DIRT WHEELS OLYMPICS
— A special inside look By Ron Lawson —
Racing is a genetic defect that most of us share to some degree. It starts off with a drive to prove you’re the best. Then, at some point, you discover that’s not what you’re proving at all. You show that you could be the best, given the right circumstances, that you would be the best if the seven guys that finished in front of you had even worse luck than you and that you have the best reasons for not being the best. Today. The problem is that those accomplishments are not applauded. There’s no acknowledgment for all the racing achievements beyond the somewhat simple-witted finishing order. That just proves that you can count.
I think that racing should be more reflective of the skill set that’s actually involved with ATV and UTV ownership. Instead of the current class structure, which is convoluted to say the least, the special skills that make up the true matrix of the sport would be on display. Here are some ideas for new classes.
The load-up cup. As we all know, more ATV injuries occur from trying to load the machine in the back of a pick-up truck than from actual riding. The people who have learned to do this properly should be honored. There’s nothing quite as sad as the guy who tries to load his ATV like a motorcycle, pushing on the bars from one side, dead engine. The ride-up-the-ramp guy is almost as bad, especially when he launches the unsecured ramp across the parking lot. There’s also a whole science to loading a broken UTV at the end of the day. A man who can do this single-handed is a true champion. Some of the trophies in this class might be awarded posthumously.
Input-to-output ratio. To win this class, you take your finishing place and factor in the amount of money spent on the race machine. The formula itself could be worked out by MIT, but the idea is to minimize the effect of spending more money on your ATV. The Honda TRX400X could be a winner again! For UTV racing, the formula would have to be altered to encourage spending more money on your RZR, Maverick or whatever. That seems to be the main goal there. We might just eliminate the dirty part of the competition where you actually drive the machine and just give the trophy to the guy who shows up with the most and biggest receipts.
The Wash Award. Washing a motorcycle at the end of a muddy day of riding is difficult. Washing an ATV after the same day is exhausting. Washing a UTV is so traumatic that it can trigger PTSD episodes for months and years afterward. Those who accomplish this feat on a regular basis are heroes of the highest magnitude. The championship for this would have to be awarded at the end of the season, and only those who have completed every race would be eligible. Photos would be taken and parts would be marked at the first race to ensure that it is, in fact, the same UTV with most of its original pieces. Only a certain amount of replacement bodywork would be allowed in order to remain eligible.
The belt. Replacing the belt on your UTV is a skill that we all have to develop. Those who learn to do it quickly in the field have a true skill that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s one thing to remove the cover and do the deed in a parking lot, garage or workshop, but to get it done when you’re buried in a sand wash is something special. Even more impressive is the guy who can get it done when he’s up to his fenders in mud. After all, something happened to break the belt in the first place, and it doesn’t usually happen in a nice, pleasant place. Having your buddy tow you up to dry, level ground is cheating.
There are a number of other championships and awards that come to mind. There should be some kind of recognition for someone who continues to finish races after the payments are done. Also, having a UTV that still actually runs when the payment book is empty is worth celebrating. There should be a party, if nothing else, like people do when the house is paid off. With any luck, you’ll still be young enough to enjoy it. In all fairness, the celebration should go on for a week or so, or until the next set of payments starts, whichever comes first.