Race Recap of TX4 Round 1
@ Diamond Willow
Written by Mike Kowis
It’s no secret that Texas has suffered a long drought of ATV cross-country racing. And recently, SxS cross-country racing was chopped from a local series leaving many racers with no place to compete in the Lone Star State. Luckily, Terry Deck and Cory Williams answered the call by organizing a new XC series to fill the offroad racing void in Texas. Terry created TX4 Cross-Country Series to host thrilling ATV and UTV races in central Texas starting with the Spider Williams Memorial Race (Round 1 of the 2022 TX4 Series) held at Diamond Willow in Bastrop, Texas. The turnout for this inaugural race was awesome with approximately 55 ATV competitors and 25 UTV racers (including minis). Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this new XC series since they announced it just a few months ago. Below is a RACE RECAP of this exciting event.
Bastrop, TX… it’s a small town about 30 miles SE of Austin. This picturesque property has a mixture of woods and rolling, green pastures with an occasional dry creek crossing here and there.
Over the past few years, Diamond Willow was used for SxS races by a local XC series. During this time, racers usually endured one extreme (dry & dusty) or another (wet & muddy). This year, Mother Nature gave racers a bone dry track with tons of blinding dust. That typically means less than ideal viewing opportunities for spectators and dangerous conditions for competitors. But it wasn’t all bad as a constant breeze helped lift the dust away in the open pasture areas. So the biggest challenge for racers this weekend was dodging trees in the woods with limited visibility.
Terry and Cory laid out a fun ATV track that was 5.7 miles long and included plenty of tight, twisty trails through the woods, several sweeping turns through open, bumpy pastures, plus a half dozen or more dry creek crossings. It was specifically designed for racers of all levels of experience and skill. Their SxS course was laid out along most of the ATV track (minus a few sections of tight woods) for a total of 5.1 miles in length. Both tracks were tons of fun and not too technical for newbie racers.
TX4 offers an ATV class for everyone including kids, seniors, pros, women, utility quads, vintage quads, and 3-wheelers. That’s right! TX4 offers a place for trikes! How long has it been since you saw 3-wheelers racing in Texas?
In addition, this series also offers a variety of SxS classes too, including mini UTVs for the little ones, seniors, women, beginners, 800cc, non-aspirated SxS, turbo SxS, and a pro class.
Of course, all of these classes are subject to change depending on turnout. If racers want all of these classes, they need to show up on race day and do their part to spread the word about this awesome new series in Texas!
SATURDAY MORNING ATV PRACTICE:
I arrived at the property around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. At that time, TX4 held a mini ATV race for the young kiddos. I saw them buzzing around the kid-friendly track for their 30-minute race, I’m pretty sure they were grinning ear-to-ear! The parents were watching nearby and enjoying every minute of it.
While the minis raced, full-size ATVs went through a brief tech inspection. At 10 a.m., they held ATV practice starting with a parade lap. During practice, you could feel the excitement in the air as dozens of ATVs and 3-wheelers (also known as all-terrain cycles or ATCs back in the day) revved their 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines and zig-zagged their way around the track. For old geezers like myself who grew up on ATCs, seeing these trikes bounce along the Diamond Willow course brought back wonderful memories of my youth. Fun times!
For me, I haven’t raced quads in 8 years. So I’m a bit rusty. A half-mile into the ATV parade lap, I got a “friendly” reminder that I was racing ATVs again when a low hanging branch tagged the top of my helmet. It definitely got my attention, and I instantly laughed out loud as I realized that I forgot to duck. This was the first of many times that I laughed or smiled during this fun weekend.
After the parage lap, racers were free to do hot laps til time expired. So I jumped back on the track for one more lap. I wanted to make sure I was familiar with the track layout and felt comfortable on my quad, which I have only owned a few months. A half-mile into the hot lap, I came around a bumpy corner and my ATV jostled me around like a rag doll in a pit bull’s mouth. I somehow managed to hang on and bring it back down on all 4 wheels, but not before Terry D. (who was resetting track markers nearby) saw me and started laughing. I pulled over, and he jokingly reminded me that I don’t have a roll-cage on my ATV.
My son (Cash) and I watched the start of the 11:30 a.m. ATV race for Trikes, Vintage quads, Blasters, Open C, Utility Amateurs, 40+ Amateurs, and Women. This race lasted 60 minutes. Cash was shocked to see a few racers get off their vintage quad or 3-wheeler and push them backwards if they pulled forward a bit too far on the starting line. I explained to him that most older quads or 3-wheelers didn’t have a reverse gear. Or as Terry D. later said, “Yeah, we were men… we pushed everything!” hehe
When the 1 p.m. ATV race started, they lined up the Pro ATVs on the front row followed by Open B, 40+ Expert, and finally the Utility Expert class in the back row. The Pros raced for 90 minutes and the other classes raced for 70 minutes. At this point, my heart was pumping from all of the excitement of finally racing a quad again. Yee haw!
I’ll try to summarize the 5.7 mile ATV course as follows:
The starting line was located in a small, grassy field near the scoring schute. From the starting line, racers went straight about 100’ before making a hard right turn around a tall tree and then zig-zagged around a few more trees before making a sweeping left-hand turn and then ducking into the first woods section.
Soon afterwards, the track pops back into an open field for another short zig-zag around tall trees and then back into the tight, twisty woods again. After dodging lots of trees, racers pop out into a short section of open field before racers slammed on their brakes, drop into a dry ditch about 2’ deep, roll up the opposite side and immediately turn left into the woods. About 10 yards up the trail, it makes a 90-degree right turn down into a 10’ deep dry ditch crossing and up the other side.
Not long after that, racers enter a large grassy field where they zig-zagged between a few mature trees here and there. Eventually, the track ducks back into another section of tight woods and pops out near a small pond on the far side of the same large, grassy field. From there, the track zig-zags through the bumpy field towards the front of the property, runs in and out of woods adjacent to the parking lot area, and ends up at the scoring schute.
SATURDAY NIGHT EVENTS:
After the last ATV race of the day, Cory jumped on the microphone and presented plagues (and swag bags compliments of Titos) to the top 3 racers from each class. This was a great opportunity to get to know the racers a little as Cory interviewed each person on the podium and allowed friends and family to take a few pics.
Afterwards, racers and spectators alike got a special treat when a local band called Bigfoot and the Gregs played live music. It was all original tunes from a mix of genres. Good stuff!
Around 7pm-ish, TX4 led a dozen or so side-by-sides plus a few dirtbikes around part of the track for a poker run. This leisurely event was a great way to unwind after an intense day of ATV racing. I ended up with a losing poker hand, but enjoyed the slow trail ride with occasional stops to pick up playing cards and joke around with fellow participants. I’d definitely do this again if they host another poker run!
Because I raced both days and gas prices are ridiculous right now, I decided to camp overnight at the track. Some folks bring fancy RVs with much-desired luxuries, such as electric generators and air conditioning. For me, I chose primitive camping, and was definitely feeling anxious about my lack of camping experience. While my camping experience didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted, I had fun and will do it again at the next race. But next time, I’ll bring an air mattress that doesn’t leak! 😊
SUNDAY MORNING SXS PRACTICE:
At 9 a.m., they held a mini UTV race for the little kids. I drove up to the scoring schute and watched them buzz around the kid-friendly track for their 30-minute race. It looked like a ton of fun for the kids and parents alike, and I could only wish they had events that this when I was a kid!
Around 10 a.m., the UTVs had a single parade lap. Just like Saturday’s ATV practice, you could feel the energy from all of the excited racers. It felt great to be back on a UTV course with many of my former racing buddies that I haven’t seen in about 6 months when we last raced together with the old series.
The UTV course looked nearly identical to the ATV track except for being a little shorter and re-routing some of the track that previously ran along the edge of the parking lot. There were no hot laps afterwards, so I immediately went back to my truck so I could top off the fuel, clean the air filter, check tire pressure, and wait for Cash to show up. He’s my lucky co-pilot and always love racing with him.
At 10:30 a.m., they held the first SxS race for seniors, 800cc, sportsman beginners, and women. This was a 60-minute race.
When 12:30 p.m. rolled around, Cory turned on the microphone and gathered the UTV racers for a short rider’s meeting on the starting line. After explaining the general rules and reminding everyone to turn on their chase lights for safety purposes, he gave a final piece of advice that stuck with me for the next 70 minutes. His words went something like, “If you finish the race, you’ll probably make it on the podium.” That was my single goal right there… don’t do anything stupid, avoid the trees, and finish the dang race! Because there were only 3 in my Turbo SxS class, it meant we would all end up on the podium *IF* we avoided a DNF. That “if” was the important part.
Then Cory lined up four Pro SxS competitors on the front row, three Turbo SxS racers on the second row, and separated the 11 racers in the naturally aspirated class into three separate rows.
For whatever reason, the Pro SxS class did a live engine start. The rest of the SxS classes started with a dead engine, like real men do! 😊
After the Pros took off, Cash and I pulled Big Blue (#77) to the right side of the starting line. To my immediate left was Lane M. (#33) and to his left was Phil W. (#922). Cash and I said a quick prayer for the safety of all racers and finished with our lucky fist bump. Now we were ready to rock!
The flag went up and off we went. My 2018 Polaris RZR Turbo started slow like usual, but somehow we got off the line first, which almost NEVER happens. Woo hoo! Cash and I were both excited to win the holeshot and enjoy some clean air around the first right-hand turn. A few turns later and we entered the first section of woods with 2 hungry Turbo SxSs snapping at our rear bumper. I knew there was no room to pass anyone in these woods, so I decided to keep a steady pace and buy my time til I could get to the open sections and try to put some distance on Lane and Phil.
SXS LAPS 1 & 2:
About a mile or so into Lap 1, the trail pops out of the woods and makes short jog through an open section before making a hard left turn through a dry ditch. On the other side of the ditch, the trail makes a hard right into a small section of woods and then goes through another dry ditch before entering an open field. As we ran through that wooded section and approached ditch #2, I suddenly heard a loud CRUNCH near the rear of my vehicle. I asked Cash what that was and he didn’t seem to know. So I kept going and hoped for the best. I was afraid I might have clipped a tree or broke something, but my RZR felt normal.
On lap 2, I discovered that sound must’ve came from Lane getting a little too friendly with a tree and ended his race early with a DNF. In fact, his car was still stuck on the trail right between 2 small trees. Luckily, there was a way around to the left side of his car and we were able to proceed. I was reminded of Cory’s great advice… finish the race and you’ll probably get on the podium.
SXS LAPS 3-6:
As Cash and I approached the scoring schute at the end of Lap 2, Cory yelled that the car immediately behind us was in a different class. So I immediately pulled into the pits section to let the naturally-aspirated (NA) class racer pass. Then I jumped behind him and started Lap 3 at my regular pace. I would have gladly pulled over sooner, but couldn’t tell what class he was in due to the heavy dust.
A minute later, I noticed another car approaching in my rearview mirror and thought it was another NA car. So I went wide around the next turn to let him pass. As soon as I did, I realized my mistake… I just handed the lead to our remaining competitor, Phil. Doh!
I felt like an idiot. But 30 seconds later, Phil checked out and was gone! At that point, I thought this turn of events was probably for the best b/c Phil was clearly pushing harder through the trees than I was comfortable going. In any case, my goal had not changed. Stay the course and finish the dang race… just like Master Cory said!
On lap 4, I passed the same tree where were I accidentally let Phil take the lead and soon afterwards I noticed a car parked near the edge of the woods. As we got closer, I saw that it was Phil’s car. Oh. My. Goodness! After we passed him, Cash and I fist bumped to celebrate the fact that we just re-took the lead. Not knowing what kind of damage Phil had, I was concerned he would get his car repaired quickly and try to catch up. One lap later, we noticed Phil’s car was still there. Barring something unusual, that meant we had already won the race. Yee haw! Sometimes its better to be lucky than good. 😊
BIG THX TO TX4:
I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to Terry, Cory, and the entire TX4 staff for hosting a fantastic inaugural event! My son and I had a blast and made more fun memories together. I think everyone at this event had a great time… in fact, I saw more smiles this weekend than a family vacation at Disney World. I can’t wait for Round 2, scheduled for May 21st & 22nd at Powell Ranch in Cedar Creek, TX. See you there!