Wow! What a ride! Vegas to Reno 2017 marked Valor Racing’s very first desert race. Ever! I have diligently been building my car for quite a while now and with its completion I figured why not, let’s hit V2R for my first race and see what I can learn! Like every race team we seemed to be working on the car up to the last minute trying to make sure everything was ready to go. But by race morning I was confident that me and my team were ready. I must say that the hardest part was the anxiety about the unknown. Having never raced in a desert race before there where many things that I was not sure about. How do I pass in dust? Will I be able to move out of the way for faster cars? What is it like to race for 10-20 hours? How do I make the car last? Did I plan my pits correctly? What is this catheter thing all about? Lol. Well I was soon to find out.
Friday morning, we lined up with a pack of over 80 UTV’s all hungry for some V2R success. Finally, just after 11 a.m. it was my turn to go! The flag dropped and we roared off the line! My goal from the beginning was to be patient, make the car last, and finish this race. I tried to set a comfortable pace and not worry about who was passing me. And pass me they did lol. It seems everyone was gunning for the win! It was not long however before I started passing people back broke down on the road. V2R had already started claiming its first victims.
We had decided to pull in to pit 1 for a quick once over and a splash of fuel. Everything looked good to go so off we went! I was starting to pick up the pace as I became more comfortable with the car and the race. We started making our first passes and working our way up. We did start to have some overheating issues when pulling the long hills. I had to take it down a notch and allow some cars we just passed to go back around which was a bit frustrating. We would later find out that overheating issues were plaguing many teams.
Pulling into pit 3 we had lost a CV boot clamp. We topped off with fuel and fixed the CV. Onward we pressed. Man this is fun! We were having an absolute blast! Around mile 200 we had a tire puncture which we quickly fixed. My co-drive and I had not even had a chance to practice a tire change yet but we blasted it out in just a few minutes. We continued to cycle through our pits. Our pit crews were doing such an awesome job! For everyone being new they were making it seem like they had done this for years lol! They were doing awesome!
Of course, my racing experience was limited, but with the UTV’s following the trophy trucks, class 15’s, and 6100’s the race course seemed incredibly rough and rutted. My suspension setup consisted of a bolt on long travel kit from RT Pro with their race springs and factory valved Fox shocks. I must say the car was performing awesome and the suspension was soaking up the rough course like it was nothing! I was thoroughly impressed! Many times, I would hit ruts, rocks, and rough terrain expecting the worst and the car would just soak it up!
The silt was bad and the large load on the car caused me to have to replace a belt just before pit 8. Again, we knocked this out without too much trouble. The sun was starting to set and temperatures were starting to cool. We were no longer having the heating issues from earlier in the day which was nice! We had KC’s new Pro-6 and Flex lights on the car so we switched them on and lit the desert up! We made our way up into the mountains and into some super fun technical sections through the trees. We started noticing the voltage levels dropping on the car. Unfortunately, without a true charging system all the lights and equipment were starting to take their toll on the battery. We had to start cycling the lights off during the slow sections and let the stator catch up. At mile marker 374 we had our first major issue. We had just switch off our lights to let the charging system recover as we entered a canyon. Apparently, the trucks from earlier in the day had taken out the course markers and they had made their own road up on the side of the canyon instead of on the canyon floor. All the vehicles coming behind followed suit so there was their own road which abruptly ended with a 25 foot drop off back into the river bed. Of course, at night it looked like we were driving off a cliff so I slammed on the brakes just before we crested the edge. It was at this point I found out that silt had locked up my primary cutch causing the car to stall. There was not enough voltage left in the battery to start the car again. There we were stuck in the middle of the road right at the edge of the bank. Surprisingly, there was another UTV with the exact same battery issue stuck at the same spot! Together we pushed each other’s cars out of the way so we did not end up stuck in the grill of a trophy truck. Neither of us had a jump box and the canyon prevented radio signal and cell service. We hiked to the top of the mountains attempting to get service but to no avail. For 3 hours, we helped guide cars off the edge as everyone was having issues there. Finally, someone passing was kind enough to get our race numbers and radio BITD for help. Not 10 minutes later a BITD truck showed up and got both of our cars going! Wow! I thought we were out but now we were up and going again! We shut off the lights and air pumpers so we could keep the battery going and tried to maintain momentum since we could not stop the car with the clutch locked up. Finally, we made it to pit 11! We pulled off the clutch cover and cleaned the clutch the best we could with brake cleaner and compressed CO2 that we borrowed. Back on the course we started blasting through the miles with the end in sight!
However, our troubles were not over yet…the car started bogging down and I had a feeling we were not getting any airflow. Finally, the car shut off and would not start. I jumped out and pulled the pre-filter off. It was clogged solid. I pulled the spare tire and heat shields and removed the air filter to find it clogged as well. I beat the filter against the tire and probably removed a mixing bowl amount of silt from the filter! We put everything together and the car roared to life! It was amazing the power was back and we were flying! At this point morning light was starting to pierce the night sky! Had we really been racing that long?
We made our way through the course and entered the last 15 miles. Apparently BITD thought that we should finish Ultra4 style as we were basically bouncing through boulder fields the last 15 miles. We crested the top of the hill and the end was in sight! With only 4 miles to go I felt the back of the car start to move around. “Crap…another flat tire” I thought. “I will just push through these last few miles.” It started getting worse so we jumped out prepared to fix a flat. Surprisingly, all 4 tires were good. The bad news is that somehow, I had broken the rear hub flange off the trailing arm! “Are you serious?” I thought…Well I was determined to finish even if I was dragging the car across the line. The last 4 miles crawled by and seemed to take forever. Finally! Finally! Finally! I saw the finish. We had made it! The mixture of emotions from the last 20 hours flooded over me. We had done it! We had completed the longest race in America and finished our first race! My team was there at the finish line cheering me on! It was awesome!
I want to first thank God for blessing my life with opportunity like this and for keeping me and my team safe.
I want to thank my team who took time off work and spent their own money to come help me out. They worked tirelessly all night to make sure I had whatever I needed. Not only did they support the car but also consistently encouraged us to keep pushing forward!
I want to thank my co-driver Josh for calling turns, watching mirrors, gauges, and helping like he had been doing this for years!
I also want to thank RT Pro for providing an amazing suspension system for me. Seriously, it is amazing how well this car works with just bolt on suspension mods.
Thank you to KC Hilites for providing me with the industry’s leading lighting system for my car. Even when I was restricted to just a few lights I never felt like I was lacking for light. It was awesome!
And finally, to HMF exhaust. I have used HMF for years and they are one of the best companies in the UTV industry period. Their product and customer service is the best there is. I run their Titan exhaust setup which provides a throaty sound that does not drone on especially when racing for 20 hours lol. I just love their product!
-Kyle Miller, Valor Racing #959