UTVS AND THE RACE TO THE CLOUDS

THE PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB

We’ve done build features on the Weller Racing RS1s of Jason and
Corry Weller over the years, and these hybrid race machines date back
to the Yamaha Rhino days and have been a popular class at Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series (LOORRS) and now Great American Short-course (GAS) series. The spec Yamaha R1 engines provide great power for lap times competitive with Pro truck and buggy classes, and I would like to see similar UTVs racing up Pikes Peak.


Yamaha took the concept further with its concept of a UTV version of a
super-modified stock car, the Yamaha DT R1 dirt track racer. I got a
chance to see the first-ever Yamaha R1 DT race at the 2017 Oval
Nationals at Perris Auto Speedway. Eight third-generation R1 DT UTVs
were built for the invitational race, and racers of various racing disciplines were
recruited to race the 175-Hp, 1100-pound, 2WD UTVs. Then TORC
Production 1000 UTV champion CJ Greaves and former LOORRS UTV
champion Dustin Nelson traded their YXZ1000Rs and jump-filled tracks
for the excitement of flying sideways around a dirt-track oval.

Slammin’ Sammy Halbert, 2009 Flat Track Grand National Champion and 2017 X-Games Gold medalist, traded two wheels for four, while four-time AMA Superbike champion Josh Hayes traded in his YZF-R1 and pavement for a four-wheeled R1 concept dirt tracker. Sprint-car icon and world champion Cory Kruseman and Donnie “The Million Dollar Man” Moran, Late Model Hall of Fame inductee and multi-time champion, stepped
outside of their comfort zones and into prototype concept UTVs. Formula Drifter Ken Gushi and Natalie Decker, NASCAR and ARCA Rookie of the Year, traded in their factory Toyota Camrys and pavement for the R1 DT invitational.

Decker had never driven an R1 DT before, and the UTV was unlike anything most of the racers had experienced. During intermissions between sprint-car qualifying, the heats and the A main, the R1 DT racers raced a seven-lap heat and a 12-lap main. Dustin Nelson won the heat after a good battle with Josh Hayes, and they inverted the eight finishers for the main. Nelson passed five cars in the mfirst turn and took the lead by the second lap. A couple of laps later, Gushi drifted in too hot and spun he and Nelson out. Nellie put on a
charge through the pack, only to tag Decker and spin again. Greaves took the win over Moran and Decker, with Hayes fourth and Nelson fifth. I was most impressed with Natalie for her podium finish after 19 laps in the R1.

It’s an adventure I want to experience some day, as Yamaha might someday put the R1 DT into production! I’d also love to see one racing up Pikes Peak during the International Hillclimb, which rivals the Indianapolis 500 in longevity. I raced the Pikes Peak Hillclimb a couple of times back in the ’90s on bikes and returned for many years to cover
the iconic race for Dirt Bike and ATV Action. Winkle Wally raced one year on his Quadzilla 500 and crashed into the forest at Engineer’s Corner, taking out a tree six feet up. Graham Lord built a special winged LT500 for the Pike, and UTVs now have classes at the PPIHC.
Doug Eichner raced a trick Yamaha Banshee a few times and set the fastest qualifying time of any class, but, since Chevrolet was sponsoring the event, officials refused to release his time. Seeing top racers blasting up the Pike in DT R1s would be awesome, but it’ll never
happen.

How cool would it be to see similarly-winged UTVs racing to the clouds?

Since Greens sued to force the USFS officials at the Pike National
Forest to pave the “Road to the Clouds” in an effort to get rid of the
race, Yamaha will not participate. Yamaha will not condone driving, let
alone racing, their UTVs on pavement for obvious safety reasons. When
I raced the iconic Race to the Clouds, the road was paved to 9,500 feet
elevation, which is where the race starts. Now, it’s paved all the way to
14,114 feet, thanks to meddlesome and hypocritical Greens.

Now it’s a road race, and it was featured in On Any Sunday: The
Next Chapter. In the final segment, Carlin Dunne raced an electric
motorcycle up the mountain and won. Dunne went on to win the PPIHC
four times and was tragically killed at the 97th PPIHC, crashing within
feet of the finish and his Ducati flying over the side. He was the seventh
racer to be claimed by the mountain. Paving leads to higher speeds but
also slicker conditions when dirt and/or ice are present. It also means
no cushions.
Normally, Greens are against paving. If it’s paving for houses and
strip malls, Greens call it “urban sprawl.” But paving the Pikes Peak
highway in an effort to get rid of one of America’s long-running races is
OK. Godspeed, Dunne!

Comments are closed.

edit