Racing Side-By-Sides - What Does it Really Take?
If you've ever watched the heart-pounding action of SxS racing and dreamt of being behind the wheel yourself, you're in for a wild ride. SxS racing is an amazing sport that pits drivers against challenging and beautiful terrains, offers intense competition, and allows racers to push themselves and their rigs to the limit. That all sounds exciting, and trust us, it is, but the real question for most people who haven’t grown up with a close friend or family member already in the sport is “How do I get started?” So, if you’ve been thinking about racing, good news - we’ve done it, and we can give you an inside look at how to build your own skillset and racing program. It’s not easy, or cost-effective but if you’re willing to put in the work, you can make it happen. Here’s a look into what it takes to go from recreational riding to the competitive arena.
Choosing The Right Rig
Like any type of racing, you need to have the right equipment. You wouldn’t bring a donkey to a horse race or lace up with a pair of basketball shoes for a sprint. Before you can line up at the start for your first race, you need the right rig. The SxS you choose can have a major impact on your performance and enjoyment, especially if you’re going to need some time before you can dive into modifying and upgrading parts to make it your own. When you get to that step, CA Tech offers a massive range of parts built for battle.
To get started though, you’ll need to consider the rig’s suspension, and look for adjustable and robust components that can handle the rigors of off-road racing. A lightweight frame will help you stay nimble and fast - maximizing maneuverability for challenging courses. Keep an eye out for SxS models with a roll cage and other safety features that help you meet racing regulations. Customization potential is also crucial; once you get your feet wet, you’ll want the ability to fine-tune your set-up for specific race categories and conditions. We’d also recommend you don’t just look at the factory options - research the aftermarket support and availability of performance parts that will improve engine output, suspension, and handling. Lastly, consider your racing goals—whether it's desert racing, short course, or rock crawling— many side-by-sides are capable of tackling most terrains, but when it comes to gaining a competitive edge you’ll want to ensure you’ve given careful consideration to whichever models are designed with your category in mind and can provide the versatility needed to excel on the track.
Mastering the Basics: Training and Skill Development
Now that you’ve picked the perfect rig for your needs, it's time to focus on your skillset. Raw talent won’t hurt but SxS racing demands a unique set of abilities that combine driving finesse with quick decision-making. You might be a skilled driver on regular roads, or maybe you have some experience in a more traditional form of racing, but off-road racing is an entirely different beast. Not only will you need to master the art of making tight turns and split decisions while maneuvering through crowded courses and fighting the elements, but you’ll also need to do it while flying through the air and at top speeds. Needless to say, it can be a little overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.
Seat time is essential and investing in professional training can make a world of difference when it comes to both your skills and your confidence behind the wheel. Spend some time looking into racing schools, training programs, or even open track days that offer courses specifically tailored to SxS racing. These programs can cover everything from proper vehicle control and line selection to understanding different terrains and mastering techniques like drifting and jumping. Most importantly, they offer seat time in the conditions you’ll actually race in - an invaluable experience to have before you level up to the real thing.
Safety First: Gear Up for Success
Safety should always be a top priority when you're pushing the limits in an intense racing environment and realistically, proper safety gear is non-negotiable in any series. That being said, it may be tempting to leave a few things off while practicing on your own but it’s always best to train wearing all of your gear. Not only will it keep you protected, but it will also enhance your confidence on the track. It may not seem like a big deal but the added layers on race day can cause a problem if you’re not used to riding in a full suit with gloves, and boots– each designed to provide maximum protection and safety while you navigate through hairpin turns and unpredictable terrain but can create a barrier between senses and reaction times if you’re not comfortable enough wearing it.
Building Your Dream Team: Mechanics and Pit Crew
Unless you know all the right people in all the right places and you or someone supporting you has deep pockets, in the beginning, it’s likely that you’re going to be a one or two-man crew that’s made up of you and maybe a couple of buddies and that’s okay. The size of your team isn’t as important as the amount of support those few give you. Behind every successful racer is a dedicated team working behind the scenes and we’ve seen teams of 3 outperform teams of 13. Your mechanics and pit crew are the unsung heroes who keep your race rig running smoothly during races so it helps to have a few friends who know a thing or two about how to fix your set-up and keep you in the running when it counts.
You may be the one behind the wheel, but racing is 100% a team sport so who you have with you can make or break a weekend. It’s important to set your expectations too. You’re going to make mistakes, there will be parts you just can’t fix, and when terrain and conditions vary from track to track, some races are going to be harder than others. That being said, if you don’t have a full crew of specialists, you should spend time learning the basics in everything from engine tuning to suspension adjustments to limit how often those things happen.
Navigating Sponsorships: Showcasing Your Potential
We’d love to tell you that brands are just lining up, waiting to throw some funds your way but SxS racing isn't just about fast driving; it's also about making a name for yourself in the racing community. Before you go knocking on doors, cold calling business, and mass sending emails with a proposal attached, you’ll need to work on building a strong presence first. Gone are the days of offering a hood placement in exchange for hard cash. Attracting sponsorships can open doors to more opportunities and resources for your racing journey but you will need to spend the time and effort to establish your social media channels, develop a professional racing portfolio that highlights your achievements, skills, and potential, and lastly, network with brands at the events you attend. Get to know the vendors that are supporting races, and build relationships with the people who are around you because these are the people who are making the monetary decisions so if they like you, they could wind up supporting your program before you know it.
Bonus tip: You don’t have to win every race, you don’t even have to podium- if you can get the support and loyalty of the people with a social following that gets sponsors excited, you’re ahead of the game.
Hitting the Dirt: Starting Small and Working Up
Starting your SxS racing career might feel overwhelming, but remember that every champion started where you are now. Although we love a “go big or go home” attitude, when it comes to racing, small steps are best. Gain valuable experience by signing up to participate in local off-road racing events and open-trail days to help you gauge your skills, identify weak points, and most importantly, connect you with the racing community.
As you gain confidence and build a track record of success, you can gradually move up to more competitive races, and seek out racing programs that support the next generation of racers.
Embracing the Journey: Passion and Perseverance
As the old saying goes, “The fastest way to get a million dollars racing is to start with two million.” Becoming a successful SxS racer isn't an overnight achievement, and it’s probably not a path to the bank account of your dreams; it's a journey that requires unwavering passion and relentless perseverance. You'll face setbacks, tough competition, and moments of self-doubt. However, it's your passion for the sport and the thrill of the race that will keep you going.
At CA Tech, we share that passion for off-road adventures and have made it our mission to manufacture parts that will support you in advancing your racing journey. When it comes to innovative components for side-by-sides, we’ve got your back.
No matter how you decide to use your side-by-side - be it fun family adventures or a full racing calendar, we’ve got the experience you need to keep it pushing, and real ways to make it better. Keeping your rig functional and looking great when you’re ready to step on the gas shouldn’t get in the way of a good time. If you’re looking for advice, need help with an install, or just don’t know what parts you might want to check out next, CA Tech has the experts on hand with the info you need. Give us a call at 423-790-0230 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - we got you!