Race Write-up from Goertz Ranch (2017 TORCS Rd 4)
Last Sunday, Cash (my teenage son) and I loaded up "Old Faithful" (our trusty 2012 RZR 900xp) and made the 3-hour journey to Rockne, Texas to compete in the 4th round of the 2017 TORCS cross-country series (expected to get there a little quicker, but the MS-150 bike ride slowed things down… ugh!). Going into this race, I was coming off a win in round 3 and feeling confident. Better yet, I had my secret weapon with me this time… my brave son/co-pilot! Below is my race write-up.
Rockne, TX… it’s a tiny town about 8 miles south of Bastrop. This picturesque property has lots of pecan groves, a few creek crossings and a large pasture area.
On race day, we enjoyed a beautiful day of sunny skies and mild temps in the 70s. Unlike the last race where dust played a big factor throughout the entire course, this time we only encountered dust in a few places thanks to recent rain. Most of this course ran through grassy areas between pecan trees and it was already partially burned in by the dirt bikes who raced earlier. The grassy sections that were not yet burned in made for slippery turns (more on that later).
PARADE LAP & HOT LAP:
When it came time to start the parade lap and hot lap around 2:20pm-ish, we had approximately 31 UTVs gathered around the starting line. This UTV turnout is *twice* the size that TORCS normally sees so far this season and it was a welcome sight! Part of the reason the UTV numbers were bigger this time is that some of the TORN racers came down to race with us, including Cross and the Kirchmeier family plus my old pal Sonny Balusek who I raced with in the TORN 900cc class last year. Was great to see some familiar faces at this TORCS race!
When the parade lap started, we followed the lead vehicle slowly around the 3.1 mile course. As we made our way through it, my first impression was that most of the course is fairly smooth, wide and fast… which is my FAVORITE kind of track! The biggest obstacle was a whooped out hill climb that turned into holes the size of MOON CRATERS at the top! Once you reached the top, you could go either stay to the left side or the right side (both sides were extremely rough/whooped out) and then the trail rejoined at the bottom of this hill. During the parade lap and hot lap, I thought the right side was a bit smoother if you hit it just right, so I planned to go right each time and hopefully pass anyone that took the left side. There was also a large hole near the back part of the track as you ran alongside a creek… if you stayed to the right of that trail you could just miss it.
There were 7 or 8 Turbo RZRs lined up in the Turbo class. I think they were all RZR Turbos, and they lined up ahead of my class.
In the Non-turbo class (mine), we had 15… count’em… fifteen freakin’ UTVs crowded on the starting line! The lineup included 7 Yamaha 1000Rs, 5 Polaris RZR 1000s and 3 Polaris 900xps (including Old Faithful). My class was so big that not everyone could fit on the front row. ACTUALLY… there was just enough room for 14 UTVs on the front row and guess who got the “lucky” spot on the 2nd row??? Yep, Cash and I were in the only UTV starting from row 2. Grrrr! That meant we were going to have a lousy start no matter what. Hey, maybe they will make it up to me at the next race by allowing me to start 1 row ahead of everyone else in my class.
In the 800cc class, they had 8 UTVs lined up behind my class.
The starting area was in a large grassy pasture area right next to the parking area. From the starting line, we had approximately 40 feet to the first (left) turn. Because there was not enuf room in the front row for my UTV, I was immediately behind 2 UTVs and was hoping they got a strong start so I could fall in behind them and try to at least be in the middle of the pack around the first turn.
When the green flag when up, one of the UTVs in front of me (yellow Yamie) didn’t leave the line! Not sure if his UTV didn’t start or perhaps he wanted to let the others go ahead. All I know is that I had to go around him and try to catch up to the group at the first turn. When I got close, there was already a crazy bottleneck with cars running 3-wide as they made the first turn. As we found our place in line after the first turn, I kept getting squeezed out by others in my class and eventually I looked in my rear view mirror and only saw 1 UTV behind me… Say what!?! That meant we were in 14th position by my calculation. Grrr! Gonna be a long race.
LAPS 1 and 2:
As we entered the first set of trees with zig-zag turns running through them, it eventually makes its way around a left turn that goes straight through a wide grassy pasture for about 100 yards or so. We could reach pretty good speeds by the end of that grassy area and then it made a sharp, almost 180 degree left turn. As we reached the end of that first straight-away, I recall seeing a few UTVs pulled off to the side b/c they apparently overshot the turn and/or rolled over. So that put me in about 12th position (at least in my mind – not 100% sure if I was accurate). Then the course runs back towards the parking lot area (pasture area) and makes a long dog-leg right turn for approximately 200 yards over smooth grass. I hit 50 mph or so before slamming on the brakes at the end of that run and then made a hard left turn towards the trees. As we came close to the end of that wide 200 yard stretch, I tried to pass someone on the left side. However when I cut the wheel back to the right, my RZR suddenly started sliding sideways on the slippery grass at a 45 degree angle. I just about wet my pants b/c I was concerned my left tires might catch and cause us to roll over at 40+ mph! Just then, Mike Toon (orange Yamie) comes out of nowhere and pulls up on my right side to pass both me and the guy I was hoping to pass. It was a clean move, and I found myself back in 13th or 14th position again (as far as I could tell anyway). In any case, I was just glad I didn’t roll over.
As we drove further into the woods, we eventually came to the bumpy uphill section where I made my move… the UTV ahead of us took the left path and we went right and passed him left just before the trail came back together again. I was feeling good about that pass and fist bumped Cash!
On lap 2, we started seeing UTVs along the course sitting on their side or upside down, especially near the various turns. I tried to remind myself to keep it on all 4 wheels as much as possible and not do anything crazy. As the race wore on, we saw more and more tipped UTVs on the sides and then I noticed Cash started leaning left and right on the turns to help distribute his weight. What the heck, that’s not a bad idea! LOL
By the time we got to the bumpy hill section on lap 2, I had been following Sonny B. (blue RZR 900xp) for at least a half lap or so and was right on his heals. I couldn’t find a good place to pass until we reached the top of the bumpy hill. He went left, so I steered right and nailed the gas hard. Cash and I jumped out ahead of him just as the trail came back together. At that point, the course was rough and Old Faithful was bouncing all over. As we exited that section, Sonny’s right tire bumped my driver’s side nerf bar. Thankfully, it didn’t do any damage to Old Faithful (just left a little rubber on my nerf bar). After the race, Sonny told me that his belt started slipping at that moment and soon it broke. So he had to pull over and replace the belt before continuing.
LAPS 3 through 10:
At the beginning of lap 3, I was making good time and soon caught up to another blue RZR… but wait, this looked similar to Sonny’s blue RZR that I just passed on the hill section. Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Did Sonny find a short cut? I couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that Sonny was pulled off the trail to change his belt and the blue RZR I caught up to on lap 3 was a different blue RZR driven by Phillip L. Duh! LOL Anyway, I followed Phillip for most of lap 3 til I finally found a place to pass in a dry creek crossing near the end of the lap.
Somewhere on either lap 3 or 4, I recall seeing Cross K. pulled off the side of the trail. It appeared he overshot a hard right hand turn and plowed into some thick bushes. He looked safe/uninjured, so Cash and I waived to him as we went by. I think I saw him there on the next lap still trying to get his UTV going again… not sure what the problem was, but unfortunately I don’t think he finished the race.
We continued to race hard and eventually caught up to my old pal Shandy (yellow Yamie) who was racing very slowly along the course at that point due to a minor collision that took out his right front shock. It was hard to keep track of my position b/c of the many UTVs on the side of the trails and some of the UTVs that were not well marked or had the wrong color backgrounds on their number plates, but at that point I thought Cash and I were in at least 7th position after we passed Shandy. We battled onward and eventually crossed the checkered flag.
Cash and I walked to the TORCS trailer completely unaware of how we finished. Cash was hoping we were somewhere in the top 10 in our class and I was hoping we were at least in the top 5… but that was just a wild guess. Then they posted the results, and we were stunned to learn that we finished 2nd in our class (and 6th place overall). Wow, I suddenly realized that we battled back from 14th position to 2nd. What a crazy race! They put us on the podium and interviewed Cash and me along with the other podium finishers (who were also father-son teams!). Cash told me repeatedly that he had a great time. This race was one of those rare events that Cash and I will probably remember forever.
Of course, I have to say a BIG THANK YOU to TORCS for hosting a FUN event and for building such an awesome course! I also want to thank the TORN folks who joined us for the race and helped boost the number of entries. I hope you enjoyed my race write-up.