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How To Go UTV Racing: A Basic Guide On What You Need To Know
Running up and down the dunes or kicking up dust across an old fire road in a UTV is a great leisure time activity for most people. However, we all seem to have that one friend that turns every UTV outing into a race whether blatantly laying down a challenge or sneakily whipping ahead so that they can arrive at the destination first. Heck, maybe that person is you?
With their ability to go just about anywhere and easy handling the popularity of UTVs has grown over the years and so has the interest in UTV racing or side-by-side racing as some may call it. The average UTV owner may think that pitching his/her vehicle into a high speed corner for the perfect last lap pass to win the checkered flag is just a pipe dream. That's not the case, there are quite a few race series' such as WORCS, the Dirt Series, Midwest Off Road Racing (MORR), The Off-Road Championship (TORC), and the Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Series (LORORS) which all have established rules and guidelines that make it relatively easy for the average person to race their UTV at a competitive amateur level. Who knows, with some vehicle mods and personal safety equipment you could be the next RJ Anderson.
What is UTV Racing
UTV racing is a motor vehicle competition in which drivers operate utility terrain vehicles also known as side-by-sides (SXS) amongst a field of other drivers on a closed course. The race course is typically set in an offroad setting with varying terrain and features obstacles such as jumps, whoops, tight corners, and banked turns. Some races tracks as short winding loops, while others may have a starting and ending point that are hundreds of miles apart.
For this article we are going to focus on the LORORS. LOROS and LOORRS share the same rules and guidelines and the rule books are pretty extensive so we won't cover everything here but will gloss over some of the more important details and key things you should know if you're thinking about jumping into UTV racing.
The LORORS Series:
There are five classes you can choose to compete in:
- Unlimited UTV: Heavily modified UTV up to 1000cc displacement.
- SR1 UTV: Heavily modified Yamaha Rhino, utilizing a Yamaha R1 1000cc engine or a Kawasaki Teryx, utilizing a ZX-10, 1000cc engine.
- Production 1000: Stock 1000cc UTV
- Production Turbo: Stock 1000cc factory turbo UTV
- RZR Racing: RZR 170: Stock Polaris RZR 170 UTV (open to kids ages 6-12)
As of right now LORORS has three regions: Southern California, Utah, and Arizona. The racing season runs from February to November with anywhere from 8-10 rounds of racing.
Most events are double headers with racing on Saturday and Sunday. Race fees are typically $300 for the weekend or $150 for single race events. RZR 170 entry fees are $125.
Points for the main events start at 50 for first place and are reduce by two points each subsequent position down to two points for 25th. 26th place gets one point.
Points are also awarded for the top five qualifying spots with five points awarded to the number one qualifier, four points for number two, three points for number three, two points for number four, and one point for the fifth qualifying spot.
Qualifying for a LORORS event is five laps. The races usually run 10-14 laps (12-17min) depending on the track. As far as lap times, at Lake Elsinore top racers run 52-53 second laps and can hit a top speed of nearly 70mph. At Glen Helen some racers runs around 53 second laps and hits a top speed of more than 60mph in the first straight.A typical LORORS two day race weekend schedule consists of:
|6:00 AM||Gates open|
|6:30 AM||Tech/Registration Open|
|6:30 AM||Track Crew Safety Briefing|
|7:00 AM||MANDATORY Driver's Meeting|
|7:30 AM||Media Safety Briefing|
|8 AM - 11 AM||Qualifying|
|11 - 11:30 AM||Track Prep/Crew lunch|
|11:30 AM - 5 PM||Main Events|
UTV Racing Requirements
- Apply for and obtain a valid LORORS license.
- Be at least 14 years old to race the UTV classes. Ages 6-12 can race the RZR 170 class.
- Wear a fire retardant one piece suit that meets SFI Spec 3-2A/5. The suit must cover the neck to the ankles as well as down the arms to the wrist.
- Wear gloves and driving shoes that meet SFI Spec 3.3/5 as well as fire retardant socks, head sock and/or helmet skirt.
- Wear a full face helmet with a Lexan shield. Helmets must meet Snell Memorial Foundation SA 2010 requirements or better.
- Use a head and neck restraint such as a D-Cell, R3, Hans, Hybrid or other restraint certified to SFI spec 38.
- Have a race spotter. Spotter should have two working radios; one "listen only" radio and headset with the ability to hear the competition director and one two way radio to communicate with the driver in the race vehicle. Drivers cannot communicate with one another when racing.
What Does My UTV Need for Side by Side Racing?
Your vehicle must utilize the stock chassis and maintain a stock appearance. You will need to have an aftermarket roll cage installed. and the cage material must be DOM or 4130 chromoly with a diameter of 1-1/2-inches and .095-inch wall thickness. Another requirement is that your vehicle has to have solid doors.
For the Unlimited, Production Turbo & Production 1000 class the vehicle's door openings must have a 'U' shaped tube bent to follow the door opening. The doors must also have an 'X', 'A', 'V' or Ladder design bracing designed to provide maximum protection to the driver's side. The door area must be covered with sheet metal or a minimum of .063 inch thick aluminum.
A race seat is required and it has to be bolted on place. The driver's seat must be within 2 inches left or right of the stock location.
Before you can race and to keep things on an even playing field your vehicle needs to meet certain minimum weights (driver is included in vehicle's minimum weight). The Polaris RZR Arctic Cat and Can-Am have to weigh a minimum of 1,610 pounds, and the Yamaha has to weigh at least 1,780 pounds.
The vehicles must have front and rear bumpers and the bumpers have to be rounded and capped with no sharp edges. In the Production Turbo, and Production 1000 classes vehicles must have side nerf bars that are at least as wide as the center line of tire or wider from front to back and should be a minimum of 12 inches from the front and rear tires.
The drivers seat has to have a five-point, quick-release harness with 3-inch straps that meet SFI specs 16.1 or 16.2 (youth) or 16.5 spec. Both ends of the lap belt must be fastened to the roll bar cage, shoulder harnesses must come from behind driver's seat and must pass through a steel guide welded to the cage that will prevent the harness from sliding from side to side. 2-inch belts may be used if they meet SFI specs 16.1.You have to keep all the A-arm mounting points in the stock location and position as delivered from the manufacturer (although they can be reinforced for strength). To further protect the driver your vehicle has to have a left half of a windshield opening covered with a LORORS approved rock guard that has a minimum 1/8 inch rod and a maximum 1.5 inch squares.
Additionally the you have to have driver's side window nets with welded attachments and are secured at the top by a removable Â½ inch solid steel rod and seat belt style latch system.
The shock mounts have to be in the stock location but they can be reinforced. You can't have any bolt on extensions or external bypass shocks. The shock manufacturer is open for Production Turbo, Production 1000 and RZR 170 classes.
The engine and all internal parts must remain completely stock for that model year. No internal modifications are allowed for the Production Turbo, Production 1000 and RZR 170 classes. You must use the stock throttle body and flywheel (no modifications allowed).
The vehicle must utilize the factory installed turbochargers in the Production Turbo class (no modifications are allowed).
Each vehicle must have a positive action on/off switch labeled "ignition on/off" and have a red circle around it. The switch must be located on the left hand side of the dash panel and accessible from the outside of the race vehicle. The red circle must be at least 1 inch wide.
For the Production 1000 and Production Turbo classes you have to run the stock OEM ECU (ECU may be flashed).
If running in the Production Turbo, Production 1000 & RZR 170 classes race fuel is not allowed, you can use pump gas with a maximum of 91 octane.
Each vehicle must have a remote timing responder purchased or rented from LORORS. The responsders are $40 to rent (limited number available). Responders must be mounted 10 inches back from the leading edge of the front bumper on the passenger side.
UTV Racing Modifications
You can modify the chassis for durability and strength but it must retain the stock width, length, and configuration. The glove box can be removed as well as the center foam lined storage box.
You are allowed to remove the two piece rear bed plastic or stock bed bottom and sides. The front headlights, rear taillights, and rear taillight body panel can be removed. It is recommended if lights are removed that they are blocked off with aluminum panels with stickers to mimic lights.
Vehicles are allowed to run aftermarket wheels and tires. In the Production Turbo, Production 1000 and Unlimited classes the maximum tire size is 30 inches outside diameter.
You can install aftermarket replacement steering rack and tie rods in the Production Turbo & Production 1000 classes.
The overall wheelbase (spindle to spindle) can be increased by only eight inches in the Unlimited class.
You can run an aftermarket exhaust in the Production Turbo, Production 1000 & RZR 170 classes. Titanium exhaust is allowed but it must be approved. The SR1 and Unlimited classes have more specific requirements. You are also allowed to install an aftermarket air intake/air cleaner.
Other Things to Consider:
Incorporating a fresh air system into your vehicle will help you breathe and see better in dusty conditions. Klim just started making a full face fresh air helmet called the R1 Air with a port on top to accommodate an air hose. PCI Race Radios offers their RaceAir Systems that supplies a steady flow of air into your helmet.
Installing a quick release steering wheel kit, like one of the ones offered by Dragonfire Racing can not only make it easier to get in and out of your vehicle but can be an extremely important feature in the event of an emergency.
Swapping out your stock wheels for a set of bead locks will give you additional peace of mind in those situations where the track/conditions call for running lower pressure in the tires.
There are several things you can do with the suspension to help improve the handling of your UTV such as going with heavier springs and/or revalving or installing all new shocks. Aftermarket sway bar ends or new sway bars all together would be good as well as upgrading to a billet steering rack.
You'll be doing a lot of hard braking and replacing the rubber lines with steel braided brake lines can help reduce fade and improve feel.
There are a lot of small rocks and other debris that gets kicked up on the track so it's a good idea to protect your CV joints with some CV guards.
A rearview mirror isn't required but it'll help you know if someone is on your tail or trying to make a pass on you.
UTV Racing Supplies
It's recommended that you bring a canopy or something to shade you from the sun in your pit area. A tarp is useful to help keep the dust down and makes it easier to find little loose parts when working on your vehicle.
You'll most likely break something at some point so these are some of the common spare parts you should bring: axles (1 each), wheel/tires, front a-arms, control arms, rotors, rear hub. You should also have several new air filters, fresh coolant, and plenty of fuel.
A jack is a must to raise the vehicle when swapping tires or other repairs. Dirt bike stands come in handy to keep the vehicle raised off the ground.
You'll want to clean your UTV after each track session to show off your sponsors and knock excess dirt/weight off the vehicle. Some of the cleaning supplies you should bring include: SC1, WD40, a pressure washer, a scraper to clean mud off the tires, and a car detailing kit.
Some other supplies you should have with you at the track include: a nitrogen tank or air compressor to dial in the air pressure in your UTV tires, a flashlight/shop light, plenty of tools, food, and chairs.
We covered a lot of material but this should give you a good idea of what's involved when it comes to going UTV racing for the first time. We mostly covered guidelines setup by the Lucas Oil Series, but there are other races like the Dirt Series and WORCS that outline some of the same safety requirements but may better suit your budget or desires when it comes to racing.
While the LORORS, Dirt Series, WORCS, and MORRS circuits are designed to be grassroots events that the average person can compete in and potentially feed into larger/national level series', all the costs associated racing does start to add up when you factory in the modifications, safety equipment, and replacement UTV parts. You won't get rich through local or even regional racing, as most offer little more than trophies and bragging rights--payouts are usually at the national level. On the positive side however, most race series have contingency programs that pay out either cash awards or parts at each race or at the end of the series. Also, if you set up a good race program or win a lot of races you can attract the attention of sponsors which can help with replacement parts or offset some of the costs.
At first getting into UTV racing might sound intimidating, but it's a great way to meet new people and have some fun. There are plenty of people, who have been racing UTVs for quite some and are more than happy to offer up advice or answers questions. So if you're interested in getting into UTV racing and have never attended an event, look up your local track or race series and see when the next race is. Head out as a spectator and then when the opportunity arises hit the pits and chat up some of the racers. You never know, you just might end up on the starting line at the next race.