By Seth Fargher
As the saying goes, if you build it they will come and come they did, to the 2016 Polaris RZR UTV World Championship powered by Monster Energy. Some 212 UTVs and over 450 banded racers took over Laughlin Nevada for the largest single UTV event in the world. In only its second year, the UTV World Championship provides a unique one off experience where racers from across the country compete for the title of world champion and over $100,000 in cash and prizes.
2016 Polaris RZR UTV World Championship powered by Monster Energy
Tech & Contingency
The event offers racers of varying skill levels the opportunity to compete alongside the top professionals in the sport. Even youth riders had a place to fit in and were able to race on a portion of the same course as the pros. The Polaris RZR UTV World Championship consists of a Best it the Desert sanctioned offroad race as well as a short course format race however due to the higher than expected turnout, organizers had to move the Holz Racing Products Production Short Course race to the desert course for safety and to eliminate congestion.
Tech & Contingency
Festivities kicked off Friday morning at the Colorado Belle Hotel with Tech and Contingency taking place all day long. A long line of UTVs snaked through four rows of vendors showing off the latest new products and accessories. Those who showed up early were glad they did as many racers were waiting up to four hours to have their vehicles inspected.
Polaris Autograph Signing
Organizers worked hard to make this a family friendly event and had a number of activities taking place throughout the day. A family fun poker run gave spectators an opportunity to drive the exact same course that racers would be competing on the very next day. Kids had an opportunity to meet some of the biggest names in the sport at the driver autograph session and the Polaris RZR demo team was busy letting visitors drive the latest Polaris off-road vehicles.
Dan Fisher with his new Maverick MAX Turbo
Can-Am took advantage of having much of the industry gathered in one place to announce a new partnership with Dan Fisher of Lonestar Racing. Fisher unveiled a new Can-Am Maverick X DS Turbo race vehicle as well as a stock vehicle equipped with a host of new Lonestar Racing built aftermarket products. The new partnership between Lonestar Racing and Can-Am provides 24 exclusive new products including bumpers, roofs, intrusion bars and more. Customers can order these new Lonestar Racing for Can-Am accessories direct from their dealer (see also BRP Announces 2016 Can-Am Race Teams).
Can-Am Race Teams
A long day at contingency concluded with a mandatory media briefing and drivers meeting. Our thanks to the promoter for taking time to outline the course and provide a detailed map complete with entry points for members of the media. During the drivers meeting, organizers pointed out a few key supporters who played a significant role in making the event possible and Robert Blanton of Warfighter Made gave a brief presentation on the company and one of the more meaningful awards to be given out following the race, the Warfighter made Perseverance Award. Warfighter Made is a non profit organization that provides recreational therapy to injured veterans and their families. The organization runs solely off donations and just to show how incredible the people who make up this industry are, racers and companies stepped up and donated $2500 to Warfighter Made during the drivers meeting.
The UTV industry as a whole has really embraced this event with a ton of major names attending and helping make the vendor row something spectacular for fans. Companies like Assault Industries, STI, ITP, FOX, Trinity Racing and Holz Racing Products just to name a few. We also got a chance to talk to Lindsay Hunt of Super ATV as they have really ramped up their support and attendance at major racing events this year. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with her in the coming weeks.
Vendors at Tech & Contingency
ITP Tires and Wheels
GMZ Race Products
Because this was a Best in the Desert sanctioned event, motorcycles and ATVs kicked off the racing action at 6:30 on Saturday morning. Immediately following the morning race, the best desert racers in the world took to the starting line to tackle the brutal 16 mile desert course featuring wide open power line roads, tight chicanes and a brutal half mile section called the Super ATV Proving Grounds.
Start of the Desert Race
Although its a timed race, those leaving the starting line up front have a significant advantage, particular in the extremely dusty conditions. The front row was stacked with talent including S3 Racings Dustin Jones who put his Can Am Maverick up front off the start with Cognito Motorsports Justin Lambert and Polaris Branden Sims close behind. A handful of racers including Sims, Mitch Guthrie Jr and Marc Burnett pulled double duty racing both the morning BITD championship as well as the afternoon short course championship later in the day.
Desert racing is incredible challenging as racers have to drive carefully enough to preserve the car but fast enough that hard charging racers from the back of the pack dont make up time. For that reason, the lead can change several times throughout the course of the race and pit strategy plays a crucial role in how the results play out.
Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Justin Lambert managed to work his way to the front and lead for the majority of the race with Mitch Guthrie Jr reeling him in and finally passing for the lead when Lambert had to pit for fuel. It appeared that pit strategy worked in Guthries favor until the unthinkable happened within site of the scoring shoot, just before entering the final lap of the race when Guthries XP TURBO skidded to a halt. A broken belt and two broken axles, happening almost simultaneously, spelled disaster for Guthrie and gave Lambert the lucky break he needed to regain the lead.
Lambert was able to race unchallenged on the final lap of the 160 mile race and crossed the finish more than 11 minutes ahead of Ryan Laidlaw who finished in second place on adjusted time. Proving that starting position isnt everything Terabbit Racings Kristen Matlock started from the third row and managed to navigate her way through the dust and downed racers to make up time and claim the third spot on the podium.
Justin Lambert on the Podium
I keep thinking Im still sleeping and Im going to wake up said an exhausted Justin Lambert in an interview after the race. Were excited to showcase our Cognito Motorsports products and let recreational enthusiasts see that they can purchase the exact same suspension and shock package that we use to win a race like this. Lambert was elated to take home $1000 cash prize from Method Race Wheels as well as a brand new Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo.
Following the podium celebration youth racers took to the course for the 170 and 250 unlimited race. We think its great that the event included youth classes as it gives kids an opportunity to participate on a big stage and helps groom the next generation of racers to preserve the future of the sport. 24 Youth racers buzzed their around the course and when the checkers fell it was Julien Beaumer and Casey Sims who took home brand new Polaris RZR 170s for their performance.
The final event of the day would see 103 UTVs battling it out for the Holz Racing Products Short Course UTV World Championship. The field was stacked with a number of heavy hitters including WORCS racers Ryan Piplic, Beau Baron and RJ Anderson as well as Branden Sims, Mitch Guthrie Jr and Marc Burnett, all seeking retribution after the mornings event.
Start of the Short Course Race
Mitch Guthrie Jr.
As the green flag waived, Guthrie was the first to leave the line from the dead engine start and lead the pack out onto the desert course. Racers would leave the line in intervals with 15 racers per row, with the final results based on adjusted time. This final race would consist of four separate classes, UTV Production Turbo, UTV Production 1000, UTV Production 900 and UTV Production 700 with racers competing in their perspective classes but also for the overall victory and the title of 2016 Short Course UTV World Champion.It became apparent by the end of the first lap that Guthrie was on a mission and clearly the one to beat in this four lap championship race. Leading Branden Sims by over 45 seconds, Guthrie was driving like he had something to prove. 2015 WORCS Champion Ryan Piplic trailed Sims and was gaining ground after a poor start but unfortunately a broken belt on lap two started a string of bad luck that would ruin his chance for a win.
Mitch Guthrie Jr.
As the laps clicked off, Guthrie was able to race virtually unchallenged to the finish line and claim the unofficial victory. RJ Anderson, who started from the second row, appeared to have made up significant time on Guthrie and was thought to have finished in second place but it was actually Mickey Thomas all the way from Cumming Georgia who kept his foot on the gas and managed to earn a second place finish, just 15 seconds behind Guthrie on adjusted time. Anderson would round out the podium with third place.
Offroad racing is in Mitch Jrs blood and the entire Guthrie family was waiting for him at the podium celebration, including six time King of the Hammers champion Mitch Guthrie senior. The World Champion UTV racer isnt even old enough to drink but hes had more than a few opportunities to douse the crowd with champaign and this victory was well deserved. Amazingly, had he not suffered mechanical issues in the first race of the day, Guthrie would have likely swept both races and gone home with two brand new Polaris RZR XP Turbos.To close out a jam packed weekend of events and racing, racers gathered on the beach at Harrahs Hotel for the presentation of awards. Four racers, Justin Lambert, Mitch Guthrie Jr., Casey Sims and Julien Beauer took home brand new Polaris RZRs for their efforts and claiming the overall win in each event.
Warfighter Made Perseverance Award – Katie Vernola
For the second year in a row, the Warfighter Made Perseverance Award was earned by a woman for overcoming adversity and refusing to quit despite the hard and unexpected challenges of desert racing. Katie Vernola flipped her RZR causing significant damage but refused to throw in the towel and limped her broken vehicle, in the dark, to the finish line. She joins Donna Ellsworth as the only other competitor to receive the award after Donna pushed her ATV over a half mile to the finish line at last years event.
With more than twice the turnout of last years event, more vendors, spectators and major network TV coverage of the event, its safe to say the Polaris RZR UTV World Championship is here to stay and will continue to grow as one of the premier UTV racing events in the world. With big brands like Polaris and Monster Energy getting behind the event and solid support from industry companies and hundreds of racers, we are very excited about the future of UTV racing.
Walker Evans Racing Desert Championship top 10:
- Justin Lambert
- Ryan Laidlaw
- Kristen Matlock
- Marc Burnett
- Branden Sims
- Dustin Jones
- Michael Cafro
- Mitch Guthrie Jr.
- Jason Murray
- John Angal
Holz Racing Products Production Short Course Championship top 10:
- Mitch Guthrie Jr.
- Mickey Thomas
- R.J. Anderson
- Cody Rahders
- Marc Burnett
- Ryan Holz
- Cody Bradbury
- Dustin Jones
- Branden Sims
- Dean Wheeler Jr.
Magnum Off-Road Youth Production RZR 170 Championship top 3
- Julien Beaumer
- Luke Knupp
- Ryder Chapman
Magnum Off-Road Youth Unlimited 250 Championship top 3
- Casey Sims
- Jimmy Berry
- Stockton Bullock
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About The Polaris RZR UTV World Championship presented by UTVUnderground.com
The Polaris RZR UTV World Championship presented by UTVUnderground.com is the worlds biggest UTV race and takes place every year in beautiful Laughlin, Nevada. The UTV World Championship draws the best UTV racers in the world to battle in both short course and desert races to decide who is the best UTV racer on the planet! The race features an ultra exciting side-by-side land rush start and intense door to door racing all the way until the checkered flag. The UTV World Championship has the biggest TV, online, and school media coverage in the sport of UTV racing.