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Ultra4 compared to Desert Racing

Dave Cole 4454

Well-Known Member
The thread about All Star Teams had me thinking. Obviously I am biased but believe it or not, I am still just a fan of dirt, dust, and horsepower. Will, and if so, how and when will Ultra4 be ubiquitous to the Offroad Racing conversation?

Not comparing series to series. Thats a different pissing match for a different day.

Athletes and Cars.

We compare short course to desert racing to rally raid. When will a Jason Scherer or Loren Healy enter into a conversation about the top drivers.

Some basic points of reference, Shannon Campbell is in the Hall or Fame (the only Rocksports inductee) and the GOAT (Rob Mac) has gone on record numerous times talking about the difficulty of FINISHING KOH relative to winning the 1000.

Can a slightly tweaked U4 car with full logistics support being competitive for an overall win at the 500?


And no, Im not going to lose sleep if the haters come out to explain how silly my thoughts are. Dumb ideas are kinda my thing lol

My opinion if you were to create a mythical race series of desert, short course, and rally and made the competitors pick one vehicle an Ultra4 car would dominate. Even sprinkle rocks in and it wouldnt be close


Well-Known Member
I think when you start to see Ultra4 drivers or teams make significant success in other forms of racing, just as Dale White at LeMans, Ragland and Miller in Rally, Jimmy Johnson in stock cars, and of course Robby Gordon in TransAm, Indycar, Nascar, etc. High speed car control and extreme speed has been demonstrated by all of these guys both off-road and in other forms of racing. Here is a video example. Is it luck? Just knowing the course? Otherworldly car control skills? Perhaps all 3.



Well-Known Member
The Ultra 4 drivers are great drivers, I will never take that away from them. Other than just a couple, there are not many that cross over to full desert racing that I have seen. However, we have seen a number of desert guys race KOH and as Cameron Steele showed this year, a desert racer can make a good showing...until their equipment breaks. And in his defense about the break down, there were many other top Ultra 4 racers break before and after he broke.

I would like to see some of those guys find rides in desert races like the B500 and B1000 and see how they do in a TT.


New Member
Many of us in Ultra 4 have a strong background in the rocks but going fast is all new. I attended my 3rd Ultra 4 this year. 3rd time on 4400 pit crew and first time in car, 4900 copilot. Wow!! What an incredible event.

For years I have wheeled, love the rocks, love the technical. Now lets add in the high speed. This added a complete new aspect, suspension tuning. For many of us, the sport of off road is what keeps us going. I really dig on the fact of learning another aspect to the sport. Tuning suspension for the rocks, good fun, plenty of room for error, get it close and go wheel. Going fast, whole new game. Combine the two, better bring your A game!!

As a new person to the race atmosphere, great experience. Lot's of help, direction, mfg support, it was just an incredible experience. Other drivers offered help. What a great feeling!! I watched racers give parts to their competitors to make the race. Ultra 4 has their fair share of "gentleman" involved in it's success.

Baja? Maybe in the future. Slightly intimated about doing that just yet. We need more seat time, prep time, suspension tuning time, logistics, not unreasonable but give us a couple years. Based out of Texas, we have opportunities for more track time which we need. Got the bug now!!! Just need to keep learning.

We didn't do great in our first race at KOH 20' but we did get a place. but we be back for 21' as well as try to hit races in the eastern series. So much more to learn, I look forward to it.


I really think the majority of Rock/Desert/Short Course drivers would have a very hard time transitioning over to another type of racing. There are always the few that can do everything but I think without a ton of seat time you can't just transition easy. You've seen quite a few desert racers give short course a try and most don't do that great. I don't want to name names because some are friends :).

Dave now that I reread your question I don't think that answers the question at all lol.

Do I think a U4 car could compete for an overall at a Baja 500 with some tweaks such has fuel cell and a few other things, and also have full logistical help? I don't believe so. Finish in Top 10, absolutely with the right driver like Jason or Loren. But are they going to compete with a Menzies, Andy and other top drivers?

Also Dave, do you guys have any split times on the KOH course that the T1 and U4 shared? Like times to cougar buttes?


Well-Known Member
Wait a second... what is common with all three sports?
- Desert Racing
- Rock Racing
- Short-Course/Stadium Racing

UTV's compete in all 3 of these.

I feel like some of the multi-disciplined drivers in the future may be starting/branching their career in a UTV. The likes of Blade Hildebrand, Mitch Guthrie, Seth Quintero, Mad Max Gordon, probably that Ruslan_greasehands kid who jumped the Glamis canal, etc.

Maybe I'm wrong but UTV's seem to cross between all three of these sports, albeit they aren't usually the overall finishers in each but they do have some validity in each.


Well-Known Member
I believe like in the case of motorcycles, when a German bike like a Maico was bad @$$ with 4 inches of travel in the rear.... The front forks of a motorcycle have not changed that much since the Maico..... There were a myriad of suspension types, leading link, trailing link, etc.... Then you could take your Maico into Cooper's motors and have them lay down the rear shocks, move them forward, and come home with variable rate springs and 12 inches of travel in the rear..... Then the Honda CR500 brought all of that together, and with the implementaton of 4 stroke fuel injection that will stay running upside down we have basically a bunch of very similiar Trophy Bikes out there..... The UTV's are already evidence that we are trending in that homogenous direction..... The tendancy to make everything the same..... Eventually it will just be stupid to build your own race truck when some Polarity reversed company makes them..... So, we need some corporation to design a vehicle that is a little bigger than a UTV, with unlimited horsepower, and the clearance of a Ultra4, but with steering you can actually use at 120mph, and it looks like a bitchen truck...... Then ALL the promoters can design a track that is suitable for this vehicle and have massive car counts...... I don't want this to happen, but it obviously already is......... (I personally like the size, look, and sound of Robby's stadium trucks)


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I think there will be a case to be made for the "reputation" of Ultra4 guys matching that of other disciplines in the near future. As KOH continues to draw fans and eyeballs, people will continue to give it more mindspace.

That's a different question than whether or not guys succeed in other disciplines. And Ultra4 vehicles competing for overall in desert racing is an entirely different question from that, running into the issue of what the vehicles are designed to do. A trophy truck is not going to do well on a KOH course, and it will get smoked by a Pro truck on a short course, but that's because it's designed to do something different.

I don't think Ultra4 guys will break into other forms of racing without serious money behind them. RG and JJ were both supremely talented, but also crossed into other forms of racing at a time when there was a lot more sponsor money available. It takes more cash to do that now, and if you have to spend money anyway, why not race what you enjoy?

re: Michael's UTV comment: Some guys are already using UTVs to compete in other disciplines. Several short course guys have UTV programs, and a couple of them have brought them to KOH.

I'd like to see someone (ok, confession: I'd love to have the cash to try this) run a UTV program that races everything in one season. KOH, short course, desert, rally, and anything else they're allowed to enter. If you put enough work in you could race KOH on February 1, reset, race the Sno*Drift Rally on snow on February 20-21, reset, run most of a spring desert schedule, reset, run short course and rally over the summer finishing up at Crandon, and then run Baja in the fall.

Obviously there is some financial and time cost to (heavily) modifying a UTV to do all of these things, but think of how much a manufacturer like Polaris or Can-Am would enjoy having one team race in all of that stuff and show off the versatility of the product.


Well-Known Member
I think the biggest difference is desert , short course and stadium have been around for a long time whereas rock racing is still in its infancy . So it really doesn’t get the respect it deserves yet . Yes there’s some big names ( Campbell Healey etc ) whove done some awesome things in the sport and with time I think they’ll eventually their due . As for the cars the same thing applies but seems to me that lots of the technology that’s showing up in the 4wd TTs was more or less tested in KOH / Ultra 4 .


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You're asking this question on a "desert racing" site. I'm sure more people on rock crawling and 4x4 sites are more in tune with the big names of rock racing. Rock racing is such a niche sport at this point most of us couldn't even tell you what the big races are outside of KOH. I think the Campbells and Lovells are well known due to their participation in traditional desert racing events.


Well-Known Member
On the question of cars. Both are built for the terrain. The fast crawlers, (Ultra4) learned about 4 links from the TT's. Before that the rear steer in crawlers was like a fork lift. TT's have learned from the ultra4 racers about 4wd IFS, and maybe taking it to a next level with TT $$ and engineering experience. I believe there will be some paybacks to Ultra4 in the way of some better and less HP limiting differentials and parts. With this, the Ultra4's will continue to close the set-up and speed gap.

As for drivers, I believe there are different skills learned over many years. It seems most good offroad drivers have some background from Motorcycle Racing. It probably depends what type of MC racing they did that added the skills to progress to the top levels of the different 4-wheel offroad sports. If you rode the woods and rough terrain you would be the boss in a tight course where the open desert guys "know" how to read the desert and the bulldozer driver. Both know how to use the pedals. Mostly in the head from experience, but having good mentors helps........

jon coleman

Well-Known Member
mx is a All about throttle control, if you have ever raced mc, you know ' standing on it' Does Not Work!!, but driving cars does till you run out of talent, then the cage saves you, mx?, instead of a cage you got terra firma, o_O


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Some of the fastest drivers have raced their fastest cars against trophy trucks and the likes before. Mint 400 a few years back there was how many ultra 4's? Parker 425 there have been a few show up as well. Vegas to reno, etc.

Nick nelson has appeared a few times.

Always the same story, they do good until they break. The ultra 4's are like a swiss army knife of disciplines, while the trophy trucks are just a finely made blade for offroad racing.

The ultra 4 cars just dont hold up for the long distance fast races from what ive seen.


Well-Known Member
Can a slightly tweaked U4 car with full logistics support being competitive for an overall win at the 500?


An Ultra 4 will never beat a Trophy Truck in a desert race, just like a TT will never beat an Ultra 4 in a rock race. At the top level, it takes too much specialization to be a contender and winner. Sure, occasionally someone will get a lucky win, but odds are you can bet on the over. The two different vehicles are too specialized to be versatile enough to overall in both series. Casey Currie has tried and has not overalled either race.

Shannon Campbell had two different vehicles and was never able to overall a desert sanctioned event. Great driver, but again it comes down to the specialty thing. Rob Mac hasn’t dominated at KOH, but is almost next level successful in the desert scene and was dominating in short course for a while too. These two forms of automobile racing have progressed to the point it takes too much specialization for a generally good driver to just show up and win in a couple of tries.

Nasser had a great finish at the 1000, but had an advantage in an AWD truck with extremely rare and uncommon course conditions and a driving partner that races an Australian TT. While those two were new to the Baja 1000 TT game, they weren’t new to the playing field.

It would be cool to see some company put up some insane amount of money to anyone that can win KOH, Finke, V to R, and the 1000.

Dave Cole 4454

Well-Known Member
This wasnt the direction I was heading, but thats cool.

I do not believe a U4 car is faster than a 4wd TT.

It has been empirically proven that a U4 can be faster than 2wd TTs in multiple occurrences.

Jason Scherer was straight up faster than Luke McMillin on the same dirt 1 day apart.

Casey, Shannon, and I have all finished top 20 overall in BITD and SCORE races. I beat Jesse Jones and Mark Post (Riviera TT) wheel to wheel on a couple stages of Norra with both cars healthy in a solid axle car. And yes, I know its an older truck in an Orange Slice race.

But I was initially talking about when will Ultra4 be recognized as a discipline when talking about Offroad Racing.

Honestly, even I think you need a full generation of drivers to cycle through.

Sidenote, the knock on U4 cars not being strong enough is ridiculous. Using Nicks 4WD TT as a measuring stick is not remotely the same as a top U4 car race prepped to win.

Thanks for the discussion...it passes the time :)

On a completely different note, while the past few weeks have been weird for all of us...the downtime has allowed us to think outside of the box. Big stuff coming ;)