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By: Jason Giacchino

February 2010 - Off The Pegs

The Ultimate Guide to ATV Racing

Dear ATV Source:

I was wondering if you could help me out with understanding the types of ATV racing and equipment needed to compete. I’ve wanted to race for a few seasons now but get overwhelmed when I read about all of the different series/quad set ups. Thanks.

Absolutely, we’re here to help. It can be understandably intimidating not to mention frustrating in trying to make sense of the many ATV classes and quad configurations to consider. Let’s start by dismissing the common misconception that to be competitive, your quad has to be extensively modified. There was a time when this was the case (back when racers were competing on 2-strokes), but these days there are literally dozens of bone-stock quads that can hold their own in motocross competition on down to hare scrambles and poker runs. The key is to determine which type of terrain you feel most comfortable with.

Gear Up

Safety gear is critical in just about any form of competition (much of which should be considered even when trail riding). Obviously a full-face helmet, goggles, gloves, a long sleeved jersey and boots that extend over the ankles are all a must. We’re also advocates of as much protection as humanly possible and recommend a neck protector or at the very least a chest protector (to deflect roost).

As far as the machine itself is concerned, most forms of ATV competition require a tether cable/ kill switch which turns off the quad’s ignition should rider and ATV go their separate ways. This is something you may wish to ask the track promoter before installing as the requirement varies from facility to facility. Likewise, racing with close quarter situations will most always require the use of nerf bars/ nets to prevent pileups when bumping together. Again, if in doubt, call or e-mail the promoter first.

Finally, noise pollution has been a major factor at many facilities of late so keep that in mind when setting up your ATV. Most stock systems meet the minimum sound requirements 98-96 dB, but not all aftermarket setups do. Have your system tested before race day if in doubt.

Head of the Class

Next up is to do a little research to the type of classes the facility you’re considering offers. If you’re a mini rider, it’s unlikely you’re going to be lining up against a row of 450s. Likewise you probably don’t want to have to run down a field of Banshees in your Side x Side. Check the track’s website or place a call to find out how the ATV classes break down and don’t be afraid to ask specifically where you would fall in based on your machine’s displacement, riding experience, age and so on.

At this phase it may not be a bad idea to inquire about number plates/number requirements. Some tracks make different classes distinguishable by the background of the number plate and others have requirements as to the size of the numbers on your plates for scoring purposes. Be sure to ask.

The Major Players

While the country (actually, the world) has more local tracks than we could possibly delve into here, let’s talk about some of the larger series in the U.S. that allow riders of nearly every skill level to enter.

GNCC/ Grand National Cross Country

Each of the 13 GNCC rounds has a first-time racer class that doesn’t pay series points. Additionally, these races have classes for different age groups, engine displacements, and experience (like novice, amateur, expert, and so on). They offer classes for 50cc minis up to 950cc 4x4s!

AMA ATV Hare Scrambles


Ten classes (but not minis/minimum age class is 16), the AMA ATV Hare Scrambles series goes ten rounds on courses that are at least 5-miles in length. Like all AMA-sanctioned events, AMA membership is required ($39) and can be acquired at the event.

AMA Hare & Hound

These events are structured similarly to the AMA’s Hare Scrambles events except there are only two classes (A&B), and courses can be very long (loops sometimes stretching for 40 miles). Fuel consideration and rider hydration can definitely be factors at these events. Like always, AMA card is required.

WORCS/ World Off-Road Championship Series

Eleven Adult and 18 Youth classes means it’s pretty much impossible not to find a class to compete in here. They also offer practice from 8-10 a.m. on Saturday with the official racing starting at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday. Unlike a GNCC event, however, you pay for each class you enter in WORCS.

SCORE International

SCORE and Best in the Desert (BITD) are, like you might have guessed, desert racing promoters. They offer several ATV & UTV classes as well as classes for off-road trucks, cars, buggies, and so on. Expect a pretty thorough tech inspection as high speeds and wide-open spaces don’t mix well with unreliable/unsafe vehicles. Pits are mandatory as are chase trucks, so preparation is the name of the game if planning to race one of these events.

AMA Motocross

Amateurs have the option of racing all eleven rounds with eight of them counting toward championships. There are a whopping 31 amateur classes from which to choose ranging from 50cc minis to 450A. Each class runs two motos and tech specs are enforced (50- inch maximum width/ 98 dB exhaust). Like all AMA sanctioned events, AMA membership is required.

Extreme Dirt Track, TT, Supermoto and so on

There are a variety of other racing disciplines that we lack the space to cover including flat track and Supermoto (racing on a track blending pavement with dirt). The key is to do a little online research to determine requirements, entry fees, race dates, and times. Here are a few other links to check out:

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