If you haven’t heard of Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Circus extreme stunt and movie making franchise, then you probably have been living under a rock for the better part of a decade. However, it isn’t all about the crazy shenanigans for these guys; the Nitro crew is literally a band of brothers, having performed countless stunts together while traveling the world and entertaining people. What is the best part about this crew? They inspire everyone to live their best life, and they do the same through their everyday shenanigans.
One of the founding members of the Nitro crew is Hubert Rowland, aka Everyone’s Favorite RedNek. Hubert has been on countless adventures in his lifetime (recently all the way across the United States in a Polaris RZR and General), and one of his latest adventures has to do with racing UTV’s out in the desert and rocks on the West coast of America. After all, that’s where it all started for him, except his original racing endeavors saw him carrying a tool belt strapped on while wrenching for Travis in the dirt bike racing days. Hubert is now wearing the helmet and getting strapped into his Polaris RZR race vehicles to do some racing of his own.
If you have been following the desert racing scene for the past couple of years, you’ll know that the average upstart cost to race a UTV has skyrocketed as more technology, prep, and know-how has been infused to these smaller race cars. However, with a lot of RedNek know-how, Hubert has separated himself from the field by utilizing practical knowledge and his racing credentials to build two race vehicles, one for Best in the Desert (BITD) off-road racing and one for King of the Hammers (KOH). Both of these machines are based off of Polaris RZR XP Turbo platforms (one two-seater and one four-seater). He didn’t have the unlimited budget like some teams have, so he put that racing knowledge to good use and built 2 race UTVs that don’t break the bank, while both of these are still offering all of the fun times and race experience that some of us crave.
4-seat BITD Polaris RZR build:
To race in the Best in the Desert series, a vehicle should have a couple of key ingredients in order to be competitive. Let’s allow Hubert to expand upon our thoughts here. He begins by saying, “My goal was to build a bulletproof, light, but very simple full desert race legal turbo UTV. … [For BITD racing] I decided to go with 4 seat machine and basically turn it in to a 2 seater. A few reasons. Longer wheelbase to take the bigger rougher areas better. But this can be a down fan in tighter twisty areas. A longer chassis gives you more room to move the drivers area back in the chassis (better weight balance) and use a bigger fuel cell, meaning longer distances between stops. Like Travis told me when setting up a bike for Supercross racing – you set the bike up for the whoops or the rest of the track.”
He continues by saying, “So i decided that if I’m doing it, I’m going all in. I got quotes from many companies that build BITD-legal machines, all at 100k or more whether I provide a machine or not. Yes that’s full turnkey, hop in and go drive. But, that price is no longer entry level to get into desert racing. So I wanted to build my own race machine. I figured I could build it for less than the companies if I did a lot of the labor. Because of my history with Travis and the Nitro crew, I like building machines and doing mechanic work. Why pay someone else to do what you can do.” We totally agree, Hubert – if you have the know-how, then the project is extremely fun and rewarding if you do it yourself!
Back to Hubert’s story, right at the start where he says that “I started with a 2018 Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo Fox Edition. With a good deal from ADtripleS Motorsports in West Haven, Utah. With .3 miles on it, I stripped it to a bare frame. With the frame stripped and fabrication ready to start, I reached out and talked to Thad Mayhew, who is the owner of Fabwerx in Southern California, to get the rundown on building a 4 seat length desert machine. He said that he can and has done full turn key build in the past, but he is more than happy to build just the chassis and body work. For a much lesser price. Around 10-12k range. All lightweight chromoly and very strong and well built. Thad has been building race UTV’s since the Yamaha Rhino days. So he’s got a good handle on what’s going down.”
With the build fabrication now finalized, Hubert was ready to get started. “I had to provide OEM frame because Fabwerx uses the OEM lower frame rails and all motor and suspension points, front & rear fenders, grill, and rear fenders (BITD requires you to maintain the OEM look and OEM fender flares, even if cut down). Other than those, I would have to provide the other parts, including the seats, steering assembly, fuel cell (I went with a Jazz fuel cell – a 32 gallon unit that uses external pumps to save on cost).”
Then the real work started… “I was much more involved with the fab work more just sweeping floors and drilling holes. I always let them do what they are good at. But, they built the driver area around my height, arm reach, and of course a place for Sticky the stick horse to ride with me safely. With proper notice and parts sitting there, we were able to fab out the frame and body work in a couple weeks.”
“Once fabwerx was finished, I took the chassis to IMG motorsports where they let me use a corner of their shop to assemble the new desert machine. While Fabwerx did a ton of the fabrication, there was still much more fab work to do, including making mounting many tabs for things such as: ecu’s, wiring harness, brake lines, switches, gauges, radio, harnesses, the air box, air scoop for belt and engine intake, and window nets. So while getting all of the tabs mounted, I spray painted the frame red, white, and blue because I was doing the final wrap a red, white, and blue theme. And spray paint is easy to fix.” [Insert RedNek joke here, Hubert won’t mind…]
As you can already tell, building a BITD-legal machine is quite an effort in persistence. Hubert never lost his focus…
“While machine was apart, we had multiple parts treated by Cryoheat. The team here micro polishes and cryo-treats parts to make them stronger, run smoother, and cooler. The transmission was also micro polished and cryo-treated. With promod option, they removed a total of 10lbs of rotating mass”, says Hubert.
Putting the final touches on a desert race build is the most important part, and Hubert didn’t stop his quest for building a durable and bulletproof machine here. He continued by taking it to UTVwiring owner Casey Murphy, where he got the race car wired up for the following components: factory key, helmet blower, air intake fan, lights on factory switch, second light switch for upper light bar, fuel pump switch, siren, radio, 4×4, main power cut off switch, and turn signals. He did this, “because I was making the machine street legal to drive to a race. They used proper relay packs and switches, and Casey also extended a few areas of the harness that were too short due to adding a fuel cell and moving harness routing. We made the full dash wired all to 1 plug so you unhook 1 plug and take the entire dash out. Last but not least, we made harness sections for a USB 12-volt plug, dual regulators, dual fuel pumps, rear chase lights, and blue BITD-legal rear strobe light.”
At the end of the day, Hubert wraps up his build story by saying, “The end goal was to build a reliable desert race machine that I didn’t have to go take out a mortgage to build. With the retail cost of the Polaris RZR, plus fab work, and parts, this machine sits at little more than half the price of what companies quoted me. That’s counting what I paid out, not counting my time hours into it. I don’t charge myself – LOL. And this machine was built in just 3.5 weeks”
Overall, we think Hubert and his list of companies associated with this project all did an amazing job creating a vehicle that can literally “do it all” when racing in a BITD race. The red, white, and blue them just screams, ‘Merica!, and we love that fact.
If you’d like to follow along with Hubert and his next racing adventure, he’ll be tackling BITD’s August scorcher, otherwise known as Vegas 2 Reno. It’s the longest off-road race in America, and it’s one of the best. You can bet that Hubert will be ready to rock!
List of Companies and their Parts on this BITD 4-seater build:
- Dragon fire – seats, steering wheel, fire extinguishers (2 are required), SFI harnesses
- Superatv – +3 long travel suspension kits with chromoly a arms, +3 rhino 2.0 axles, sway bar brace, 400-watt stand alone Ez Steer power steering, ½” UHMW skid plate
- Sandcraft RCR – heavy duty front diff parts, steering rack brace and tie rods, phased balanced heavy duty drive shaft with billet carrier bearing, sway bar, and sway bar links, radiator & intake heat exchanger and shroud, Triton race coolers
- Cryoheat – transmission fully micropolished and cryo treated, pro mod kit that removes 10 lbs of rotating mass, cryo treated parts (front differential, drive shaft, carrier bearing, wheel bearings, bearing carriers, hubs, clutches)
- Full Throttle Batteries – battery
- System 3 by Dragonfire Racing – wheels and tires: System 3 32” RT320 tire’s on 15” machine finish beadlock wheels. With number stamped by valve stem which is a race rule
- Tire Blocks – a run-flat tire system to not have to think about flats
- HD Headsets – radio and intercom system
- MBRP Powersports – exhaust
- FOX Racing Shox – RC2 shocks with Shock Therapy internal modifications (Rides like a big body Cadillac!)
- Pro Moto Billet – mirrors
- Jazz Products – 32 gallon fuel cell with dual external fuel pumps that provide easy access and external pumps are used in all types of vehicles and racing so they work fine. Price was also better from Jazz for a great product!
- Custom steel braided lines
- RVS Performance – clutches
- IMG Motorsports – custom air scoop
- Assault Industries – double shear radius rod plate
- Assorted hand tools and power tool and screw type jack on board
- Rugged Radios – helmet blower
- LeadNav GPS – iPad-based GPS navigation system
- All suspension bolts shouldered the frame with steel lock nuts.
- Mad Buy – hoses from this American material company
- The Vinyl Shop (Lake Elsinore, CA) – wrap and graphics
Sponsors of Hubert’s BITD Desert Racing Program:
- Nitro Circus
- ADtripleS Motorsports
- MBRP Powersports
- Truwerk work attire
- Dragonfire Racing
- FOX Racing Shox
- Shock Therapy Suspension Services
- Tire Blocks
- Sandcraft RCR
- IMG Motorsports
- Polaris RZR
- Assault Industries
- Energy coil
2-seat King of the Hammers build:
Hubert, a connoisseur of a good challenge, knows about the challenge that KOH presents. He wanted to build a KOH-ready RZR, and he begins by saying, “I started with a stock 2017 Polaris RZR XP Turbo. We took it off the semi truck, pulled it in the shop, and stripped it. Within 4 hours, it was a frame with motor and transmission in it and that’s all. I started planning the machine’s future, which would be racing numerous types of races. But also promotion at large ride events.” Surely he would have to take all of these things into account, and he sure did.
“We started by welding in braces and tabs to strengthen the frame. The frame tab kit we used was made by HCR Racing. I decided to put the radiator behind me to keep it clean and the machine cool. Since we had the opportunity, we went with a custom built radiator and heat exchanger combo with 2 separate cores by Triton race coolers. I relocated the battery to the front of the machine to move some weight up front and to make it easy to get to. I made an aluminum fire wall to help keep the heat out of the cab area, and this also meets race standards.”
Hubert likes to share the joy with many of his friends and family. “My high school friend, Adam Woodlee, owns Wide Open Design. A fab shop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, known for building some of the baddest rock crawlers, rock bouncers, Ultra4 cars, and awesome RZR parts out there. Adam built us a lightweight chromoly cage with door areas closed in. I made the custom bed area. The door panels, roof-mounted rear tail light, and chase lights were done by Lewis fab in middle Tennessee. We decided to use SuperATV for many parts. The suspension uses their chromoly tube a-arms with uniballs. We are also using 1.5” offset square tube trail arms. Completing the SuperATV package are 1.5” offset Rhino 2.0 axles, 1/2″ UHMW skid plate, spare axle carriers, REV1 performance stage 1 tune (stock horsepower to rear wheels was 135. After REV1 tune, RSV Performance clutch work, and energy coil, total horsepower to rear wheels is 165hp), and EZ Steer 400-watt power steering unit. Further modifications were made on the steering front by adding a Hess motorsports 2:1 steering quickener, which makes is easy to turn like the stock setup. We also used Hess Motorsports axle nuts.”
Overall, Hubert built a very capable machine at a budget price. Hopefully this inspires you guys to think about building your own race vehicle, and if you do, be sure to send us pictures!
List of Companies and their Parts on this KOH 2-seater build:
- Assault industries –rear bumper, radius rods, radius rod plate, side folding mirrors, gas cap, front grill, and front shock guards
- Dragonfire Racing – seats, harnesses, fire extinguisher mount, and steering wheel
- System 3 by Dragonfire Racing – Beadlock wheels and 30” RT320 tire’s
- Tire Blocks – Tire Block inserts in all (4) tires to keep from getting flats.
- com – Plug and play wiring to make light bars and rear lights plug directly into factory wire harness. Also wired in the 2 batteries – 1 up front to run the machine then the OEM battery under the seat to run the winch. All batteries are on a master switch to keep batteries together or separate. Also wired up 4pack relay kit for accessories, winch, helmet blower, chase lights, and siren
- Race Proven Motors (RPM) – steel braided fuel lines and billet fuel rail
- MBRP Powersports – exhaust
- FOX Racing Shox – RC2 bypass shock
- Come Up Winch – 8000 lb front winch mounted in a custom front bumper with rope from custom splice
- Diamond Back rope – extension rope and soft shackles
- Factor 55 – custom winch hook
- Custom tree kickers – made by Hubert
- Shake and Bake Powder Coating (Murfreesboro, Tennessee) – all powdercoat by Chris West
- Sandcraft RCR – drive shaft phased and balanced with greaseable u-joints and billet carrier bearing, billet motor mounts, chromoly front motor mount tube, tie rods and steering rack brace
- Hess Motorsports – hub nuts, 2:1 steering quickener
- STM Billet Clutch Components – built for machine weight, tire size, driving style, and terrain
- RSV Performance
- Cryoheat – full Transmission was sent out to be micro polished cryo treated and lightened. Other parts cryo treated, included: hubs, rotors, brake pads, spindles, bearing carriers, drive shafts, front differential, wheel bearings, bolts, clutch
- Graphic Effex – wrap and design