Mike Camp isn't exactly a household name but Side by Side racing is far from a national sport, at least not yet. It's a growing genre and Camp races in the Lucas Oil Regionals Short Course series in Southern California where he currently ranks sixth overall among 33 other drivers.
Despite the lack of notoriety, racing Side by Sides, which are also known as UTVs, isn't necessarily a new sport or even a weekend hobby. They resemble the old dune buggy type of four-wheel car with roll cage that enthusiasts have enjoyed for years. Now with powersports taking on new life in recent years, and the emergence of various competitive series, the Side by Side is a bona fide racing machine that anyone can drive.
Camp began racing UTVs several years ago and as a lifelong need-for-speed guy it offered a safer alternative to dirt bikes while he got his adrenaline fix. Camp has been in his share of serious accidents that he walked away from thanks to the state-of-the-art restraint system equipped on UTVs.
Side by Side racing is sanctioned on Motocross style tracks and sometimes even on the same tracks that host dirt bike racing. Racing UTVs is really no different than racing ATVs, drivers must learn to corner, pass, and launch off jumps just like their ATV counterparts but instead of managing the clutch and brakes on the handlebars the cockpit setup is quite similar to the car you drove to the race track.
Years riding pro: 3 years
What age did you start riding and on what: 4 years old on a YZ50
What do you ride now? Polaris RZR XP1000
Hometown: Temecula, CA
- 2014 - Sixth overall for World Off-Road Championship Series in Pro SxS class
- 2015 - currently 6th overall in the Lucas Oil Regionals series
Other sports participated in: Motocross, SuperMoto
Other hobbies/interests: Mountain biking
1. You've raced motorsports for much of your life, how did you get into it?
My dad. He always raced motorcycles so it kind of runs in the family. I started racing dirt bikes from age 5 to 10 in local Grand Prix's and desert racing, then from age 10 to 16 I raced amateur Motocross and when I was 15 I won two championships in the intermediate class at the Youth World Amateur Motocross Championships for Kawasaki Team Green.
2. How did you get into Side by Side (UTV) racing?
I just had some friends who were into it. I still ride dirt bikes just for fun but the Side by Side racing is so cool you can get into a huge crash and you don't get hurt. When you get a little older it's nice to be able to fix stuff on your UTV after a crash and not your body. A Side by Side is a an extremely safe car, we wear helmets, neck restraints, 5 point harnesses, and have aftermarket roll cages. We follow similar safety requirements as NASCAR when it comes to neck restraint system.
3. Sounds like a hobby just about anyone can enjoy, how do you start?
Go to your local racing series. We have a few different series in Southern California. There's the Lucas Oil Regionals Short Course series, World Off-Road Championship Series and another called the Dirt Series. Some of them have more stringent safety requirements but typically you can race a show room floor model like the Polaris XT100 and be competitive. The more involved you are and the better you finish the less expensive it is because of sponsorship opportunities. The sport is in such a growth stage the sponsorship opportunities are there. Once I buy a car (UTV) I'll just pay for a cage and the majority of the other products are provided for by great sponsors.
4. So then how does a driver get sponsors?
You can pursue sponsors through relationships that you have. It was a little easier for me since I've been racing my whole life but sponsors will approach you based on your results. Right now, it's such a growth sport sponsors are looking to have their products on racers cars, so as long as you do pretty well you can probably get sponsors to help support you with products.
5. Can you make living racing Side by Sides?
A guy like RJ Anderson definitely and all he does is race short course and trucks. His title sponsor is Polaris RZR. RJ is one of the top short course and Side by Side racers. Mark Barnett is another driver who races for Polaris. For a lot of us with day jobs, there's definitely an opportunity to race and enjoy the sport very affordably because of sponsorships.
6. Do you have to take a class or get a special license?
Anybody who feels comfortable driving a car can show up to a race. You'll start out in an entry level class and as you get better move up to the pros. No special license or driving experience is required. A lot of people can ride UTVs versus the quads. We all drive cars every day and it's very similar to driving a car, you steer and you have a brake and gas pedal. I think that's what appeals to so many people, your wife can hop in the UTV, drive and not worry about dealing with a clutch. It's very family oriented.
A lot of people race Side by Sides because of the affordability and the ability to get track time. Often these SxS riders move on to racing larger trucks or cars.
7. It looks to be a grueling sport but in many respects you're also just driving, do you need to be in shape?
You definitely need to be mentally and physically fit. Your body goes through a lot of stress from the bumps and jumps and it's rough out there.
8. In order to race you have to practice, how do you practice racing what is essentially the size of a car?
I practice on a local Motocross track that allows quads. Straight dirt bike tracks won't allow them on but the tracks that are open to ATVs usually will allow Side by Sides as well. You'll need a flatbed trailer for transport and make sure you have all the minimum safety requirements.
9. What are Side by Side race tracks like?
Typically we race on the same course as the ATVs and even dirt bikes. Tracks that allow UTVs provide a portion on the Motocross track as well as other places nearby to ride. It's kind of cool to see cars (UTVs) doing 80 foot doubles or 80 foot table tops.
10. Tell us about the current series you're competing in.
I'm racing in the Lucas Oil Regionals Short Course series in the Production 1000 Pro class and we're three rounds in. There's 33 drivers in the class and in the first Round I was the #2 qualifier and in that main race I was running second and I could see the checkered flag when my car broke down on the last lap so I got a DNF. In the second round I finished third and for Round 3 I finished in fourth place. It's tough, we only have eight races in the series and the Top 5 guys are always in the Top 5 if they don't have issues with the car. I need to give a big thanks to my sponsors: Walker Evans Racing, ITP Tires, Team Alba Racing, HiPer Technology, Nelson Racing Products and IMG Motorsports.