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I’d Brap That: What’s Your Off-Roading Style?

By Melissa Sulivan

Off roading has long been a popular hobby but over the last few years the sport has gained a lot of traction. In addition to plenty of opportunities to hit the trails off road racing events are popping up all over the state bringing a different type of excitement for both spectators and drivers. You do not have to be a race professional to enjoy a day at the racetrack, that is part of what makes the sport so thrilling. Speed is not always the key to winning, driving skills, style and the track conditions play a big role in how your race plays out. There are many different types of off-road races to try from drag races to hill climbs, each one providing its own challenges and thrills. My husband and I have raced in all types of races with our SXS and even developed our own racing series. There are a lot of important things to know if you want to get into racing your SXS, but I feel Knowing what style of racing you and your vehicle are most suited for is a great place to get started. There really is something for everyone, I have raced alongside professionals, amateurs, kids and even raced with a guy who was left paralyzed from the waist down after an ATV accident. No matter the level of experience I always notice the drivers always seem to have the same amount of fun!


What are different types of Off-Road Races:

There are many different types of off-road racing and each one is unique. Each type of racing has set standards for the way they conduct and score the race. Depending on the race you may compete in some types of races with a variety of vehicles or be restricted to specific types. The great thing about amateur or outlaw races is the opportunity to try out racing without the requirement to build a race specific vehicle. We have raced with a range from the casual participant who uses the same car that they trail ride to the hard-core driver who has a dedicated competition car, special tires, and uses lots of shop time tweaking and making it faster.

In my experience all types of off-road racing are fun but there are some styles that you will love and some that you will not enjoy as much. Below I’ve listed some types of SXS off road races that you will see popping up in Michigan this summer.


A short flat track with multiple right- and left-hand turns make a “mini-road course”. The races could be a ‘One Lap Wonder’ style where one driver at a time runs the course to see who can get the fastest lap time without going off course. You may also see this type of course run single or double elimination style with multiple drivers on the course.

This type of race features usually a ¼ – ½ mile long track with multiple tight turns, meaning you can expect slower race speeds. Despite the low overall speeds during competition, it’s still one of the most intense forms of off-road racing you can enter, especially on ice!  This type of track usually will not have jumps on the course and the barriers to entry are low so many drivers are able to be quite competitive at it, regardless of their level of experience.

Hill Climbing

Hill-climbing is a course that is mostly uphill. Drivers race against the clock rather than each other, with the goal of having the fastest time up the course. Sometimes the hills are so steep, speed alone doesn’t determine the winner. Some vehicles will not be able to make it to the top of the course, so they’re not eligible to win. If it comes down to it distance can also be the determining factor for a win. This type of race happens year-round and is a popular type of race at ski hills at the end of the season. This type of track could snake through a few turns or be ran where two drivers are taking a pass at the same time on separate, mirrored tracks.


Drag Racing

This is the most popular entry level style of off-road racing. This type of race is a straight line ranging from 300’ to 1/4 mile. This type of racing is based on speed and horsepower and tends to be the most competitive style of high-speed racing. Drivers can race the clock or side by side in a grudge race with money on the line. I have learned each race varies with drag racing and that adds to the excitement. This type of race may start with a light or with the drop of an arm, make sure you don’t jump either one. There may be special rules in place too like “chase is a race”, meaning it’s important to pay attention to the rules or you may lose. Drag racing is the easiest type of race to participate in but can get complicated with rules, which may vary depending on where you are racing. 

Short course

This is a type of racing held on a closed course track varying in length from ½-1 mile long with multiple laps made. The track will include include turns, jumps, and off camber conditions. While this type of race is usually run with 2-4 SXS on the track at once, it can be run in a time trial scenario with just one driver on the course shooting for the fastest lap. The jumps on the track will range from small humps designed to upset your suspension to tabletop jumps designed for bigger air.

Endurance/Baja Desert Style Racing

Many people in Michigan dream of the chance to experience a true desert Baja race. In desert racing you race hundred of miles in one race. Based on the name alone, some people think that this type racing is specifically in a desert location but that is not true. There are opportunities to run endurance races in your SXS here in Michigan which test your ability to drive through varying terrain, on long courses, for hours without stopping. This type of racing requires patience and being able to pace yourself. If you push too hard or over drive, you could break your vehicle and end up not finishing the race.

Mud Bogging

Mud bogging is off-road racing with a “course” that’s a mud pit. This style racing is not usually based on speed, participants want to be the vehicle that makes it farthest across the pit. The race will usually still be times, just in case several SXS make it all the way across. If you plan to compete in mud bogging, you will want to have four-wheel drive. Other than that, different classes of vehicles race in various categories.

Dirt Oval Track

Few forms of off-road racing evoke as much passion as those that hit the dirt oval tracks. If you can’t figure out why, just a few laps on a dirt oval with multiple SXS surrounding will get you up to speed, both figuratively and literally. This type of racing is intense and high speed. You only will make left turns and some drivers make modifications that help the car turn left. Tracks may also require specific tires like Hoosiers. At these races you will have heat races which allow you to feel out the track and determine where you will start in your feature race. Winners are determined in the order of crossing the finish line after a certain number of laps, ranging from 6-15 laps.


Snow & Ice Racing

Snow and ice racing takes place in the winter and tracks may be on frozen lakes and rivers. When it comes to winter SXS racing we have raced each type, except for mud bogging, on snow or ice and it really ads another level of excitement to the race. Things you have mastered on dirt you will have to re master as you brave the elements of northern Michigan. You may also find yourself looking for extra traction. One of the main differences racing on ice is that most participants use studded tires for traction.

I’m sure that there are many people out there who have always wanted to race but think that their time has passed. “I’m too old”, “I have no experience”, or “my motor is nothing special” I hear people say often. None of those things matter it is about the fun and the experience, the winning and the prizes are just a bonus.

Off-Road racing is a lifestyle and full of some of the greatest people you will ever meet. I have seen competitors pull parts off their cars to help another get back on the track. The camaraderie is honestly I believe the biggest payout you will ever experience at any track. I encourage everyone to try a race, your first time will be scary, but the adrenaline rush you will feel after is incomparable. The first time you win will feel even better! Take it from me, an amateur woman off road racer, there is a type of off-road racing for everyone. That fact is why I put together the races that we do. I love giving others the opportunity to fall in love with off road racing regardless of their background. If you are worried about crashing, consider the fact that racing your SXS is safer than trail riding thanks to required safety gear and one way traffic. You are just as likely to get in an accident trail riding. At our races we have participants that are 6 – 72 and the smiles are just as big on both faces come race day! We encourage you to try one of the races in the 2022 I’d Brap That SXS Drivers Points Series.


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