Race Recap of TX4 Round 2
@ Powell Ranch
Written by Mike Kowis
It’s only been a month since the inaugural event of the brand new TX4 cross-country series, but ATV and SxS racers were already anxious to bang bars again at Round 2 hosted by Powell Ranch. Compared to Round 1, this event had a similar turnout with 49 ATVs and 25 UTVs competing, including minis. Word of this exciting new off-road race series is spreading! In fact, a few racers travelled from faraway places like Florida and Louisiana. Below is my race recap. Enjoy!
Cedar Creek, TX… it’s a small town approximately 30 miles southeast of Austin. This property has lots of mesquite trees, cactus, grassy fields, and dry creeks.
Mother Nature must’ve been off her meds during this weekend b/c the weather couldn’t have been more different. Saturday felt like the middle of summer with temps topping out around 100 degrees with high humidity. The intense heat combined with bone dry soil meant racers had to deal with lots of dust on the track. Thankfully, a thunderstorm dumped a few inches of wet stuff later that night and racers enjoyed mid-70s temps and HERO DIRT on Sunday. Woo hoo!
The ATV and SxS courses were similar and each consisted of 3.6 miles of twisty wooded trails, zig-zag runs between tall trees in the open areas, and a handful of creek crossings. The track layout flowed well, and the tight woods, low-hanging branches, and other natural obstacles kept racers on their toes.
On Saturday morning, ATV racers met up with Zach R. (a fellow racer) for a quick tech inspection and then headed to the starting line for practice at 10:15 a.m.
As I slowly zig-zagged my way around the ATV track for the first time, one thing that struck me was the huge variety of machines on the course. Some rode modern machines with extras such as power steering, drive-by-wire technology, water-cooled twin cylinders, EFI, etc. Others piloted vintage quads from the 1980s with old school technology – think air-cooled, single-cylinder engines with a carb and kick-starter. Most rode quads, but other brave souls maneuvered the course on just three wheels. Some machines were powered by 4-stroke engines, while others had 2-stroke engines that sounded like angry chainsaws. The smell of race gas filled the air and both competitors and spectators alike could feel the excitement!
Another thing I noticed during the practice lap was how much fun it was to navigate my quad through the tight woods and open fields and climb in and out of multiple creek-crossings. In addition, the course had plenty of obstacles including cactus, low-hanging tree limbs, stumps, holes, barb’d wire fences, and other hazards. This track was not scary or super technical, but it definitely required racers’ full attention at all times.
Joining me in the Utility Amateur class were 2 racers sharing the same first name. Sean C.’s rode a Can-am Outlander 1000r, which is similar to my quad. On the other hand, Sean B. showed up with an old school utility quad – the small, but mighty Honda Rancher 350. Needless to say, it takes GUTS to ride this mini-tank in a XC race.
As I recall, our class lined up on the 4th row behind the Open C, Vintage, and 40+ Amateur classes. Behind us were the Blasters, Trikes, and the Women class. When it came time for the Utility class start, Sean B. was lined up on the far left, Sean C. took the middle spot, and I grabbed the far right position. The first right-hand turn was approximately 60 feet ahead of us.
Once the green flag came up, Sean B. immediately shot off the line. I jumped out a half-second later and quickly passed him. I took the holeshot, and then Sean B. and Sean C. followed me around turn one.
ATV LAPS 1-6:
After turn one, the track wound back and forth through a bumpy field lined with tall grass and patches of thick underbrush on both sides. Soon, the course took racers into the woods where it immediately dropped down into “Cory’s Gulch” - a short drop off on one side and then a fairly steep hill climb up the other side. The tricky part was squeezing between a few trees on the way up and immediately making a hard right around a tree at the very top.
Next, racers were treated to more twisty trails through the tight woods and bumpy fields. About half-way through the course, the track pops into a field with large trees scattered here and there. Racers zig-zagged between these trees while dodging low-hanging limbs. On the 2nd lap, I didn’t notice one of these limbs (which resembled a fork with broken tines) until the last second. I tried to duck, but got slapped on the side of my helmet. I was uninjured, but it woke me up and then I started paying more attention to the trees.
Because I held the lead position, I enjoyed clean air for most of my race except for times when I caught up to a lapper. Eventually, I ran across a young lady sitting on a blue Raptor 90 near the the bottom of a dry creek crossing. I wasn’t sure if she needed help, so I pulled over to ask if she was okay. She shook her head “no.” Then I asked if she needed a medic and she shook her head “yes.” So I told her I’d get help for her soon and took off. When I got the scoring schute about a half-mile up the trail, I relayed the info to the track officials and then proceeded with my race. I later heard that someone else found her and helped get her quad back on the track so she could proceed with her race.
On my 5th lap, I started feeling ridiculously hot. To beat the heat, I planned to sip water from my camelback at least once every lap whether I was thirsty or not. Then I realized that I forgot to drink during the last few laps and the intense heat was getting to me. I immediately consumed water and removed my googles to get more airflow into my helmet. Not feeling 100%, I also decided to slow my pace a bit. A half-lap later, I started feeling normal again and picked up the pace.
On the 6th and final lap, my old bones were feeling dog tired. I found myself making slight mistakes and getting sloppy around turns. I nearly tagged a tree or two and realized I needed to refocus til the end of the race. I was so relieved to see the checkered flag at the end of that lap.
Around 6 pm, Terry (the TX4 Promoter and fellow racer) slowly led a dozen side-by-sides around the UTV track for a poker run. My son (Cash) drove our Polaris RZR Turbo (“Big Blue”) while I sipped on a cold adult beverage from the co-pilot’s seat. We ended up with two losing poker hands, but had lots of laughs along the way. Cash was caught off guard by one of the dry creek crossings on the track, but he handled it smoothly. As we slowly climbed through another creek crossing, we suddenly saw a stray cow hanging out by a small pool of water next to the dry creek. Luckily, Mr. Cow was not around come race time the next day, or else we might have had hamburgers for dinner.
Primitive camping was a bit challenging on Saturday night as we tried to get comfortable sleeping in 80+ degree temps. Luckily, a sudden rainstorm hit around 11:30 pm and the intense wind and rain cooled things off quickly. Around 8 am, Cash and I woke to the gentle sounds of mini-UTVs firing up nearby in preparation for their morning race. Woo hoo! We survived the night.
On Sunday at 11 am, the UTVs had a parade lap plus one (optional) hot lap. There were a few tight spots (like Cory’s Gulch) that was cut out, but otherwise the SxS track looked nearly identical to the ATV course. In the middle of the parade lap, Cash and I followed the line of cars through an open gate and then zig-zagged through a rectangular field.
After completing the parade and hot lap, we went back to the truck and topped off the fuel, cleaned the air filter, and checked the tire pressures. After killing a little time, we suited up and headed to the starting line. Yee haw!
When 12:30 p.m. rolled around, Cory (a TX4 official and fellow racer) turned on the microphone and gathered the UTV racers for a short rider’s meeting near the starting line. While listening to Cory, two more competitors joined us on the Turbo SxS line. That made a total of five racers in our class. Yee haw! That’s an improvement over the last race, which only had 3 racers in our class.
Then Cory lined up four Pro SxS competitors on the front row, five Turbo SxS racers on the second row, and separated the 12 racers in the naturally aspirated class into three separate rows.
Like last time, the Pro SxS class elected to have a live engine start and Bubba B. took the holeshot and the early lead. The rest of the SxS classes started with a dead engine.
After the Pros took off, Cash and I pulled Big Blue (#77) to the starting line. We were in the middle of the line and angled a bit to the right. Unfortunately, there was not enough room between the cars on my left and right to back up and square up on the line. So I stayed put and hoped for the best.
To my immediate left were Lane M. (#33) and to his left was Phil W. (#922), both of whom competed in Round 1. To my immediate right were a few newbies, David H. (#58) and Chris D. (#10). Cash and I said a quick prayer for the safety of all racers and finished with our lucky fist bump. Now it’s GO TIME, baby!
The flag went up and off we went. David’s Can-am X3 (on my right) quickly pulled off the line before I could get Big Blue going. As I recall, David grabbed the holeshot and was followed closely by Lane. As I approached turn number one, I recall seeing Phil coming up fast on my left. I had the inside line, so I held it and made it around the first turn in 3rd position. Phil was immediately behind me and Chris took the last position.
SXS LAP 1:
For the first mile or so, our class hung together in a tight pack. With everyone clinging to the bumper of the next guy, it made passing nearly impossible.
In the middle of Lap 1, racers go into the tight woods and make a sharp left-turn between 2 small trees. On the backside of this turn was a medium-sized stump sticking up about 6” that was easy to hit if you weren’t careful. After that turn, the course went straight for 25 yards and made another 90-degree left turn. To get around this one without backing up, you had to swing wide to the right and then duck between the 2 trees on the left as you exited the turn.
Immediately past this turn, the trail widens and runs straight over some whoops for 20 yards and narrows to only 1 car width. Just before Cash and I reached the end of that section, Phil suddenly passed on my right and ducked his RZR Turbo immediately in front of Big Blue. I never saw him coming and he timed the pass perfectly! However, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting his left rear tire. Luckily, we didn’t collide. That meant Cash and I were now in 4th position. Yikes!
Our class continued to run bumper-to-bumper for the next mile. At this point, Phil appeared anxious to pass and grab 2nd position from Lane. But there was not much room to do so in the woods. Finally, the trail ducked out of the trees and made a hard right turn into an open grassy section. Phil took that opportunity to pass Lane on the right side.
Immediately after Phil’s pass, David held the lead, followed closely by Phil, Lane, me, and finally Chris. Soon thereafter, our class started to spread out a bit as Phil put some distance on Lane and me.
SXS LAPS 2-7:
Cash and I continued to follow Lane and kept him within eye-sight for a few laps. I felt confident that I could probably catch and pass Lane when it was safe to do so. However, the longer the race continued, the more my suspension started to fade. Then I started to lose confidence and backed off the pace a bit. The last thing I wanted to do was push the car too hard and wreck it.
In the middle of lap 3 or 4, Cash and I entered the rectangular field in the middle of the lap. At that point, we were following closely behind a young driver (Riley C.) in the naturally-aspirated class who had just passed us. Riley’s Polaris RS1 went too wide around a sandy turn and fish-tailed a bit over the sandy berm. Just as he did, a huge cloud of fine sand erupted into the air and enveloped his RS1. He literally disappeared from view for a half-second like some kind of David Copperfield magic trick. It was surreal!
BIG THX TO TX4:
I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to Terry, Cory, and the entire TX4 staff for hosting another FUN-tastic event! My son and I had a blast racing together and made several memories that will last years to come. We are looking forward to Round 3 scheduled for September 24th and 25th. In the meantime, TX4 is planning a fun event (Track Demo) in mid-July. More details to be posted later. This event should be a great opportunity for newbies to try out a XC track and for veteran racers to get some seat time during the long summer break. Hope to see you there!