The DP4 race on July 11th was the 2nd of 5 scheduled races for DP4 2020. Round 2 took place in Ridgecrest, CA and was scheduled for 5 – 22 mile laps with a race start time of 7:00PM.
On Friday afternoon we hitched the trailer and headed north from San Diego to Ridgecrest with a goal to make it to the pit site in time for the live drawing for start positions at 8 pm. But we soon realized it was going to take us a lot longer to get there than planned. There was a lot of unexpected traffic, we stopped to turn the RZR around in the trailer to add more tongue weight as we thought the trailer was loaded incorrectly and ended up just being the high winds coupled with a tall trailer. We approached Cajon pass and it was stopped and go until we got to the climb with the added trucker lane. We were motoring along until we came upon a Mercedes SUV that was trolling the semi-trucks and trailers going about 30 mph for no reason. When we caught up to him, there was nowhere to go and we lost our momentum. Having to shift into the trucker lane to try and accelerate again, we were hammering down and climbing, but the 100-degree weather and a fully loaded trailer trying to accelerate up Cajon pass isn’t the ideal situation and our truck let us know that our trans temps were too much and we needed to pull over and idle the truck to cool the trans fluid, we were about a half-mile from the summit and decided to keep our foot in it to the top and allow the truck to properly cool as we’d have a tougher time to get going again if stopped on the grade. At the summit, we pulled off the first exit we came to and fueled the truck and let the truck cool off before continuing the remaining 70 or so miles to the pit.
As we continued north on the 395, we ended up watching the live draw on Facebook and found that we drew 42nd of 43 starting positions. But the first 900 class off the line. Later that evening they also hosted the drivers meeting online, due to the new COVID restrictions in place. After stopping for a few hot n ready pizzas, we finally made it to the pit site around 10 pm. We set camp, fired up the generator, and hung out in the air conditioning for a while, talking about tomorrow’s race, decided to go shake the RZR down and see what our new Fox shocks had to offer. Mason and I went out for about 6 miles to run the car hard through some whoops, came back, and decided to look the car over in the morning and then went to bed.
Waking up early, it wasn’t too warm out and was shaping up to be a pleasant day in the shade. We decided to turn off the generator and open the windows to enjoy the nice fresh morning air, boy was that ever a mistake. By the time it got warm, it was too warm for our air conditioner to overcome the heat soak of the sun on the siding and the brutal air temp reached somewhere near 115 degrees. As the race was slated to begin at 7 pm that evening, the weather forecast was a cool 105 degrees when the first UTV was to leave the line. When tech and registration opened we rolled down to sign the wavers as a team. The team consisted of my Wife Sarah, Mom Robin, Dad Tony, Mason Co-Driver (his first race ever), Mason’s Dad Matt, and myself. We rolled the mighty Polaris RZR800S through tech and found the DP4 staff to be friendly and welcoming. This was our first experience with DP4 and so far so good.
Some things are fluid and subject to change, all pit planning had revolved around 22-mile laps and found that they changed the event to 27-mile loops. Not that big of a deal, but when you have planned fuel and pit strategy for 5 fewer miles a lap, you have to restructure your strategy and we had to run to town for a few more gallons of fuel before the race. During the day a few racers came over to say hi to us and check out the RZR800S. Racing veteran Chris Blais came over and said hi, we’ve been following each other’s programs on Instagram and I’ve always admired Chris’s racing pedigree and his skills behind the wheel. Asked him for a few pointers and he basically said we’d be fine, just have fun. As the sun beat down, I had time to think about a few things and since I’d never raced DP4 before didn’t know what to expect at all. No real youtube videos or racing to base any shock tuning off of, so I dialed in a similar setting that we had good luck with on our old Fox Podium IX. These new Fox Podium 2.0 shocks had a lot more adjustability than we ever had and knew they would be an invaluable upgrade, but had no baseline of racing or testing going into the night race. All the hard work was done, all we had to do was hydrate and relax until it was time to suit up, strap in, and stage.
We got suited up around 620 and headed to the starting grid to take our positions for the national anthem and to take our turn at the unknown course in the hot darkness. As the cars started to roll to the starting line, DP4 reported that the start of the race would be delayed as the ambulance broke down and they had to dispatch another one. The race would be delayed until about 8 pm. Which was good for the temperatures, but builds anxiety as a racer. After the replacement ambulance showed up, we were back in the UTVs and ready to race. We waited our turn as 41 other UTVs started their race 30 seconds apart. It was our turn to go, pulling up to the start line and DP4 took our start card and said be safe, have fun. Starting to notice a theme here of Fun. That’s what it should be, fun. Sure there were a few setbacks, like the heat, the traffic, the fuel, the ambulance… but none of that mattered, we were at the start line and it was our turn to have fun. I asked Mason if he was indeed ready and didn’t want to back out, he said he was ready to do this. We bumped fists and the light turned green and we were off.
Lap 1 we started 42 of 43 and headed out into the darkness, chasing reflective ribbons and course markers. The first part of the course was uphill with a significant gain in elevation. With it being super hot, I kept a keen eye on the belt temp gauge. Belt temp management would be key to us finishing the first lap and any other laps this evening. A blown belt would take us about twenty minutes to change in the 800. We kept the lights of the cars in front of us in view and could see 43rd place lights in our rearview. The fast cars would be doing 30-40 minute laps and since we were 42nd off the line, we started about 21 minutes after the first UTV, so the fast guys would be catching us about mile ten to fifteen. The course was like no other we had raced on, it was a mixture of trails, dodging boulders, cactus and some cross country paths. We passed a few racers that had tipped over or wrecked, we slowed to make sure they were ok and after a thumbs up, we carried on our way. Cresting the mountain we could see the lights of the town of Ridgecrest, a very cool sight to see for sure. As we rounded the backside of the mountain, the twilight faded to blackness and the only illumination was our headlights and the lights of our competitors. After about an hour, we finished our first lap.
Pulling into the pits at the end of Lap 1 for fuel and water, we were now 37th overall and 2min behind the other racer in our class. Our pit let us know that the officials were discussing a contingency plan for ending the race early as the event had to end by midnight and we might be getting the white flag on the next lap. This was Mason’s first race as co-driver and he was doing an excellent job, we have no comms and rely on good old fashion yelling and hand signals. There were a few cautions I would have blown through that his youthful eyes could see in the darkness and saved us from having a really bad day. Lap 2 we had started to get heat soak in the belt and had to pull over occasionally, put the RZR in low, and limp along to cool the belt. Once the belt dropped to an acceptable temperature we pulled over, put it in high, and went for it. We had to do this several times during the second lap to make sure we didn’t blow a belt. Our first pitstop plus pulling over netted us an hour and ten-minute lap, not bad for how slow we had to go sometimes.
Crossing the start-finish line we got a white flag and pulled into our pits again at the end of lap 2, we were told that 2727 in our class (current leader in Prod 900) had just left the pits, but still had a 2min lead on us. After fueling the UTV and filling the drinkers, we were off again. At this point, we were 32nd of 43 racers. Knowing that it was our last lap and that we had a finish in the books, I decided to go for it on the final lap and try to pass 2727 back before the end of the lap. Making up two minutes is a task over 27 miles and being the underpowered 800 vs the 900 was a challenge of its own. Knowing the course now, we knew where we could make up time and where our belt was going to heat up. Going for broke when we could and pulling over for the race leaders occasionally, we were about five to seven miles from the finish line when we came upon a slower moving racer. We closed on them with some speed as it was one of the sections we were able to make up time. Our new Fox Podium 2.0 shocks, coupled with our Hellwig swaybar and new ITP BajaCross tires made for an ideal setup this evening. We turned on the siren and flew by, knowing that there were more lead cars coming upon us we didn’t lift the rest of the lap and decided it made it or break it time for our Continental belt. Coming into the finish chute we crossed the start-finish line for the checkers and DP4 interviewed us and said they thought that we might have been the first 900 to finish, meaning that we somehow passed 2727 on the course and made up a gap of 2 minutes plus.
We headed back to our pits and met our pit crew and told them DP4 though we may have won our class. We walked back to the finish line to see where 2727 of Jake Smith finished. He wasn’t far behind, but we’d have to wait for the moto tally results to determine if we had gone fast enough to make up for lost time on the first two laps.
After waiting for the final results to be announced, it was official… we had WON the 900 Prod class in an RZR800 and achieved 27th overall out of 43 entries. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but remember that we are in a 2009 RZR800S with about 40 hp vs newer machinery with around 200 hp. We outdrove a lot of superior equipment this evening. At the awards presentation, we were awarded a new set of Kenda tires for first place, we gifted them to 2nd place Jake as we have an ITP sponsorship and didn’t want a conflict of interest and it was a prize enough knowing that we had won the race and for Mason’s first race ever in a UTV it would surely be memorable to have a class win.
We look forward to the round 3 of DP4 in August and for the return of the D38 series in September.