With the new that the British SxS Championship had been opened up to non Polaris models (previously the series was Polaris only) we decided that it would be good to show our support for the series at the final enduro round of the season. As befits our role as customer support for the YXZ1000 for Yamaha our idea was to enter one car ourselves and support any other Yamaha driver there.
The SxS Enduro series race format are 2 hour races with a mandatory pitstop for fuel. We entered one of our works prepared cars which was driven by regular Polaris driver Sean Jenkinson as well as customer cars we had supplied for Jason Bird and Charlie Knowles. However when we go there we found there were two more Yamaha’s entered, Terry Griffiths in his first ever race and Grant. Both Terry and Grant were in bog standard cars. Well obviously we were there to support all Yamaha drivers so as they lined up to go out we offered to help out, which they both were happy to agree. So, as the flag dropped we were running five cars wen we expected to only run 3.
With enduro races the idea is to pace yourself, 2 hours is a decent amount of time on car and driver so its best to get into a pace you’re happy with and maintain it. The course was wet, very wet, something we know about as we race here in the British Cross Country Championship and pretty soon visibility was an issue for all the drivers. It being Terry’s first race his pace was considered and deliberate but Sean got off to a quick pace and was soon sitting in 3rd place overall. Charlie and Jason seemed to be following each other and Grant, also his first ever race right with them as well.
As the race progressed it was interesting to note the different styles of driving in what are all pretty similar cars, Jason and Charlie had a more aggressive style, attacking corners whereas Sean was more considered and was very smooth. Terry got faster and faster with each lap, you could see him get quicker turn by turn as he got used to the car.
Then we had our first misshap, Jason caught an awkward lip of a small jump which threw the car sideways, it was a minor move but unfortunately it swung him a concrete block that was on the course holding the timing cables down, the crunch we heard from the startline was grim and we knew the worst as soon as we heard it. Jason had hit the block (which weighed over 300kg) at over 55mph catch the front left wheel which resulted in the whole corner nearly being ripped off, Jasons race was over. Gutting as he was moving up the field.
Not long after Grant comes in, he’s blind, he’s removed his visor as he couldnt see and ended up getting mud in his eye, we cleaned him up, got him some goggles but you could see he was suffering so when he came back in after a few more laps we decided to get the medics over to make sure he was ok. After digging out mud from under his eyelid (and yes thats as painful as it sounds) we decided that it wasnt safe for him to continue so we retired the car. Such a shame as he was going so well but its no pointing risking your sight.
After those two blows we got into the pit window and we decided to pit Terry first as it was his first race and we wanted to make sure he was settled, so he came in, we cleaned him up, topped up his fuel and sent him out again, nice and simple. Then Charlie came in and we did the same, however he was complaining that the rear of the car was bucking badly so we re-adjusted his suspension and sent him out. A few laps later Charlie was back in, whilst the suspension adjustments we had made had ‘transformed’ the car he was getting some overheating issues. Whilst the works cars all have their radiators moved to the back Charlie was stock so the radiator was getting clogged with mud from following the other cars. We cleaned it up best we could and sent him back out but a lap later he was back, the radiator was clogged solid so sadly we again decided to retire the cars.
So with 30 minutes to go, we had one car out with a heavy crash, one car out with a driver injured and one car out with a clogged radiator, but two cars left, Sean in our works car and Terry in his first ever race in a stock car.
The countdown to the end was nerve wracking, Sean had got up to second place and was looking solid just following (eventual Champion) Richard Avis home but Terry was in 4th but getting so much quicker he was gaining 10 seconds a lap on 3rd place and with a couple of laps to go Terry had done it, Sean came home in a safe 2nd place and Terry followed him home in 3rd place. Whilst we were confident that Sean would podium (he’s an experienced driver and he was driving one of our works prepared cars) we didnt think we’d have two Yamahas on the podium, a great result for the drivers and the YXZ1000 we think.
Hats off to Richard Avis, race winner and crowned champion but also to all the drivers, as the race progressed some of the Polaris cars had some of the usual issues of driveshafts and CVT belts but I’ve never seen the teams effect such fast repairs to get back out on track, the development these guys have put into the RZR over the years they have raced them is impressive. The caveat to that of course is that we were delighted with the performance of the Yamaha, 5 cars, 4 near stock with new drivers (some whom had never raced before) and only one mechanical failure and that was just down to the fact the radiator hadnt been moved to the back. Our works car did nothing more than a bent control rod and a rear driveshaft boot – £30 in parts, thats it.
For next season we plan a more co-ordinated attack in the SxS Championship, we have a lot more further developments for the cars over the Winter period and will operate the Yamaha Customer Racing Program for both the short course and the enduro rounds of the Championship offering support to all Yamaha drivers. The RZR’s are well ahead in terms of development and drivers experience but we are confident that the fight is on for next season, may the best teams win.
Final thanks must to the drivers and organisers in the SxS Championship, Jamie, Colin and the team work very hard to make it successful and the drivers are all a great bunch so all of us at Yamaha are looking forward to being with you all next season.