A Lightning-Fast Racecourse With 4 Hours of Non-Stop Action.
Unlike most of the racing we typically do, this track was unrelentingly fast. Whereas most of our events end at about the hour to hour-30 point, this race lasted over 4 hours. It was very well laid out with massive lofting jumps, 90 mph straights, and a mix of narrow winding sections. What was most unusual, especially for an Ultra4 sponsored event (even though this race was almost entirely put on by YORR) was the total absence of any rock obstacle. The benefit? The track was much easier on the cars than we expected (except for #428, more on this below).
Day 1 (Arrival + Pre-Running + Crazy Weather)
After our 8-hour drive into Broadview, MT we finally arrived at the Big Sky 200 venue. As you show up, you’ll basically drive onto some monstrous private ranch in the middle of nowhere- there’s a sign for the ‘Cow Pie Raceway’ or something of the sort. Once you wind through the dusty two-track, after passing that sign, you’ll meander for about 1.5 miles until you reach the main hot pits area. The pitting area is about 1 mile long: you pretty much camp wherever you’d like along this zone.
Once we got there, we settled in and set out for a single lap of pre-running. The track, however, was over 40 miles: as you may imagine, trying to remember the nuances of this course would be pretty difficult. As such, we didn’t feel like the additional wear-and-tear on the cars was worth any additional laps. We spent the rest of the day scouting out the qualifying course as this was something we felt that we could get a solid grasp on. The jumps required a little caution and a handful of the straight sections were very off camber, especially at over 60 mph. There were a couple g-out areas as well that we certainly took note of before driving at race pace.
If you plan on heading to the Big Sky for future events, come prepared! The weather was absolutely crazy on day 1- hail, high winds, massive amounts of blowing dust, and rain. It was pretty incredible how quickly the weather changes up there in the high plains.
The Course, Overall
- No rock obstacles
- Massive lofting jumps, at least when you hit them at 80 mph.
- 2-3 mile long straight sections
- Very sandy (loose) soil structure
- Tight two-track ravines
- 4 total laps
- Having a high capacity fuel-cell to reduce the amount of pitting is the greatest advantage you could have at this event.
- Play it safe in the corners- if you put it on its side you’re kind of SOL.
So What Happened? (Race Day)
Matt – 804
Even though Matt qualified at a mid-pack position of 15 (considering the 30 + total entrants), there was a massive mixup on the morning of race day which confoundingly placed him at the very back of the pack. To no fault of his own, he would have to fight through the dust for the extent of the race. Over the course of 4 hours, Matt managed #804 across the finish line in 8th place.
Unlike any of the UTVs at this race, Matt opted for his 35″ Sedona Trail Saw tires. He felt that these would have the best ‘float’ over the sandy terrain and that the tread characteristics were ideal for the course. Another benefit of using a larger tire is in the softening of the overall ride, especially over rocks and ruts. The only gripe from the entire race? Brake performance was less than ideal given the marginal efficacy of the OEM Can Am calipers. Regardless of this slight setback, the race was phenomenal and the pit stops were quick, necessitating only a splash of gas per lap.
Due in large part to our partnership with Radical Racing (the Martin family and team for Chad Martin’s #5 Polaris), both of the Draco Motorsports rigs were exceptionally well supported for the entire race. We couldn’t have done it without those folks and owe them significant gratitude.
Greg – 428
The Big Sky 200 was Greg’s first race in quite some time, given the setbacks dealt from the previous year. More importantly, the Big Sky 200 was Greg’s first race in the fresh build- with hundreds of hours of custom fabrication and a quick test run at the local track, we prayed that the ‘bugs’ would be simple and that the car would work as expected. This was a shakedown for the new car, driver practice, and a race all in one. The result? Total success except for the major wreck on the final lap.
After setting a mild mid-pack qualifying pace at position 10, Greg had work to do on race day. As it turned out, this strategy worked exceptionally well with Greg working his way to position 5 by lap 3 (with only a couple of minutes behind fourth place). With minimal experience in this car, he kept the pace in the corners very easy to mitigate any rollover risk. The straightaways, however, were absolutely ‘open season’ with the car reaching 93 mph frequently. Unfortunately, a loss of brakes near the end of lap 1 resulted in a lot of coasting and a lower overall pace. Regardless, the fight to fifth position ensued by pure determination.
On the final lap, Greg noticed the car intermittently handling a little more loose than usual (much like driving on ice in 2wd): he attributed this to the course getting torn up and proceeded without a second thought. What he didn’t realize, however, was that the aftermarket driveshaft (which does not utilize a conventional pinch bolt) was pivoting on the end of the differential, going in and out of 4wd. Greg was driving at about 60 mph around a gradual bend in the track when the driveshaft finally slipped off the differential causing the rear end of the car to slide out resulting in a horribly-violent 8-cycle rollover. Even though Greg was completely OK (shy of his knee striking the steering wheel) and the roll cage was totally intact, the rest of the car was absolutely unrecognizable. Everything- wheels, hubs, trailing arms, knuckles, the steering rack, etc.- had been utterly annihilated. Pure devastation performed by nonother than one poorly designed component.
Photo Credit for the large photo on the top of this article by Alan Johnson
Driver of the #428 Draco Motorsports Polaris RZR. Co-Driver for the #804 Can-Am X3 during King of the Hammers. Ultra4!!