By Rick Sosebee / Marcelo Danze
Building a race rig for the rugged off-road is one thing but building a machine to withstand the rigors of the Baja peninsula is yet another. Let’s take that a step further and go with a machine that you have to trust with your life because you will be racing your very first desert race in Baja. This means you want to have the security of a brand you trust as well and it all came to a head when Marcelo from Assault Industries decided that the was going to build his race car out of what some would consider a “tweener” rig, the Polaris GENERAL 4!
Positioned by its own company as a good blend between the Polaris RZR and the Polaris Ranger, the General not only has the power to deliver good results but a chassis suited just begging to be outfitted with race worthy accessories. After some pretty deep thought it was time for this machine to become the sleeper in the NORRA desert race! We had a chance to catch up with Marcelo to get some interesting questions answered about this incredible machine and here is what he had to say.
What made you choose a Polaris General to build for a cross country race/rally?
I had a chance to drive a Polaris General a few months back and fell in love with it. This UTV, right out of the box, has power and a very good structural frame to go racing. The best part of the general is in interior design. There is so much room in the cab and the seating position is awesome. You really need all these features to drive over 1000 miles! The general has 100 HP and for being a utility vehicle it still had a very sporty and powerful feel to it. We knew we could shed some weight off it and make it even faster! So, the challenge was on. I also wanted to show everyone how Assault could take a workhorse/utility vehicle and convert it to a race UTV and finish the 1,000 miles of Baja. This would also be another great proving ground for our Assault brand products. We tested our Black Op Axles, tie rods, side mirrors, fire extinguishers, belt holders, phone mounts, Sun Visors, 5-point harnesses, and center mirrors. We were super impressed with everything especially our Black Op Axles! No issues over 1000 brutal miles.
What special features does the Polaris General have that made it a good candidate or that you thought would make it work well in the desert terrain.
First off, we trust the Polaris brand name. I have owned many Polaris RZRs and never had an issue. We knew the General would be the same. We also looked at the suspension and all the pivot points looked strong. We did want a little more suspension for the whoops and jumps we would be hitting so we decided to swap the suspension a-arms with HCR long travel suspension and dampened the blows using Walker Evan Shocks. This added 5-inches of width per side and also gave us more travel with the shocks.
Did you modify the chassis in any way and if so, why?
We did not modify the chassis at all other than the cage. We felt the chassis was strong and didn’t need any modifications. The cage only needed to be changed to conform to NORRAs rules.
Did the Generals engine need any performance modification’s and if so, what were they and what were your goals with these mod’s?
We did not modify or touch the Generals engine at all. The 100HP engine is the same out of the RZR XP 1000. This was a perfect engine to run the 1000 miles and it definitely proved itself!
When racing the tough landscape of the Desert it seems everyone makes changes to the suspension. Was that the case with your build? If so, how did this change the way the car handled for the better?
We decided to work with Walker Evan Shocks for this build. These had to be custom shocks because of the HCR long travel kit we added. It was a perfect combination. The added width from the arms and added length from the shocks allowed this Assault General to hit all the bumps and woops without hesitation! The shocks were set up for a very comfortable ride through the Baja desert, but still aggressive enough to be able to launch the General, and as a result we never bottomed out!
Tire and wheel combo? Was it a preference or simply what you had on hand?
We do work with many wheel and tire companies but for this build we decided to go with a tire we have tested and used on other vehicles before. The GBC Kanati Terra Master. We chose this tire for a few reasons. First, it’s a Steel Belted radial design with a 10 Ply construction. We wanted and needed something strong to battle the brutal Baja desert. We couldn’t afford a flat. The crazy thing is, we ran the entire race without one flat on the race course. Another note on the tires. These tires are specially designed with two different tread patterns. Side A for soft to Intermediate terrain and B side for more Hard pack. We decided to run side B in the real and side A in the front. I believe this was a perfect combination. The General had lots of hook up in the rear and darted through cactus’ and the race course with no issues!
We matched the tire with KMC XS235 Grenade Beadlock wheels. We have used these on our other UTVS and never had an issue so decided to keep this wheel for this Race Build.
What safety measures did you take for the overall protection of the driver and co-dog inside the cab? Belts/harness, seats etc?
Neither myself or my Co-Dog Manuel have ever raced before and wanted to make sure we were safe during this race. We also wanted to make sure we were compliant to NORRAs race rules and were not going to be turned away at contingency. After reading the rule book, we made sure we had compliant safety Harnesses, Window nets, a first aid kit, and constant flashing amber light in the rear. Thankfully, we make awesome 5-point harness at Assault. These harnesses worked amazing. They are very easy to get on and off because we manufacture our belts with easy pull latches on the shoulder straps. You can loosen these with only using one finger. Not to mention, the removable and replace shoulder foam is adjustable, making the 1000 mile journey super comfortable.
With good safety belts you need a good seat so we partnered with Simpson Seats for this. Oh man, these seats are comfortable. We had days were in the Polaris General for over 5 hours of driving, it never felt like it with these seats.
Next, we reached out to PRP to help us with the window nets. We have less than 1 week and Scott over at PRP took on the task. They came out amazing. We were able to add the window nets using our multipurpose bar clamps. These window nets were easy to open and close.
For the lights we worked with Baja Designs. They had an awesome chase light we installed without any problems. Again, using our Assault clamps, the install was a breeze. We decided to add a set of XL80 Pro Amber LED lights on the front A pillar. With over 9,500 Lumens, these worked great in the dusty situations.
Nearly 1300mi – No popped tires, no broken axles, no driveline issues – from a reliability standpoint, the…
Were there any driveline modifications like transmission upgrades or half-shaft change outs for heavier duty products?
So, we decide to swap the transmission out for a 2015 XP RZR transmission. There were two reasons for this. First, we wanted to remove the turf mode as we would not need or use this mode. Second, we needed more top end speed. We connected with Rusty Stebar at R.S. Three Motorsports, out of Utah, to help us with this new tranny. He went thru the tranny and did his magic…He upgraded all the gears and bearings.
The new RZR XP transmission bolted right up to the General engine. It was a super easy exchange with no modifications needed. We got a top speed of 75 MPH with the transmission exchange. We also worked with DynoJet to help us with a clutch kit and also EFI tuning. We did all the tuning over the phone and it was super easy to install and understand. We increased our speed, the vehicles responsiveness, and also optimized the belt tension with their kits!
Any final add-ins that readers or Bench-Racers would find interesting on the machine?
The Polaris General really wasn’t designed to race 1000 miles of Baja, but with a few real minor upgrades, this UTV really did shine! We were able to plow the silt Beds, hit every jump with confidence, and skim across woops without any fear! The best thing about this General is we were able to race over 1000 mile of Baja with no issues, bring it home and take it out the next weekend on a local family trip to Big Bear! We took it on some crazy trails with crazy climbs! Nothing stopped the general. With only a few modifications, we are now going to go on new adventures that will have us traveling over vastly changing terrains while testing our own courage and resourcefulness, and the vehicles endurance as well as reliability! I know, I don’t have to worry about The Polaris General getting us in out of our adventures!
Day 2 complete!!! ..From @imdmarcelo // #assaultarmy #assaultutv #assaultind #AssaultTeam6 #AssaultMedia #Assaultland…
Why the NORRA 1000? What intrigued you about this race as opposed to the Baja 1000 or other mainland events?
There are a few reasons I picked the NORRA 1000 as my first racer ever! I have always wanted to race but really never had the time or experience to do it. I grew up in motorsports, so I have had lots of experiences driving and riding all type of off-road vehicles. Racing was always in my blood, but It wasn’t unleashed until my good friend Kyle Vestermark returned from racing the NORRA 1000 last year. He was telling me all about it. As he told me all the stories my eyes just kept getting wider and my smile bigger as he went thru his adventure with NORRA…
The best part about NORRA is that it is set up like a Rally (Dakar style). Its races over 5 days. You wake up and have time for Breakfast, you race between 200-400 miles, and you’re finished for the day. Usually if all goes well, you are done before dark! Best part about this style racing is you get to really enjoy the race as you get to see different place/cities, and also relax and enjoy dinner at every finish with your fellow racers, friends and family. Then you do it all over again the next day, with the biggest reward at the end being CABO baby! How could I not do this race?
The next reason was because of the terrain, and also the 1000-mile Journey. I wanted to really push myself and see if I could race and finish 1000 miles. It was a challenge for myself to find out if I have it in me to finish.
Describe the terrain for this time of year for the event.
I was a little worried about the weather and terrain in Baja. First on the terrain… I have seen all the pictures and movies of the famous Baja 1000 and heard of all the stories of racers not finishing because of crashes, and harsh terrain. This put a lot of doubt on me and did scare me a little. I didn’t want to have to sleep in the desert of Baja waiting for someone to come get me out. The best part of NORRA was we did take trails from the Baja 1000, but most were a little more tame than others. There were still lots of whoops, silt beds, jumps and rocks! We dashed through cactus farms, crossed rivers, crawled over more rocks. We also got to drive past schools with all the kids yelling and cheering you on, towns of 50 or less all celebrating like if we were movie stars. Out of 257 racers only about half finished the race. We came in 57th over-all! This was amazing for myself and the POLARIS General!
Any Post race notes of interest?
The NORRA race is definitely a race everyone should do once in their life-time. I have never raced in Baja, I was lucky enough to have my good friend Kyle help with all the Pre-Race and preparations.
Lastly, maybe here is where you shamelessly plug helpers/fabricators/idea-men or Women, secretary and any companies that so graciously handed over parts or stickers for beer and notoriety etc..
The most impressive part of this race was the pre-race prep! We got the Polaris General only a few months before the race. This was a brand-new stock machine with no hours on it! I am lucky to say I have the best team at Assault!! We all worked very hard and many hours to get this General Race ready. Manuel Soto, my key engineer designed and manufactured the cage and all the sheet metal fab work. He was able to Scan the general and design everything on Solidworks. Everything he designed fit like it was a original stock part. We had a great time and hope to get even more adventure out of the Assault Polaris General 1000.
About Assault Industries
Assault Industries was born from our passion for motorsports and off road racing. We have been in business manufacturing for the off-road, military, aerospace, medical, automobile, motorcycle and bike industry for over 30 years!
Working with OEM customers like Yamaha, Honda, and Harley Davidson has helped us work towards higher standards of quality, on time delivery and most of all, customer service. Based in Orange County, California, our state-of the-art facility is equipped for CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, tube bending, welding, 3D laser scanning and reverse engineering.
To learn more about the cool products that Assault Industries makes for all UTVs, visit www.assaultind.com.
Beginning in 2010, the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) began promoting a rebirth of the NORRA Mexican 1000 rally. The unique off-road rally was co-created by promoter Mike Pearlman to consist of special stages (unlimited speed timed stages in the dirt) linked together by controlled speed liaison / transit sections (highway). The one-of-a-kind, once-a-year, five-day rally includes vintage off-road vehicles and motorcycles, as well as modern desert cars, pre-runner trucks, buggies, UTVs and bikes.
Pearlman’s late father Ed and others established the first running of the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally in November of 1967, which eventually became internationally recognized and evolved into the Baja 1000 in the mid-1970’s.