Four-seat flyer: “My brother is a racer” By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Like most of Dirt Wheels’ UTV-oriented readers, our staff is curious about UTV racing, but we aren’t at all dedicated like, say, NASCAR fans and that pavement stuff. Most of us would rather be in our UTVs than watching somebody else race one. But people in the industry would have to be hiding under a rock to avoid noticing the Cognito Motorsports domination of UTV desert racing in 2016. The company and ace driver Justin Lambert set a goal to win overall at every race despite starting behind the turbo cars in Cognito’s normally aspirated XP 4 1000. They finished second to a turbo machine in the Baja 500, but otherwise have met that goal for 2016. Our first idea was to inquire about driving the Cognito car. At this level of racing, the car spends every minute between races getting prepared for the next race. As it turned out, we couldn’t shoot the nearly completed car as it was preparing for the 2016 Vegas to Reno race (the team won the UTV division overall in 2015).
If not the race car, we wondered, then what could we drive to test the Cognito products? “We have a pre-runner fun car; will that work? It has the same suspension as the racer, and the racer started as a four-seater as well.” Yep. That will work.
We headed for Bakersfield and the Cognito headquarters. This is no simple distributor. Cognito makes everything in-house, and the production facilities for the UTV parts and the truck lift kits are most impressive. A relatively small area of the factory building is a dedicated race shop for the Cognito car.
One two-deep bay is dedicated to the race effort, and a similar bay right next to it is for visiting customer cars making the same transition that our test unit had. We certainly saw some cool tricks on the racer, but the pre-runner XP 4 1000 was looking exceptionally exciting as well. There is no fluff. Every modification adds engine or suspension performance and safety or pre-running utility.
KEEP ME IN SUSPENSE
As it became clear just how serious the pre-runner was, we were curious about the total cost. Lambert’s 2016 co-driver/navigator, Mitchell Alsup, cringed a little with an apologetic smile: “I’m not sure, but the suspension alone is a bit over $10,000.”
That was right as we started, and we thought, “Who would spend $10,000 on a car that already has pretty great suspension stock?” After seeing the work and engineering in the parts and driving the finished product, all we could do was run through scenarios that would let us find our own $10 grand for suspension.
All of the Cognito parts look strong, light and well-engineered, but the rear trailing arms are a work of art. Each is TIG-welded from a variety of fabricated sheet metal parts. After seeing a raw, completed arm, we couldn’t imagine why these parts are powdercoated. Some of the company sand cars are powdercoated clear to show off the construction and the welding. Actual shock travel is not increased, but the car is 4 inches wider than stock, so wheel travel is increased. The rear shocks allow the rear wheels to drop farther to maintain traction better. This is an impressive suspension setup.
It takes more than suspension, so Method 15-inch beadlock aluminum wheels are wrapped with ITP Ultracross R Spec 32-inch tires all the way around. In a year of desert racing, the team experienced only four flat tires. Despite how rare punctures have been, both the racer and the pre-runner carry a complete spare with a matching Method wheel and tire.
Many of the remaining modifications are safety-related. There is a stronger cage, bumpers, an integrated spare carrier, Rigid LED lights, Pro Armor seats and Mastercraft harnesses. Clean air counts as well, and there are twin Rugged filtered-helmet air systems. Along with the air are in-helmet radios that allow passenger-to-passenger and car-to-car communication. If you haven’t driven with in-car communication, you are missing out. It is very nice to have effortless communication, but it was more so in this case. We had Lambert’s co-driver Alsup in the passenger seat. He was able to advise us about lines, routes and the capabilities of the car as we drove, and that made the driving experience much more pleasant.
BITS AND PIECES
Sparks Racing handles the performance on the racer, but the pre-runner has a Sparks exhaust. There is a nice roof, and since this is a pre-runner, it has a rack to carry added gear. This machine has been used for some long trips, like 500-mile weekends. Total mileage on the pre-runner is 2400 miles. We found it was interesting that the car uses the stock doors. For this car Cognito made changes that made sense, but didn’t bother if the stock parts work.
From the instant the Cognito pre-runner fires up and starts to roll, it is impressive. The combination of the large tire diameter, wider stance, improved suspension and heavy-duty components combine to all but erase terrain imperfections. We slammed one deep, sharp-edged rain ditch that actually put a jolt into the passenger compartment, yet would have been painful in any stock-suspended RZR. For all other obstacles the car felt like it was floating over them. We were able to power the car out of turns, drifting across whoops and ruts without worrying about the car becoming upset in any way. We found that we had to hit jumps harder than normal to get air. The suspension treats rises that would be abrupt jumps in a stock car like it is trail chop. It soaked up smaller jumps like you were hitting small whoops, and the tires never left the ground.
We were still happy to have the five-point harness and the better seats. We wondered if the 32-inch tires would make the gearing too tall, but the gearing felt fine, and the larger-diameter carcass aided bump feel and rolled easily across rocks and bumps. For sure the price list on this build is intimidating, but there is no fluff. This is a car built with a dual purpose: to act as a race-support vehicle but with a second life as a magic carpet ride for desert fun when it isn’t a race weekend.
JUSTIN LAMBERT’S COGNITO RACE RZR
•Cognito Motorsports earned their name with lifted trucks in the automotive aftermarket industry. They create parts that will make your vehicle handle better than new; however, Cognito is heavily gaining traction in the UTV industry. They make suspension and chassis parts for Polaris, Kawasaki and Yamaha UTVs; however, their most recognizable products are upgraded RZR parts, and they have a racing resume to prove it.
Justin Lambert is the co-owner of Cognito Motorsports and has piloted his XP1K car to many wins, including the UTV World Championships, Vegas to Reno and placed a respectable second overall at the Baja 500 over multiple Pro classes. The Cognito car is designed to battle through harsh desert terrain for hours at a time and carry enough tools to fix most mechanical issues Lambert comes across. They have eliminated any part that isn’t needed on the car and strengthened and improved almost every part on their Polaris. We are excited to see where Justin takes his RZR to the podium in the future!•
Cognito Motorsports: www.cognitomotorsports.com
2015 Polaris RZR XP 4 1000 pre-runner build sheet:
Four-seat recreation cage $2,200
Roof rack for 4-seat cage $399
Spare tire carrier $599
Rigid 40-in. light bar bracket $70
Long-travel front control arm kit $1,599
Long-travel rear trailing arm kit $1,599
Long-travel radius rod kit $499
Radius rod cage $149
Long-travel front axle $255 (need 2)
Long-travel rear axle $255 (need 2)
Long-travel tie rod kit $299
Trailing arm rock guard kit $85
Heavy- duty sway bar end-link kit $189
Front bumper $449
Sparks Performance: www.sparksracing.com
Sparks Stage 2 exhaust kit $1,759.80
ITP Tires: www.itptires.com
32-in. ITP UltraCross tire $185/ea.
Method Race Wheels: www.methodracewheels.com
15-in. Method 401 headlock wheel $216.50/ea.
Fox internal bypass shocks $4,995 (front & rear)
Rugged Radios: www.ruggedradios.com
Rugged 2-person air pumper system $300 (need 2)
Rugged intercom system $399
Rugged radio system $399.95
Pro Armor G2 seats black w/ red $429.95/ea
Rigid Industries: www.rigidindustries.com
40-in. E2 Rigid LED light bar $1,499.99
Rigid Q-series driving light $459.99