Inside Yamaha’s YXZ1000R Taking On King Of The Hammers

Inside Yamaha’s YXZ1000R Taking On King Of The Hammers

Brand new ADS shocks mounted to the lower A-arms will eat up the Johnson Valley whoops.

Sure, Can-Am has dominated the infamous rock race for the last handful of years, they can’t reign forever. Polaris, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha drivers are all trying to end Can-Am’s recent dynasty. While Yamaha has not in the past, put forth a huge factory effort like Can-Am and Polaris do, there are several bLU cRU drivers that give it a shot each year. 

Avid’s suspension kit stretches the YXZ1000R to a wheelbase nearing 95-inches. The team will be using 35-inch GBC Dirt Commander tires.

For 2023, the Avid Racing Yamaha team will enter two cars at the Progressive King Of The Hammers. In the primary car Tyler Thomas will handle the driving duties as well as build the car. His copilot aka “The Burrito”, Chris Rea is a seasoned veteran on the Hammers trails and the race itself. He’s been a KOH finisher in every class except UTV and spent time as the chief tech inspector, so you know this team will stretch that rule book as far as possible to build a Yamaha capable of competing with the Can-Am. To see the Livestream click HERE.

Yamaha’s proven GYTR Turbo kit will be used.


 In the second car, short course driver Rodney VanEperen will be at the controls and he will bring along Tony Albano. If you are asking how a short course racer will do in the world of King Of The Hammers, look no further to multi-time winner Kyle Chaney. He’s a short course racer living in the mid west just like Rodney who is a Yamaha dealer (Powersports 1) in Wisconsin. Furthermore, short course driver Brock Heger had a podium run going in the Hammers race but took the wrong trail costing him the win. So, the key to success may lie more in the car than the drivers.

Drivetrain components are from Yamaha’s Wolverine RMAX.

The Yamaha tackling the hammers this year is far from stock. Avid UTV is known for taking the current Yamaha YXZ platform and completely transforming it from a nimble little car that’s good everywhere and turning it into a whoop eating desert beast. At a glance, the suspension system looks like something found on a Class 1 car.

If you follow @AvidUTV you will see what they have done to these machines in recent years starting with building a truck bodied YXZ that took on the Sonora Rally. Powered by a GYTR Turbo kit and relying on the last few years of chassis knowledge, along with the use of a gear reducing Crawl Box, and GBC tires they have the right equipment and the team is ready for whatever Johnson Valley throughs at them this February. The complete unveiling will happen on the lakebed. See you there. 

Car #2 is being outfitted with Avid suspension at Tyler Thomas Enterprises in Coleville, California.

Read the complete story here.

Project Last Stand

Avid UTV & Yamaha Join Forces to Take on the King of the Hammers 

If you look up “carnage” in the dictionary, you’ll find King of the Hammers (KOH) as the definition. Ultra4’s rock racing extravaganza draws entrants from all walks of life with purpose-built vehicles devised from some of the most creative minds in Motorsports with intention to climb, crawl, sprint, and roost their way to glory.  And the guys who brought the world the Yami YXZ Baby Raptor are back in the shop with fresh partnerships, a new crew and all the bad ideas needed to do something fearless. (Or crazy.) When you think of Avid UTV, you might think exceptional performance, sought-after suspension, and high-quality after-market parts. But now, the company dedicated to enhancing your prized side-by-side is entering the rock-race scene this February. Avid Racing Yamaha (ARY) is entering two UTVs into the running, and you won’t want to miss these monsters. So, factors in to make their premiere a success?

AYR Car #1 will run Wolverine RMAX front bodywork.

The first winning component is a solid team. The pilots are the face and body of the program. Tyler Thomas, driver of Car One, has had adrenaline in his veins from a very young age. He began his off-road racing career in 2009 and quickly rose through the ranks as a top mechanic, co-driver and – as of 2020 – whiz behind the wheel. His wrenching and sauntering skills couldn’t be ignored in the Avid garage and so he also moonlights as Lead Fabricator. Co-pilot in C1 (a.k.a. “The Burrito”) is Chris Rea has nearly 20 years of experience with the Hammers trails as a KOH finisher in every class – except for UTVs – and as a former Chief Tech Inspector for Utlra4 Racing. He’s ready to complete his record with this next event. 

Car number two (“The Taquito”) will be manned by Rodney VanEperen, an engine-powered athlete whose Yamaha Racing-backed Pro Short-Course team competes in the Championship Off-Road series. And his rich competitive history – in side-by-sides, off-road trucks, motorcross and snocross – will surely add an insightful perspective at the helm. His partner in the cabin is Tony Albano, a man that found his passion for off-road events while he was in school for Mechanical Engineering. A valued crew member in various Short-Course and Desert Racing teams over the years, he first hopped into the navigator’s seat when he ran roadbooks for Avid’s founder, George LaMonte, at the 2020 and 2021 Sonora Rally. 

While the guys in the cab are integral to crossing the finish line, the folks in the background are key to reaching the start. We know the face and body, but the brains and backbone of the operation hang out on the sidelines. Following the Lead, Fabricators Shane Swigard and Elvis Becirevic are the liquid-metal glue piecing together the important parts. Lead Engineer, Sean Kepler, does all the math to make the dream come true (and not fall apart in the process). And last but not least, Pete Albano keeps this racing machine well-oiled as Team Manager for the effort they’re calling: Project Last Stand.

“We have an incredible opportunity in front of us, with the support of Yamaha and several great sponsors, to show our worth at King of the Hammers. Not just as a manufacturer or distributor, but as builders, racers, and enthusiasts. Our team feels so strong, and they’ve done a lot with not very much time. If nothing else, we’re just excited to be a part of such a pivotal race.” – George LaMonte, Owner of Avid Racing Yamaha

But what’s a team without strong partners? The final component offers the resources, insight, and audience for ARY to excel at KOH and beyond. Yamaha is fueling the PLS and has given it the perfect platform for a high-speed desert chase. Their dedicated communities, the BluCru and GYTR (Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing), as well as off-road gear experts Fasthouse, are the sounding boards for news, updates and stories about this KOH endeavor. While long-time Avid UTV supporters Liquid Moly USA are accompanied by GBC Powersports Tires to give The Last Stand and Avid Racing Yamaha the extra oomph to reach the checkered flag. 

Will they take this race to the podium? We’ll just have to wait and find out. Maybe the goal right now is just to show up, to present a set of UTVs no one expects and to fight tooth and nail for whatever seat hard work (and a bit of luck) affords them. In a battle filled to the brim with RZRs and Can-Ams, it’ll be refreshing to see what these bad little Yamaha beasts can do. Arguably one of the most underrated contenders in the field, there’s no doubt the crowd is looking for a good underdog story. And Avid Racing Yamaha is ready to give it to them. 

To learn more about Avid UTV and their products, visit: And to follow all the King of the Hammers action, keep an eye on the team on Instagram @AvidUTV and Facebook @AvidUTV.

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