Lessons Learned from Campaigning two 2018 Wildcat XX UTVs in the 2019 Mexican 1000 - TCCoA Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 10:46 AM Thread Starter
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Lessons Learned from Campaigning two 2018 Wildcat XX UTVs in the 2019 Mexican 1000


As some of you may have known, I took a year off racing my tbird in the local 24 Hours of Lemons race @ Sears Point to go to Baja. I just got back from racing the 2019 Mexican 1000 in a stock UTV. I figured some of you folks might want to read about our experience; I may repost this in one of the desert racing/wildcat forums but some of them rubbed me the wrong way (esp one which refuses to allow you to discuss any products which aren't forum sponsors or something stupid like that).

We fielded a 2 vehicle team - one green #888 with me and my friend/fellow lemons teammate Brett and one second grey one #228 fielded by Brett's Brother in law Dick and his friends (all seasoned rally drivers from Idaho). If you aren't aware of this race, NORRA was the original sanctioning body for the original 1000mi offroad race through Baja (called the Mexican 1000). After the fuel crisis in 1973, the mexican govt hired a new sanctioning body called SCORE to run the race which they renamed the baja 1000. Whereas the Baja 1000 is a 1K mi start to finish and has become more "race oriented" as the purse size has climbed, the Mexican 1000 was reconstituted 12 years ago by the son of NORRA's founder and breaks up the race along the same/similar trails into 5 days and is mostly run by privateer vs corporate backed efforts. There is no prize money. I originally heard of this race when the lemons team from GoWesty took one of their Vanagons and competed in the Mexican 1000. While I originally toyed with the idea of running a tbird, most unibody vehicles would be garbage after this kind of race and I wasn't quite ready to throw away the tbird just yet. While the motorcycles are on a separate course on some days, everything from Trophy trucks to Buggies to UTVs to stock VW bugs are running at the same time which can make passing (or getting passed) an interesting experience.

Short Summary is that we came in #2 and #3 in our class of 7 vehicles (96th out of an original 185 car/truck/buggy/UTV field of which only 144 eventually made it to the finish in Cabo. 77% completion) AND our UTV beat our teammates despite their years of additional experience. Our 8 or so years of lemons racing have taught Brett and me NOT to push a vehicle to 10/10ths during an endurance race -- and 1250-1300mi race through the desert certainly is a marathon and not a sprint.

The highlight for us was passing all the other stock-class UTVs who ran out of gas on SS1 of Day 2 because the fuel stop was about 30mi farther down the course than was planned, towing our teammates for 10mi (as far as we could until we too started running low), puttering along over a ridge until we made the fuel stop on fumes, and then going ahead to complete the day's 396mi marathon run in a total of 13 hours of driving. At one point in before the evening, we were cruising at WOT on some dry beds near the ocean and you couldn't see a single competitor in front or behind us as far as the horizon could see. That was cool but there was always the realization that at that point, all our chase vehicles were on the highway on the other coast of baja so if something happened to us, we were going to be stuck there overnight (or until the sweep vehicles could come get us).

Day 4 was a 300 mi endurance test which exhausted me after the 396mi the day before and Day 5 nearly did me in. I started the what was supposed to be a reasonable 160mi of racing after being hit by about of food poisoning. I figured i could make it through but after only 20mi, I had to run into the cactus and do my best not to poop my suit (I didn't, thank god). Brett then took over driving earlier than scheduled and carried my stubborn carcass (which had stopped navigating and was at some point a little delirious) the remaining 140mi. Sure, I could have turned over co-driving to my friend Sloan as the backup driver but after 1150mi, there was no way in hell I was going to miss (or have my corpse miss) rolling over the finish line. Oh, we totally blew an axle with 53 mi to the finish line so we just bungeed it in place and drove (or as in my case, dry heaved) the remaining bit in 3WD.

While I have sworn off ceviche and COSTCO mango chicken sausages (one of which did me in but the exhaustion certainly didn't help), our team will campaign again next year (if only for Dick to go bigger and prove that he can beat the "amateurs"). I now know my body's physical limits so we will likely add a few co-drivers and potentially an additional driver along with a few additional vehicular tweaks. Oh, I also lost 10LB between the limited eating and food poisoning (you eat a few hundred calories of protein bards for breakfast, maybe a bar during a transit, but nothing besides water all day until the end where you eat one meal which hopefully won't give you food poisoning). I guess that was good for my health overall since I'm back to just under 160LB.

Observations
* Desert racing is totally white & hispanic and a LOT older than I expected. I think there were only 3 asians (and I have a pic with all three I met) amongst all the competitors & crew and the average age was probably in the 50s-60s. When I brought this up with another team that I had befriended (well, the age part), I learned that this is in large part because desert racing does take a good deal of $$$ -- and most people need to wait until near retirement (or after) to have the money + time to field a team. Luckily for Brett and me, Dick's retired and has the time plus funds to build the infrastructure that we just had to fund/build up a similar vehicle to share things like spare parts & R&D.

* The day before we left Ensenada, a helicopter dropped down onto the small patch of grass next to our team. It was hilarious to watch a few guys walk up to our identically prepped UTVs behind our RV+trailer, look inside, and then exclaim "Why the hell do these guys need a chase copter?". FWIW, it was the medivac 'copter.



* The terrain in Baja is incredibly diverse and the Mexican 1000 took advantage of all different types of terrain. In addition to the dusty dirt roads where we were limited by visibility vs road conditions, there were rockier roads where going too fast => wheel slip => cut sidewalls, fine silty sections like you see in the movies, beach sections where the whoops (the rolling hills) and our suspension limited our speed, round rocky river washes, full on rock crawling sections where you went slow and picked your path, cactus forests, and even dry lakebeds where you could just put the hammer down until your engine warmed past your comfort zone. Crazy.




Wildcat XX Lessons Learned
* Despite all the marketing BS, the Wildcat XX is a Baja-race inspired UTV vs a true Baja-race ready vehicle. We probably spent another $12K or so getting the Wildcat XX truly race ready -- some of which went into things like respringing the vehicle to account for the added weight of a proper aluminum skidplate and 32" spare tire.

* DESIGN FLAW: IMO, our biggest drawback design wise is that the vehicle is speed limited by its CVT belt AND and engine cooling system. On the first day, we were speed limited to about 35MPH sustained or our CVT belt (basically the weak link in our transmission) would heat up beyond the safe temp of ~205F and start getting melty. When it melts, it all goes to hell. The vaunted RG told us to "lose" the cover but this was kind of like dirt biking in a kilt and w/o any boxers. Not only does sand get up in all the juicy bits but one bad rock could have ruined our day. Forced belt cooling (Robbie's new solution is a SPAL fan on the housing and others sell bilge fans that you plumb into the stock ducting) would put you in modified class (confirmed before race). I suspect the Polaris Turbo vehicles weren't as susceptible to this issue b/c their CVT belts are like 50% wider than the NA UTVs. In comparison, the Yamaha YXZ uses the same engine but a real 5speed gearbox good for 100MPH (and from the #1 guy, about 85MPH sustained). We could only hit 78MPH on the flat dry lakebeds but after a few mi, the engine temps would creep up (insufficient cooling) so we needed to back off. Our teammates, since they were totally about "going for broken", just ran it until it would beep and threaten (or go into) limp mode. Moving the radiator from the front to above the engine behind the passenger compartment WOULD solve the cooling issue but we'd then DEFINITELY be bumped into Modified Class (confirmed).

* DESIGN FLAW: The XX is on its 3rd axle revision (based on our spares) and they STILL haven't fixed the issue. RG is apparently working on rev #4 but the gist is that under max suspension drop, something inside the axle (probably the CV joint) articulated just enough to always rip the boot at the 2nd rib. The grease then sprays out and the axle blows up. Over 5 days, we killed 3 spares (inc 2-3 we patched well enough to last a 2nd day), 4 more OEM axles (we started with rev #2 or rev #3 axles on both vehicles). #888 at least tried to modulate the # of axles we killed by slowwing down for the "whoops" but sometimes you can't miss them all and there goes an axle. Besides the cost, adding an axle swap or two to the nightly TODO list is exhausting. We came well prepared but we didn't have any professional mechanics who didn't also race during the day (aka a dedicated "fix my vehicle while I eat this taco" guy). I personally think its a little telling when RG doesn't finish the race with his XX (or the spare one he brought).
- Besides bitching at Textron about the axle defects, the two potential solutions are either a) limiting straps to prevent the suspension from hitting full drop b) moving the boots "up" and out of the existing retaining groove to give them more flex where needed, or c) both. I'm checking now to see if limiting straps would knock us into MODIFIED Class.




* MINOR DESIGN FLAW: If the CVT belt housing was a 1/4" longer, CVT belt changes could be done in 2 min. As it stands now, it takes 2x longer there is just 1/4" too little room between the driven clutch and the belt assembly housing that you need to pry at the plastic in order to get the belt off the clutches.

* RACE INSPIRED vs. RACE READY: in hindsight, I might have picked a Yamaha YXZ if I had to start from scratch again. You already need to buy aftermarket springs to account for the heavier vehicle and likely revalve the stock shocks as well (#228 did that and seemed to be able to go over bumpier terrain faster/in-more-comfort whereas our #888 just had to leave everything in FULL STIFF mode and suck i tup.

Other Observations
* LeadNav (IOS only app) is THE best choice for navigation simply because the app talk to the driver and alert him of all the NORRA supplied hazards once you have it wired into your (overpriced) comms system. The co-driver can then be freed up to watch the vehicle sensors (belt & engine temps) and for other hazards (like the shady folks who tried to booby trap us with a fence pole and barb wire on one hill), and study LeadNav + Lowrance GPS to tell the driver which way the road looks like it will be bending (it's not always obvious) and to be on the alert for "push to pass" requets.
* A $250 Lowrance fish finder is just as good as the baja rated Lowrance Elite-7 GPS. They both have archaic interfaces but they work well enough following the trail that there's no reason to get the fancier one that costs 3x more.

* You NEED some form of satellite comms to talk between the chase and the race vehicles. Our 60W radios only worked over one ridgeline. We ended up renting some Iridium sat phones at a stupid price (5 phones @ 2 weeks = $1300 with insurance) but we might have been decently served by a cheaper and simpler text-based system (maybe Garmin Inreach Mini). I suspect we'll look at those devices next. BTW, NORRA already uses the STELLA 3 system for vehicle tracking/comms so you will already be able to call for SOS if medivac is necessary, you can signal to slower vehicles in front that you want to pass, you can signal for mechanical issues to alert other competitors, AND your friends/family can follow your progress online. What you cannot do with Stella is call your mothership for gas.



* We need to fabricate an axle stub and pack an impact gun to make axles changes in the desert quicker. When our axle broke in the field on day 5, we could have just knocked the broken axle off the UTV, swapped in the plug so the diff wouldn't bleed its guts out, and gone faster in 3WD. As it stood, we needed to go slower to prevent the axle from coming apart more and maybe nicking something more important (like the right rear brake line for example).

* We need to add more padding to our Bimarco Grip Halo seats. There were a few times our heads bounced against the lateral halo arms (which tells you that we needed them) and I always felt safe in them BUT after 6+ hrs in the seat, you start to feel the thinness of the padding. Or at least, my boney butt did (Brett not so much). Suspension seats would likely be more comfortable but more padding should hopefully solve this issue (there's enough headroom).

I'll post some videos once we have the vids compiled; we had a few 360 cams and dashcams on the UTV but the best video by far came from my friends new GP7 in hypersmooth mode. The video reminded me of the old SW Pod Racer game b/c you could see the vehicle moving up and down all crazy while the UTV just flowed through all sorts of amazing looking terrain).




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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 10:48 AM Thread Starter
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Added a gallery of the pro pics here. You can see a lot of the cool silty stuff but not so much of the high speed dry lakebed or dry riverbed/rock crawling bits.

http://www.gunn.com/2019M1K_propics


WILL ADD VIDS

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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 02:39 PM
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Gunn, this is awesome!!

Congratulations on the Race; it's nice to place so well the first time out, on a new style of racing.

I can't believe a CVT tranny can even deal, so that's a surprise to me.

If you add ducting/deflectors to concentrate air where you need it, is that considered modified?

A belt cover of stainless mesh would help, but is that considered modified?

Mod class sux, because then you're up against some serious mod$, and your mod might not help against those guys.

I ran a front disk brake one season, and ended up running modified class, as it was not OG on my year bike. I think I placed last in that class. (70's)

I raced a Yamaha dirt bike for a few years when I was a teen; they do racing Very Well; I could change a tube in a tire in 4 minutes flat, due to their design; so I can understand what you meant there.

I'd look into finding a CV boot that has one more fold; it sounds like it gets pulled into the edge of the cv joint and wears thru. I've seen that on a Subaru I used to off road. That poor car, lol.

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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 03:43 PM Thread Starter
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Mod class is one of the tougher ones but had we started with a turbo vehicle, it would have been even worse. I know there are PLENTY of people who would make more significant modifications so as a team that would at best run 1 (or 2 but more than likely just 1) event a year, going modified just doesn't make sense
https://www.norra.com/m1k_cars_scori...?stage=byclass

We did receive direction from the tech director that radiator (even stock) relocation OR any kind of scoop or active cooling that wasn't there from the factory would put you in modified class. Our second vehicle may go the modified route and the top changes would NOT be to the engine or CVT but to do the following:

a) add a giant fuel cell ($3800 for a custom 23 gallon pyrotect cell) https://speedsxs.com/collections/spe...t-xx-fuel-cell
b) revalve/upgrade the spring+shocks yet again to deal with the added weight of an additional 13 gallons of fuel over stock aka 81LB and
c) relocate the radiator from the front to above the engine for increased cooling.
d) Cool the damn belt - SPAL fan on the cover sucking air out (ala RG) and/or a bilge fan on the intake to force air in.

e) Going wider for more stability is also possible with more $$$ to Robby gordon BUT you also then lose the ability to share axles with a stock XX.
https://speedsxs.com/collections/spe...16285745512499

--
I'm curious about putting something that is subtractive but still protective of the CVT assembly might work better than stock but offer more protection than no cover at all (like cheese holing the stock cover) but my teammates and I have a debate that this might HURT cooling if pressure cannot be built up. I'm not sure how much I buy into it. We might sacrifice a cover for testing.
https://www.ebay.com/p/4-pk-Circle-V...175/3030036798
https://www.amazon.com/Outerwears-WR...df_B00230CRYW/
https://ty4stroke.com/threads/clutch...enting.148955/


The CV clutch (and engine for that matter) is basically what you find in a snowmobile. The belt is 1" wide and runs ~$100/ea. It seems plenty strong enough to transfer the HP & torque this 998cc Yamaha engine can make. With the cover off, the belts never got higher than 170F. The key is how to maintain this level of cooling while regaining some amount of protection from the errant rock. FWIW, the turbo Polarises have belts that are 50% wider. That mght help with heatsoak (aka a Turbo polaris belt @ 220F might last longer than a Wildcat XX belt @ 220F) but I'm not sure about overall cooling.



Good pic of our the CVT clutch system works (Team Industries is in the XX)

Apparently, the replacement boots can be found at NAPA so we may just find one that offers more compliance.

RG wants stupid money for this "new improved" axles though.
https://speedsxs.com/collections/spe...al-plunge-axle

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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 05:19 PM
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Great write-up. Thanks!
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 10:32 AM
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Will finish reading later.

I'm in if you need another driver!

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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 06:05 PM
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Congrats on a great race & finish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 10:43 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grog6 View Post
Gunn, this is awesome!!
I'd look into finding a CV boot that has one more fold; it sounds like it gets pulled into the edge of the cv joint and wears thru. I've seen that on a Subaru I used to off road. That poor car, lol.
Well, the rev 2 vs rev 1 axle boot added 10 folds vs 8 folds. Your assessment of what is happening lines up with our own.
Another team passed by in the evening and told us that they moved the clamp off the groove that's machined into the axle by 1/4" and THAT gave them enough flex to stop killing axles. Since Dick's workshop has a lathe, I suspect we'll try to widen that groove by the 1/4" as suggested during the rebuild... and buy "more" boot as you have suggested. I'd play with them but I'm in SF vs Boise and I'm supposed to be finishing up our tbird (need to finish buttoning up the engine after I pulled it for a reason I cannot remember right now, need to add an AFFF system, and need another glorious theme).

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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 12:01 AM
No, Mr. Lemmywinks, No!!!

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The Cheeto theme will be hard to beat.

Your race group looks like a great set of people; I love these posts.


How about a Thanos theme; you pull a set of pins after the race, and half the car falls off, lol.


You were talking about reworking the belt guard; look at McMaster for Stainless steel mesh, with a 1/4 to 3/8" open area, and 20awg wire. It's so tough, you have to cut it with a dremel or air cutoff, and you can form it like sheetmetal.

I used it to cover the tranny cooler on the red cougar, and it will take a 1"-2" gravel at highway speeds without deforming. I have one section of a gravel road I have to drive to get to the fun road, so I did some testing.

It's mostly air, so it should cool much better.

Great post, keep up the awesome work!

Red '96 Cougar XR-7 240k mi. '02 4R70W, PST DS : '03 PI engine, 04 maf, 24lb injectors, 2.5" exhaust, '02 4r70w + Jmod, DirtyD0g TC + cooler + 3/8" lines, 255 walbro fp. Alpine system.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-20-2019, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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Added a gallery of the pro pics here. You can see a lot of the cool silty stuff but not so much of the high speed dry lakebed or dry riverbed/rock crawling bits.

http://www.gunn.com/2019M1K_propics

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