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August 24, 2016

Corry Weller has been killing it in short course racing this season, but what about the desert? “Despite our crazy busy schedule with short-course racing, we really wanted to get out to some desert races this year, because we know what a great machine the YXZ is for this type of racing!” Nothing like an impossible time frame, and a stock vehicle for a real trial by fire by tackling the longest desert race in the U.S. – Best In The Desert's Vegas To Reno!


“We wanted a light and simple race car for our first outing, so we went with factory suspension and only added the basic Best In The Desert safety requirements. We also added some heavy duty skids from Factory UTV to protect the undercarriage from high speed rock contact and a nifty 17% gear reduction kit from Tubeworks to help in the silt beds.” 


Speaking of silt, the Raceline Mamba beadlock wheels combined with 30” Maxxis Liberty tires (which crew chief/husband Jason Weller competed with at King Of the Hammers and says is an amazing tire!) were the hot ticket for surviving 650 miles of the nastiest desert terrain Nevada can dish up. The only other additions were light bars from Lazer Star Lights, SPARCO race seats, DragonFire accessories (including our number plates, harnesses, DoorBags, etc.),  Weller Racing HD tie rods, exhaust and flash…. basically the YXZ was bone stock.


The Weller Racing team also opted for the minimalist support plan. “We were chasing this entire race with one truck, which meant the chase truck would be racing us to every pit along the way. We could not have done this without the help of some of our crew, friends and family. My co-driver Kyle Anderson, was also Jason’s co-driver at KOH earlier this year, and one of our best employees at Weller Racing. I would also be driving the entire race, to eliminate any time lost to driver changes… and because I don’t like to give up the wheel – ever!”



Due to a military helicopter crash (no fatalities) on the course, the racers would be racing from the start to Pit 1, then putting all of the race cars and trucks on trailers and hauled down the highway to Pit 2. “Since we had zero time on the YXZ, we used the first 50 miles as a sort of  'shakedown' run so we could evaluate the suspension settings and see if we need to make any changes. Fortunately, Jason has his suspension tuning pretty dialed, so the only unknown was how heavy we actually were with the fuel cell, spare tire, etc.”


Corry started in 27th position in class, out of about 33 entries, and after all of the Production Turbo UTVs.  “We also started after most of the rest of the field, including bikes, quads, trophy trucks and other fast truck and buggy classes. This meant a very torn up course for us and very deep truck ruts… but that was to be expected.” Nothing like eating the dust of 300+ entries!


“As soon as we headed out, I knew something was wrong with my power steering… As in I had none This was not a failure, but an oversight on our part involving the speed sensor when prepping the car. While it would give my forearms a real workout, it was not devastating and I would work with it the whole first day of racing.”


The goal was to drive smart and make it to the Day 1 finish in Tonopah. “My strategy was to race harder on Day 2, after the field had thinned itself out by attrition throughout the first 300 miles. Everything was going great, and I was getting used to the heavier feel of the desert setup when we were hit Race Mile 6 and all Hell broke loose!"


Race Mile 6 was the start of a very deep silt bed. “When we hit it, we were in a complete white-out. While you can’t just stop in the silt, it’s extremely dangerous to just plow through at full speed, so I did my best to maintain a decent speed, but not go so fast that I couldn’t make a sudden stop if I needed to.”


“That is when we started to see the ghost images of upside down trophy trucks, just the rear wheels sticking out of the ground, and outlines of drivers and co-drivers waving frantically at us to avoid the carnage all around. One of the shadowy figures waved us to a space just big enough for us to squeeze through without stopping. We managed to make it through that mess without stuffing our own YXZ into a ravine or hit anything… somehow.”


Corry continued to plow through the deep, blinding silt, all the while dodging anything that popped up suddenly through the haze, including power poles, large rocks and other stuck vehicles. “We finally made it out the other side, only to find a new challenge!”


Attempting to negotiate the three-foot deep ruts in the many washes caused by the trophy trucks proved to be interesting… definitely not the sort of thing you encounter on a freshly groomed short course. “Without long-travel, we weren’t as wide as the 3 foot deep ruts, which meant I had to straddle and balance above them, without dropping one side or the other into the deep cutouts.” Remember she is having to handle this balancing act in poor visibility and without power steering!


“This was fine on the straight portions, but in the tight turns of the washes, it was a real challenge. Doing this at speed was even trickier… but after 650 miles of this, I got pretty good at knowing when we could drop in, when we could cross over, and how to use the berms to our advantage, without slowing down.” 


“After 50 miles, we made it to Pit 1, where everyone was frantically trying to find their pit crews and trailers, and load up for the transfer to Pit 2. This whole transfer was not planned, so while our time stopped when we entered Pit 1, it was first come first serve for the restart at Pit 2. This translated to track position, which meant clean air for some. Clean air is everything in a silty race like this.”


“Despite suffering some cosmetic damage to the chase truck getting in and out of the chaos that was Pit 1, we made it to Pit 2. We unloaded, strapped back in and headed out onto the course once again. The race went great for us from there, and it seemed that every mile or so, we would see another truck, buggy or UTV off to the side, changing a tire or a belt, or driver just standing there with hands on hips, looking dejected.”


“We didn’t have to pit except for fuel as the race went on. Many times we just waved to our pit crew as we went by. We were not doing any driver changes, and we had both done a good job of hydration management, so there would be no potty breaks either.” No breaks didn't mean it was all smooth sailing, though. 


“There were many times where we would come up on a slower vehicle, but there was so much dust and no wind that we had to wait miles and miles before we could risk driving through their dust to make the pass safely. Being patient is very hard in those situations, but my goal of getting to Tonopah was first and foremost… so we were patient.” Patience paid off as the Yamaha worked its way up through the ranks.


“As the miles flew by, it was fun to see what new terrain we would be driving through. Deep sand, rutted washes, high-walled canyons, fast flat roads, super rocky and twisty sections.  Then we hit another 20 miles of silt beds… and the fun stopped!”  


The trucks that had broken down or needed to change a tire used the long, flat silt beds to make up time and that they did! “A truck coming up behind you can be unnerving enough, but when they pass you in the silt going 100 mph, you are suddenly enveloped in a thick blanket that totally blocks out the sun… you can’t even see your hand in front of your face! If you know they are coming, you can try to memorize the terrain in front of you before the white-out — but if you get caught by surprise you just have to try to maintain enough speed to not get stuck, yet not hit anything in the full minute that you can’t see a thing.” 


“Even though I drove as fast as I dared through the deep powder, that 20 miles seemed like forever. Every once in a while, we would hit a particularly thick section of stilt, and the rear end would step out and I would find myself completely sideways, which can easily result in a flipped vehicle if you react too suddenly in any way. We finally came out the other side of that endless silt bed happy to be moving and alive.”


After the silt beds, Corry kept the hammer down for the remaining 50 miles to complete Day 1. “Tonopah was a welcome sight, and we were stoked to have made it without having any issues other than a severe case of arm-pump for me by the end of the day.”



Patience paid off as the Weller teamed moved up to 12 place in the UTV class on Day 1. “Our goal on Day 2 was to push harder, yet still keep the YXZ alive and make it to the finish. We put on a new set of fresh Maxxis Liberties, hooked up the power steering, cleaned all the dust off of our YXZ so you could see what color it was again, and headed out for the longer of the two days of racing."


“Having power steering back was wonderful! Pair that with the fact that I was now very used to how the YXZ handled with a desert setup, and we were off at a great pace.”


The bad news? BITD started Day 2’s race order based on how ALL classes finished Day 1.  “We finished 90th overall, which meant we started ahead of a LOT of trucks and fast buggies that had broken the day before. Having smaller, slower UTVs starting in front of large, fast vehicles makes for some really sketchy situations — I was glad we had made a sturdy rear bumper on our YXZ!”


The first 5 miles or so, the course wound through a deep, very tight wash, which meant straddling the massively deep truck ruts once again. “We were overtaken by a truck who was racing to make up time, and he immediately plowed into us to let us know that he was in a hurry. Tapping a bumper in desert racing is par for the course, but the UTVs and smaller vehicles are equipped with a blue strobe so that the larger vehicles know not to touch us. I think they all ignore that rule, and my neck is still feeling it…


“Having nowhere to go, we got hit a few times by this truck, until I finally could find a space to squeeze over and let him by. We got back going again once we could see through the dust enough to pull back onto the track, then another fast truck was on our bumper. We took a number of really hard hits from trucks and a Class 1 car until we got clipped so hard by a truck on my side, that I thought he had ripped the back end off the YXZ!


“We got going again, all the while feeling out the YXZ and trying to figure out the extent of the damage. I thought for sure we had at least a flat tire, broken shock or ripped out A-arm. The car felt okay, but I couldn’t see back there and I didn’t want to stop until we reached the next pit.


“I radioed ahead to the crew to be ready to fix some rear end damage, so they were ready with spare parts if we needed them. After a quick check, it was determined we had suffered a small dent in the left rear A-arm and a small dent in the rear bumper… that's it! Everything else was great… Have I mentioned how tough the YXZ is??


“After that, the rest of Day 2 was a lot of fun… we dealt with dust when making passes as first… but as the race wore on, we were seeing fewer and fewer racers on the course. Eventually it was just us out there in clean air, and we were able to really let it fly!


“Again we were exposed to all different types of terrain and situations, and the YXZ handled it all with ease. About 20 miles from the finish, we came into a section that was SO rocky that we caught up to a couple more vehicles, including a RZR and a truck. We made quick work of passing the RZR and were able to go so fast through the rocks that we caught up to the bumper of the truck that had breezed past us miles ago. I contemplated tapping them since our siren had stopped working at some point in the silt but thought better of it. As soon as he saw us on his bumper, he hit the throttle and started bouncing as fast as he could through the rocks.   


“I already knew what the Liberties could handle, so rocky sections were our forte. Even so, I still worked hard to make sure I didn’t overwork the sidewalls, and took the worst of the rocks right on the lugs or where we had the highest clearance under the chassis. Having those Factory UTV skids gave us a lot of confidence, and in the few instances that we misjudged the height of a jutting rock or boulder, the skids did a great job of protecting our underbelly.


We flew through the rock section and onto the last portion of the course, which was a very twisty, tight road on the side of a steep cliff. Then, we wound down into a deep crevice and back up the other side, and saw the finish line ahead! We had made it! 


“I had no doubt that the YXZ could handle this course, none at all. I just needed to be sure I didn’t do anything stupid as the driver. I had a great co-driver in Kyle, and a fantastic pit crew who was SO quick with the fuel and made it to every pit in case we needed them. I also had a great crew at the shop who did such a good job of getting our YXZ ready for a race of this magnitude, and the best products out there from all of the companies who support us! 


We showed 6th overall in our class as we crossed the finish line, but there was one UTV that had a tracker that wasn’t working, so we actually finished 7th overall on corrected time. We started in the back of a large and ultra-competitive field, with a YXZ that had a bone stock motor, suspension and chassis, with zero time on it, in a class full of UTVs that were rebuilt from the ground up. Just to finish this race is a huge achievement, but to finish where we did is awesome! When the silt settled, we finished 7th out of 34 in the
Pro Production class UTVs; 12th overall
out of 70 total UTVs and 65th overall out
of all the truck/car/UTV class entries!


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