European ATV Trophy, Bastogne 2016


Well that was an interesting weekend. Its nice to have a bit of fun from racing and whilst our main series for this season is the British Cross Country Championship its important for us to develop the car for different kinds of racing and other championships so when we were invited to come along to a short course circuit race in Belgium we thought, why not.

We’d already supplied a YXZ1000 that races in the UK equivalent – The SxS Endurance Championship for Jason Bird so when he said he wanted to race in this race we thought we’d come along with one of our the team cars and run it as well.

Short course racing is very different to rallying and comp safari, the course are short (hint is in the name) and tend to be MX type tracks with lots of jumps, berms and relatively smooth, the tracks are very suited to very low gearing, with sharp, short acceleration between jumps and corners – in other words the complete opposite of what we race in in the UK. However, we like jumping the YXZ1000 (it really is very easy to jump) and its nice to do different races so we decided to use the race to try some new parts before we sign them off for customers cars.

The race we were in was part of the RZR Cup – a Polaris only race series in Europe and with all the British contingent all from the equivalent UK race series (also Polaris only) it would be fair to say that Yamaha were a bit outnumbered (10 to 1), there was Jason, us and also another YXZ1000 from a Dutch team but everyone was friendly and the paddock was great fun with some decent teams there.

The race weekend was essentially one race split into three, 30 mins timed practice then a 1 hour enduro at 6pm, a 30 minute night race at midnight and then a final 1 hour enduro on the Sunday, certainly very different to the comp safari set up we usually run. After a fun little drive through the town (certainly got the locals interested to come and watch – good idea the UK series organisers should try) we got down to business.

Now I’d jumped the Polaris RZR we raced before but since then all of our racing has been rallying so not many jumps so it took me a few laps to get used to properly jumping the YXZ1000, after a few nose dives as I remembered the technique (hard acceleration up the ramp) I pretty soon got the Yamaha flying well and got to looking at the car set up. For this race we were testing the new roof section (mandatory for some UK series and all FIA race series World wide) and also a new turbo set up from Silber Turbos in the USA.

Not being sure what the track was like we opted to run the stock Maxxis tyres for practice and I quickly remembered why I hated them so much, lots of roll, side walls too soft but with the track being wetted down the Toyos were going to struggle on very slippery mud that created so it was a bit of a dilemma. One downside of the regulations is that we had to fit the stock exhaust to the car, this was a bit of a nightmare as with that fitted the turbo kit was strangled, it took a clear 20bhp off the top end power and in hindsight the car would’ve been quicker in normally aspirated form which was a bit of a pain, however thats what testing is about we need to test all the upgrades first to make sure they are suitable for sale to customers. The roof on the other hand was perfect, no issues at all and really transforms the look of the car, it was nice that everyone liked it too.

Race 1

We decided to run the Toyos, if they wetted the track before we went out we were screwed but the tyres were so much better than the stock ones when was dry that we considered it worth the risk, so when the bowser came out as we lined up I will admit we were a bit hacked off, as a result the start was a slippery affair for us.

After sliding about a bit on the start we actually got on pretty well, laptimes were a bit off the leading cars but with the design of the course not really suiting what we’d developed the car for it was actually pretty successful. The jumps were great and I will admit I was more interested in stress testing the roof with big landings than I was about laptimes so when we started to overheat after 20 minutes of the race my grinning face was turned to a frown pretty quickly. We got it back to the pits and with the amount of coolant sloshing around the footwell we decided to retire the car, there was clearly an issue and I wasnt prepared to kill an engine for a race that made little difference to us so we parked it up and watch Jason. Except we couldnt do that either, Jason had decided that the only Can Am in the race was more than the grid needed and in a do or die overtake move ended up with the latter, bent track rod end, subsequent torn front driveshaft and retirement on lap 1.

Back in the pits we scratched our heads on the overheat, bottom line we just decided that it was likely to be air in the system so we bled it out again (this time both ends of the system) and figured that would sort it. Jason on the other hand needed a bit more work, new front driveshaft and track rod, a bit of tidying up and then he was good to go as well.

Race 2

Before this weekend our night driving was limited to round our own track for a laugh, this was a bit more serious. Stupidly we considered the stock lights of the YXZ1000 were good enough to race with whereas the truth is that they are not, in fact I think the correct word is ‘hopeless’ and try as I might to distract Jason long enough to steal his light bar from his car it didnt work so we did the night race pretty much blind. It did make it fun though as despite that we ended up 17th overall which wasnt bad. Overheating problem was fixed as well so overall was pretty good.

Jason did even better, being able to see obviously worked and he got an 8th, impressive result form someone only in his third ever race in the car, nice one.

Next morning (well, later that morning really, we didnt finish until 3am) didnt dawn quite so well. The combination of driving the truck for 9 hours there and the jumps had aggravated my injured back to the extent so that I was in agony. If it were a championship round for us then we’d have run but for what was effectively a fun weekend testing new parts and with the next race for us a week later we decided that it was better to save me than just have the fun, sometimes you have to make decisions based on the greater good rather than selfish reasons. Jason on the other hand was raring to go so we set about making sure he was good to race.

Race 3

Well Jason managed to spin on the start which dropped him a few places but pretty soon he was getting through the field and driving well and by the end of the race he was up to 11th place and 21st overall for the weekend – pretty good seeing as the first race he got all of one lap. Considering his YXZ1000 is pretty much stock only with some of the race parts we have developed (spacers, remap etc) he did blindingly well.

For the team the weekend was a great success, perhaps less so on track but in terms of the new parts we were testing. The roof was brilliant, every person who inspected it was impressed with the design and quality and the car looked awesome. The turbo kit performed pretty well in the circumstances, the stock exhaust strangled it but with a decent exhaust on its a 155bhp car now, we just needed a track long enough to test that. We are making some changes (larger intercooler, changes in pipework etc) but I’m confident we will be running the full power car at the next British Championship race.

Of course all of these race parts will be available from your local Yamaha dealer as and when they pass the testing process. Next race is in a week, car should be almost complete by then.