Joe Duncan is one of those powersports industry personalities who tends to show up everywhere.
Duncan is famously known as the sport organizer for all things snowmobile at Winter X Games, but also founded the World Snocross Association many years ago and expanded WSA's world by adding a national ATV racing circuit. He also raced the WPSA race series, from 2006 to 2008.
Duncan and his new team are now bringing back a special version of ATV racing that was featured in the WPSA race series then known as "Quad Terrain Challenge," but since rebranded as "Terracross." He explains the new twist on an old sport, which you can see for yourself on the CBS Sports Network [July 8, 15 and 22, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7].
ESPN.com: So what is Terracross?
Duncan: Terracross is side-by-side utility vehicles and ATV 4-wheel drive quads racing through rocks, logs, mud, tires and any other nasty obstacles that we can throw into a short course.
Where did this thing come from?
It was started at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games in 2005 as more of a hunting/ATV racing event whereas now it is a pure racing event, not only with ATVs, but also with side-by-side units. Side-by-sides are the most popular selling recreational vehicle in the U.S. right now.
So where can we see these new events live?
We have two live event weekends: Elk River, Minn., on June 22 and 23 and then the HayDays weekend in North Branch, Minn., on Sept. 8 and 9. We have over 40,000 people at HayDays and over 5,000 fans are expected at the first event weekend. We have hospitality and VIP, autograph signing and a full vendor village so there is plenty to do for the race fan and the family they drag along. We're going to have some entertainment between races, we have freestyle demos and jam sessions and a big stunt show to round out the events.
Well, we understand ATV motocross racing and the people who are in that racing scene, but who actually races this type of competition?
Unlike conventional racing, we are able to invite action sports athletes from all genres of action sports. We have professional wakeboarders, snowmobilers, ATV and side-by-side racers, professional motocross racers and big name athletes to come in and compete on this treacherous terrain course.
Does that mean it is still serious racing?
Yes, the events are competitive racing, but because anybody can race this form of racing and because a lot of these guys already have these vehicles as their fun vehicle or their recreational vehicle outside of their normal sport they have already been acclimated to it and already know how to drive and how to perform in these things. They are only going to get better as the racing series grows.
So could we pull a skateboarder off the street and have him be competitive on one of these vehicles?
After probably a day of practice he would most likely be competitive with a good portion of the field, but again the goal is not to bring in the top side-by-side or even in most cases the best quad racers out there. The goal is to bring in characters and sport superstars to be invited to race the sport.
If you look at your current roster of athletes, who are the favorites as you start off the season?
Our multi-time champion and former quad terrain champion, Daryl Rath is going to be a favorite in the win category. He has great experience in this format from a series we did back in the day.
Doug Gust is also coming out of semi-retirement from MX ATV racing and has been racing some side-by-side events, so they will be two of our top contenders.
Then you put a guy like [X Games snowmobile freestyle gold medalist] Chris Burandt -- who has been in a RZR for the last three or four years, not in competition, but just out riding and racing and who has a couple of courses at his house -- you're going to start adding in some action sports athletes who already do this.
Front flipping [X Games snowmobile best trick gold medalist] Heath Frisby is going to be participating. Paul Thacker, with hand controls in his car, is also going to be competing as well as Rusty Malinoski and Jimmy Blaze.
The rest of the field is in the process of being filled. There will be 16 pro athletes in the side-by-side division and 16 pro athletes in the quad division.
So what's different from this equipment to the vehicles that these guys usually blaze around the fields or the desert with [their recreational stuff]?
In the pro division this year the Polaris Ranger RZR XP900 is the vehicle of choice. Polaris stepped on board and has provided us with some equipment as well as teaming up with us from a marketing and television side.
So for this year we make the post and pre-race technical inspections easy and make the racing fair and competitive because the XP 900 RZR right off the showroom floor -- other than some extra safety items we put on it -- can go right to the racetrack.
This allows us to keep things cost effective for the racers and the series, but it also broadens the scope of who can actually race this. You don't have to have a motor builder and a shock company and all the normal things that go into your racing format to show up and be competitive with one of these stock machines.
In the quad division we will have multiple manufacturers in there. Polaris again is in because they are a partner and we hope to have Kawasaki who are also a partner on the media side. We hope to have them with a team. We are also looking at Arctic Cat and Can Am to come in with some of their racers participating.
It's not exactly the guy off the street doing it, but not exactly people who are trained and equipment that is engineered to do just this one thing?
Right. These are the units you can buy off your showroom floor and then take it out to the track. Add some safety requirements and minor protection additions like skid plates and front and rear bumpers, then some handlebars and shocks and tires. It's a stock machine and again we are trying to keep the costs of racing to a minimum so more people can do it.
Well, we know what we are racing on, but what about the rules for this series? What can guys do or not do?
From a technical standpoint it is "stock racing." There are tires and shocks and suspension that you can fine-tune or add to the machine. On the side-by-side you need to add full closure doors and side netting to keep everyone inside the machine. You also have to have four or five point harnesses for the seats and you could switch to a race seat if you wanted to. For the quads it is the same basic thing: Handlebars, suspension, shocks, tires, tire protection, rims, and seats, but other than that it is a stock machine.
So nothing to the engine?
Nothing to the engine and nothing to the exhaust at this time. Also we are looking at running a spec fuel. We are working with VP Racing Fuels who have a consumer fuel called VPR that is possibly going to be our spec fuel that all competitors will run as part of our tech process of the series. This will help us in controlling the potential of cheating in racing, which never happens as everybody is so up front in racing … nobody ever cheats [laughs]. This product from VP Racing Fuel will help us to control and monitor this and it is also a cost savings for the teams.
So we get the technical side of the rules, but how aggressive can these guys get when they are out there on the track competing with each other?
Well, us here at Terracross like to say, "rubbing is racing" [laughs]. We will have some pretty serious rules as far as safety goes and there will be no taking somebody out or purposely crashing into them. The nice thing about these vehicles is that they are big and heavy and -- especially inside the side-by-sides -- they protect you quite well, but there is going to be contact and there's going to be rubbing and banging out there on the track.
On the quads you have a lot of machine to work with and when you get in those rock and log sections you are not going to be able to just go straight and you are probably going to be bumping into somebody or running into somebody and you might even run up on a tire or something.
I remember in the past that fans could get up close and personal with the mud pit. Any plans to do that again?
At the first event the fans can get really close to the rocks and logs section, but at the second event they can get really close to the mud pit -- maybe close enough to get a taste!