Once just a side-show at the off-road racing circuit, UTV racing has grown into series of well organized and popular events featuring fierce competition and passionate fans. Desert racing, short and long-distance, and cross-country events have taken the US and the whole planet by storm. Since 2003, when Cory Sappington was the first to use UTV as a racing machine, SxS races have developed into attractive and exciting competition series with its own set of rules, vehicle classes, and dedicated fanbase.
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The Appeal of UTV Racing
The camaraderie and team spirit, uncharacteristic for many other competitive events, are the first thing that draws people to this kind of racing. Most competitors have a team around them consisting of mostly friends and family making every race an opportunity for bonding and making new friends among like-minded people. The rules are set in a way that enables riders to prepare their vehicles in their own garages, eliminating the need for big corporate team sponsors that often take the soul and joy out of similar competitions. With some minor safety modifications, you can take the vehicle almost straight from the dealer to the track and experience adrenaline rush that only these races can provide.
A Guide to UTV Racing in the USA
Nowadays, there are UTV competitive events across the whole of the USA, Canada, and Mexico. They include races for different age groups and skill levels, making it possible for almost anyone to be part of the racing adventure. Race series that include UTV’s are being held from coast to coast so you’ll probably be able to find one near your home or you can choose to take it up a notch and spend some time touring the country taking part in the circuit. Some events have television coverage and huge prize funds, while others are more low-profile and geared towards recreational competitors.
Desert races are the challenging and exciting events in the world of UTV competitions. But, at the same time the most expensive when it comes to preparing your vehicle for entry. These events are long and successful participation requires top-notch skills from the rider. Short courses are much more accessible for newbies, both in terms of money investment needed and the skill level and experience. They can serve as a great entry-point to the world of UTV racing.
When it comes to manufacturers who dominate the tracks in the US, it’s difficult to name the one brand that is best suited for racing. Different types of events demand different vehicle features so, while perfect on one track, one car UTV may not be the best for the other. If we are talking pure numbers, it’s easily noticeable that the Polaris RZR platform is the most represented racing SxS on the racing events. Not just in the US but across the globe. Can-Am and Arctic Cat have also very competitive racing models which are the favorite of the many. And, lately, Yamaha is stepping up and returning to the old glory. Other Japanese manufacturers are, also, not far behind.
Simply having a UTV vehicle is not enough to just go out and take part in a racing series. Each organization behind a certain series usually has its own set of rules that your vehicle will need to adhere to. For this reason, preparing your SxS for two different events in a short span of time can be a pain in the neck. Safety rules at one event may be looser than at the other. Especially since may of the regulations in the rulebooks are open to interpretation. Some of them can be bent a bit and some completely avoided, which is, of course, still not recommended. Bearing in mind how much of an investment turning your UTV into a racing machine can be, it’s probably best that you always contact event organizers and clear any dilemmas you may have regarding what’s allowed and what’s not.
UTV Racing Series in the USA – The List
Below are some of the most attractive and well-organized SxS race events in the US, both for competitors and fans. They range from the highly technical trail and rock challenges to full-on dirt speed racing. The number of events grows each year, so be sure to check online for any new events that may be worth your attention.
Best in the Desert Series
At the moment, the Best in the Desert Series is probably the best run and versatile off-road racing series in the world. Founded over 30 years ago, BITD included the UTV World championship to its schedule six years ago. They now host six UTV races in Nevada and Arizona.Besides UTV WC, they are best known for Mint 400 and Vegas to Reno races. Their courses include graded roads, desolate desert, rocky mountain terrain, and run through some of the most breath-taking sites you can find in North America. There are three classes available for UTVers, from entry to pro-level.
World Off-Road Championships Series
World Off-road Championship events were one of the first to embrace UTV riders. Based mostly on the West Coast, they have events in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Washington Over 11 thousand racers of various backgrounds, skill levels, and experience take part in the WORC events each year. And with their fan-friendly courses, they draw more than 50,000 people just to watch the races. Every event in the WORC series features Pro and Amateur UTV classes, attracting some of the finest UTV riders from all over the country. Safety requirements for entering their UTV events are not as strict as with some other series, so many novice riders chose WORC as their first try with racing.
Lucas Oil Off-Road Series
Lucas Oil Off-road series has featured UTV races at their regional events for a while, and now they also have Pro-UTV class for 1000cc and turbo vehicles as part of their main competition. Lucas Oil events are best known for their short-course off-road tracks that bring exciting and competitive racing that draws competitors and fans from all over the world. With no natural obstacles, such as trees or rocks, this series is about the basics – speeding at the breakneck seed across the dirt. Custom build race tracks can accommodate thousands of fans who always create a unique atmosphere that these events are known for.
SCORE International Off-Road Racing Series
Score International’s Baja 1000, Baja 500, and San Felipe 250 are considered the most dangerous and challenging but at the same time the most rewarding and exciting race tracks in Nort America. Naja 100 is the longest-running desert event in the world and in that time it has gained the reputation for the immaculate organization, plenty of excitement around the tracks, and unforgettable experience it delivers to racers and fans. Winning in Baja brings bragging rights that can be compared only to winning in Dakar events. Of course, race this challenging is also the most difficult and expensive to prepare for.
The Grand National Cross Country series is one of the favorite events for UTV riders. With six out of thirteen rounds of competition featuring UTV races, it’s was one of the first series that recognized the potential of SxS events. What distinct GNNC from other similar series is the versatility and beauty of riding areas. Riders get the chance to ride the combination of trails through the woods, open grass areas, and dirt tracks. Tracks are 6 to 8 miles long, and races take up to three hours to complete. Each year GNNC events draw around 2,500 racers coming from all parts of the world; from Japan and New Zealand to Both American continents. The Grand National Cross Country series is also known for being engaged with local communities everywhere the races take place.
The Valley Off-Road Racing Association series has been held in Nevada and California for over 40 years. As a family-run organization, VORRA puts the spirit of racing and camaraderie above the fierce competitiveness of some other events. They believe that every racing vehicle should be prepared in the rider’s own garage and are strong advocates for bringing racing back to its roots. This is the main reason why entry fees for these events have been kept at a minimum all these years. Of, course, this doesn’t mean that their events are not challenging and exciting, Some of the VORRA organized races, such as the USA 500 and 24-hour endurance race, are among the toughest on the continent.
King of the Hammers Racing Event
King of the Hammers event is held every February in Johnson Valley California. A combination of rock climbing and desert racing, KOH races are one of the most difficult one-day events you can be a part of. Just finishing the race is a success on its own. It’s no wonder that these events now feature more than 300 teams and draw crowds of over 35,000, with many more watching online. The organization behind King of the Hammers is also known for its film production and has released several full-length features on the KOH events. They also have an impressive live production of their races, bringing more and more fans each year.