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Last Sunday, my son (Cash) and I loaded up our new RZR Turbo and made the short drive to Willis, Tx to compete in the 5th round of the 2018 TORCS series. This was only my 2nd race in the new RZR, and I was very excited b/c Cash was able to be co-pilot this time (he missed the last one to study for final exams). Before I go into my race write-up below, let me repeat the first sentence above. Cash and I only drove 30 MINUTES to this race! :) I just love the way that sounds b/c most of the TORCS races are 2.5 hours from our house and most TORN races are 5 hours away. So this was a rare treat indeed.

WHERE: Willis, TX… it’s a small town located 50 miles north of H’town and only a stone’s throw from my house. This heavily wooded property (Sterling Ranch) is relatively small and includes a large pond towards the back of the property surrounded by trails on both sides. Much of the course was covered in loose sandy soil (think deep ruts and whoops) and ran through tight woods along with occasional obstacles like tree stumps, roots, and crossings through a rock-lined drainage ditch and 2 muddy creeks.

TRACK CONDITIONS: On race day, we had sunny skies and temps in the mid 90s. Earlier in the week, 5” of wet stuff fell on the property, but you could barely tell by Sunday. The trails were very dusty in the open areas and both creek crossings only had 6” of water (give or take). The biggest factor in this race was staying hydrated in the intense heat and trying to see through the thick dust. This was the exact opposite from the last race at Goertz Ranch, which was a total mudfest in much cooler temps.

PARADE LAP & HOT LAP: When the UTV riders meeting started at 2:30pm, we had 26 UTVs gathered around the starting area. Soon afterwards, the parade lap started and we slowly followed the lead vehicle around the 2.6 mile course. As we made our way through it, my first impression was that the course was very similar to last year’s course on the same property. As stated above, it was very DUSTY and hard to see the UTV directly in front or behind you. Also, the soft soil was already starting to form deep ruts. Like last year, there were not many places to pass easily. That means a good start is critical if you want to get on the podium. After the parade and hot lap, everyone lined up on their assigned starting line; Turbos in the front row, Non-turbos split into 2 separate rows, and 800s in the back.

CLASSES: As I recall, the Turbo Class had 8 UTVs, the Non-Turbo Class had 16 and the 800 Class had 2.

THE START: The starting area was right next to the large pond. From the starting line, we had approximately 50 feet to the first (left) turn around a flag pole. The starting line was covered by soft sandy loam, which tended to kick up thick dust making it impossible to see. This made the mad dash to the first turn that much more tricky.

Cash and I were lined up on the starting line near the far outside (with most of the Turbo Class to my left). When the green flag when up, I hit the starter and away we went! We were in the middle of the pack coming into the first left turn. I was trying my best to keep a safe distance from the others as we rounded that turn in thick clouds of dust. As we came out of the left turn, we headed towards the woods. Everyone was bunched up together and it seemed like we all reached that next turn at the same time. I jumped behind a UTV who took the inside line into the turn and 2 or 3 UTVs were directly to my left. Suddenly, the guy in front of me slams on the brakes and everyone except 1 got around us. Wait. What? Cash and I suddenly found ourselves in 7th position, meaning we were most likely going to EAT DUST SANDWICHES for the next hour. Geesh!

LAPS 1-5: But wait, it gets worse. Half way through lap 1, we came to a fork in the trail. I took a quick look at the signs (blue arrow is SxS, red arrow is dirtbikes) and went the WRONG WAY. I quickly realized my error and stopped. Before I could back up, we got passed. For those who are counting, that means we were now in LAST POSITION and its still only lap 1. Noooo!
Soon our luck would start to improve. We followed the UTV in front of us closely through the woods and watched him go blindly into the thick dust ahead. I knew somewhere in there was a hard right turn on slippery dirt/gravel, so I slowed down a bit. Suddenly, the racer ahead of me appeared as he slammed into a pile of dirt on the outside of that turn. I watched in amazement as his entire right side rose up about 1 foot and come down hard. Then he hit the gas and continued down the trail. But something looked odd, and I told Cash to look at that guy’s LEFT REAR WHEEL. It was leaning over at a 45 degree angle! Ouch. Obviously, he bent a radius bar or something like that. Soon he pulled off the trail, and we kept racing. Sometimes slower is faster.

Soon, the Non-Turbo Class caught up to us. We finally found a safe place to pull over, and we let Steven Maida and then Cory Williams pass. We stayed on right on Cory’s tail for a while and were making good time. I was starting to feel pretty good about our pace. What I didn’t realize was that Cory had a flat tire and that made it easy for me keep up with him. LOL
Then we approached the trails along the edge of the large pond, Cory went around a sharp left turn and suddenly came to a stop (blown belt). I tried to ease to the right of Cory and go around, but suddenly my RZR high centered on the soft sandy berm and I couldn’t go forward or backwards. Oh crappola!!!

The racer behind me plowed over the bushes to the left of Cory and made it around. All we could do was stand by and watch as racer after racer passed us. I tried desperately to dig the loose sand out from beneath my RZR, but it was futile. A few minutes later, Cory and others pushed us off the sandy berm and we are finally able to continue our race. At this point, I had no idea what position we were in, but I think at least a dozen UTVs (mostly Non-Turbo) passed us while we were stuck.

LAPS 6-9: On the next lap or two, we came upon two stuck Yamahas on a left-hand turn. In one car was Ken A. and he was trying to winch his car out of the deep sandy turn. The winch rope wrapped around a tree on the outside of the turn and blocking me from going forward. I stopped just long enough to hear them say something about the winch not moving his UTV out of the ruts. After a few cars started to back up behind me, I decided it was time to bounce. With no other options, I drove slowly over the top of the winch rope and continue racing. After that point, we started seeing more and more stuck or broken UTVs littering the course. It looked like a UTV GRAVEYARD by the end of the race!
They seemed to appear out of nowhere (after a blind corner) and just another type of obstacle on the course.

Then we started seeing more bottlenecks as racers were desperately trying to find ways around stuck or broken UTVs in the middle of the wooded trail. It was chaotic at times with people going back and forth and trying to make a new trail in the woods next to the disabled UTVs. At this point, my goal was just to finish the race in one piece, and I didn’t care if we we came in last place or not.

On one of the last few laps, we rode through the drainage ditch lined with rocks. Coming out of it, we exited a little fast and got some air. As we landed, my RZR suddenly stopped going forward. I immediately thought, “THAT’S IT! WE PROBABLY BLEW A BELT & OUR RACE IS DONE.” I pulled off to the side and stopped. Then I tried reverse gear, and it worked! So I knew the belt was okay. Then I tried High gear and it worked too. Apparently, it just popped out of gear. What a relief!
About 100 feet up the trail, the course makes a hard right hand turn in deep, sandy ruts. As we railed around this turn, my RZR suddenly popped up on the left two wheels. Yikes! Cash and I both thought we were going to roll this sucker over. I steered the opposite directly and suddenly it came back down on 4 wheels. ANOTHER BIG RELIEF! We fist bumped and carried on.

RACE RESULTS: Out of 8 in the Turbo class, we finished in 4th place and also finished 10th overall out of 26 UTVs.
Not bad given that we were in dead last on lap 1. I was so glad we finished the race, especially after seeing so many disabled UTVs scattered on the course. Also, this was an improvement over last year when I got a DNF on the same track thanks to a hidden stump (in a sloppy mud hole) that broke a front suspension bolt. Even without a podium finish, I’d call Sunday’s race a success b/c our new RZR survived in one piece, we made it all the way to the checkered flag, and we had lots of fun in the process.

Of course, I have to say a BIG THANK YOU to TORCS for hosting a FUN event! I hope you enjoyed my race write-up.


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