“We came into this race with a completely different approach,” said Gunner Savage, driver of the #1862 Yamaha YXZ1000R. “I planned to drive smarter, and stay out of trouble. And we did that on the first lap; if someone came up behind me I let them through. As the race went on, we picked up the speed. This was very hard to do, I had to keep telling myself, ‘There’s a long way to go.’”
400 miles in total. The Mint 400 is a Best In The Desert (BITD) series event held outside of Las Vegas, and is one of the toughest off-road races around. The Savage Racing crew – 22-year-old Gunner and his cousin Ryan, age 23, as co-driver – are fairly new to the circuit.
The Savage Racing Yamaha YXZ runs Chicane RX tires on HD5 Beadlock wheels, and is also supported by Lonestar Racing, Factory UTV, Fox Shocks, Rugged Radios, Northland Motorsports, Outdoor Sports, and Yamaha.
Starting from a 24th-place draw, Savage ran a conservative first lap. “In previous races,” he said, “when we were newer to UTV racing, we thought it was all about speed the entire race.” After the team’s first pit stop, involving some minor shock adjustments, Savage decided to pick up the speed and race toward the front. “Our traction was great through any corners and direction changes, that helped us increase the speed.”
“In previous races, we were running about 18 psi in each tire, and we had video from the Parker 250, showing the tires flexing too much. So we bumped up the pressure by 5 pounds, and that made the ride a little firmer, but gave us perfect tire performance.”
Perfect? Yes, Save Racing had no flats throughout the Mint 400. “I’m very pleased with these tires,” said Savage.
Savage began passing other UTVs on the second lap. “We kept in touch with the pit crew on our current position, we knew we were on a solid pace. As the track became more of a challenge, we were cautious and stayed smart, and fast when we could be.”
At the start of the third lap, the drivers learned they were outside of the top 10. “Throughout the third lap, we saw more and more UTVs broke down on the side of the track. With the Yamaha YXZ 1000R feeling strong, we were more confident and were able to put down faster times each lap as the race went on.”
Savage Racing completed the 2017 Mint 400 in 3rd Place in the competitive Pro Production UTV class, and 11th overall out of 110 UTVs, also the first ever Yamaha YXZ 1000R to be on the podium in the BITD series.
Savage says the team plans on racing more than just BITD. “Learning how to drive smooth out there is hard. But we believe we have the speed, and we are excited to show it.”