UTV Rally Racers Beat AWD Cars, STI Helps

Cain Smead, off-road writer and racer, shared his experiences as one of the first official rally racers in a Yamaha YXZ1000R. Check out his story here: 

The STI Chicane RX tires and HD5 Beadlock wheels performed as expected and got us through the 16 stage Gorman Rally with zero down time. In fact, only three 300+ horsepower turbo Subaru’s finished ahead of our STI equipped Yamaha YXZ1000R.

The “stage” Rally style of racing is actually the perfect fit for UTVs. Primarily, the courses are pretty smooth and fast with the top cars being turbo charged and 4WD. Today’s flagship, high performance UTVs are just that. When organizers of the Gorman Rally, the biggest Rally event in SoCal, started thinking about adding the UTV class, they looked to us for help. They asked us to come along and enter the rally to give our thoughts on the sport and how it could attract UTV drivers.


We chose to bring along a YXZ1000R for the test run. Our YXZ was equipped with a set of STI Chicane RX tires and HD5 beadlocks, and we left everything else stock. We did add window nets, five-point harnesses and a fire extinguisher but no other performance mods were made. We tightened up the slow speed compression on all for corners but that was it.

The race had 16 stages that all took place on one Saturday at the Hungry Valley OHV Park in Gorman, California. We were in and out of the car for 10 hours doing what we called mini races. Each stage was only 3 to 8 minutes long. However, each was very intense. When the time keeper lets you go, you give it 110 percent to the end. There is no time for error and no time to make up for any mistakes. Out of 28 cars, we started mid pack and slowly worked our way to fourth overall by the end of the last stage. The only race cars who finished quicker than us? Three, 300-horsepower Subarus.

For the Yamaha we wanted to keep the car low and have an 8-ply rating so we would have to worry about flats since we weren’t running a spare to keep the car as light as possible.

Gorman-Rally-frontIt turns out, the YXZ1000 performed very well. The 27×10-14 STI Chicane RX tires hooked up extremely well under acceleration, under braking and around the slippery corners. The RXs have an 8-ply rating and were mounted on beadlocks so we abused them and didn’t have to avoid any rocks or be careful with line selection. We drove right through anything that got in the way. This type of rounded profile tire, with its very predictable handling, was one of the best choices we made going into the event.

Like in desert racing, you spend a lot of time in the cockpit; having communication and trust in your navigator is just as important as what equipment you run. With a slightly lower car and a little more horsepower, we might have beat the cars that finished in front of us. For the next race, we plan on using the paddle shift YXZ1000R SS, with lowered shocks and perhaps a turbo. We are going for the win.

Since this was only the second time we have raced Rally, we wanted to stick with the predictable handling nature of the Chicane tire. The tire goes where you point and slides when you need it to.

Read more at UTVDriver.com

Photos – WheelsDirty.com