PRO UTV DRIVING TIPS
— Top UTV racer reveals the secrets of performance driving —
Beau Baron has won a ton of Pro UTV races and even a few championships. We wanted to know what he does differently that makes him faster and more consistent than most of the other west coast UTV racers in the WORCS series. Even if you’re not planning on a career as a UTV racer, his advice will help you for normal weekend fun rides. Learn from a pro on how to take corners quicker and the correct way to hit jumps. Also, follow his advice on how to prepare your machine and drive it in a way to go the distance.
MANY RACES ARE WON BEFORE THE START
In any form of racing, you need complete confidence in your machine to succeed. You don’t win championships when your UTV is broken on the sideline, and wondering whether your lug nuts are tight will play head games with you when thinking about those bigger jumps.
Thoroughly clean and inspect your machine as soon as you return home from the weekend’s races. If you find the start of an issue, this will allow you the most possible time for ordering parts and repairing the problem. Finding an issue the day before you leave is the “racer’s curse,” and it can almost always be avoided. After cleaning and inspection, properly maintain and re-torque every important part of your race vehicle.
While it might be above and beyond many racer’s budgets, Beau replaces his clutch belt in between every race and thoroughly cleans the entire clutch system. If you can’t afford a new belt for every race, you can still remove, inspect and clean yours in hot soapy water. Clutch sheaves can also be cleaned with red Scotch-Brite pads, as they don’t leave a residue. Even with a completely prepped and ready machine, Beau makes a habit of going back over his car with a fine-tooth comb the morning before the race. He will re-check lug nuts, tire air pressure, tie-rod ends, ball joints, etc. You never know what might have loosened up in practice.
USING PRACTICE TO THE FULLEST
Familiarize yourself with every part of the course. A couple practice starts will give you an idea of available traction, and you can also figure out where you want to be in the first turn. When learning the course, be sure to figure out the main line, but also check out the other available lines as, unless you holeshot every race, you will undoubtedly have to venture off the beaten path.
You want to figure out the jumps in practice—long before you hit the starting line. In other words, if you plan on clearing the big doubles, you better go conquer them in practice and not leave that to during the race. Beau claims that jumping speed is very similar to what’s required with an ATV; if you hit the same jump at the same speed on any vehicle, you’re going to fly the same distance.
With a UTV, distance is the easy part; staying level and square is more complicated. A good UTV jump needs to have a jump face longer than the UTV itself. With a longer jump face, the UTV can settle to the angle of the ramp and will fly straight and level. You can reduce throttle while heading up the ramp, but you will always want to be on the gas off the top. You will also need to pick a line that is relatively level from side to side. Throttle control is the only way to really influence flight characteristics when you are strapped into a race seat. If you need to reduce speed to avoid over-jumping, brake hard before the ramp and get back on the gas up the face.
With the typical race UTV at 64 inches wide, the start is very important. Pick the gate with the shortest “unobstructed” line to the first turn. One exception to this is if you need to be in another line for the next obstacle, like a second turn or jump. Another factor is who is beside you. You gotta survive the first corner without damage to be successful, and if a certain unnamed racer has hit you multiple times in the first corner, he or she will do it again. Giving up that prime spot to avoid unnecessary contact might just be the insurance you need to finish every race.
Many pros will be on the gas and the brake while waiting for the flag or gate to drop. This loads the clutch so that it is already engaged, and you will rocket off the line when you remove your left foot from the brake. The downside is that you are also slipping the belt; you need to study the flagman and only do this immediately before he drops the flag to avoid burning your belt. Another issue is that the TPS sensor on newer RZRs can cause an ignition cutout when it senses both gas and brake at the same time. Mark Holz of HRP has a simple bypass for this issue. If you are truly serious about pulling holeshots and winning races, give him a call.
THE RACE IS ON
Constantly scanning to see what is coming up in front of you will keep you on track. When chasing down another driver, Beau likes to place his car half a car length to the left to keep roost out of his face. Today’s UTVs are pushing well over 100 horsepower and can rocket baseball-sized rocks at you with ease. You will also want to be conscious of where the roost is going to avoid radiator clogs and overheating.
Overheating, especially with any sort of mud, is an issue, especially with an RZR. Be conscious of the temperature where your UTV hits “limp mode,” and avoid it like the plague. Limp mode will keep you grounded for minutes while the engine cools down and resets. Backing out of the throttle before you reach limp mode will save serious positions when it comes to the end of the race.
Downhills are another area where Beau pays special attention to conserving the clutch. Dragging both the brake and the gas on downhills will keep the engine braking and clutch chatter at bay. The clutch chatter during engine braking is extremely hard on belts, and avoiding it will help ensure your clutch belts live a long and fruitful life.
The trick to keeping your UTV on four wheels is always being ready to turn and accelerate into a slide or tip-over situation. While cornering, Beau always tries to use the rut or berm to hold his car in the turn, but he also tries to stay halfway up it with his outside tire to avoid having to fight the rut when turning into a slide or tip situation. In other words, cornering halfway up the side of the rut leaves you free to turn the wheel with ease, whereas having your wheel trapped in a rut might be the difference between saving it and landing on your lid. This technique also reduces the chance of high-centering in really deep ruts, and it lets Beau change lines quicker if necessary.
TO FINISH FIRST, FIRST YOU MUST FINISH
These techniques all help Beau save his equipment while maintaining a fast pace. Over-driving the track can lead to a broken car or worse, so Beau only pushes as hard as necessary to finish and score championship points. DNFs are expensive in more ways than one, so preparation and driving smart should be the focus of every racer, regardless of skill level or speed.