As the wave of drivers took off for the first round of the 2013 Midwest Offroad Championship season, Bryan Hulsey and John Pitts, the duo who are known as Team Epic Racing, found themselves in an unfamiliar car.
The team was racing a 2013 Polaris XP Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) provided by their sponsor, J & W Cycles, Washington.
Hulsey, Washington, and Pitt, Eureka, were introduced to the 900cc UTV only one week before the race.
Although the vehicle had power steering and was faster than the 800cc RZR they drove the year before, it still had its challenges.
“It’s bigger and harder to navigate through the woods,” Hulsey said.
The course at the MOC race is pitted with ditches, ravines, fallen logs, creeks and a lot of trees to dodge.
“When we hit the rough stuff, you could tell the suspension in the 900 was better (than the 800),” Hulsey said.
At the end of the first lap Hulsey and Pitts were struggling just a little bit to find their speed and sitting in the No. 3 position.
Each lap however they were getting a little faster, however, and by the midway point of the race, the two men had taken over the No. 2 position.
“We were focusing on keeping the car out of the trees and keeping air in all four tires, which was proving to be a difficult task for all of the competitors,” Hulsey explained.
When the white flag flew, signalling the last lap of the race, Hulsey and Pitts had a slim time-adjusted overall lead.
“I knew holding onto it was going to be tough,” Hulsey said.
Near the end of the last and final lap, Team Epic came up on the leaders, who had finally lost the battle of keeping their car out of the trees.
Team Epic cautiously navigated around them and crossed the finish line, clinching the race.
Winning the first leg of the three-race series sets, Team Epic was up to try to nab the same championship title they won last year with the Polaris 800.
Hulsey, 42, may not consider himself seasoned in the UTV arena, but he’s no stranger to offroad racing.
All it took was one trip to St. Joe State Park back when he was 17 and he was hooked on racing quad runner ATVs.
But after breaking a lot of bones over the years, Hulsey retired the ATV and switched solely to the UTV with the five-point safety harness and roll cage.
“With age comes the cage,” Hulsey quipped.
The 2013 season is the first season the team has been backed by J & W in UTV racing.
Luckily, Hulsey and Pitts brought back the vehicle with little damage from the track and it even still had air in all four tires.