The life of a racer is one filled with excitement and passion, as well as opportunity. The better, more seasoned racers get to experience the best of this world, as new events are unlocked and further recognition is gained with each successful finish. It’s a severely competitive environment, but that’s just part of the rush, especially in a segment as young as UTV racing. It’s only been about 10 years since the conception these races, and there is a handful of guys like Brian Bush who are still involved in the sport and were right there in the mix as it was all taking off back in ’06.
“I’d consider myself a semi-professional UTV racer”, Brian says. “Back in the day, we were racing 23whp Yamaha Rhinos on MX style short courses. Shortly thereafter came opportunities to race UTVs in the desert and that’s when I really found my passion for off-road racing.” Brian started out in the Whiplash Racing series in the wilds of Arizona and locked down the 2010 Pro UTV Championship. From there, he set his sights on King Of The Hammers, where he scored his best showing in 2011 with a 3rd place finish in the UTV class. Far more competitive racing series such as Best In The Desert soon followed with invitations to race with other teams to drive in the Baja 500 and Baja 1000. But as luck would have it, injury struck and abruptly put an end to Brian’s competitive racing for the time being. It wasn’t anything too major, but was bad enough to throw a wrench in works.
“In June of 2015, I re-injured my lower back playing with my son but I had a previous surgery from a sand car accident in Glamis back in ’07. I had been fine up until then.” Brian had to bury the thought of racing deep in the back of his mind and focus on recovery, but the idea of driving around in something fun, yet not race worthy, was still very much a possibility. He just had to come to grips with the fact that any riding done from this point on had to be done so in a slower, more cautious manner. When he was engaged in a full race season, Brian wasn’t able to even think about building another UTV that was designed for play and not for race, but now he had all in the time in the world to focus on it.
Brian decided that he was going to use this time away from racing to focus on fun, but it wasn’t something he was going to be able to jump right into and get started on. He had his eyes set on a certain model that wouldn’t be out for some time. “I had got wind of the release of the upcoming Polaris RZR XP Turbo, and the day of the reveal, I placed an order for one. I figured I had some time to kill, so I started researching parts and gathering ideas of how I was going to customize mine. I wanted it to be a high performance car while still maintaining a show quality appearance. I had planned on filling the garage with boxes of parts and when I finally got the RZR back to my place, the build would begin.” It was during this in-between time when Brian phoned his pal Tim at SDR Motorsports in Corona, California.
“All I wanted from him was help on building a roll cage and a bumper for me, but he ended up offering to take on the entire build himself. We had always talked about collaborating on a project for the better part of 10 years, and Tim had sensed that I was still in a good amount of pain. Offers like these don’t just pop up all too often, so how could I turn this down?” With Brian feeling overjoyed and thankful with the situation, he continued to hoard parts away and anxiously awaited delivery of his future fun car.
As soon as Brian’s new RZR showed up, he started stripping it down. He had a well-oiled chop shop operation going in his garage, and once he had the car down to bare bones, he loaded it up, along with the mountain of new parts he had stashed away and set his GPS for Costa Mesa, California for the Sand Sport Super Show. The drive from his place in Arizona would only take Brian just a little over a few hours—a feat not even worth mentioning considering the payout of making the short journey. Tim and the SDR crew would be there to receive delivery and take it back to their lab for a complete transformation. 6 weeks—that’s how long it took for them to devise and conquer their plan of action. “The guys in the shop would send me teaser photos almost everyday”, says Brian. “It was hard to contain myself at times, and being hours away, it was tough not to be able to just pop in and see for myself what was going on.”
This RZR was quickly becoming one of Brian’s favorites (he did a respectable job of curbing his favoritism), as well as a choice creation of team SDR. Fit and finish was incredible, and the list of parts manufacturers involved was impressive to say the least. Aside from the assembly of the entire project, SDR also outfitted Brian’s RZR with one of their shorty roll cages, front bumper and grille, not to mention the many custom touches they added at almost every corner. “PRP’s heated GT S.E. seats work perfectly as they are so accommodating to my back—it feels as they were specifically designed around my body. HCR’s lightweight Elite long travel suspension system mated with the custom Fox Racing shocks perfectly. Raceline supplied a set of Black Mamba beadlock wheels that work great for both sand and dirt tires, but I like to run ITP’s 8-ply Ultracross rubber, which are great for desert play.
The RZR has been outfitted with UHMW full-coverage skid plates for all desert riding and rock crawling this thing might encounter. Axia Alloys also came on board with their premier billet accessories, as did Rigid Industries with a 30-inh Radius E-Series light bar for the roof and 10-inch lights for the front bumper.”
Brian’s excitement over the results of his RZR is ever apparent. The day it was completed, he planned an early pick up time and headed to Glamis immediately after to blast off on a test run. “My expectations have been met to say the least. SDR’s quality is always impressive, and the medley of parts all blend together nicely—it’s better than I had anticipated.” But what Brian really had his mindset on was the response of the performance upgrades, naturally.
Even though he may not have overly vocal about how much he was looking forward to mashing the pedal, Brian has the heart of a racer inside of him—it’s to be expected was wanted to go fast. “To add to the RZR’s already high performance power, a Gibson Exhaust and Hard Core Tuning ECU boosted power by a 20% increase. The seat of my pants definitely loves this kind of gain. This thing moves!” And with that, Brian now has another UTV that he can have fun with his son in. It hasn’t been built to full on race specs, but it as enough of it present to satisfy the calling. He may return to the competitive circuit as soon as he heals a bit more, or he may just enjoy the chill vibes his new creation offers. Only time will tell.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2015 print issue of Tread Magazine.