Yesterday, I drove to Crafton, Tx to compete in Round 4 of the 2015 TORN (cross-country) series. Below is my race write-up.
Crafton, TX… it’s a tiny town about an hour northwest of Ft. Worth. This property is way out in the country and has a mixture of large grassy pastures and thick wooded areas containing lots of thorny mesquite trees, rocky creek beds and cactus.
The weather was sunny and hot (temps in the mid 90s at race time).
The UTV track length was 3.5 miles long. The section of the track closest to the scoring chute was apparently watered down prior to the race to eliminate the dust, but the result was a slippery, muddy mess. The rest of the course was bone dry and extremely dusty.
UTV INTERMEDIATE CLASS:
A total of 6 side by sides lined up on the starting line of the UTV Intermediate class, including a few RZR XP1Ks, a few RZR 900XPs (including mine) and a few Can Am Maverick 1Ks.
The night before the race, I was not feeling well and almost talked myself out of going to the race. I suffered from sinus headaches and asthma attacks all week and just started taking medicine on Friday. Somehow, I found myself at 8:30pm on the night before the race and I still needed to load the truck and trailer with my RZR and equipment. Luckily, my passion for XC racing won and I dragged myself out to the garage and began loading my truck.
In addition to loading up the truck, I also needed to prep my RZR for the Crafton track. Last year, I raced at this track on my old Kawasaki KFX700 and my race ended early thanks to a flat rear tire. For that reason, I decided to put TIRE SLIME in my RZR tires before loading up the RZR on the trailer. I had intended to do this all season, but never got around to doing it. I'm very glad I did this (more on this later).
My son and I left the house at 4am to make the 5.5 hour drive to Crafton. Upon arrival, we made 3 practice laps. Near the end of the first lap, we rolled up the front side of a very wide dirt hill about 10' tall. I heard my son loudly gasp as we crested the top and immediately realized there was a steep descent on the backside (rather than a table top or long hill). It was surprises like this that made the practice laps fun and exciting for both my son and I.
I had two concerns after running a few practice laps; thick dust making it impossible to see the course ahead and sharp, rocky areas that put your tires at risk. The dust was very thick in places, especially in the woods. That meant getting a good start is critical if I was going to have any chance at a top 3 finish. The dust can definitely slow down riders in the back of the pack and make it more difficult to avoid trees and other obstacles. Also, there were a few drop offs where you had to almost come to a complete stop before dropping over the edge into a dry creek crossing. My biggest concern was whether racers immediately behind me would be able to see me stopping when the trail is full of dust.
Also, I was concerned about the sections of trail with large, jagged rocks. One area in particular was lined with flat, smooth rocks and then the trail took you to a left hand turn where the rocks have a 1' drop off onto more flat rocks followed by some more rough rocky sections. As an option, you could avoid this drop off by going straight, but it was longer and took more time. There was another section where you came down off a small drop off and turned left towards large slabs of rock about 8" tall. You had to be careful when you hit the edge of the large rock slabs so as to avoid tire or wheel damage. In addition to rocks, this course had several trails that were lined with large patches of cactus. These areas made me thankful that I took the time to install TIRE SLIME in my tires the night before.
When we lined up for the start, we had approximately 50 feet to the first left hand (180 degree) turn, followed by a straight section that included a few small table top jumps. I was lined up 2nd to the far right side (outside of the first turn). In hindsight, I may have been better off if I had lined up on the left side of the line so as to be closer to the inside of the first turn. In any case, I'm not sure my results would have been any different given that I have a 100cc disadvantage to most of the others in my class (my smaller motor is not usually noticeable to me except for the start of the race).
Finally, the green flag went up and my 900xp left the line quickly. The black RZR to my immediate left immediately took the lead and the rest of the line seemed to reach the first turn about the same time. I tried to steer wide so as to avoid the UTV to my immediate left and then I saw Cash (White Can Am) pass me on the outside (to my right). I was very surprised and relieved that no one got tangled up with each other around the first turn! As all of our class jockeyed for position coming out of the first turn, I ended up in last position. Yikes. That meant I had my work cut out for me and I was going to be eating a lot of dust sandwiches.
LAPS 1 through 4:
As lap 1 continued, I maintained last position as our class made its way around zig zag turns and small man-made jumps in the pasture areas. Once we entered the woods, the dust was so thick that I could not see the steering wheel. I was not like a fog where you can make out shapes of trees and racers in front of you...it was much worse! I immediately hit the brakes and slowed to a crawl as I made my way through the woods. After 10 seconds or so, the dust thinned enough that I could finally see the trail again. Once there was sufficient distance between me and the racer in front of me, I pressed onward at a good pace. As the race continued, the racers in my class spread out and I didn't have as much dust to contend with. But I was hoping to see more dust whenever I finally caught up to them.
Eventually, I observed a few racers from my class that were parked along the side of the trail. I later found out that one had overheating issues and another made intimate contact with a tree.
Near the beginning of my 3rd and 4th laps, I saw the Pro class racers heading towards the scoring chute (not that far behind me). I was determined to avoid getting lapped during this race if at all possible, so this motivated me to press onward.
As I finished my 4th lap, I finally caught up to a fellow racer from my class. Travis (white 900xp) was starting his 5th lap as I was headed towards the scoring chute to finish my 4th lap. After racing alone for most of the race, I was excited to finally catch up to one of my competitors. Like a shark that smells blood in the water, I started pushing my RZR harder to catch my prey. I made up ground as we raced around the twisty pasture areas and small dirt jumps. Just as we entered the woods section, I was only 10 or 20 yards behind Travis. Unfortunately, the thick dust hit me like a wall and I slowed way down through the rest of the woods. As we exited the last wooded section on lap 5, I put the hammer down in the open areas that lead to the scoring scute/finish line. But alas, it was too little, too late. I finished just a few seconds behind Travis (3rd place) and I think Travis was close behind Cash (2nd place).
I was really hoping for a top 3 finish today, but it was not to be. Instead, I finished 4th out of 6. So far this season, I have finished 4th in every race (except for the first race where I took 5th). But I can't complain too much considering I finished without any RZR carnage and I got to enjoy another great day of UTV racing with my fellow TORN brothers. As a side note, I pulled out 1/2 dozen long mesquite thorns from my RZR's tires after the race (and they are still holding air!).
As always, I have to say a big THANK YOU to TORN for putting on another FUN event!