Mud Racing the Yamaha YXZ1000R

photos by Troy Delahoussaye

utvrr_rd2_16TLD_6321Round two of the 2016 UTV Rally Raid (UTVRR) Series was held in Tuscumbia, AL at the Hawk Pride Mountain Offroad Park. We arrived Friday afternoon to a torrential downpour. I wasn’t too concerned because we have raced at this park for three years and seen first hand that it can hold plenty of water. We (all Racers) usually pray for rain on Friday so the dust stays down. However, what I did not realize was how much rain they actually got. On Saturday, the forecast was calling for more rain around the time we were supposed to start the race, so the race time was pushed up to 3pm, instead of 5:30pm. This meant we would finish in daylight, so no night racing at this round. Little did we know, the forecast was dead wrong and the afternoon weather was beautiful. As beautiful as the weather was, the track was an absolute mess. I have my long 40 years of going to race events, I’ve never seen worse racing conditions.

We were looking forward to this round for a couple of reasons. First, since the last race we put somewhere around 250 miles on the car doing suspension testing. Secondly, unlike our race debut with the YXZ at the UTV Rally Raid Series Opener, where we just wanted to make laps, figure out the new YXZ and finish the race; this round we really wanted to push for a win. We were all extremely confident and ready to see what we could do in our Yamaha YXZ1000R.

utvrr_rd2_16TLD_6335Prior to the race, our crew chief Anthony Rick prepped the car and got it ready early so we were not doing last minute things on race day, but you know how that seems to always go. Has anyone who has ever raced not had last minute details? Anyway, Anthony brought me the car on Monday night, and we started finishing up some minor things so we could be done that night. One of the things I do before every race is change all my fluids, taking samples of each to send to Driven Racing Oil so they can do analysis and help determine and develop products specifically for the UTV market. When I went to change the engine oil, I was floored at what I saw on the dipstick. It was milky and full of water! Panic mode set in. I thought I was seeing things, how could this be! So much for getting the car ready early. Luckily, the oil didn’t smell like antifreeze, but I was terrified something major was wrong. I quickly called up Greg Corkern and Robbie Chadwick at ATV Zone, my local dealer, and told them what was happening. It was 9pm at night and both answered the phone and were eager to help me with whatever I needed. The next morning the guys at ATV Zone went to work trying to find the problem.

Without going into everything they did, they finally found the problem around lunch time. It turns out the secondary air filter housing was not sealed properly so when we washed the car, water got trapped in the housing and went straight into the crank case. This was a sigh of relief, but also somewhat of a disappointment that it happened. So all you YXZ owners take note of this. By all means, please take time to check your YXZ’s bolts on the secondary filter to make sure they are tight. I would even suggest, taking the secondary filter out and putting grease or a small amount of silicone around the gasket to make sure it is sealed and water cannot get in. If I didn’t work so closely with Driven Racing Oil and change my fluids as often as I do, I would have probably locked up the engine.

utvrr_rd2_16TLD_6425Back to race day. The Yamaha YXZ is an incredible machine, but with any new machine comes a learning curve. I had been told by multiple friends who have had their YXZs longer than I have that it does not like the mud. What they meant was the front tires tend to throw mud at the radiator if the mud is sticky clay based like we often encounter, it clogs the radiator and the engine overheats. I’m sure this is something Yamaha will want to address on future models. One of the reasons why racing is so valuable to a manufacturer is the fact that we put their products through extreme instances that typical owners don’t, especially at UTV Rally Raid races.
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Once we knew it was going to be muddy, we spent a lot of time taping up areas on the front frame to prevent mud from clogging the radiator from our own roost. We all agreed we did a nice job getting ready for the mud as we took the machine to the starting area. At the start I got the initial jump and bogged down in the mud while fellow Yamaha pilot Mike Taylor had a better line and pulled the holeshot on me. This meant I had to really watch how I drove. I did not want to take on his roost as well as my own. It was evident from the first 100 feet of the long race that it would be a four-hour survival and just finishing on this day would be a major accomplishment. So much for that opportunity to try out all that suspension testing we had put in.

utvrr_rd2_16TLD_6443Mike is a pretty fast driver himself, so I was able to back off and still maintain a good pace in the mud without getting too close to him. We were coming up on drivers that started ahead of us pretty quickly on the first lap, so I knew we were carrying a decent pace in the mud. After the first lap, I thought to myself, this is nasty, but we got through without overheating and the tape job around the radiator must be working. I guess I had those thoughts too quickly. Approximately a quarter of the way into the second lap, the YXZ’s overheat light came on. I quickly pulled the car off the course, killed the motor and turned the fan back on so the car could cool off. In the meantime I radioed in to Anthony to let him know what happened. He said to limp the car back to the pits where he had a fire extinguisher with water and air ready so we can clean out the radiator.

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utvrr_rd2_16TLD_6684Once the temp light went off, I took back off slowly, basically trying to throw the least amount of roost off the front tires as possible so it didn’t over heat again. Once I got to the short course, which is near the pit area and close to where our pit crew was, I pulled off the track, got out and got everything from my pit guys, who were by the fence, as they’re not allowed to help me on the track, only in our pit area. I washed the radiator out as best as I could and took back off. Before the end of the lap, the light came back on, so I had to pull off again and wait. Once I got going again, I was able to make it to the pits (I had now finished only two laps. Anthony checked the car over and made the quick decision for me to go to the wash rack at the park to wash out the radiator good before I tried another lap. After washing the radiator out, back out I went. The same scenario as above continued for the next two laps, each time coming into the pits, going to the wash rack and back out on the track. After I came in on the fourth lap, Keith got in the car. We fueled up, cleaned the radiator once more and basically just hoped that we could limp around until we saw the checkered flag. Keith did a great job driving as fast as he could while driving slow, if that makes any sense. The YXZ never overheated again as he drove lap after lap slow and steady all the way to the finish.
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yxzutvrr2ftrd16We ended up fourth in class and salvaged points that we never thought we were going to get after the first few laps simply because we persevered the car and didn’t worry about going as fast as we could. As the old saying goes, you win championships on your bad days. If our worst day is a fourth place finish this year, we will be extremely happy.

I have to give a special thanks to all the guys at ATV Zone in Roseland, Louisiana for doing what needed to be done for us to make this race. They found the water-in-the-oil-issue, flushed it all out and fixed it in a day. They are without a doubt one of the best dealers, not to mention, service departments in the entire country and we are extremely lucky to have them in our corner.

It goes without saying, we couldn’t race the mighty UTV Rally Raid Series if it wasn’t for our sponsors. Thank you for believing in us and making his happen: Yamaha Motor Corp., UTV Scene.com, Double E Racing, GBC Motorsports, DWT Wheels, Driven Racing Oils, Zbroz Racing, S3 Powersports, ATV Zone, Hess Motorsports, Salt Number, Custom Metal Works, JC Racing and Nstyle Designs.

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