U.S. racing debut provides value to China-based UTV manufacturer
The odds certainly weren’t in their favor, at least not according to the online forums. There, the Georgia Southern University entrant into the 2015 SCORE Baja 1000 would be lucky to complete a handful of miles. In fact, friendly wagers that the team aboard the Hisun Strike 1000 side-by-side would not eclipse 30 miles could be found online. Some gave them 40 or 50 miles. Maybe.
And while the Strike 1000 did depart on the first day, Hisun’s entrant lasted about five hours and 120 miles before safety concerns forced the team to withdraw from the competition. A trophy truck had endoed into a ravine — about a 15-foot ditch — and while avoiding the “perfectly vertical” trophy truck, the Georgia Southern team found themselves in the same ditch.
“We had several chase trucks but none that were positioned in a way that we could get there quickly,” said Ryan Daugherty, vice president of sales and marketing for Hisun Motors USA, who spent four days at the event in Baja California, Mexico. After arriving at the scene two hours after the crash, team members needed only about 40 minutes to replace one of the front wheel hubs, the rack and pinion steering and tie rods.
However, the elapsed time at such a late point during the night meant the team would lose the checkpoint support, along with other support along the race course. The Georgia Southern official in charge of the team made the decision to not pursue the race any further for the safety of his team. The other two entrants in the UTV Sportsman class also did not finish the race.
“It was the right decision,” Daugherty said. “The vehicle could have kept going, and the will of the team — as a group they certainly wanted to keep going. The kids were extremely disappointed, as you would expect. As a manufacturer, we understood the most important thing was the safety of those college students.”
Even so, Daugherty chalked up the experience as a success.
“There was no bet online that we would even come close to making it 100 miles, so making it 120 miles was a win in and of itself,” he said.
Georgia Southern’s race team will be compiling a report that details the race vehicle preparation, as well as the support they would need to make another run at the Baja in 2016. Georgia Southern team members spent nearly two weeks prior to the race’s start traversing the terrain on Hisun ATVs and UTVs.
“As a manufacturer, we learned a lot,” Daugherty said. “It was an experience that ultimately will teach us a lot about the vehicle and a lot about the off-road racing environment. The upgrades the GSU team made on the vehicle can be transferred into production units and improve the product. So yes, I think it’s a valuable experience for us to pursue again.”