-Words and photos by Matt Kartozian
While they are relative newcomers to desert racing, the Riot Racing team has already made a huge impact and have grown a large fan base. Much of this is due to their outstanding racing films and photography that they use to highlight the team.
While almost everyone is familiar with the films, far less are familiar with the massive amount of work it takes to keep the team racing in the premier Trophy Truck class in two different series. Today we join Riot Racing at their shop in Las Vegas for a behind the scenes look at what it takes to keep the Riot Racing machine well oiled and at the top of their game.
The team fields two Geiser Brothers Trophy Truck and runs them in the Best In The Desert (BITD) and SNORE series. Marc Ewing is the primary driver and Josh Daniel is the reserve driver for the trophy and at certain races he drives the second truck or a class 1 car. In addition the team maintains a Geiser trophy prerunner and a fleet of chase and support vehicles. We arrived at the shop just a few weeks after the team scored their first overall win in Plaster City, CA at the SNORE SoCal 250.
While the team brings a huge group of people to the races, back at the shop the work is done by just three people. Jordan Poole, Shop Manager and regular co-driver for Marc Ewing. Sammy Zaranti, Lead Mechanic and Brandon Johnson, Mechanic and Fabricator.
The small crew is kept very busy prepping and maintaining the trucks not just for the two race series but also team’s extensive test schedule, typically at least once a month and often a few weeks before the upcoming race accelerating the prep schedule. Additionally there are also frequent photo shoots and PR functions that coincide with the test sessions.
It takes about three weeks for the crew to prep each truck and they are torn down to the frame every race (minus wiring and plumbing) for a complete prep. Sammy Zaranti sums it up nicely ” Winning starts in the shop. It all starts with preparation. Without proper preparation you will get piss poor performance. It’s a good three weeks to turn a truck around. Every truck always gets a full prep which keeps our quality control really high. That way when Marc gets in the truck, the vehicle is the last thing he has to worry about.”
The crew has extensive experience in the off road world, previously working at some of the sports top race shops including Collins Motorsports, Grove Racing and Kory Scheeler’s Realtech Realty team and they all give credit and thanks to their former teams.
As the Shop Manager Jordan has a busy schedule. He oversees all the scheduling, parts ordering, volunteer recruitment and the logistics of getting everyone and everything to the race then feeding and housing the people, which can include up to 50 volunteers at each race. ” Scheduling is gnarly trying to run both series. We have one truck for each series and they leapfrog each other. The bottom line is making sure each truck is ready to go and performing at its best for each race to give Marc the best opportunity to win.” Jordan tells us. ” The hard part for me is arranging for all the people to come to race, house and feed them, give them a plan for the race and then get in truck and have no control. I have to make sure everything is done on time so I don’t have to think about it on race day. A lot of our volunteers are guys that just come to me and want to help the team. Others are friends of mine that I can trust to get the job done while I am in the race truck. Every one of our volunteers is a badass and does their job 100%. I don’t worry when we come into the pits because I know our guys have it handled.”
Away from the races Sammy Zaranti is the main man for prepping the trucks but on race day he takes over the pits. ” On race day I run the main pit and work as a tire changer. I make sure everyone has a job and that the pit is safe while making our stop as smooth and fast as possible. Before each race we do a full pit stop practice here at the shop with our volunteers. That way everyone knows their job and its make the pits on race day that much safer.”
Sammy is also a fan of the open source style shop at Riot Racing. ” In the shop we are given the leeway to try new things. It’s an open environment, everyone is free to throw out and try ideas and that makes the team strong, utilizing everyone’s experience. “
Brandon Johnson works with Sammy to get the trucks ready to race, test or shoot. While they have fun at the shop they take the work seriously. ” We won’t to cut a corner to save a day of work, that will come back to haunt us at the track. Typically we do one project per day, like the front suspension, do it right, then double and triple check everything to make sure it’s perfect.”
The Riot Racing team is on the way up, and after their first win they are hungry for more. With the solid crew they have in the shop and the pits we should all expect big things to happen. Jordan sums it up well ” We won our first race in Plaster City in May and we are ready to win more. We have the right program and the right guys, top to bottom.”