We go GNCC racing on Suzuki's MX warrior
Growing up riding ATVs, the woods have always been my playground. It wasn’t until I was 18 years old that I made the switch to motocross. Naturally, I was excited to get back to my roots and hit the trails again. What better way to do this than to test out a 2009 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450 by racing it on one of the toughest, most attended GNCC tracks in the series – the infamous Ironman in Crawfordsville, Ind.
The LTR was originally designed to be a motocross hound from the beginning. With its wide 49-inch stance, 18-inch tires, and long travel suspension it is a force to be reckoned with straight from the factory. Despite its motocross roots, the LTR is a proven competitor in the GNCC series. In fact, Suzuki factory rider Chris Borich wrapped up the championship on his LTR this season, winning 10 of the 13 rounds to take the title by a comfortable margin.
It was now my turn to put Suzuki’s top sports quad through its paces. I began the two-hour trip to Crawfordsville with only the Suzuki and my girlfriend as my pit crew (my buddies were out racing at local motocross race the same day). After the short trip to the track we quickly parked and made our way through the muddy pits to registration, outfitted the quad with a transponder for scoring and headed down to the startling line. It was time to join the 50 other competitors in the sportsman A/B class and wait for the green flag to wave.
As I sat there on the line I thought about the week before. I was a bit nervous all week, because I haven’t raced any hare scrambles or GNCC races for at least three years.
“What place would I finish? Would I be exhausted at the end of two hours of hard racing?” These and many other questions ran through my mind as the few last verses of the national anthem were played over the load speakers. As the first few classes took off my nerves began to settle. I saw the green flag wave for my class and I pushed the start button with my left thumb that was immediately followed by my right thumb hitting the gas.
If you have never been to the Ironman race, it seems no matter what the weather is like everywhere else it will always rain at the track a few days before the race making everything a sloppy mud-fest.
Before I hit the second turn I felt as if I was 50lbs heavier. My helmet hung low on my head as being only held up by my Leatt brace. I felt as if I landed face first in a big mud hole, crawled back up and slung a leg over an ATV. After entering the woods the mud gradually began to slide off my gear and my quad. I was about mid-pack entering the woods.
The power that the LTR has is very smooth – it feels more linear and not as snappy as other ATVs in its class. Although the power isn’t as hard hitting, there is always plenty of motor to get you where you want to go without hesitation.
When I used to race GNCC, more specifically the Ironman, the wide-open fields were where I would get passed. I never ran a built up engine so it was easy for other competitors with built engines to pass me in the fields and I would have to make up the lost time in the woods. When riding the LTR it was the other way around. Before coming to the race we installed a simple Yoshimura Slip-on exhaust and a Yosh “Cherry Bomb” to gain a few more horsepower. I was passing the same displacement ATVs as my Suzuki in the fields like they were sitting still! It was like weaving through traffic on the interstate. It was awesome!
We also added a set of Pro Armor Revolution nerf bars with netted heel guards, pegs, and Pro-Am front bumper. The nerf bars helped significantly with the ergonomics and cleanliness of the LTR. I felt that the stock pegs were up a little high which made for a top-heavy feeling. The Pro Armor nerfbars and pegs lowered your riding stance on the LTR giving more you more confidence and a comfortable feeling while cornering aggressively.
My Pro Armor Revolution nerf bars also featured netted heel guards that don’t hold mud like the stock heel guards. These came in extremely handy at this very muddy race. We also added a Pro Armor Pro-Am front bumper – the same one used by ATV Motocross champion Dustin Wimmer – to add more style and protection to our LTR. Suzuki’s stock front bumper, like most in this class, is small and doesn’t offer much protection.
I was back in the woods and was in the zone. I thought to myself “Man that was awesome, now all I have to worry about is not hitting a tree” and right as I finished saying those few words to myself, a tree jumped in front of me. My left tire just barely clipped a tree stump as I got off the trail a bit. I can’t blame this on the wide front end – it was more a lack of judgment on my part. I didn’t have any problems with squeezing though trees or weaving in and out of them. The LTR handled extremely well throughout out the track.
The day, however, was not without other problems. Most notably, on the first lap I got hung up in a few ruts as a lost momentum. This was a direct result of my choice in tires and wheels. As a stranded racer told me on the course: “You know, you should really invest in some 20-inch tires.” He was exactly right. I raced one of the gnarliest GNCC courses in the series with stock motocross friendly 18-inch tires. After my fellow competitor commented on my tire size I made sure to keep up my momentum and stay a couple quad lengths back when going trough rutted out sections so that I could change my direction if the rider in front of me began to slow down.
The Suzuki LT-R450, with a few minor changes, can easily be made into a competitive woods racer. I finished 28th out of 51 riders in the Sportsman A/B class. With a few simple modifications I could have a top-10 ATV.
Even after racing for more than two hours I never experienced any arm pump nor did I begin to feel tired. The LTR is a fun and comfortable ATV to race on. If you are like me and like to race both woods and motocross the Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450 can be a competitive machine in both without adding many expensive modifications.
Look for a full review of the stock Suzuki LTR450 in the coming weeks.