Coverage: The Polaris RZR UTV World Championship
The inaugural Polaris RZR World Championships in Laughlin, Nevada, was truly an event. It was a race for many but there was also a poker run, a business-to-business seminar, Polaris factory demo rides all weekend, a bike and quad race; even the kids had their own Production RZR 170 Class race on Saturday. The event promotor Joey DiGiovanni of UTV Underground has been a part of the UTV scene from the very beginning. When he set out to have his own UTV event, he had a long list of things to do in mind. “I’ve been wanting to do a race for a long time,” DiGiovanni said. “We have done some smaller stuff in the past but I felt it was time to give UTV racers an event just for them.” The UTV world responded with a huge turnout of fans and 122 total race entries.
The business-to-business seminar covered several topics of concern to UTV entrepreneurs who were interested in being a part of the huge growth that the industry continues to see. Merchandising, social media marketing, land use and other matters were all covered. After they got business out of the way, it was time for everyone to get out and enjoy the spectacular desert and mountain scenery surrounding Laughlin. The poker run drew machines and participants from the full spectrum of the UTV universe. Participants all had a great time and some walked away with terrific prizes. As the poker run wound down the action moved across the street from Harrah’s Laughlin hotel casino for race contingency. The fans mingled with racers, pit crews and product suppliers as the race vehicles filed through a zigzagging route that culminated under the FOX Shox banner where technical inspection began for the competitors. Technical inspection and race operations were handled by the experienced crew at Best in the Desert. Once the cars passed inspection all that was left was to settle the score the following morning.
The first group of UTVs to compete was the desert racers, who would be contesting for the Walker Evans Desert Championship. The winner would go down as the first UTV World Championship winner and take home a prize package that included a brand new Polaris RZR. The course took off into the desert for a 10-mile loop before it returned to the infield shortcourse section to complete a lap. The UTVs were locked together like a train on the first lap, as there was very little wind that made it extremely dusty. Being able to maintain a rapid pace in blinding dust is one trait the best desert racers in the world all have. Due to the competitive nature of those in the field, the pace remained at a fever pitch for several laps until the pounding started to take a toll on some.
Flat tires, breakdowns and lengthy pit stops jumbled up the field. In the end, 12 racers out of the 40 who finished were able to complete all 10 laps. Leading the way was Branden Sims with the win, who was followed by Christina Perkins in second and Paul Cooper rounding out the podium. Sims was fresh off a disappointing DNF after running up front at the King of the Hammers race only weeks before. Perkins finally makes the podium after many thought she was overdue. She has piled up a string of strong races resulting in fourth-place finishes that goes back to last season. Third-place finisher Cooper is not afraid to push the pace in the desert. His aggressive style was rewarded at the UTV World Championships. The 2900 sportsman class was won by Craig Hein and Logan Goodall.
Next up were the kids racing in the Production RZR 170 race. Some of these kids could barely see through the steering wheel, let alone over it. Despite their youth, it was a hard-fought battle with Seth Quintero coming out on top. Quintero started up front but got passed during the race. He battled back in the late going to take the win. By the time these kids step up to the faster classes they will know every trick in the book.
The production race would feature Production 1000, Production 850 and Production 700 class UTVs. The weather was near perfect with sunshine and a light breeze. A huge crowd lined the ridges and packed the spectator areas around the course. As the crowd looked on, waves of UTVs left the line in a land-rush-style start. The intensity that began as they forced their way into turn one did not let up until the checkered flag waved 10 laps later. Running on a course that was only 5 miles or so in length, the action was non-stop. You had to pay strict attention to know who was leading, as the cars were constantly passing back and forth in an endless train. When the checkered flag did wave every spot was highly contested and well earned. Surprisingly, the top two spots were taken by privateers. The overall victory went to Jacob Shaw in his Magnum Offroad, GMZ Race Products, Muzzy Performance Polaris. Second to the flag was Richie Laatz driving a custom creation. Rounding out the podium in third place overall was Beau Baron driving his Maxxis, H&M, Holz, Polaris RZR.
In Production 850, it was a pair of Kawasakis in the top two spots with Jim Berry taking the win followed by Brian Bennett in second and Danny Rosenzweig in third. In the Production 700 class, James Walker drove his Polaris to victory followed by Robbie Brand, also driving a Polaris, in second.
The Polaris RZR World Championships had something for everyone. Race promotor Joey DiGiovanni and his team who made it all possible must have had moments when they asked themselves: will the UTV community show up? The answer is a resounding yes!