later Cpl. Sust was medically retired from the Marine Corps in Aug 2013.
Now as a retired Marine Joshua Sust finds the best therapy for him is being around his combat brothers and hunting and fishing and also riding his motorcycle. For him nothing is better than being outdoors at a lake or in the woods. He feels at peace were everything kind of slows down and he can relax and enjoy his life. He is also a board member of The wounded Marine Fund that helps other wounded vets.
Cpl. Sust awards are: Purple Heart, Combat action ribbon, Good Conduct Medal x2, Afghanistan Campaign medal, sea service deployment ribbon x3, meritorious mass, letter of appreciation x2, certificate of appreciation, and cercom.
All proceeds from the sale of the new UTVUG | Warfighter Made shirt get donated directly to Warfighter Made!
They call it the Great American Off-Road Race and I don’t know if there is a better phrase that describes The Polaris RZR Mint 400 Presented By General Tire. Its history, its pageantry, its attendance, everything about this race is bigger and better. You can make an argument for the Baja 1000 and Dakar Rally, of course King Of The Hammers, but if you actually attend The Mint 400, I don’t think you can deny that it is in fact one of the most amazing race events in the world. What The Martelli Brothers have done over the past 4 years since owning this event is nothing short of remarkable. They have not only raised the bar from an off-road promotors standpoint, they also have set a standard that few promotors in our sport today can match.
Las Vegas, NV is the host city of the famous Mint 400. The Mint 400 was started back in 1967 and there has been a few small gaps since then when the race wasn’t held, but overall its a yearly event and most recently had brought back the days of old when glitz and glamour accompanied the grit and roughness of off-road racing. The Mint 400 is much more than just a race, its a spectacle. Complete with celebrities and the sports biggest names, the industries biggest brands and of course the worlds biggest stage, the Mint 400 is the Daytona 500 of off-road racing.
330 total vehicles would pre register to stake their claim on racing the biggest race of the year. A waiting list of almost 100 racers would soon form. Pro tip: If you plan to race The Mint 400 next year, get your entry in ASAP! Do not wait! Racers and Teams began arriving as early as last Monday. Many came in Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning as they did not want to miss out on being part of the Mint 400 vehicle parade which took over 100 of the events race vehicles and paraded them down the Las Vegas Strip. I was fortunate enough to be able to drive the 1948 Monster Energy / SXSPerformance Polaris RZR in the parade with our friend Mike Lasher. It was an amazing thing to be a part of and a memory I will not soon forget.
Thursday gets rolling with unlimited race qualifying out at Primm, NV otherwise known as State-line. This is where the race will actually start and finish on Saturday, but for qualifying Best In The Desert (BITD) who sanctions the event, has laid out a 3 mile qualifying loop where Trick Trucks and Class 1 buggies will compete to determine their starting positions for Saturdays main event. It takes a few hours to run the 100+ vehicles through the 3 mile loop. Its action packed and due to the way The Martelli’s have designed their new Start / Finish area, more spectators were apart of this qualifying session then ever before. Once qualifying was complete, racers and their teams headed back to downtown Las Vegas where the evenings events consisted of announcing the qualifying order for the race, the famed Miss Mint crowning, and the coveted Mint 400 Pit-Crew Challenge! It all culminated with an epic party surrounding a stage that rivaled any major musical performers stage. The Mint 400 was well underway and it wasn’t even the weekend yet!
Contingency and Technical Inspection is held on Friday in Downtown Las Vegas on Fremont St. This to me is what The Mint 400 is all about. You have the backdrop of one of the most iconic streets in American Culture, mixed with the worlds most advanced off-road vehicles all wrapped up into one of the sports most historic and well publicized events. There is something special about bringing off-road racing to such an epicenter for tourism and vacation. It is one of the few events where worlds literally collide as you bring in the bulk of the off-road racing community from racers and teams, to sponsors and fans and then thrust them into an area that is already exploding with people who have flocked to Las Vegas for a little fun in the sun. These people with their beaded shamrock necklaces holding a 2 foot long daiquiri intertwine with the off-road regulars who are not only soaking up the fun but also preparing for one of the most grueling races they will compete in all year. However, the risk is always worth the reward as it pertains to The Mint 400, as their slogan this year has been “To The Victor, Go The Spoils”. For the entire day on Friday racers will push their race vehicles a mile down Fremont St. where the sports biggest brands and companies line the route. Its a site to see and its definitely one of the most recognizable parts of The Mint 400. Friday ends with a drivers meeting back at the Golden Nugget.
Just being a part of the event as a racer makes attending worth it. Of course everyone wants to do well on race day, but its hard to deny the fun you and your team as well as the exposure you receive from being a part of The Mint 400. Over 200 media outlets descend on Las Vegas to cover The Mint 400. From local radio and television to major sporting outlets like ESPN. Of course the who’s who of off-road journalism and media are in attendance but so are some very main stream publications and production companies like TIME and NBC. Mad Media, owned and operated by The Martelli Brothers was on hand with over 100 production staff to shoot and produce a total of 4.5 hours of television surround this years race alone! A 2 hour show for the Red Bull Signature Series on NBC which highlights the event and the Unlimited Race, a 2 hour doc style show which will showcase the event and give a more in depth look into racers and what it takes to compete and take on an event like The Mint 400. This shows air date and location is still TBD. Lastly, Mad Media also worked with us here at UTVUnderground.com to produce a 30 minute show for Destination Polaris which airs on Fox Sports 1. Yours truly plays host and takes you through the weeks events. I had a blast doing it and working with Mad Media is always fun. Outside of television the race is covered live on the web via social media and our sister site Race-Dezert.com.
Saturday is when the business side of things kicks in. Limited race classes begin to stage at 5am before being paraded to the start finish line. The first limited vehicles, which this year was Class 10, took off into the dark to kick off this years Mint 400 promptly at 6am. 2 by 2 vehicles raced through the existing short course off-road track and out into one of the most brutal race courses in our sport. For us, we are there to cover UTVs. We have worked hard to get UTVs into The Mint 400. This is year 3 that UTVs have been included in this race event. In these short 3 years the UTV class has grown into the biggest class in the race with over 60 total UTVs competing. The 56+ Pro UTVs make up one of the most competitive classes in the sport and in this race. With Polaris RZR as the title sponsor of The Mint 400, its hard to deny the impact this class is having not just on this race but on the sport in general. We are proud to be part of this movement and have been thrilled with the way racers, sponsors and fans have responded to the opportunities presented to them.
As UTVs left the start line you could see the sun begin to rise over the horizon. With the lifting sun in the distance you could also see the settling dust that covered the course. Flashing blue lights and the bright glow of headlights bounced around as racers set off onto their long 300+ mile journey. Before the last UTV was even off the line, some in front were already calling in for extraction. The race course was already beating many of the races valiant competitors into submission, but for some, the battle was just getting good and they intend on finishing what they started!
2015 UTV World Championship winner Branden Sims in the 1913 Polaris RZR was their first UTV into the desert. Johnny Angal in the 1921 Polaris RZR was not far behind and it did not take Angal long to make his way up to Sims. The 2 would battle it out through the first lap arriving into the main pit near the end of lap one running nose to tail. Johnny would exit first as Sims crew worked to replace a severely broken rear exhaust. Ironically the team was told to grab a stock exhaust system from a stock RZR XP1000 which sat in front of the teams pits. It was later realized it was one of our Media UTVs that they tore apart to get their machine back in the race. We laughed it off as they replaced it with another stock exhaust but it wasn’t long after before another team was asking to borrow an axle from this same machine. We quickly realized that one of our RZRs had turned into a pit parts car and we had to get it out of there before someone needed an engine!
As Angal headed out onto lap 2 he was enjoying a massive lead. Nothing but time was between him and the second place machine at this point. Multiple vehicles would begin their chase of Johnny Angal before Branden Sims would finally make it out of main pit. The stop all but ruined Sims’ chance at winning this years race.
While enjoying a physical lead is nice and beneficial, it doesn’t always mean you are the actual race leader. Due to the size of the class and the way BITD handles their tracking, a racer leaving the line way back in 50th position could actually begin to lead the race while still actually running in the mid pack physically. After lap 2 we would realize that Branden Schueler in the 1919 Jagged X Polaris RZR was actually the race leader even though he was somewhere around the 10th vehicle on course. Running neck and neck with Schueler and Angal on time was RJ Anderson who was driving the 1934 Coastal Racing Polaris RZR in place of Scott Kiger. Keith Redstrom was filling in the 1931 Jagged X Polaris RZR for an ill Craig Scanlon and he was doing fantastic as well. A mechanical would end the chances of the 1931 placing on the podium but at one point they had moved into the top 3 on time and were making up ground.
While everyone at the start/finish line and in the pits was talking about these teams mentioned above, their was one team that was quickly making a run to the front and was doing so without any attention being paid to them. The 1978 S3 Powersports Turbo Can-Am Maverick of Dustin Jones was running fast and strong. With each lap they got quicker and this team from Louisiana who was running in only their 3rd desert race ever was quickly opening the eyes of the competition and those of us following the race with intensity. As they barreled out onto the course for their 3rd lap people began to wonder, did they have what it took to bring that new race machine to the front and could anyone catch Angal who was absolutely checked out? Only time would tell.
While the race was heating up, for some it was ending in total failure. While racing with The Mint 400 television helicopter hovering above them, the 1906 Polaris RZR would collide with the 1911 Polaris RZR of Brian Bush. Both racers were running wide open, helicopter above capturing the moments when the 1906 tried to make a pass but instead clipped the 1911’s rear driver side tire sending the 1906 into a violent and scary tumble. The pass was made while rolling stated brian Bush who struggled to get the 1911 back to the pits for repair. The collision not only took the 1906 out of the race, it wounded the 1911 pretty bad. While Bush was able to get back out on course and finish the race, the 1906 would succumb to the dreaded DNF. Fortunately we were told both driver and co-driver were ok but it should be mentioned that Bush who pulled over following the incident, exited their own vehicle and ran to assist the 1906 who looked to possibly be catching fire. This sportsmanship caused further delay in their return to the track but showed what this class and what these racers are all about.
With less than 20 miles to go in the race Johnny Angal in the 1921 Polaris RZR had now led for almost the entire duration of battle. He was enjoying a comfortable lead both physically and on time despite the hard efforts being made by RJ Anderson in the 1934 Polaris RZR and Brandon Schueler in the 1919 Polaris RZR. At the finish line the talk was who would be 2nd and 3rd place, we had all but given the race to Angal considering just how much he was dominating the race. But then disaster struck. With only miles to go, Angal would be stopped for a brief stop / check on the race course by officials at a road crossing. There his RZR would stop and it would be hours before it would ever move again. The seemingly un beatable 1921 Polaris RZR would suffer catastrophic transmission failure which would force Angal to repair the vehicle to finish, which he did, but would also force him to relinquish his lead.
RJ Anderson quickly jumped into the race lead on time with Branden Sims, Ryan Poelman and Dustin Jones all battling it out. But before we could even see RJ near the finish we would hear that he had suffered a rear tire puncture. He wasn’t stopping to fix it, he was going to race on it to the finish but this was not going to be enough to hold off the now hard charging Dustin Jones on time. Jones who was now the first physical UTV course would come flying across the start / finish line jump just praying that his time was good enough to hold off the still moving RJ Anderson, the fast Ryan Poelman and the returning champion Brandon Schueler.
It would be the Polaris RZR of Ryan Poelman who would cross the line next, quickly followed by RJ Anderson and then Brandon Schueler. These drivers all sat in line, intensely waiting for news on time. I ran back into the tent to see what I can calculate. Race-Dezert’s Klaus Rasch worked quickly to help me determine what the unofficial timing order would shake out as. It was then we realized that Dustin Jones in the 1978 S3 Powersports Turbo Can-Am Maverick had held off RJ Anderson by 2 minutes to claim victory of the 2015 Polaris RZR Mint 400 Presented by General Tire. RJ Anderson who started deep in the back of the field put on a clinic and made everyone wish we could see more of RJ in the desert. What he did with that Polaris RZR was nothing short of remarkable considering how many vehicles he had to pass and how much dust they all were contending with. Ryan Poelman, a young kid from Las Vegas who’s dad is no stranger to the Trick Truck Class also put on a hell of a performance in his Cognito Motorsports built Polaris RZR. The kid with Supercross.com on the side of his RZR made a lot of people realize that they are not a team to be overlooked. Their performance in Parker was impressive but this Mint 400 finish puts them on the map as one of the teams to beat at any race event they enter.
The returning Mint 400 race winner and 2014 season champion, Brandon Schueler in the 1919 Jagged X Polaris RZR would be the first finisher just off the podium in 4th place. Schueler is the most winning UTV desert racer of all time and is a threat to win at any time. As for Angal in the 1921, he got another taste of the bitter side of off-road racing. The 2014 Baja 1000 champion has staked his claim as one of the classes fastest racers. He drives a pace that forces others to really step their game up because if he doesn’t have a failure he will win. Unfortunately for him, when you play with fire sometimes you get burned and thats what happened on this dusty March day in Primm Valley. Angal will be back, and he will be ready to race, and we are sure he will redeem himself. But lets not lose site of the grit he showed by still finishing the race. Many would have called it quits, he and his team did not and for that we salute them and their efforts and the performance he put on as race leader for so long during the 2015 Mint 400 race.
Dustin Jones is a name that many did not even think twice about considering as a favorite for this years race. His hole-shot at the UTV World Championship was enough to let people know that the Turbo Can-Am Maverick was in fact as fast as many thought it could be, but no one expected this rookie off-road racer from Louisiana to come out and put on the performance that he did here at The Mint 400. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer group of guys competing in the entire sport of off-road racing. Hell, my own wife is in love with Dustin because of his southern accent, charming personality and rockstar good looks. But I soon think there will be a lot of sponsors in love with this racer and his team because of their performance, respect and commitment to doing well. Is this a one time, beginners luck type of win? We don’t really know. But what I do know is that guys like Dustin Jones rarely fail at anything they do because they don’t just show up to win, they show up to have a good time, they show up to be stewards of the sport and representatives of their company and they show up to compete from start to finish in the best way they know how. They may have been the mud boys from Louisiana coming into The Mint 400, but they left off-road racers. And they headed back to Louisiana as winners!
Congrats to everyone who entered, attended, finished and won this years Polaris RZR Mint 400. We had a fantastic time celebrating with you all and we really look forward to seeing just how far we can keep pushing this sport with the UTV World Championship and Mint 400 platforms. Huge thank you goes out to Polaris RZR for stepping up to sponsor this years event and help us all put on one of the most epic races of all time. Polaris isn’t just sitting back and letting others do the work of growing this sport for them, they are getting their hands dirty along side all of us, asking how they can help more and in return doing everything they can to ensure that UTV racing stays on the map. Lastly, thank you to everyone who represents UTVUnderground.com on and off the track. Without your support there is no way we could be taking this little ol’ website to the places it has gone and is going. Your support is never overlooked and we are forever grateful.
In closing I want to extend a heartfelt get well to the racers injured in the afternoon race this year. We pray for you and your families and hope for a speedy and full recovery. It was great to hear that there has already been significant progress and that both racers are ok and alert.
Until next time….
Editors Note:While we try to cover everyone, show everyone’s photos and give everyone the respect they do deserve for competing in any race, it is very difficult for us to track all the stories. Over 60 UTVs entered this race, that means hundreds of stories and as much as we would like to tell them all we just don’t have the capacity to do so. With that said, if you don’t see your photos or your name or team do not take it personal. We do appreciate you all and we do respect all of you. Feel free to submit a story to [email protected] and we would be happy to run it in our forum or maybe even on our homepage.
Words by: Joey DiGiovanni // UTVUnderground.com Photos by: Vincent Knakal, Brooke LaValley, Ernesto Araiza // UTVUnderground.com – Mad Media
The 2014 Best In The Desert (BITD) season wrapped up with a final drag race at the Henderson 250. Like years past, the Henderson 250 would play host to deciding the Pro UTV season Championship. Brandon Schueler in the #1919 Jagged X Polaris RZR would enter the race with a 10 point lead over the #1934 Polaris RZR of Coastal Racing. Scott Kiger and Mark Holz have split driving time almost 50/50 this entire season, Henderson would see Kiger behind the wheel and Holz riding shotgun.
BITD made a late decision last week to move UTVs to the second race of the day allowing bikes & quads to race alone in the early morning. This put UTVs in with other 4 wheel buggies and trucks allowing the UTVs to showcase where they stand amongst these other class and allow the UTVs to race a little later in the morning. The change of pace was welcomed and over 20 UTVs would once again take the green flag.
Henderson tends to be a fast race, this year it seemed even quicker since BITD graded a good majority of the course. When speaking to Casey Folks about this he said it was done for safety reasons as well as environmental purposes. While many would argue it makes the course too easy to compete on, his defense is that he had no injuries and a very high finishing rate. I know many could argue both sides of the coin but Folks is convincing when you hear him give you the reasons for it being done. Nevertheless his hard work and effort is appreciated. No one can knock how hard Casey works for the sport and for the racers. He doesn’t toot his own horn and he remains consistent in all that he does. The UTV class appreciates that.
With a still moist race course from rains during the week, the dust was kept to a minimum meaning racers were able to race hard and push their machines to the limits. Craig Scanlon in the #1931 Jagged X Polars RZR would be the first UTV off into the desert after getting the holeshot off the start. He would enjoy clean air until his teammate in the #1919 would catch and pass him for the lead. Soon behind him was the #1934 of Coastal Racing. The 3 of them would run nose to tail for majority of the race, rotating positions and racing as clean as it gets. Schueler had to finish within one position of Kiger to maintain his points lead and clinch the championship. Kiger knew that and did all he could to put time and space between he and the #1919. Scanlon was racing for a podium in both the race and in the championship. He would need some help to make the championship podium from the Murray’s in the #1917 Can-Am. They would need to finish way back or DNF to allow Scanlon enough points to retain that position. For now, the Henderson race was much bigger than just a race, it was for the championship.
As racers made their way through the second and final lap, Kiger in the 1934, Schueler in the 1919 and Scanlon in the 1931 would run within seconds of each other putting almost a 12 minute gap between them and the next closest UTV. The pace these 3 would run to the finish was possibly the fastest ran all year. Kiger tried all he could to shake Schueler and put a gap between the 2 but it just wouldn’t happen. In the end Kiger would win the 2014 Henderson 250 in his 1934 Coastal Racing Polaris RZR which Schueler in the 1919 Jagged X Polaris RZR finishing second and Scanlon in the 1931 Jagged X Polaris RZR finishing 3rd.
While Kiger and Holz had every reason to celebrate this win you couldn’t help but tell their were still slightly disappointed that they would fall short of the season championship. No one can argue that the 1934 isn’t one of, if not the fastest RZRs in the sport of UTV off-road racing. In addition, they put in a phenomenal team effort this season. We whole heartedly congratulate them on their season and their Henderson 250 win. With rumors swirling around Kiger taking next season off from desert racing, I asked him and Holz what the deal is. The response was that they would try to do a few races as time allows but it looks like Scott has some big things going on in his professional life that he needs to take time off for. We hope to see both Kiger and Holz back next year and no matter what wish them all the best.
For Schueler it would be his 6th Pro UTV BITD Championship. It solidifies him and his co-driver Blake Van De Loo as the most successful team ever in UTV desert racing. Jagged X once again proves to the entire sport just why they are the premier team in UTV racing. They do get amazing factory support and they have some solid sponsors but at the end of the day it comes down to the team and the drivers when competing for a Championship. It takes prep, speed, consistency and a lot of hard work and dedication and thats exactly what Jagged X posses. Our hats are off to this first class program and to Brandon and Blake. Just the fact they won Back to Back championships in this ever evolving class is a feat in itself, but to be mounting their 6th championship plaque on the wall is just spectacular.
As the UTVs continued to trickle in, Craig Scanlon would have a little more to cheer about than just a podium at the Henderson 250! the 1917 Can-Am of the Murray’s would have problems causing them to finish 13th. The 10 position difference would give enough points to Scanlon to allow him to clinch the 3rd spot in the Championship podium. This is a major accomplishment for a guy who just a couple years ago had never raced off-road. Scanlon has proved to many that he is the real deal behind the wheel. He can run with the best and has showed signs of being able to be a top UTV race winning contender. Its also hard to ignore the fact that this guy literally lives and breathes UTVs and RZRs. he helped spawn the Polaris RZR lineup and has been one of the most instrumental players in pushing RZR and our sport to the level its at. To see a guy like Scanlon not only working hard behind the scenes at Polaris but then also coming out to the desert to play and race amongst the very guys he works to provide vehicles too is pretty special. When you start to ask yourself why Polaris and RZR is doing so well in this industry, its easy to look at what Scanlon is doing and see where the inspiration comes from. You have a guy in a boardroom making decisions based off of what he is learning on the race course. So we congratulate and thank Craig Scanlon at the same time. He and the Jagged X team have a lot to be proud about!
Lastly, I want to congratulate both Matt Krimple and Scott Martinez for winning championships in their respective classes. Krimple is driver of the DSR1 John Deere Gator, Martinez is driver of the Pro 850 John Deere Gator. Both would win championships and while many, even us here at UTVUnderground.com haven’t given these guys much attention this year, they deserve some props for the efforts they too have put in this year. They raced each and every race, not all were trouble free, but nevertheless they put in the work and earned these championships so congrats to them. We are unclear as to where these John Deere’s are going for 2015 as its clear the 850 class has been dismantled and it isn’t anywhere near being able to compete with the 1000’s. We hope Can-Am, Polaris, Arcitc Cat etc. take notice of these guys and maybe reach out to offer a deal. If they can do this well in an underpowered Gator, imagine what they can do with some real HP! Nice work guys!
To wrap the year up I want to thank each and every racer and team who represented UTVUnderground.com this year. I say it a lot but its the truth when I tell you that nothing is more rewarding then seeing our logos on your cars. We love this sport and we love being out there with you guys and we truly appreciate all the support you give back to us here at UTVUG. Its an honor to cover these races for you guys. We also thank Polaris for their budget support the past couple of years to allow us to do video coverage for the Polaris racers. Huge thank you to BITD for always being first class and also supporting not only UTVUnderground.com but the UTV class in general. And I have to give a huge shout out to Rusty Baptist and our entire Mad Media posse for all the hard work and efforts this year in helping UTVUG cover the races to the fullest extent. No one in the entire sport of off-road works harder as a team to provide high quality story telling and images like Mad Media.
Well, see you all in a few weeks when 2015 kicks off, until then…..
Photos by: Vincent Knakal // UTVUnderground.com
1. #1934 Scott Kiger & Mark Holz | Coastal Racing / Polaris RZR
2. #1919 Brandon Schueler | Jagged X / Polaris RZR
3. #1931 Craig Scanlon | Jagged X / Polaris RZR
4. #1946 Kent Perkins & Christina Perkins | Perkins Dirt / Polaris RZR
5. #1952 Jonathoan McVay | Lone Star Racing / Polaris RZR
At UTVUnderground.com we probably cover more UTV related events, races and vehicle builds than anyone else in the sport. Rarely do I not have a great time at these events. The people we interact with, the sport in general, the locations… I mean, its what we do! But there are always those certain events that stand out every year, events that I insist people who ask must attend. Dunefest, like Moab Rally On The Rocks or Camp RZR, is one of these events.
We traveled to Winchester Bay, OR for our first time in 2013 for the annual Dunefest and had one of the best riding experiences ever. The location, people, food, and the event in general hooked us. Now Dunefest is one of the first events that goes on the calendar when we are planning out our year and it will remain that way for as long as I can imagine.
This years event was going to be a special one for us for many reasons. First was because in year 2 I knew what to expect so I was extra excited. Second, I was getting to bring our whole crew up to not only shoot a cool video (thanks again to Polaris) but we were doing it in conjunction with our friend Guy Fieri.
Last year I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Food Network star, Celebrity Chef and Restauranteur who like us shares a huge passion for off-roading and for UTVs! Particularly RZRs. During my first visit to Santa Rosa, CA to spend time with Guy and his Knuckle Sandwich Krew I was introduced to Dan Barry at Cartronics, his right hand man Paul “Dirty P” Thompson and a host of other personalities that hang around with the man they call Guido. We talked RZRs and riding and before I knew it we were talking about building Guy and his buddies new RZRs. Fast forward a year and I have been lucky enough to have built a great friendship with Guy and many of his friends and have had opportunities to spend even more time with them all. What makes all this great is Polaris has stepped in to support the ideas we formed over the course of a few months and now we are driving the cars we dreamed up while eating and having drinks back in Santa Rosa. We all decided that Dunefest would be the time for us to unveil the new builds that Guy, Dirty P, and Dan Barry had built for themselves, but it was also going to be time for Guy to unleash a special gift on 11 of his other closest friends.
A few months back Guy came up with an idea to give his closest friends a gift that would allow them all to spend more time together, not just with Guy and his family, but with their own families. See, when you get to know Guy you get to know a person who understands that the best things in life can’t be bought. Its the people you surround yourself with that really matter in life and being that Guy has a pretty small core group he thought it would be special to give them each their own RZR to show them that he appreciates them as friends and family. So Guy hooked up with Craig Scanlon at Polaris and together the 2 of them formed a plan to award each member of this core group with their own 2 or 4 seat RZR XP1000. What then happened is Guy & Craig helped up-the-ante by allowing each person to then select a color scheme for which Chad Riccio at CR Designs would then design a paint and graphics package to go onto their RZRs. Craig then had his factory race team at Jagged X come up with a cage design and install custom seats from PRP and lights from Rigid Industries. Fast forward to Dunefest, this would be the first time any of them would see their new RZRs in all their glory! I won’t spoil any more details because we have a really cool video coming that will explain all of this visually and through the eyes of Guy himself. But I’ll just end it by saying that being able to be a part of this moment was something I won’t soon forget. Their were a lot of laughs and even some tears shed this weekend, but it was all in positivity, love and friendship. It was one of the coolest moments I have seen in our sport, and so I commend Guy, Polaris and all of those sponsors who contributed to this occasion!
Once the surprise ceremony was out of the way it was time to ride. I was coming off the Polaris Dealer Show just prior to arriving in Oregon, then we had to wait a day to surprise the Krew with their machines, so by Wednesday I was chomping at the bit to getting out into the dunes to ride! Not to mention their were 11 new RZR owners as well as a few more including Guy, Dirty P and Dan that were ready to break in their new machines! It didn’t take long before we were ripping through the dunes, laughing our heads off and being taught some of the first lessons of riding in the sand, such as not going strait over razor backs! After some photos and video we were back off riding and heading to camp for another amazing meal, a campfire, and a couple of drinks.. just a couple.. lol
This is pretty much how the whole week went. Get up and eat, ride, eat, ride to an event, then eat and drink some more.. Its a pattern I want to retire on to be honest. The weather in Dunefest was awesome. It was cool and calm the entire time. The Half Moon Bay Campground that our entire posse was posted up in was perfect for blocking any wind that may come in. It was close to the action, and was also close to the beach should you want to take an early morning hike to shake off your hangover from the night before. The party never stops during Dunefest week. Music, fun and riding takes place 24/7. One person I know said it reminded them of Glamis in the early 90s. When most anything was allowed. No helmets, riding double, etc.. only difference here is you can’t have any booze in the dunes. This is probably why they can still have the rules they have?? Its a discussion for another day but just think if Glamis had reacted the same way?
Whats great about Dunefest is the diversity it attracts. Unlike Rally On The Rocks or Camp RZR, this event is open to any and all off-roaders. Come one come all, and they do! Trucks, buggies, bikes, SXS’s, and a few other things words can’t describe descend upon Winchester Bay for this week every year. Like the attendees the event is also diverse. From vendor row where you can buy anything your little off-road heart desires to the evening drive in movie night, to the show & shine competition back over to the head-to-head bracket style sand drag racing where competitors “run what they brung” all weekend long! It really is an event that is perfect for families and people young and old. When it comes to the riding, you can’t really find anything bad to say. The stunt driver in me compares Winchester Bay to a skate park full of jumps, lips and obstacles perfect for the aggressive riding style that I enjoy. Want to take it easy? Well then there are a ton of tree line trails to explore and tall coastline grass trails to navigate through. Its one of the most beautiful places you can ride, and I mean that with all sincerity.
A few key highlights for me were watching Guy and Dirty P get selected as finalists in the Show & Shine competition. Guy’s brand new Cartronics / UTVUnderground / SDR Motorsports Polaris RZR Xp1000 would take the big trophy but Dirty would come back at night and claim the night time Show & Shine competition sending them both home with trophies for their bad ass rides! Both cars share the same look and sponsors for the most part. They have their own color schemes and flavor but are very similar in overall design. Same goes for Dan at Cartonics and my personal King Ranch RZR I build this year.
Of course the food was a highlight. FIRST OF ALL, we drank a lot, a lot more than I normally can handle, but we ate enough food to soak it all up so we balanced it all out! lol Guy wasn’t the only one cooking up the awesome meals, the entire Knuckle Sandwich Kulinary Krew was pitching in to help out with their own recipes and cooking styles. I would be lying if I said anyone thing was my favorite because I truly loved them all!
In between play time we filmed a couple BREAKDOWN videos on Guy, Dirty and Dan’s new RZRs. That was a big highlight because I got to actually be on camera with Guy and see the master at work. Sure his cooking is what got him recognized but its his personality and talents on camera that made him a star. I don’t foresee me becoming a star, but since I have to be on camera as much as I do I felt it an honor to gain advice and share the experience from a person who came from humble beginnings to becoming one of the most recognized personalities in the world today.
Despite all the cool stuff mentioned for sure the biggest and coolest moment for me all weekend was meeting and becoming friends with so many more new people. I had met many of the Knuckle Sandwich Krew last year at Guy’s house and at his birthday bash earlier this year, but actually getting to ride with and spend time with these people was honestly what doing this stuff for me is all about. Nothing tops having my own family with me on these trips, but when I get to meet, spend time with and bond with other good people who make you feel like family, its a pretty good consolation. Throw in having the UTVUG / Mad Media crew with us and seeing all my industry friends, simply put, it makes spending 9 days on the road all worth it. Fingers crossed, we will do it all over again at Camp RZR Glamis!!
To end, I want to say thank you to everyone at Polaris for allowing us to bring out the cameras to cover the event and this amazing story. Without funding from sponsors like Polaris there is no way we could afford to bring the size team we do to come back with the level of images and video we are able to produce, so thank you all! I also want to thank Jesse Meyer, his wife and staff at Dunefest. This team works tirelessly to produce one of the biggest and most well organized events in all of our sport. Words can’t describe the job they do, all I can say is if you miss Dunefest you are missing out! Huge props and thanks goes out to my team, my brother Matt Martelli, he grinds as hard as anyone to help make our site the best it can be and his guys at Mad Media are strait up the best in our sport when it comes to producing content. UTVUnderground.com was built on hard work, being original and pushing the sport to new levels. Without Mad Media it would be near impossible to fulfill these goals at the level we are doing it at. Thank you guys for your long days and commitment! Lastly, I want to say thank you to Guy & Lori Fieri, Dirty P & Lisa, Dan @ Cartronics, Shannon and Cindy Lewis, Mike & Dawn Burwell, Cowboy, PAwesome, Boy Band, Osterman, and every other person who welcomed our team and I in this week. You showed us amazing hospitality and more than gaining another awesome riding experience and memory, I came away with more family and friends!!
Until next time…
P.S. the video is coming…..
Photos by: Vincent Knakal // UTVUnderground.com – Mad Media