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By: Robert Janis

The Need for Speed

Doug Eichner
Doug Eichner

Is the need for speed in the DNA? Maybe the racing career of Doug Eichner can provide some insight. Eichner is a professional ATV racer who has successfully participated in events throughout the United States, France, and New Zealand. Having been recently signed by Polaris Industries to race their Outlaw 525 ATV in the World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS) through 2008, Eichner continues his life-long passion of ATV racing.

Eichner grew up in a rural area of Washington State with a family of horse enthusiasts. Eichner learned at a very early age that his true interest was not in horses at all. "I wasn't interested in horses. I was interested in horsepower," he quipped.

Barely after he started talking, he pestered his dad to buy him a motorcycle. "I kept nagging him. Buy me a motorcycle, buy me a motorcycle, buy me a motorcycle," Eichner laughed. "Finally, he broke down and said that once I was big enough and strong enough to start a motorcycle, he would buy me one.

"So whenever we went into town. I made my dad take me to the local Honda dealership," continued Eichner. "I would climb on top of a Honda motorcycle and try to start it. Finally, one day I was big enough and strong enough to start a Honda ZA50; and, as promised, my dad bought it." Eichner was seven years old.

He had plenty of open space at home to ride his new Honda, and soon he all but forgot about the horses. In fact, to him, they didn't exist. He had his Honda ZA50 to drive around all day, and the rest is history as they say.

Through the years Eichner competed in the 125 and 250 pro motorcycle races, but then developed an interest in ATVs. He started riding and racing ATVs in 1986 when he was 20 years old. The first ATV he raced was a 1986 Honda 250R 4-wheeler. He customized it with only a silencer and put a set of holeslot tires in the rear.

His first race was at Washougal in Washington State. He refers to the place as his "hometown" track. He registered as a pro in his first race because he wanted the opportunity of winning his entrance fee back. "At the time it was so new. There were only three of us who raced in the pro class. So I figured that I had a chance to get my money back," said Eichner.

One of the other two racers approached him before the start of the event and began to brag. "I won't do motor work 'til somebody beats me," the guy boasted. Eichner beat him. "The next race the guy had motor work done--a pipe and a silencer. I beat him again. He was really p*****," laughed Eichner. "Those were some fun times."

The first events Eichner raced in were AMA-sanctioned races. He started getting sponsors after he won that first event. "Arlen Lehman from LRD called and wanted me to race using one of his pipes. So I added the pipe, and it worked pretty well. It gave the bike more top end. Through Lehman I got involved with Bart from Oregon Motorsports, and I started picking up sponsors through them." It wasn't long before he had such sponsors as Answer Racing and Trick Racing Fuel. "It kept escalating. I am a welder so I took a job with J.P. Racing," he added.

There finally came a time when there was more racing opportunities in California and J.P. Racing, his employer, began having business difficulties. So Eichner moved to San Diego where he secured a full-time job and sponsorship through Laegars’ Fabrication. Through his affiliation with Laegars, Eichner met the folks at Duncan Racing International. "I began racing under the sponsorship of Duncan Racing, and they assisted with broadening my sponsorship base,” he said.

The events that he raced in and his wins soon began to pile up. He participated in and won the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Championship Series in 1993. "That's my most memorable win," he said. He was soon participating in events promoted by other major racing associations including Best in the Desert, WPSA, GNCC, GNC, WORCS, and SCORE. He even went overseas to race.

He was invited over to New Zealand by some ATV clubs where he raced and put on an ATV school. He participated in the 12-hour Ponte De Vaux in France and won it seven times on a Banshee. As a result of this he has been compared to Lance Armstrong who was winning seven Tours de France during the same period of time. He also has raced and won the Baja 1000 and secured championships in the GNC, WORCS and SCORE series multiple times.

He noted that the Ponte De Vaux races were kind of "hairy." "I was out there with 119 other racers. That means including me there were 120 quads on the track. I was always passing someone. A lot of guys were just out there to finish. So I'm going 90 to 100 miles per hour and those guys were doing 45 or 50. So it got a little hairy. However, it was a lot of fun."

Doug Eichner aboard is Duncan Racing ATV.
Doug Eichner aboard is Duncan Racing ATV.

He said that when he raced overseas, he saw a lot of "oddball stuff." "They'd take a KX500 and make it into a quad and race it," he said. In the Ponte de Vaux, some would show up with a big bike like the GFXR 1100 made into a quad and race it. They really came up with some wild looking bikes." He noted that there are not a lot of ATV manufacturers in Europe and especially New Zealand so racers would buy American or Japanese bikes and convert them.

Duncan Racing in the United States and Phillip Charles coordinated his overseas trips. Charles would build the bikes for him for the overseas races.

Today the 42-year-old Eichner lives on a 3-acre property about 45 minutes from downtown San Diego. He works for FOX SHOX where he helps to produce the company's Big Body Shock for desert cars and trucks. His wife, Joan, serves as his biggest fan and assists Doug's team with sponsorship and the business side of the equation. She also owns and rides a Kawasaki 700 and enjoys the desert. Interestingly, just like Doug's dad and mom, Joan has a passion for horses and owns, trains, and exhibits Morgan horses at the regional and national level competition where she has garnered such titles as Regional and World Champion. The relationship has proven to be an effective one, as Doug and Joan will soon celebrate 14 years of marriage.

The couple have a 3-year-old son named Devin who is already an ATV fan. "He loves going to the races," said Eichner. He already rides a Razor metric bike. "He rides it like a champion," quipped Eichner. "He stands up on it when he goes over bumps and does donuts without ever being instructed." Eichner runs a practice track near his home that includes a kiddie track that little Devin rides. "He follows it perfectly. Does all the jumps without a care in the world," said the proud father. He assumes that his son will probably get into racing. However, he and mom are both concerned that the boy could get hurt and has been trying to interest him in golf or baseball. "But he will probably want to race sooner or later,” said Doug. "So, I guess we'll have to get him a bigger bike." The family often goes out riding their ATVs together on the dunes in the California desert making sure to create a balance between work and play.

Eichner's present looks bright. As mentioned, he has been signed to race for Polaris in WORCS events through 2008. He will be racing the Polaris Outlaw 525. In preparation for his first race aboard the new Outlaw, he has made a few customizations. "I want it wider for motocross so I've put A-Arms on it; off-set wheels on the back to make the rear a little bit wider; Fox Evil shocks all around; nerf bars, footwalls, foot pegs, a steering shaft from Roll Design; ITP tires, a bigger tank from IMS; DWT wheels, and a GPR steering stabilizer. Duncan Racing International will serve as a primary sponsor of the team and will provide motor work and a Duncan Racing pipe."

The best part of racing, said Eichner, is winning and having the opportunity to go to so many different places. He also enjoys meeting people who are sincerely happy to meet him.

The worst part of racing, continued Eichner, is crashing, getting muddy, and the politics. He knows how it is to crash and get hurt. He has broken his collarbone and his femur. As a result of breaking his femur, he was in traction and a cast for six months. "They tried to put a metal rod inside my leg; but when that failed, I had to be in a cast for six months," he said.

He is currently sponsored by: Polaris Industries Inc., Duncan Racing International, ITP, FOX SHOX, Douglas Wheel, IMS, GPR, Roll Design, Maxima. He sees the future of ATV racing as growing. "It's grown tremendously in the past couple of years," he said. "The nice thing is that the factories are getting back into racing, and that provides new opportunities. We anticipate that factory involvement will continue to grow and get even bigger."

"As far as my future is concerned, I've got a few good years of racing left in me. After that, I'm open with the idea of getting involved in the industry in other capacities. I would welcome the opportunity of providing testing or research and development for the manufacturers, or doing some other type of consulting. I've also been thinking of starting an ATV school to teach kids how to ride. The problem is finding a place for it. There are not a lot of tracks to ride on, so I would need private property to build a track. I have young riders asking me all the time to teach them how to ride. I've given it some thought, and maybe some day I'll put my focus there. For now, my plate is more than full!" Eichner concluded.

When asked if the Need for Speed is in the DNA?" Eichner commented, "I'm sure it has something to do with it! Joan and I are both amazed at how focused Devin is on ATV riding. He would rather watch a Huevos video than cartoons and he's only three!" Perhaps time will bring us our definitive answer when Eichner Jr. comes of age.

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