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Discussion Starter #1
Last Sunday morning, Cash (my son) and I loaded up our red 2012 RZR 900xp and made the 2-hour journey to Columbus, TX to compete in the 5th round of the 2017 TORCS Side-by-Side series. Getting the old RZR ready in time for this race was a big challenge. I probably spent 20 hours in my garage during the week leading up to this race to make the needed repairs. Was it worth all the last-minute effort? Find out in my race write-up below.

Columbus, TX… it’s a small town roughly halfway between H’town and San Antonio. This property (named Cole’s Fun Pit) has lots of small trees, large open grassy areas, loose sandy soil with rocks mixed in plus a few dry creek crossings and small ponds.

On race day, we had sunny skies and temps in the mid to upper 80s. The biggest factor in this race was the weather. My house received 4” of rain the day before the race and I heard Austin had big rain too. So I was hoping this property got its fair share so as to keep the dust to a minimum. But when I arrived, it was obvious that was not the case. I later heard from campers who stayed the previous night that they only had a light sprinkle for 20 minutes. Grrr. So much for a dust-free race!

When it came time to start the parade lap and hot lap around 2:15pm, we had approximately 21 UTVs gathered around the starting line.

When the parade lap started, we followed the lead vehicle slowly around the 2.8 mile course. As we made our way through it, my first impression was that the course is RIDICULOUSLY DUSTY! I couldn’t see the steering wheel in front of my face at times even tho we tried to keep 20 yards between our RZR and the UTV ahead of us. It was obvious that the dust would be a huge factor in the race and could potentially lead to crashes as well as going off course. In fact, as our parade lap reached the mid-point near the scoring schute, I accidentally followed the trail into some tight woods and had to back up. Several UTVs behind me were also lost for a moment or two. After we got our bearings and found the track again, we finished up the parade lap and started the hot lap at a faster pace.

After we passed the scoring schute area during the hot lap, we ran back into the woods. Suddenly, a large black cow walked onto the course about 15 feet ahead of us!
🐄 It seemed as shocked to see us as we did to see it! Thankfully, it made a quick 180 degree turn and ran away from the track. Not sure where it ran off to, but that made me a little concerned that we may encounter loose cows on the track during the actual race.

There were 4 Turbo RZRs lined up in the Turbo class and they launched first.

90 seconds later, the Non-turbo class (mine) launched with 13 on the starting line. I chose to start on the center of the line over grass. The UTVs to my right side were starting on loose dirt/rocks where traction didn’t look as good to me. Our lineup included a nice mix of RZR 1000’s, RZR 900’s and Yamaha 1000R’s.

In the 800cc class, they had 4 UTVs lined up behind my class.

The starting area was in a large open area near the parking area. From the starting line, we had approximately 50 feet to the first (right) turn around a flag pole. Most of the starting area was loose dirt/rocks and only some places had grass.

When the green flag when up, I hit the starter and away we went! To my surprise, we had a strong start and bolted ahead towards the first turn. I looked to my left and right and it looked like we were in the clear! Just before we reached the first turn, a RZR 1k (driven by Chad R.) caught up to me on my left and a Yammie (Ken A.) blew past me on my right. I moved a little to my left to avoid the Yammie just as we started around the right-hand turn, then the RZR and I lightly bumped into each other. It was not a hard hit and luckily no damage done to my machine. When we came out of the turn, I was in 3rd position behind the RZR 1k. I was elated and fist-bumped Cash b/c of our solid start!

LAPS 1 and 2:
As our line of UTVs made our way around the sweeping zig-zag turns in thick clouds of dusty, we soon passed alongside of a small pond. It was so dusty that I almost ran into the water instead of turning left to hug the edge of the pond. Luckily, the dust cleared at the last second and I was able to avoid disaster! Next, we ran through some tall grassy areas between mesquite trees. The dust was horendous here and I nearly blew past one of the turns. I had to hit the brake and pray no one was on my tail b/c they definitely couldn’t see me in the dust.

A mile or so up the trail, we continued to zig-zag in and out of the tree line and eventually ran through the scoring schute. Then we re-entered the woods and continued to fight the dust coming off the cars ahead of me. Keep in mind that I could not see any UTVs head of me, only their thick dust clouds. Eventually, we ran through 2 dry creek crossings with sudden drop-offs in each that made you slow down. Then the course pops back into the open area where the race began and continued onward.

At this point in the race, I realized that the thick dust would make it very challenging to pass anyone (at least safely) and that we had a good chance of finishing the race in 3rd place as long as we held it avoided any costly mistakes or mechanical problems.

As we ran through the scoring schute on lap 2, we continued to push as hard as I could given thick dust. At this point, the #2 position UTV ahead of me had made up enough distance that the dust wasn’t as thick and I was only seeing the white stuff occasionally rather than every few seconds.

Then it happened… my RZR started steering funny like it didn’t want to make a sharp turn. But I figured it was probably just the loose soil causing us to slide around corners. A few more feet up the trail and I started hearing the front right tire rub against something and I instantly knew our race was over. We pulled off the trail in the woods at the first open spot. Got out of the car and found the passenger-side lower a-arm sitting on the ground with the ball joint broke off. Grrr. Nothing we could do at that point, but walk back to the truck and soak up some A/C til the race was over. Worst part was breaking down while we held a solid 3rd position! Dang it.

Immediately after the race, the storm clouds finally showed up and started to rain lightly. We asked for help and one of the track officials or sweepers named William came to the rescue. He was kind enough to drive his 4x4 truck into the woods and tow my RZR out using my racket straps to keep some weight off the front end. It was a slow process, but we eventually got it back to the trailer. Cash and I were very grateful for William’s assistance. I’m not sure how we would have got it out of there without his help as the RZR was completely un-driveable with the right front tire flopping around.

They say you win some, you lose some. This day was definitely not a win, but we had a lot of fun in our quest to reach the podium for at least a few laps. Sadly, we ended up with our 2nd DNF and lost our 1st place in season points. Grrr. That’s okay, we will come back from the summer break and try our best to regain our points lead over the remaining 3 races of the season. That won’t be easy with this class, but Cash and I are looking forward to it!

Of course, I have to say a BIG THANK YOU to TORCS for hosting a FUN event! If mother nature had cooperated a little more, the track would have been BIG FUN instead of the dust bowl that it turned into. I hope you enjoyed my race write-up.

12,355 Posts
I would hate racing in the dust!

Super Moderator
9,439 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
It can be very scary to blindly race thru thick clouds of dust and not know for sure what is directly in front of you.
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