There are some races we really enjoy covering, and the POLARIS RZR UTV World Championships Powered by Monster Energy, is one of them. There’s a seeming roll call of folks involved in putting this event on as Mad Media, UTVUnderground and Best In The Desert are all major reasons the race has grown so fast in the short time it’s been happening.
They are one reason that racers from virtually every sanctioning body, as well as those who are just getting into the UTV scene, all seem to have descended upon Laughlin NV February 18-20, 2016. All told, there were 288 registered racers, 212 of which were UTV’s of various classes. There would also be various courses as one would be a longer, 16 mile desert course and the other a short course that would stay in the tight, 4+ mile long infield section. That was the plan anyway, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Another of the great things about this race is that it’s literally a mile from the hotels that line the Colorado River. The course wanders out in the desert, but the pits, infield short course section and spectator areas are very close to town. The Colorado Belle was the Host Hotel, and it was also the site of vendor row as well as tech inspection. The number of vendors has exploded since the first race. Off-road companies are realizing that SxS racing is a real thing, and though there are some UTV centric companies, other such as BFGoodrich and various wheel companies are quickly transforming their product to be SxS friendly. We love that and hope the trend continues as we feel it’s a win-win for the sport of off-roading.
The weekend began with the vendors setting up in the Belle’s parking lot, but the big thing on Friday the 18th was the Family Poker Run put on by Best In The Desert. It gave everyone a chance to get their rigs dirty by driving their own rigs on a real racecourse, and was a great way of pre-running it for the racers. Everyone seemed to have a blast. Tech inspection took place in the vendor row, and the line of cars seemingly went on forever.
Multiple classes competed on Saturday’s raceday. There was a motorcycle and quad class (won respectively by Troy Vanscourt/Jeremy Newton on a Kawasaki, and Jeremy Gray/Robbie Cockrell on a Honda), but the biggest races involved UTV’s. There was the Walker Evans Racing Desert Championships as well as the Holz Racing Products Production short course race. In those, there was Pro, Unlimited and Sportsman classes, so no matter what you were in or what your skill level is, whether you wanted to drive a long way, or not, there seemingly was a class for everyone who wanted to compete.
But a funny thing happened at sign-up for the short course race; the racers just kept coming. There were over 100 drivers entered, which meant that there were too many racers for the event to take place on the “short-course” as it was planned. It was determined that with the Grand Prix style start, the leaders would be completing their first lap about the same time as the last line was being flagged off and with that many cars on the course at one time, it would be like rush hour on the I-5.
Not a safe scenario, so it was decided to ask the BLM to let the production cars simply be sent out on the desert course for 4 laps. Thankfully, the BLM was great about everything, and the race was on. Of course, one thing is that with all of the un-anticipated entrants, the crew working tech inspection was in for a long day.
Raceday the weather was perfect, and after a nice buffet breakfast, it was time to race. The aforementioned bikes and quads went off the line early, setting the stage for the Walker Evans Racing Desert Championships. The first line comprised of the fast guys as Dustin Jones led Justin Lambert, Brandon Sims and Mitch Guthrie into the first corners and the first of ten laps. Ryan Laidlaw and Kristen Matlock came up through the pack, while some of the initial front-runners had trouble. Sims would finish 6th due to a time penalty while Guthrie would fall to 8th place due to last minute mechanical problems. Guthrie was leading up until the last lap until when the checkers were nearly in site. He and co-driver Kurtis Elliot got the machine back underway, but by then Lambert was home with the win.
What made Lamberts win so amazing is that he beat the turbo charged entry of Laidlaw with a non-turbo RZR. Laidlaw did take the turbo class; Matlock would finish 3rd overall and 2nd non-turbo, followed by Marc Burnett and Jones, both in turbo charged models. The course proved to be fast and technical at times, but it was Lambert’s Cognito built RZR that had the staying power needed to win.
Walker Evans Racing Desert Championship
1. Justin Lambert
2. Ryan Laidlaw
3. Kristen Matlock
4. Marc Burnett
5. Dustin Jones
We’ll not call it the “Kids race”, as it was technically the Magnum Offroad Youth Championship Race, or Group A, but make no mistake, even though it was damn adorable to watch them, what these drivers lack in age, they more than make up for in intensity. Some are deadly serious about becoming the next RJ Anderson or Justin Lambert.
Group A was contained inside the infield section and went over the big Polaris RZR festooned jump, just like every other class.
When the dust settled, it was Casey Sims who took the overall in Group A as well as Production 250. He was followed by Julien Beaumer, who topped the Production 170 class.
1. Casey Sims
2. Julien Beaumer
3. Like Knupp
4. Ryder Champan
5. Jimmy Berry
The final race of the day was the elongated Holz Racing Products Production “short course” race, now scheduled for 4 laps on the desert course. The field of over 100 cars, whose drivers were expecting a more LOORRS or WORCS type of race found themselves on a desert course that had seen plenty of racing on it. In short, the course was a chewed up wreck at this point, but even though many of the competitors had little “desert” racing experience, the teams attacked it. That led to nearly 40 of the starting 103 not finishing, and the rest looked like the walking wounded. In fact, it may be that R.J. Anderson threw away a win when he witnessed a big crash by Mike Gardner and stopped to help. He finished only a minute behind the eventual winner Mitch Guthrie.
While Guthrie and Mickey Thomas were battling it out for the overall of the race, they were also battling the racers in their respective classes. Guthrie had Anderson with him in the JTV Production Turbo class, while Thomas is in the UTV Production 1000 class had to keep an eye out for eventual 4th place overall Cody Rahders, who also was in the non turbo class.
Other class winners were James Walker took the Production 900 in his Polaris XP900 while Jim Berry was first Production 700 in his Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport.
Holz Racing Products Production race
1. Mitch Guthrie
2. Mickey Thomas
3. R.J. Anderson
4. Cody Rahders
5. Marc Burnett
The weekend wrapped up with the awards ceremony, held at the “beach” behind Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. There, the winners and also-rans partied long into the night, and the bench racing was flowing as fast as the drivers had been on the course. UTVUnderground’s Joey DiGiovanni said, “The UTV World Championship (UTVWC) isn’t a basic race, its a full blown traveling circus, it is the biggest UTV race in the world and is now also the biggest UTV event our sport has. DiGiovanni continued by saying, “I am proud of that more than words could ever describe and even more proud of what our team at Mad Media & UTVUnderground.com have put together.”
They should be. In just a few short years, the combined teams have made this race a must attend event on the yearly UTV racing schedule. We know we’ll be back in 2017, and hopefully will be competing ourselves.
In just a few short years, the POLARIS RZR UTV World Championships has turned into the must attend UTV race of the season.
Held in the parking lot of the hosting Colorado Belle, the vendor row was bulging with trick parts and due to the high turnout, tech inspection went well on into the night.
As usual, the Best In The Desert crew had the situation well in hand.
Race day and the teams were on the line and ready to race.
Can-Am debuted their new UTV team at the race. They have paired with Lonestar Racing and Beard seats for the 2016 season. Can-Am is looking to build upon their successful 2015 season and the team will be at all of the major race series and events.
The race into the first corner saw Dustin Jones leading Justin Lambert, Branden Sims and Mitch Guthrie.
Being there when it mattered garnered Cognito’s Justin Lambert the overall win in the Walker Evans Racing Desert Championship race.
Mitch Guthrie dropped from first to eighth place due to a last minute mechanical problem.
Rally star Rhys Millen gave the UTV thing a try and finished a respectable 17th overall.
Though he wasn’t happy about how he won, Justin Lambert went home with the big check.
BITD’s Casey Folks seemed to be happiest when leading the kids out on their parade lap
The Magnum Offroad Youth Championship Race saw heated racing. These racers may be young, but they were driving like pros.
Casey Sims was all smiles as he took the overall in the MORYCR and was first Production 250 as well.
Mitch Guthrie came back from his earlier disappointment to take the Holz Racing Products Production “short course” race.
R.J. Anderson finished third overall, but may have given the race away when he stopped to help at a bad crash during the race.
The weekend culminated with a party disguised as an awards ceremony.