While almost all of the top competitors chose to race Polaris’ new 168HP RZR XP Turbo, I decided on a 110HP naturally aspirated RZR XP1000. There are a few reasons that I made this choice. First off, the desert part of the course is incredibly rough. The whoops, g-outs and other gotcha’s don’t allow you to use all your power. What makes you fast is a light car with excellent shock setup. Secondly, Polaris introduced a special edition RZR XP 1000 with a low range that was 55% lower than normal (see 2017 Polaris RZR XP 1000 Gold Matte Metallic LE). This low-geared transmission is absolutely dope in the rocks.
After proving out the car on the Rubicon, I set about building it up for the race. The RZR XP1000 already came with a winch, high clearance radius links, front bumper, axles and an HMW skid that I decided were up to the task of racing at KOH. Then there are some safety items that must be added – Assault fire extinguishers, Simpson suspension seats, 5-point Simpson SFI rated harnesses, full Cognito Motorsports doors and rear KC amber light. Although the stock RZR cage with a roof is race legal, I decided to add a Cognito Motorsports cage for an additional level of safety and good looks. The rock crawling sections of the course are especially tough on the front suspension, so I beefed that up with aftermarket Cognito Motorsports arms and tie rods. I decided the stock trailing arms were up to the task, but to help protect them, I wrapped them with Factory UTV UHMW. I also beefed up the skid plate area below the doors with Factory UTV UHMW rock sliders. To keep us in contact with each other in the car, and with the pits, we added a Rugged Radios intercom and radio. And the course markers alone aren’t enough to find your way, so we added our trusty old Baja 540C GPS. Fresh clean air in our helmets was provided by Rugged Radios.
Next we looked at what we needed to do to make the car fast and reliable. I have learned from past mistakes and put that knowledge into this car. The engine, clutch, CVT belt, intake, exhaust and ECU are all completely stock. The secret to our speed in the desert came from our 2.5″ Walker Evans Racing Velocity Series shocks. These shocks offer higher resistance to bottoming out while allowing for a smoother, more compliant ride in the whoops.
I knew I wanted the advantage of 32-inch tires in the rocks, but the extra weight of wasn’t going to help us in the desert. We chose Arisun Aftershock XD tires because they perform well, but also save over 5lbs. per corner. To back the tires up we went with 14×6 Walker Evans Racing wheels. Then to shave off a few more pounds on each corner, we swapped out the factory hubs for billet aluminum hubs with HD wheel studs from UTV Inc. In the past, I have run with Tire Blocks and skipped the spare, but I decided I wanted to keep the rotating mass lower and instead put the extra weight into the bed with a spare mounted on our Cognito Motorsports spare tire carrier.
I tested the car at several stages during the build and had absolutely zero issues with it. Before leaving for the lakebed, I swapped in a fresh set of factory axles. Many people questioned why I would run with factory axles and a few things helped me make that decision. First off, this special edition comes with upgraded front shafts. Next, the car is a RZR XP1000 with 110 HP versus a turbo with 168 HP so we were much less likely to break with less power. Plus the low-range helps get you through the rocks without as many cowboy maneuvers.
Qualifying was on Saturday and my goal was to first and foremost not break my car, and then to get somewhere mid-pack. There were a bunch of great racers that had turbos that were sure to leave me in the dust. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but ended up 24th and that would have to do. If you truly are competing for first place, I think you need to be up in the top ten at the start.
This year’s course had added in something UTVs have never done before – going down Resolution and Back Door twice, each time at the end of the loop. The other tough trail was Sledge Hammer and were going to head down that trail as well. It was a bit disappointing that the course wasn’t harder. I thought that Dave Cole would make the course tougher for 2017 after the first UTVs crossed the line before 1PM at the 2016 King of the Hammers UTV Race.
Coming down Backdoor on lap 2
Full report: 2017 King of the Hammers Rugged RZR Race Recap