The UTV racing world looks like a teenage Minnesota girl—all one color, aside from a few freckles. Last year those freckles were few, but now things are beginning to change. The once-solid field of Polaris RZRs is now speckled with other makes, and the chief invader is Can-Am.
It’s not surprising. Polaris had a huge head start in the performance UTV market, and racers flock to the most successful brand. WORCS has the largest UTV racing program in the country right now, and in the 2012 1000 Production class, there was only one Can-Am that got on the podium all year—it was Josh Frederick in the last race of the season. In 2013, things are different. Frederick was on the podium in the second round and thinks that an overall win isn’t far from his grasp. The main difference is the coming of the Can-Am Maverick.
“Racing the old Commander against the RZRs was tough,” says Josh. “We had to change everything. We had new A-arms, new trailing arms and a lot of work.” The Motoworks Commander racing program was initiated a year earlier under the direction of Mark Holz.
He knew it was a tough task; the Commander was Can-Am’s first side-by-side and was never meant to be a racer. It was a sporty utility machine aimed more at the Polaris Ranger and the Kawasaki Teryx. Mark had some initial success, but as the competition and the turnout ramped up, it became more and more apparent that the Commander required more reworking. By the time that Josh took over as the Motoworks point man for UTV racing, the Holz/Motoworks Commander had hundreds of hours of development behind it. Getting it on the podium in the last race between 2011 champion Greg Row and 2012 champion Ryan Piplic was like winning the Daytona 500.
A NEW ERA
This year is different. The Can-Am Maverick that took Frederick to third place at the Primm round of the 2013 WORCS races had very little investment from the Motoworks team. Most of it was prompted either by rules or by personal preference. First, the Maverick got a Pro Armor five-point harness, Josh’s well-worn seat, Holz door panels and a Holz roll cage, which has some additional bracing.
As for the motor, it didn’t need much. Even the Commander was no slouch in the horsepower department, but it was a little over-engineered. Both models have a number of safety features that could be problematic in a race. The electrical system has a “limp” mode that cuts power when the motor and clutch overheat or when the vehicle tips too far. There is also an anti-theft mechanism that’s unneeded. BRP provided an electrical device simply called the “Gizmo” that disabled those features. Motoworks designed twin pipes that sound absolutely wicked and boost the power over the stock output of 101 horsepower. And, the clutch is beefed up somewhat; otherwise, the Rotax motor is left alone.
The Maverick that Frederick races is based on the 1000 X rs model, which already has extremely high-end suspension components. The shocks are Fox Podium X Performance RC2.5 HPG piggybacks. Those were kept. But in testing, Frederick became increasingly aware that the stockers are set up for comfort more than racing. For the deep sand whoops of WORCS, they had to stiffen up the spring rates as well as the damping. They also found that in extreme racing conditions, the steering rods could be damaged. Holz provided replacements. Turnkey UTV provided a gusset kit.
DWT developed its three-piece Sector wheels around its Commander racing program last year, so naturally the Maverick inherited those wheels, as well as the 12-ply run-flat Moapa tires. Frederick reports that he generally runs fairly low tire pressure (8–10 pounds) and never worries about tire or wheel damage.
After the Primm race, Josh let us get behind the wheel of his Maverick. To say it lightly, this thing is a monster. It’s big inside and out. The cockpit feels safe, and as you look over the hood, you feel like you’re in a Trophy Truck. That feeling continues when you hit the starter button. Thanks to the Motoworks exhaust system, the engine gives out a throaty bark with instant throttle response. We lapped the Maverick around the well-worn WORCS course that was used the day prior to our test. The suspension still felt dialed in.
The shocks weren’t blown or soft. In fact, the ride was a little stiff. In the whoops, the cars skipped over them and never kicked or bucked. On the huge tabletops, the Maverick flew straight and cleared them with ease. In fact, that was the fastest part of the track. We reached 60 mph just before take-off.
Can-Am has yet to add power steering to the Maverick, and Josh’s racer lacked it as well. You really had to muscle the big car around the track. It did corner sharp and handle the off-camber turns well. Input through the wheel was heavy, but it was tough to tell if it was from the lack of EPS or due to the added weight of the 12-ply tires. Like with all Can-Am UTVs, we would have added a slightly larger steering wheel.
No matter what our opinion is, Fredrick’s Maverick is one tough machine. It’s fast, a blast to drive in the open desert or launch it off huge jumps. We are confident Josh will find himself on more podiums this year, if not in the winner’s circle.
There’s no doubt that the war in the side-by-side ranks is just getting started. The Motoworks Maverick is podium material right now, but it seems like more racers are filing into WORCS every week, so the competition will only get more severe. Frederick’s Maverick is a work in progress, with each race doubling as a test session. And, as good as it is, that kind of technology war can only make it better.