— There is a saying that smart people don’t always learn from their mistakes. Most of the time they learn from the mistakes of others. You can also say the opposite. You might not have to learn all the woods-riding and -driving setups that work well on your own. Racers and folks who build race ATVs and UTVs are smart. They learned through experience and most likely were also able to learn shortcuts from those who are more experienced. We took a look at the race machines at the opening round of the 2016 GNCC series to see what tips we could pick up from people who are much faster and smarter than we are. We found some very interesting modifications and setups that could benefit any serious recreational rider or driver. Learn on.
If you will be encountering trails that are rutted, running a full-belly skid plate and high-clearance A-arms will decrease your chance of high-centering and getting stuck. Even this race quad, where lighter is always better, runs a front bumper to protect the front end of his quad. The other thing we learned from this GNCC racer is to be fully protected. Trail riders need the same protection as racers do. Just because a quad doesn’t fall over standing still, people assume that protective gear is optional. Safety is never optional. Boots, gloves, a helmet and eye protection are the bare minimum. You would think that SxS radiators would have enough protection, but almost all UTV racers mount the radiator high to keep it out of the mud, get better airflow and physically protect it with the roll cage. Despite the high mounting, this racer covered the radiator with material that sheds mud. To the right of the radiator is a fire extinguisher mount, and on both sides are mounts for four- or five-point harnesses. For hard driving, the harness is a good idea, and a fire extinguisher is always a safe tool to carry. Tim Farr has many years of GNCC race experience, and since he relocated the radiator, he has almost completely faired over the wheelwell area to prevent mud from building up. That keeps weight off the car and makes clean-up easier. At the rear of Farr’s Can-Am you see how much work has gone into strengthening the rear suspension. At race speeds the roots, ruts, rocks and logs are tough on UTV suspension. You may not get rammed in the woods like Farr, but having a huge bumper/cage around the rear end can be a cash-saver, even if you get stuck and need to back down a steep hill. This Can-Am from Miller Brother Racing has some tips we can learn from. Note that the wheels are not oversized to keep the car low. It also runs a stiffer front sway bar to minimize body lean. Like the Farr car, this one is very well protected. The side nerf bars prevent cars hooking wheels in tight racing, but they also keep trees and rocks from grabbing the rear wheels. The wheels are beadlock, so the car can continue with a flat. The wheels also have very little offset to keep the car narrow for the trees. Areas of the country that have enough water to grow trees this close together also have enough rain to make mud. A quad’s handlebar doesn’t stick out past the wheels, so why run handguards? They protect the hands, keep your hands warmer and drier, keep mud off the grips, and the full-wrap aluminum sort of also protects the controls from damage. The fluffy cover for the front bumper may not look cool, but material that shakes will shed mud, and this material also keeps mud off the radiator, and that is critical for cooling. The Miller car runs another big bumper, a strengthening plate for the front suspension and tires that are no bigger than stock. Like most racers, the Millers run the same wheels and tires at all four corners. If they have a problem, they don’t need to have as many spares, and the bigger rims mean less tire roll due to shorter sidewalls. We are pretty sure that Jason Luburgh is not planning on getting his car upside down, but he has a serious cage in case it happens. There are even small bars supporting the window nets. It looks like you need to open the door and crawl under the cage to enter and exit the car. This is safe, but not a trail-friendly setup. This may be a race machine, but this build would look totally at home on the trail as well. High-clearance suspension arms, a beefier roll cage, safety nets, beadlock wheels, full doors and harnesses are all a good idea for drivers who like to push hard off-road. Even though it required an aftermarket steering setup, Miller felt that having a quick-release steering wheel is worth the money and effort required. Note that the car retains all of the safety nets.