May 9th, 2013 by Jason Giacchino
We wanted to assemble a little guide to make your first UTV race the start of something very special. The trouble is UTVs come from the factory in many shapes, sizes and styles and lately you can add “many different states of tune” to that list as well. In other words, while our guide offers some generalized modifications you may wish to target to maximize your UTV’s performance potential, realize that some editions of popular models actually come stock with more than what you would need to get underway. Use your own judgment on which, if any, mods apply to you.
We almost always begin with exhaust when looking for performance gains. Why? Well a few reasons. First of all most factory stuff is restricted to meet stringent sound requirements. A choked up exhaust robs an engine of performance by restricting its ability to breathe. Additionally OEMs have to try to meet a price point when selecting materials with which to build components. You can often save precious pounds by simply switching to an aluminum or carbon exhaust. It is not uncommon to gain an additional 5-horsepower and a speed advantage of 4mph just by going with a slip-on system.
Just like with the exhaust side of things, gains that can be made by simply allowing an engine to breathe more effectively are not to be taken lightly. If you can swing it, aftermarket intake/ airboxes are literally designed to flow more air. However, even in keeping a tight budget, simply tossing the stock air filter in favor for an aftermarket unit from the likes of K&N or Twin Air (to mention a few) can often yield healthy power gains while cutting down on servicing in the process. Combine this mod with an aftermarket exhaust for maximum performance potential.
Fortunately these days more and more UTVs are wisely coming from the dealer with quality suspension from the likes of Fox and Ohlins. However, this wasn’t always the case and there are many that still use generic coil-overs. Performance riding/ track use can find the limitations of such shocks real quick! Fortunately the aftermarket UTV suspension scene is alive and well. Fully adjustable units from companies like Elka allow you to dial in the performance you seek for the individual track conditions in question.
Getting off the line is a very important factor in all racing and in the case of an automatic UTV, a clutch kit can be invaluable. It can also be crucial in keeping your engine from staying buried in the rev limiter especially after having made other modifications.
Unless you’re doing some wide-open desert racing, you may find it very beneficial to gear down your UTV. Just how does one gear down an automatic CVT transmission? The easiest way is to run slightly smaller tires believe it or not. However, since some tracks require more ground clearance than others, you may want to mount smaller tires on a spare set of rims so that swapping to meet race-conditions is a possibility.
If you’re considering doing any sort of tire/ wheel modification, beadlocks are a good place to start. Not only are they better able to withstand harsher impacts, they offer protection against pinch-flatting while allowing you to run tire pressures way lower than normal.
This one has all to do with the requirements of the sanctioning body in question and how your machine came set up from the dealer but fire extinguishers, 5-point harnesses, reinforced roll cages: check out your race organization’s requirements for participation.