2014 Polaris RZR XP1000 Project – Lake Elsinore GP 0

In our 2014 Polaris RZR XP 1000 Project – Part 1 article we set out to create a machine that would be legal to race in WORCS and other similar races with the help of a long list of aftermarket companies, and when we were done we had one good looking machine. The question was how would it perform in the heat of battle? Even with all the parts and quality fabrication by IMG Motorsport our race XP was still basically stock performance-wise. With the WORCS series looming on the horizon we decided to enter the famed Lake Elsinore Grand Prix to find out if we were truly ready to bang with the big dogs of side-by-side racing.

Just by the luck of the draw our Polaris XP1000 Project was positioned on the front row.

Just by the luck of the draw our Polaris XP1000 Project was positioned on the front row.

Getting prepared for the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix required just a few extra parts and changes, but the most significant was swapping out our flat black Method Racing Wheels Standard 402 wheels for a set of machined aluminum 401 UTV Beadlock units with black rings from the same company. These would allow us to push hard into the corners without fear of rolling the tire of the bead and added some durability in the event of a flat. The beadlocks are also stronger with a 1600-pound load rating, up from the 1000 of the non-beadlock 402s. At $184 each it was an expensive change, but we knew it was necessary. When you are racing you need to be identifiable by the spectators and more importantly the scorekeepers, so we bolted on a set of laser cut number plates by IMG Motorsports. Installation took less than five minutes and one tool to remove and reinstall the fender bolts that the plates utilize. It took longer to put the Vinyl Shop preprinted backgrounds, as we didn’t want to get air bubbles in our graphics. Lastly we installed window nets. We ran into issues with finding a premade net that fit the narrow window opening of the IMG Motorsports cage and doors, but luckily at the 11th hour my mother stepped in with her Husqvarna sewing machine to save the day. In just a few hours she had a set of nets ready to install, keeping the tech inspectors and safety officials happy. Thanks Mom!

With that it was time to race. Podium Productions has created quite an event based out of the Lake Elsinore Storm Baseball Stadium. Two full days of racing see numerous ATV and motorcycle classes racing away from the stadium and along the washes and dirt areas next to the waters of Lake Elsinore. The final race of the first day was the UTV race, one of the largest and most exciting of the weekend. Nearly 100 UTVs lined up with almost 40 in the Pro Production class. Rows of three were staged according to a random draw, and as luck would have it I pulled the number one position. If I wasn’t nervous before, I was then, knowing that I would now be upfront and had a legitimate chance of winning. That, and I would have 39 other drivers looking to get around me.  Our MotoUSA friend and pro test rider Chris See decided he would like to see what the race was like from inside a cage and strapped into the passenger seat. Right before the flag dropped he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you know what you are doing? I mean, do you really know what you are doing.” I replied with a shrug and said, “Sure, I guess.” When the flag dropped, I mashed the pedal and slightly spun the tires hurting my drive to the first corner, getting there just after Mark Partridge’s heavily modified XP 900. The first right hander was a warzone, with race cars bouncing off each other as they all tried to squeeze into a space big enough for just two. I was hit in the right rear wheel almost spinning me out and launching me into the hay bales. Knowing I would be eating dust for 45 minutes if I didn’t get out front, I keep my foot to the floor and mowed down a half dozen bales before getting back on course. However I was in second place.

Before the end of the first short motocross section we were in the lead in the Project XP1000.

Before the end of the first short motocross section we were in the lead in the Project XP1000.

In the third corner I was bumped by Cold Cock Whiskey sponsored racer and all around wild man Dana Creech. After what seemed like an eternity on two wheels, I regained control and made a risky pass over a short tabletop to pass the leader. I was now the front runner and I put the hammer down as the course headed into the sand and rock washes that lead to the ridgeline above the town. The XP 1000 was handling the whoops and rocks like a champ and when we got to the ridgeline I was able to take a look back to see who was on my butt as we made a 180-degree turn up a steep hill. There was not a single UTV to be seen. Did I miss a red flag? Cut the Course? Where was everyone? They were there, just slowed by the dusty conditions. Chris and I had pulled a two minute gap on the field as dust, bottle necks and crashes were wreaking havoc behind us. As we crossed the line for the first lap, I was amazed that our stock suspension and engine were beating some of the best UTV racers on the West Coast. The second lap was a carbon copy of the first until we hit the three-quarter mark. Cresting a rise, I jumped right into a massive chuckhole with the right rear and felt the suspension compress and then stay down in the stroke. Chris yelled that we had just broke and we needed to pull over. My heart sank; we were winning! Then I realized we were still wining and would be until someone caught us. So we carried on expecting to be swallowed up by the pack in short order. But it didn’t happen. As I fought the wheel for control through the whoops and turns I kept an eye on my mirror looking for the first to catch us. We made it back around to the start/finish line to the waving of the white flag and I realized we might still have a chance. So I picked up the pace. Even with a broken shock or flat tire or whatever was wrong the XP was still hauling ass and able to handle most of the obstacles at speed.  At every turn flaggers waved the yellow flag pointing at our rear wheel and the fans that lined the course cheered us on. We were even making passes on lapped racers. Could we pull it off?

With just three miles to go Jacob Shaw caught up to the rear of the severely listing XP, and attempted to pass us on a short street section. I was all over the road as the rear end fishtailed wildly at over 60mph. Finally, I decided I would probably take both of us out if he got along side of us, so I waved him by. Being a good sportsman is a hard pill to swallow, but it was the right thing to do. We ate Shaw’s dust for the next few minutes as he pulled away to take the win. We crossed the finish line just 30 seconds behind Shaw for second place, and to be honest it felt better than a win. The XP 1000 made it to the end, despite having bent radius rods, a broken shock mount, a snapped axle and a flat tire. If not for the Method Racing Wheels beadlocks the race would have ended long before the finish line.

Even though we had a damaged rear suspension, we crossed the line in second place overall.

Even though we had a damaged rear suspension, we crossed the line in second place overall.

We proved that a stock Polaris RZR XP 1000 can be competitive with just the required safety modifications, but it does need some strengthening in some areas. We are now hooked on side-by-side racing and can’t wait until we line up again. We’ll be adding some new heavy-duty radius rods from Assault Industries to make sure we don’t have another failure due to a bent radius rod.  Stay tuned to our report from the first round of the WORCS SXS Pro Production class at Taft, California’s Honolulu Hills Raceway.

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