All-around driving professional Rhys Millen took to the off-road world for 2016 in a naturally aspirated Polaris RZR XP1000 and turned some heads in the process. You could say he's gotten the hang of it pretty quickly considering just a few short weeks ago he smoked the competition and was the first overall UTV finisher at the 49th SCORE Baja 1000. We caught up with Rhys back at his shop Rhys Millen Racing and managed to snap a few pictures while we were there. Enjoy!
This victory was especially important for Method because it was the first race that the all-new 401-R UTV beadlock had seen. This 15x5 race wheel paired with the 32" Tensor Tire DS proved to be a winning combo. The 401-R is a race-specific version of the successful 401 UTV Beadlock. Substantial weight savings have been made all while maintaining the same 1600lb load rating. The 15x5 with a 0mm offset provides optimal handling and feedback to the driver. There's also a new ring on this model. The v.2 ring offers greater strength, less deflection and makes for easier assembly and installation.
Method: How long has your UTV program been in place?
Rhys: The first competition for RMR was in March 2016 at the UTV World Championships - so just over 8 months.
M: Does the shop focus on race builds or customer vehicles as well?
R: UTV's as a business is still a small portion of our mainstream business but is growing monthly with product manufacturing and customer recreational vehicle builds. To date we built the first center seat WORCS Polaris and our own Desert Race Polaris.
M: Have you previously race in Baja? In what class?
R: I have raced in Baja before but the last time was in 2006 and that was in a Trophy Truck. I raced the Baja 500 in a Class 1 car and the Baja 1000 two other times in a challenge spec buggy class which was a very similar experience to the Polaris.
M: What's your favorite part about desert racing?
R: The adventure and both mental and physical challenge Baja offers is unmatched. I enjoy pushing myself and this event sure represents the greatest test in Motorsport.
M: You've done a lot of driving in your life. What prior driving discipline influences desert racing the most?
R: I have to say that Baja is most similar to Stage Rally when comparing it to my past experience. The challenge of reading ever changing road surfaces, finding a pace to be competitive yet not risk the vehicle or your own mental focus are vital in both disciplines.
M: How does the Method 401-R compare to previous wheel setups you've run in the past?
R: Having a background in Rally, the focus on weight in every component of the race vehicle is key, especially when focusing on unsprung weight. From our old wheel and tire setup we were able to save 8lbs per corner with a total vehicle savings of 40lbs with the spare.
M: What were your initial thoughts on the Tensor DS? Did that change once you put more miles on them both testing and under race conditions?
R: Our old tire we ran I had chosen to shave to reduce its weight and change the profile of the tire as it was quite wide and flat on the surface contact pact. By shaving the tire to reduce weight we increased the rolling resistance but sacrificed the side bite of the tire. The first thing I noticed driving on the Tensor DS tire was the amount of side grip the tire produced, the low rolling resistance from the combination center block design and greatly reduced weight of the tire. It checked every box of design and did not need any modification.
M: Thanks again for letting us invade the shop and answering our questions!
R: No worries, thanks!