They’re best known as two of the top drivers on the Formula Drift pro circuit, but three-time FD champion Chris Forsberg and Dylan Hughes are always game to drive anything on four wheels. That’s why they teamed up with Slime to build the ultimate UTV and put Slime’s new 2-in-1 Tire & Tube Sealant to the test in one of off-road racing’s most fun challenges: this week’s NORRA 500!
In part one of this multi-part interview series, we explore the origins of the project, some of the details of the build, and how Slime has their back through the toughest terrain they’ll face in Mexico. Watch the build and the race at slime.com/roadtobaja!
Chris and Dylan, obviously both of you guys have experience and all sorts of different forms of racing, all sorts of different vehicle builds, primarily, obviously, formula drift racers right now, but how did this all come about and why desert racing for the challenge of doing a build together like this?
Chris Forsberg: We were talking about doing another project together, because we did the Fix-a-Flat C10 giveaway last year. And so going into this year, we wanted to do something else, and it was more catered towards Slime. And so we’re like, all right, putting Slime to the ultimate test is off-road racing, so that was where the idea came from. Doing it with a UTV platform made the most sense to fit within a cost range, because obviously it’s much more affordable than going and picking up a $2 million Trophy Truck, so here we are!
For sure. We’ve seen the UTV market explode and everything that’s come out of UTV racing over the past decade, where it’s grown really quickly. Coming from the drift world, I think you both know quite a bit about that because Formula Drift, when it came on the scene in America, also seemed to explode very quickly. How does that growth of UTV racing in particular and what you’ve seen of it kind of mirrored what you’ve gone through in drifting?
Dylan Hughes: I just think that the accessibility of the UTV racing is really where it kind of caught our attention really. Like Chris was saying, the Trophy Trucks these days are so outrageous and so ridiculous that it’s just, it’s so far out in left field that it’s not even accessible. But off-road racing is super rad, and trucks are super rad and it’s something that we’ve always wanted to do. And Chris having his Baja experience with the Cummins build that they were doing a couple years ago, I was sort of jealous of that, to be honest with you!
So when we figured out a way to work with Slime and make some cool content and build something that’s awesome to do, something that hasn’t been done by a lot of drifters before, it’s just perfect content. So, that was really just the accessibility of the side by sides. Obviously, a $2 million truck would be sick, but that’s just not going to happen.
Chris: Yeah, (UTV racing) is just a much more accessible sport. There are so many companies making great parts for it. It’s very DIY friendly, which is nice, whereas like all the other classes of racing are very, very custom. And so for us to jump in head first, it just made the most sense to do what was the most approachable. And so that’s where we ended up with the UTV. There’s just a lot of support, and I think we can really keep that thing together since it’s a lot of the parts are already proven and tested, so that’s the other good thing about it. We’re not just out here building our own control arms and we get 30 miles in and snap one off. We’re working with companies that have a great track record, so it’s going to ideally get us to that finish line.
Absolutely. Now, any build for an event like this, especially something that’s grueling as a NORRA event, obviously is going to take some time. I know you guys have put in quite a bit of time on this build, so what was that timeline like—when it got started, when you picked up the vehicle and how long did this take for you guys to kind of get everything together from pick up to now?
Chris: We got the green light, like right at the end of last year, basically like coming into January. And so we sourced the vehicle and then we started reaching out trying to do our research and find the right companies and parts to work with. Trying to find the right suspension package and things like that, that were going to be taking the brunt of the abuse. Justin (Lambert) and the guys over at Cognito have a great track record, and they’ve been slowly developing their parts not just for sale, but for himself. We know they’ve got a good track record, so we started communicating with him, and he’s been super helpful. It’s just been a lot of research.
With any build, there’s a lot of time spent looking into things and trying to figure out what exactly to get instead of just bolting it all together. It’s the same thing as when we’re doing our drift cars. We’re checking out different engine packages and turbo sizes, doing trips to the dyno, and trying to really make sure everything’s cohesive and working together. But this was a slightly different approach, because all those parts are already out there, and we just had to find the right people.
The big thing that we were dealing with was supply issues. A lot of the builds we were doing this year have been greatly affected by all the supply issues that we’ve been having, parts not coming in, material’s not coming in, even Cognito had, what was it, like a $2 million back order of parts?
Dylan: Totally. It was insane. I mean, it was thousands and thousands of parts and millions of dollars in back order. And we’ve been seeing that kind of across the board with all the different stuff we’ve been doing—drift car parts, side by side parts, I mean, you name it, everything is tough to get right now. So, that’s sort a little bit of a wrench in the works, but we’re kind of fighting through it like everybody has. Luckily, a lot of Justin’s Cognito parts are made right there in house. So he was able to maintain a lot of his staffing, and they were able to keep continuing to pumping out cool parts. It was just the stuff that’s not made in house. For example, the fuel cell is like one of the very last things to get, and that was made up in Portland, but again, there were just supply issues. That was like the very, very last thing we put in before we went and tested it for the first time.
Chris: Yeah. So, it’s been interesting across the field, even with what we’re dealing with our race cars—having trouble getting pistons for engines and things like that. It’s a weird time right now because it’s very post COVID (shutdowns), but it’s still greatly affecting what we’re trying to do. That was one of the biggest hurdles, but we didn’t want to compromise the build, but luckily Justin came through and got it all done in time for us. So we’re happy with it, and just buttoning up the last little details this week, because with every build, you get like 90% there and like that last 10% just like drags and drags and drags, you know? Taking it out testing definitely helped notice a couple things we want to look at and yeah, we’ll have that thing ready to go in a week.
Dylan: Yeah, we were shaking a couple things loose on our first day out there testing. Just silly stuff like the number plates just flew off, we couldn’t have expected that! (laughs) What else Chris, there are a couple more things. We need to put some window nets in it.
Chris: Yeah. We had one of the charge pipes came loose, so I got a better hose clamp on that one, but yeah, you had like the number plates. I mean, it was funny because it’s just like, oh, just throw a little Nutsert in there, tighten it up. No big deal. But yeah, those things started whipping around a couple times. We lost one and the other one’s loose. So yeah, we got to get some nylocs and some threadlocker on there ASAP!
Dylan: Hey, we’re learning, we’re learning! We don’t have big number of places on the side of our drift cars. And I mean, let’s be honest—they probably would’ve stayed on our drift cars, but this thing just bouncing around through the dunes like that all freaking day, it’s a level of abuse that we don’t really see in our vehicles. I’m not saying we’re nice to our drift cars at all, but this is just another level.
Chad Ellman, Slime Marketing Manager: This is one of the awesome things about working with Chris and Dylan. They are world class drivers that understand everything that makes up the car. So when they’re in Baja, if something breaks down, they can take care of it. It’s really an amazing partnership that it’s pretty fun that they can get in there and drive the heck out of this car or the side by side and then fix it if something breaks down. So we’re very fortunate for that.
That’s why we at Slime wanted to team up with them. Just last year, we launched our 2-in-1 Tire & Tube Sealant. Usually, you would choose a tube formula or a tire formula; now, we have a formula that’s all in one so you don’t have to, and takes the guesswork out of it. So imagine you have like a mower or a trailer or a tractor, you don’t have to think about it just goes in. So anyway, that’s my one product push. Because it’s all about the ride, as far as I’m concerned, but I wanted to just say how wonderful it is to work with these guys.
Dylan: Right on Chad. Thank you very much, man. Appreciate it.
Absolutely, and that’s a natural segue to talking about Slime’s 2-in-1 Tire & Tube Sealant. With all the abuse that you guys felt in that little bit of shakedown, and that you’re going to feel in that last test, ideally you’re going to have every bit of the kinks worked out. But as we all know, races in the Baja California peninsula are very grueling. How much of a relief is it to be able to have a partner like Slime so when those punctures happen—because we all know that they’re going to—you’ve got a product like that to be able to use if you need to actually get out and make some tire repairs to be able to actually continue this event?
Dylan: Yeah, Slime’s pretty cool! To be honest with you, I gained a lot of experience with it coming into this. I think that like the nail in the coffin for me, what really sold me on it, was basically that they have a bench test, that’s actually pretty cool. What you do is you take like an ice pick and you like, fill this tire up with air. You put some of the Slime inside of it. You ram the ice pick through the top of it, you pull it out, it starts leaking. You spin the tire over upside down, it will shoot just a tiny little bit of the Slime out of it and then it will immediately stop leaking. And that, to me—that visual and just seeing that right in front of my face—was really what did it for me.
And I did test it myself on one of my personal trucks. I also had a leaky tire in my Ford Ranger and I kept having to fill it up every day, fill it up every day. It just had a small leak. I don’t think it had a nail in it, but it just had a compromise, something in the tire. I was going out of town and I was like, “Man, if I get back and this thing has a flat tire, I’m going to be so bummed.” I was, last minute, squirt a whole bottle of Slime in there, drove the thing up the street and back. Parked it, came back and I was like, “Well, we’ll see after FD in a week if this stuff works.” Sure enough, I get back and that thing was dead full! I couldn’t believe it!
So it’s just kind of using what we’ve seen on the bench test and what we’ve seen on my personal rig. The stuff is no joke. It works, straight up. You can punch a hole on the tire and it will seal it, and I’ve seen it personally. So, that definitely just gives us really good confidence going down there. We’re going to have a spare tire in case something crazy happens to the sidewall. But it just gives you confidence over those big rocks and ruts, that if we do compromise a tire a little bit, Slime’s got our back.
Chris: Yes, sir. Yeah. Anything could happen. We might hit a rock and tear a side wall. But yeah, all those little thorns and any sort of debris on the trail, poking into a tire all the way down, we have no worries on that stuff, which is going to be great.