So you want to race your UTV huh? Let’s help get you started!
GET THE BALL ROLLING
Step 1 is to know what you’re getting into. Racing isn’t cheap, and payback is very little-to-nothing if you’re not a factory backed racer. Welcome to the privateer life, where you’ll have to figure out a budget that isn’t going to leave you broke, but will help you get your racing ‘career’ started. At this point, I assume you already own a UTV so i’m going to skip that part!
Step 2 is identifying what kind of off-road racing you want to get yourself into. Do you want to race short course circuits? Do you want to race point-to-point desert races? Or do you want to race rock-crawling races? Ideally, you want to look into what racing organizations you have near you to fascilitate this choice, and taking a look at the class and experience levels that they cater to. The last thing you want to do is show up to a race and try to go head to head with Robby Gordon; it won’t be fun or safe for either of you.
UNDERSTANDING THE REQUIREMENTS OF OFF-ROAD RACING
Depending on the organization that you choose, rules and safety measures will vary. Most, but not all, require a chromoly roll cage that is much stronger and more durable than a factory UTV cage. These roll cages are purpose built and designed to protect you in the event of any high-speed crash or accident. Often times, you can purchase these cages already made and ready to install. Other times, you will have to find someone to fabricate one for you. Some local organizations allow stock roll cages, but most don’t (make sure to look at the rule book specific to the class you wish to enter).
Window nets are probably one of the most overlooked requirements by new racers. You’re probably asking yourself? Why do I need window nets? I’ve never needed them in the desert before. Well, the truth of the matter is that as a racer, you’re pushing your car to it’s limits and sometimes beyond them. If you’re involved in a high-speed crash, the last thing you want is to have your hand or arm sticking out of your window/door panel and being pinned between the rolling vehicle and the ground or any foreign object. It’s not like you have a choice, anyways; window nets are mandatory.
SEAT BELT & RACING SEATS
Most racing organizations require 5-point harnesses and racing seats that are SFI approved. SFI is a non-profit organization established to issue and administer standards for the quality assurance of specialty performance and racing equipment. Seat belts and all SFI Approved safety equipment are “race legal” for a certain amount of years before a new standard comes into play.
DRIVER & NAVIGATOR SAFETY
Now that we’ve talked about vehicle safety requirements, let’s talk about safety equipment requirements that most racing organizations require drivers and navigators to have. You’re going to need a Snell approved helmet (SA, not M) 2015 or newer. (New standard every 5 years; 2010, 2015, 2020). You are going to need a HANS device (Head & Neck Restraint). HANS neck braces attach to your helmet via safety tethers and work in conjunction of your race seatbelts to help keep your neck from abnormally moving and to help keep you more secure in your vehicle. You will also need a fire retardant SFI Approved race suit. Depending on the organization you select, you can purchase single layer suits, double layer, triple layer, and multiple more layer suits. Some organizations are more selective or “picky” than others and will make fire retardant shoes, gloves, and undergarments mandatory.
Although a stock fuel cell might be legal in select organizations, most racing (in the desert, at least) requires multiple pit stops that require the vehicle to be re-fueled. A larger capacity race fuel tank will allow you to go longer distances and will also be safer if you find yourself upside down with highly flammable race fuel. Race fuel cells are specifically designed to help reduce the chances of a fire occurring in the event of a crash.
Enough of the requirements! Let’s talk about recommendations. It might sound a little overwhelming, but trust me… It’s not impossible and it’ll all be worth it when you Win your first race and look back at how much effort you put into it. I recommend for you to surround yourself with people that are willing to help you out; financially, mechanically, emotionally, or in any way that will contribute to your program. Racing requires a team. You need a team to help work on your car to prep it for a race, or during a race. You need a team to set up pit stops throughout the course and to help you fuel when you get to that point. You need volunteers willing to help you succeed! Off-Road Racing truly is a family oriented and team sport. Without a doubt, that is the most important piece to the puzzle!
Now that you’ve got an idea on what to expect, go out there and get it done! If you set your mind to it, anybody can race. With time and experience, great things will come. Still have some questions? Feel free to give us a call at 1-888-339-3888! You can ask for me directly (Larry). I’m a racer myself and would be more than happy to help you to the best of my abilities. See you in the dust.