In every form of racing certain machines set themselves apart from the rest of their class, and we recently came across one particular Polaris RZR 4 which does just that. As the western regional sales manager for Polaris, Matt Parks had the opportunity to test the RZR 4 in the vast desert of Southern California before many people were able to get their hands on one. It was during these testing trips that Matt realized how smooth and controllable it was while going at high speeds through the rough desert terrain. After that day in the desert, the wheels in Matt's head started spinning and the blood of a desert racer took over as he pondered how competitive this machine would be in the UTV class of the Best In The Desert racing series. With past racing experience and success aboard the Ranger XP and RZR, Matt was determined to make the ultimate desert-racing side-by-side anyone has ever seen.
Kicking It Off
Knowing you can't just take an ordinary machine off of the showroom floor and race it, Matt had quite a few calls to make, but before he even started dialing he wanted to verify that he could race this machine. His main concern prior to starting this project was to make sure he would be legal because of the length of the RZR 4. As per Best In The Desert rules in the Pro UTV Production Class, you are not allowed to alter the wheelbase of the vehicle and must run the OEM engine in order to be considered legal. Since the RZR 4 was a production model, Parks was given a green light to start his project and his first call was to Mark Holz, who is well known for building some of the most competitive race RZRs to date.
After discussing with Mark what he wanted done, Parks shipped the RZR 4 up to the Holz shop in Lynden, Washington, where it would be stripped down and have the stock suspension replaced by a set of Holz +3 (over standard RZR 4 width) A-arms mated to Walker Evans 2.5-inch race shocks. This suspension combination increased the travel from 12 inches all around to 14 inches in the front and 15 inches in the rear ensuring that Parks would have a smooth ride at any speed. A custom tube roll cage was created, and Holz would change some of the interior to better suit a driver of Matt's size. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall, Matt found the standard seating position a bit too cramped, so Holz relocated the seat mounting position by moving it 4 inches back; eliminating the rear seating area allowed this to be done with ease. Holz also repositioned the steering wheel to give Matt more of a NASCAR-style feel and allow him to drive the machine with a more relaxed arm position lower on the steering wheel. Mastercraft 3G seats and five-point seat restraints were installed to ensure the driver and passenger are comfortable and secure for prolonged periods of time in the seats. Aside from opening up more comfort room, the extra space as result of removing the back seat also provided the perfect mounting location for the 12-gallon required fuel cell. Holz made a full set of body panels and roof that give this RZR 4 its sporty look.
As Holz was working on the rolling chassis, Parks thought about options for an engine kit to move his racer through the desert faster than anyone else. Since everyone under the sun makes multi-stage performance kits for this engine package, Matt narrowed down the criteria to meet his needs. He wanted to bump the engine up to 800cc from the stock displacement, generate plenty of usable power all while still being able to run super-unleaded pump gas. The final choice was to run a Kroyer Racing Engines Stage III performance kit. Kroyer is known for building some of the best-performing engines in motorsports from NASCAR to off-road trophy trucks. The kit consists of head porting, oversize valves, camshafts, larger throttle body and performance CDI unit. To ensure the engine had no shortage of fresh air, a canister-style air filter was installed, and a Muzzys dual-exhaust system expelled the gasses of the new powerplant.
To transfer the power to the ground, not much was changed to keep up the reliability of the machine. The stock drive clutches and drive belt are used as are the transmission and rear differential. The front diff is stock as well, but utilizes a Holz billet cage instead of the stock Polaris unit, which has been known to fail. Summers Brothers axles replace the stock units but are still installed onto the OEM CV joints that transfer the power to the hubs where Walker Evans 14-inch beadlock wheels wrapped in Maxxis Bighorn tires get the traction to propel the machine forward. A Baja Designs LED lightbar is mounted to the top of the roll cage so that Matt can still see far into the night, and a Lowrance 540C is installed in perfect view of both driver and passenger to ensure they remain on course while racing. Communication between driver, passenger and crew is handled by the PCI radio system, and a PCI air pumper system guarantees they have clean air to breathe since they're racing through some of the dustiest conditions that at times limit visibility to just beyond your arm's length. A custom wrap from Utendorfer Designs makes the car stand out from any other and gives Parks' sponsors the signage they deserve for being part of a truly unique build.
The Completed Package
In early August of 2010, the machine was finished and delivered for Parks to take out and start testing before his first race in October. While two months of prep time sounds like plenty, it seems to fly by when you have to revalve suspension and make last-minute changes after the initial shakedown of any vehicle. When asked his impression of the machine after his shakedown, Matt had this to say: "I couldn't believe how well the thing handled. I knew it was good before all of the work was done, but everything worked together to make an awesome package. It handled excellently and had more than enough power for what I was wanting it to do."
In October of last year Matt entered the machine in its first race, the Best In The Desert BlueWater Desert Challenge. Showing up to the race with a unique machine generated plenty of buzz in the pits, but it was his win at the event that generated even more. We were able to convince Matt to bring his SxS out to Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, for a photo shoot and let me see firsthand how well this machine handled. As we finished up our photo session, I gave Matt the green light to run the RZR 4 on a track that was designed to simulate desert racing conditions for the Baja Cup Challenge. As I watched, it was easy to see how well his setup worked through the choppy sand washes, and even through some of the hammered trails it seemed to track perfectly, and judging from the in-car video footage I watched later that night, driving the machine seemed almost effortless.
This project of Matt's has proven that it never hurts to push the boundaries or be different from the rest of the crowd. He took a machine and went in the opposite direction of its intended use but with a positive end result. This just shows that it pays to be unique.