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By: Robert Janis

The UTV That Thought It Could

Mark Lindsay
Mark Lindsay
Recently Polaris Industries, manufacturer of the side-by-side UTV Ranger RZR announced to the world that the machine not only completed the recent Baja 500, it in fact won it. The Afraidium Racing team with drivers Mark Lindsay, Phil Holdsworth and co-driver Michael King made the achievement possible.

However, as Paul Harvey used to always say, that's just part of the story. And truly there is an interesting story involved.

In 2006 Lindsay's friend and fellow team member John Crowley suggested that he, Lindsay, and Holdsworth race an ATV in the Dakar Rally. "I told him that he must be smoking crack," joked Lindsay. "There was no way I could do it." But Crowley was persistent, and finally Lindsay agreed to race in the 2007 Baja series.

Neither had he, Crowley, or Holdsworth had much experience racing ATVs. Holdsworth races TAG go karts and didn't start racing quads until after the Baja 1000 in 2006. Lindsay rode quads while growing up in Yuma, Arizona and continued riding ATVs when his family moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, but he didn't race them. He and his wife own the Lindsay Group RE/MAX Real Estate Group in Flagstaff.

The three had never raced quads and had obviously never raced in a desert event like Baja. So, they traveled to the 2006 Baja 1000 to watch the race. Said Lindsay, "We followed pit crews, watched to see how they operated, talked to several teams to see how they handled logistics. We also tried to do research on successful teams to see how they operated. This gave us some ideas on how to modify our team, how to set up a pit crew, how many chase vehicles to use, how to break down the course to decide where to place the crews and what parts we should have on hand in the trucks."

So, they formed a racing team called Afraidium Racing and each one participated in the 2007 Baja 250 as individual racers. The only preparation for the race that the three did was to ride 130 miles in the desert before going to Baja to compete. Their pit crew consisted of fire fighters with the Flagstaff, Arizona fire department and people who worked for their sponsors. To everyone's surprise all three completed the race. "After the race we were beat, sore, and tired; but we all finished. Nobody got hurt and no one’s bike broke. So, we decided to race a side-by-side in the 2007 Baja 1000."

Lindsay wanted to race a UTV because of his age, now 41. He wanted a machine that included a roll cage and other safety equipment so that he would be certain that he couldn't get hurt.

As far as the UTV to race, Lindsay did some research on that, too. He discovered that most were just farm machines and did not have the capability to finish the Baja. "The Ranger had just come out, and it seemed like a vehicle that was made for off-road," said Lindsay. "We thought we could tweak it with some suspension work and other things. So, I bought it."

Next Lindsay interviewed a number of fabrication companies to see which one was best to do the modifications. "We interviewed six companies, and we chose FST fabrication of Phoenix, Arizona. We liked the things they built, and we especially liked their long travel kit. I thought it was the best kit on the market," said Lindsay.

So the UTV was given to FST, and they added a long travel kit and did other modifications so that the machine would comply with SCORE safety specifications. These specifications included the addition of a roll cage, window nets, and a fuel cell to endure the harshness of the Baja environment.

As the time approached for the Baja 1000, Crowley decided to continue with the goal to race the Baja 1000 solo on his ATV. The 2007 Baja 1000 marked the event’s 40th anniversary, and the actual length of the race was 1,300 miles for the first time. Crowley finished the race. His machine was the only solo quad to complete the tough course.

Meanwhile, Lindsay and Holdsworth stuck with the plan to race the Ranger RZR in the Baja 500. Since Crowley decided to go solo on a dirt bike and another friend was involved in family matters at the time of the race, Michael King joined the team as co-driver. King had been involved with the pit crew that serviced Crowley in the Baja 500 in 2007. King worked at the Yuma Proving Grounds as a surveyor who was skilled in using GPS navigation. He has also done some off-road racing in the past.

So King served as a co-driver for the entire race and Lindsay drove 260 miles of the race, and Holdsworth drove 180 miles.

Thirty-three miles into the race, they were face to face with a loose, rocky incline which caused the machine in front of them to stop in their tracks. The Afraidium Racing team simply blew past and defeated the obstacle. The Ranger RZR endured sand washes, silt beds, whoops, and more.

The Ranger was the only UTV to complete the race. Maybe it was a surprise to Baja fans, but not to Lindsay, Holdsworth, King and Crowley.

Lindsay concluded that he intended to race in future Baja's in the Ranger RZR and that he would be competing in the “Best in the Desert” events. The first race will be Vegas to Reno.

Lindsay noted that when he registered for the Baja 500 saying that he was going to race a UTV, people in the know laughed. "They were skeptical as far as reliability was concerned," he said. "In desert racing, especially the Baja, they have a high attrition rate. A lot of vehicles don't finish."

Now with his success in machines like the Ranger RZR, there is less skepticism and more involvement in desert races of UTVs.

"I talked to the president of the UTVRA, and he said after seeing our success in the 500, he is considering racing in the Baja 1000," said Lindsay.

Afraidium Racing is sponsored by Polaris, FST, BS Sand, Iron City Polaris, F2 Racing, Bronco Clutch, HMF Exhaust, The Lindsay Group RE/MAX, Maxxis tires, Tire Balls, King shocks, Maier-Mfg, 661, Jet Lites, Northern Arizona Excavators.

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