Story By: Mike Ingalsbee | Photos By: Brandon Bunch & Jason Zindroski [Full Gallery At Bottom Of Post]
UTV racers got a strong dose of desert weather at the Best in the Desert (BITD) series Tensor Tire 250 in Parker, Arizona. It was the opening round for UTVs in the BITD series, so everyone was anxious to show what they had for the competition. We were spoiled with blue skies and sunshine during contingency, and technical inspection in downtown Parker on Friday. The cars were left on their trailers, but people were allowed to attend as long as they followed modified COVID protocols.
The Tensor Tire 250 had a lot going on with bikes, and quads racing Saturday morning before the UTVs. Even the kids were also able to dust off their machines as several classes raced on Friday. The first youth race was for 170 Stock, 170 Limited Stock, and 250 Modified. After they completed and a bit of a delay, Youth 570 Stock, 570 Modified, 800 Modified, and 1000/RS1 Stock classes hit the dirt. It’s fun to hang out at contingency all day, but many gathered to watch the up and coming stars of tomorrow compete against each other. It really gives you hope for the future when you see how skilled these kids are becoming. Some of the fastest racers in the desert came up through these ranks before ascending to the highest levels of professional racing.
Due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions, the race course was changed to avoid Colorado River Indian Tribes land around the city of Parker. There would be no Parker Python this year. As an alternative, the course started, and finished where it used to in the early days, down past the wash. Instead of heading out through deep sand at the start, racers took off in silt, and rocks, before dropping into the coarse gravel of Osborn wash. From there it was similar to recent years. It travelled down Osborn, crossed over the canal, went out towards Bouse, then back through the goat trail before returning to the Start/Finish line. It was different, but not any easier. The power robbing sand on CRIT land was avoided, but there was still plenty of that at spots, and the rocks were no different from any other race.
In years past, Parker got slammed with torrential rains during the race that made it downright miserable for everyone. Luckily we have avoided the downpours lately, but this year the wind made an appearance. Some wind is always a blessing during a race. It’s needed to blow the dust away from the course, but when the wind is strong enough to create its own dust, visibility is compromised. It’s also hard on the crews who are battered by the blowing sand. They have to pack up half the pits to prevent losing tarps, canopies, and lawn chairs. It also ruins lunch time, unless you like sand in your food. Good luck with the barbeque you planned. The competition on course is always tough, but any severe weather makes desert racing even tougher. As race day went on, the wind got as intense as the racing was on course.
New this year is the UTV Pro Open class that will be further defined next season. Basically it’s for factory UTVs but with some engine modifications allowed. There is a homologation rule that manufacturers must produce a minimum number of 400 homologated units of that exact model and configuration, prior to being allowed to participate in this class. It appears to be an opportunity for the manufacturers to build factory race UTV’s. The class had several entries with Mitchell Alsup taking the win, and finishing 14th overall; Caitilee Walker was 2nd, and Dan Fisher 3rd.
Several racers moved to different classes this season. Red Bull racer Seth Quintero is racing in the Pro Turbo class this season after resounding success in the naturally aspirated class. 18 year old Quintero has a lot of racing under his belt having competed in desert, short course, and the Dakar Rally. 14 year old Dallas Gonzales, a youth class standout, is in the Pro N/A class this year. We also notice Chris Blais entered in the Unlimited class. He has made a lot of progress after a spinal cord injury suffered in 2007. He has earned several wins in stock UTVs in recent years. We look forward to seeing him in the faster car throughout this season. He finished on the podium in Parker with a 3rd place.
The UTV race was an up and down affair for many. After taking the early lead, Austin Weiland was a DNF (did not finish). Several other top competitors rose up through the field, only to drop down in the running order due to problems. The Naturally Aspirated cars held their own with the quicker Turbo class cars, but in the end it was the Turbos dominating the top ten. Two Unlimited class cars snuck into the top ten overall. Michael Isom took the Unlimited win with an 8th place overall finish, and Randy Raschein was only a minute behind in 2nd; 9th place overall. The top N/A finisher was Carson Wernimont who was 11th overall. Josh Row took 2nd; 17th overall, and Austin Bolton finished right behind to take 3rd. UTV RS1 N/A class competitor Jonathan McVay took the win in the single seat UTV’s.
At the very top of the leader board was Mitch Guthrie Jr. He had a winning time of 04:42:26.296 fighting all the way from a last position start. 2nd went to Bruce Binnquist who was 2 minutes slower than Guthrie, and Dustin Jones was 3rd. Phil Blurton ran strong all day, but just missed the podium in 4th place. Vito Ranuio rounded out the top 5 overall; all in Turbo UTV’s.
The results in Parker had some surprises, but it looks to be a super competitive field for 2021. It also seems like we are returning somewhere close to normal when it comes to holding events. Congratulations to BITD for pulling off a successful event. Go to their website at BITD.com for complete results, and look for a full published photo gallery in the upcoming March 2021 issue.