FEATURE: ALL BALLS, PSN OUTLAW 12-HOUR
Throwing an all-female team in the deep end By Casey Thomas and the staff of Dirt Wheels
The world of off-road has been a male-dominated sport since the beginning. For some of the more physical off-road disciplines, women have little chance of being competitive. Men have the strength, the stamina and the backing of the industry. The advancement of technology, and in particular the rise of sport UTV racing, has helped level the playing field. While still expensive, building a UTV racer is relatively approachable. Women are becoming more involved in all aspects of the powersports industry, and they are starting younger than ever.
Behind the wheel, what matters is how well your machine is built and how fast you can drive without breaking the car. PSN head honcho Todd Dickie wanted to prove exactly that. He enlisted the help of All Balls Racing to form a single-race, all-women team to show that ladies have the skills and smarts to pull off a good race. The Outlaw Series 12-Hour Race at TexPlex Park was a perfect starting point. The event has a wide variety of course obstacles without a learning curve as intense as highly specialized races like SCORE in Baja, King of the Hammers or BITD Vegas to Reno.
Seventeen-year-old Shayleigh Broeker from Arkansas was the first pick for this endurance race team. She had only been racing for a year, but she had the drive they were looking for. PSN Racing driver Ian Dickie met the Broeker family of Warpath Racing after seeing Caleb Broeker tackle five different forms of UTV racing in a single weekend. He soon saw that younger sister Shayleigh was a fierce competitor, and she wasn’t copying big brother. She was in the sport because she was passionate about it. Shayleigh chose a few of her fellow short-course racers to team up with for this flood of firsts. Benna Nye and Katie Thomas were pumped to join Shayleigh for their first-ever endurance race in a completely different type of race car.
All three racers had raced short-course exclusively, and not as part of a team or with a co-driver. The 12-hour race would be close to the equivalent of a whole season of races for these ladies, since short-course races usually only last about an hour each (or less).
Benna and Shayleigh both race short-wheelbase Polaris RS1 models for short-course, while Katie was used to racing a Can-Am X3. An RS1 is a lot lighter and shorter than a RZR Turbo four-seater and with a much different center of gravity, turning ratio and even field of view. It was an adjustment for the whole team. The turbo spool alone meant adjusting for corners and obstacles, while the size and steering setup was vastly different in the tight wooded sections.
IT TAKES WHEELS
The All Balls build was a four-seat Polaris Turbo that had previously been outfitted for desert racing—a model that none of these ladies had seat time with until a few weeks before the race. Caleb Broeker ran point on getting this new machine ready to race. Maintenance on the frame included simple things like fluids, spark plugs, cleaning the fuel system, checking bolts and any moving parts. Since this RZR was purchased as a custom-chassis race setup, there wasn’t much that needed to change to get it race-ready.
RVC Performance Pro Series II axles were an integral part of surviving the endurance race. Sitting on 32x15x10 Maxxis RAZR XT tires and Raceline Ryno beadlock wheels made 12 hours of racing possible and safe. On a tight, fast course, getting a flat or breaking a bead costs a great deal of lost time at best and a DNF or loss of control at worst. The steel-belted construction, serious sidewall and hard-terrain compound of the RAZR XT are perfect for the unique rock-hard Texas dirt. Combining a tough tire with beadlock wheels means a flat is a quick-fix pit stop.
5 Star Tuning wrote custom tunes for this build to not only help with power but to secure powertrain reliability and improve fuel consumption from the 26-gallon desert cell over the 12-hour span. This team had little to no experience racing in the dark, so good lighting was crucial. The weather was not their friend, and thick dust hung in the air as the sun was setting, making it nearly impossible to see. Bright pods and ambers from Psychotic Lighting really saved the girls in the last stretch.
Caleb and the prep team did have the girls drive the new build for hours on end to make adjustments based on their input. That is not an easy task when you are working with drivers who are used to driving completely different machines that don’t have to be shared with teammates.
These ladies were really put to the test. The day started off with freezing temperatures and a little sleet at sunrise, just before the Le Mans-style start. Normally a “Le Mans” start requires the driver racing to the machine, climbing in and starting the race. Modern race cars are loaded with safety equipment that would make a true Le Mans start a problem. A variation had runners from the team foot race to the cars carrying the ignition keys, and 80 cars rushed onto the infield short-course.
The crowd caused traffic jams and a few rounds of bumper cars. The All Balls team was seeded 45th after a poker-chip draw. That draw meant less chance of getting trampled on the first lap. However, the car took a hard hit from behind on the first lap, causing a bent radius rod, the only damage of the day.
The original game plan was to have each lady take a co-driver for the early laps so that they could all get a feel for the track. Benna rode with Shayliegh on the first lap, but had to be pulled from the car after experiencing some serious motion sickness. After only ever driving a single-seater car, the jump to riding shotgun was rough.
After some time in the race semi with a bucket and some Dramamine, Benna was ready to take back the track and show who was boss. She ended up putting down the fastest lap time of the day for the team. Each lap was 16 miles long and included both open short-course and tight woods.
While the top pros were running lap times in the low 20-minute range, the All Balls ladies were able to pull off 26 laps for a total of 416 miles. They rounded out the day in second place for the Women’s class and 18th in Sportsman.
Miller Brothers Racing took the 12-hour by storm. Hunter Miller and co-driver Kyle Chaney were first across the line, with Cody Miller close behind with a total of 33 laps in the TexPlex Can-Ams. CJ Greaves was third to cross the line in his RS1, but he incurred a time penalty. That pushed him to fourth, elevating Shawn Hess to the last podium spot with 32 laps in a Honda Talon.
Sunrise to sunset battling the cold, the dust, the dark and over 50 other teams was true, on-the-go-training for the fledgling All Balls team. Altogether the team effort showcased some great sides to the sport. One business owner and racer appreciated the passion of another family-affair race team. Instead of a mere thumbs-up gesture, he took the time to pitch an idea to All Balls. Because two businesses can still appreciate new competitors, something good happened.
All Balls liked the idea, and that made the idea viable for the Broeker family’s Warpath Racing team to put together the effort. Shayleigh Broeker invited her own competitors into her team, and three racers who normally go all out to beat each other pulled together. Enough folks stepped up to help a new team made up of sprint racers learn enough to finish well in their very first endurance start. Plus, all three managed to share a new and different machine while keeping it together for 12 hours of racing. People are the best part of racing, and this effort embraced the idea that more racers are now women.