When the UTV World Championships finally rolled out of Laughlin NV, there were many, many happy racers; and a bummed out one.
In just a short time, UTV racing has exploded in popularity and the 2017 Polaris RZR UTV World Championships Powered by Monster Energy featured over 350 drivers of all ages and genders (even a NASCAR guy showed up), which is an amazing turnout for a race that’s but a few years old. But contributing factors about the UTVWC makes this a great event for pro and weekend drivers alike.
First, there are two distinct races, a desert and short course, so no matter what kind of car you build or discipline you excel in, there’s a race for you. Even the long course is only 16-miles long and there are many places along the route that makes it easy for a crew to get to a breakdown either to fix it or to get it easily on a trailer. The race lasted 10 laps, giving everyone plenty of opportunity to break something.
Which leads us to another great thing about this event; it’s held literally a mile from the hotels that line the Laughlin strip. In fact, there’s not too many places on the course that you can’t actually see the hotels. We love point-to-point races, but there is something about knowing you’ll be back in your camp that night no matter what happens that gives us the warm fuzzies. Having driven the 16-mile course during Fridays “family poker run,” we feel it was fast with a brutal section of whoops about halfway through. That section, a mile or two in length, was made up of 2-3 foot tall sharp edged rollers that was a test for suspension and kidneys alike. The course crossed a main road (twice) that had been shut down for the race and the safety volunteers stationed there were great. As much water as was put on the infield, it was going to be dusty out on the rest of the course. That would come into play for many teams.
The Riverside was the host hotel this year and tech inspection and contingency row was held in the parking lot. The vendor turnout was great as was the weather, and the crowd was entertained by music and later by the inaugural Pit Crew Challenge. The team’s cars were literally put head to head and they had to change a tire and add fuel before the other three guys. The teams were pumped up, but perhaps no more so than the Murray Racing crew. They channeled that enthusiasm to a win and took home cool crew things like helmets, jacks and lights.
Saturday’s racing began with the bikes but before long the teams were lining up for the Safecraft UTVWC Desert Race. A Grand Prix style start, the vehicles were lined up in rows and then flagged off. Remember we said something about one unhappy guy? His name is Justin Lambert. Lambert and his Cognito RZR were last years production champs. He entered a turbo this year and seemingly poised to repeat as winners, but fate decided otherwise.
Lambert was leading the race, both on-course and adjusted time, until the final lap when mechanical gremlins caused him to pull to briefly the side of the trail. It was this downtime that came back to bite him as even though he finished ahead of everyone, once the times were adjusted for starting order, he actually finished second to one Phil Blurton.
In only his first year of BITD competition, Blurton is proving that he can drive and put himself ahead of some very fast, big name racers. Coming in third was Mark Holz with Unlimited driver Michael Isom coming in 4th overall and first in class. Andrei Isac was first Pro UTV.
Youth is served at the UTVWC as over 50 drivers took to the infield track for the Got Sand Performance Youth 250 and Youth 170 classes. Besting them all was Dallas Gonzales in his RZR 250. He was followed in the 250 class by Clayton Mickel and Kaden Danbury. Luke Knupp took the win in the Youth 170, with Jaxxton Lambert and Aaron Cuevas chasing him to the line.
With the desert and youth classes over, it was time for the featured Method Race Wheels Short Course race that was to be run entirely in the infield section. It turns out there was good and bad about the short course race. The good is that there were a bunch of entrants. The bad news is that it was decided that there were actually too many entrants to be on the course at one time. So the “Short Course” race actually took place on the desert course, but only 3 laps were run.
Though he hasn’t been racing UTV’s as much lately, that didn’t stop RJ Anderson from pushing his Polaris RZR Turbo through the pack to take first overall with Ryan Holz and Branden Sims finishing 2nd and 3rd spots. Sims was driving the same RZR in which he had competed at King of the Hammers, winch and all.
Ray Bulloch bested Will Rodgers in the Production 1000 class while Kaleb Myers stayed ahead of Jerry Byerman to take first in class in 900 Production.
The UTV World Championships is a good time for all. The UTV Underground and Best In The Desert put on a great race and companies such as Polaris, Method, Monster and Got Sand should be commended for promoting UTV racing at this level. Whether you’re a racer or spectator, this is an event that you shouldn’t miss. The location is great, there are plenty of places to get a good view of the track and the racing is top notch. We give it two wheels up.
Safecraft UTVWC Desert Race Pro Turbo
1st place – Phil Blurton
2nd place – Justin Lambert
3rd place – Mark Holz
Safecraft UTVWC Desert Race Pro UTV
1st place – Andrei Isac
2nd place – Benjamin Bischoff
3rd place – Joe Loomis
Safecraft UTVWC Desert Race Pro Unlimited UTV
1st place – Michael Isom
2nd place – Robert Villarreal
3rd place – Gabriel Varela
Safecraft UTVWC Desert Race Sportsman
1st place – Robert Parson
Method Race Wheels UTVWC Short Course Production Turbo
1st place – RJ Anderson
2nd place – Ryan Holz
3rd place – Branden Sims
Method Race Wheels UTVWC Short Course Production 1000
1st place – Ray Bulloch
2nd place – Will Rodgers
3rd place – Dean Wheeler Jr.
Method Race Wheels UTVWC Short Course Production 900
1st place – Kaleb Myers
2nd place – Jerry Byerman
Method Race Wheels UTVWC Short Course 700/800
1st place – Skyler Bulloch
2nd place – Sam Chournos
3rd place – Casey Sims
Got Sand Performance UTVWC Youth 250 Top 3
1st place – Dallas Gonzalez
2nd place – Clayton Mickel
3rd place – Kaden Danbury
Got Sand Performance UTVWC Youth 170 Top 3
1st place – Luke Knupp
2nd place – Jaxxton Lambert
3rd place – Aaron Cuevas