Every year, the same old battle plays out in the UTV scene – Polaris RZR vs. Can-Am Commander vs. Kawasaki Teryx and more. The players change from time to time (such as Yamaha’s introduction of the Viking), but the field remains pretty much the same. Each vehicle has pros and cons, and everyone has their individual preference. But have you ever wondered what racers choose as their preference?
Statistics on Which UTVs the GNCC Pros Use
The AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis, sanctioned by the AMA – better known as the GNCC – runs every year from March to October, with six events open to UTVs. The teams that run these races are among the best off-road racers around in these machines. They’re looking for vehicles that can perform at a high level. So what sort of UTVs find their way to the starting line more often than not? That’s what we set out to determine.
A Few Things to Understand
Before we begin, there are a few things that you should understand. The statistics used in this article were taken from the years 2010-2013. Information about the 2014 season was not considered since the season is not yet finished.
It’s important to understand what the different classes are for UTVs in GNCC Racing. You can find out more in the official rules. These are the current classes. They have varied slightly over the years.
|XC1 Modified||Modifications are permitted on the engine and suspension.|
|XC2 Limited||Only a few modifications can be made, such as changing out the tires, wheels, bumpers, tie-rods, skid plates, etc. The XC2 Limited class is much closer to stock machines than the XC1 Modified class.|
|Novice Limited||The Novice Limited class follows the same rules as the XC2 Limited class. The only difference is that participants are limited to teams that have been competing for two years or fewer.|
|XC3 Lites||Modifications are permitted on the engine and suspension. The machine must be 800cc displacement or under.|
In all of these cases, the production rule is followed. This means that the vehicle must have an OEM motor and an OEM frame from the same machine model (though a matching year isn’t required).
What This Data Doesn’t Mean
It’s important to recognize that the statistics provided in this article are not an indication of what is the “best” UTV. Each vehicle has advantages and disadvantages, and what are desirable features for a professional racer are not necessarily the same priorities as a recreational trail rider. Furthermore, many of the teams who compete in the GNCC may be compelled to gravitate toward certain machines for reasons independent of their performance (especially when sponsors are involved).
It’s also important to recognize that industry trends tend to favor different machines at different times. Manufacturers are constantly refining their current machines and developing new ones. In five years, an article such as this could have very different results.
There are numerous explanations for why a team may choose a specific machine. For these reasons, you should look at this information as just that – data, not a decision.
The XC1 Modified class has been dominated by Polaris over the last few years. With the introduction of the Commander in 2010, Can-Am began to gain traction. In fact, it was first entered the same year that it was introduced to the market. Kawasaki is the third manufacturer to find its way to the list, but only for a single race in 2013.
Since only a single Can-Am machine was entered for a solitary race in 2010, the top ten UTVs for that years were all Polaris machines. However, 2011 saw an even split in the top 10 – impressive considering the Commander was new and only represented 27% of the total UTVs in the class that year. 2012 and 2013 were more proportional.
The XC2 Limited class has seen more variation with entrants, but Polaris is still the dominant manufacturer on the scene, with Can-Am also having a strong showing. Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda each have representation in a single race over the four-year span of data, along with “Other.” In our limited research, we were unable to determine what manufacturer this signified.
The top 10 in the XC2 Limited class demonstrates a reasonably proportional number of Polaris and Can-Am machines. 2013 is the surprise here, with an even 50/50 split.
The Novice Limited class began in 2012, so no data exists for previous years. New racing teams typically come out with Polaris machines. The inaugural year of the class also saw two vehicles each from Can-Am, Kawasaki and Yamaha. The number of competitors is smaller than the XC1 Modified and XC2 Limited classes. Since only a handful of teams race the full season, we won’t discuss the top 10 figures for the Novice Limited class.
The XC3 Lites class demonstrates the most variation in time. 2010 and 2011 showed heavy emphasis for Kawasaki and Yamaha machines, which Polaris making an appearance in 2011. After a break in 2012 when the class was not raced, 2013 saw Polaris UTVs dominating the class. Similar to the Novice Limited class, very few teams participate in any significant number of rounds for the XC3 Lites class. It should also be noted that the data used here from 2010 actually represent two separate classes: Lites Modified and Lites Limited. That year, the most serious contenders in the Lites Modified class were running Yamaha machines, while the most serious contenders in the Lites Limited class were running Kawasaki vehicles.
Whether it is significant or not, the data collected over the years 2010-2013 seem to amply demonstrate that the Polaris RZR is the preferred machine of UTV racing in the GNCC, though Can-Am also has a decent number of adherents among the pro ranks. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that both manufacturers have sponsored teams in the series.
While other manufacturers have some representation in the various classes, it would seem as though most of these are single-event occurrences. In all likelihood, they are the result of local participants who are just bringing out whatever machine they own in order to have a good time. This idea in particular seems supported by the fact that there is more variation in the classes which require a machine to be closer to stock. We expect even more variation in the future – especially with improvements of other models like the Arctic Cat Wildcat.
The biggest surprise is the sudden migration from Kawasaki and Yamaha in the XC3 Lites class to Polaris after the gap in 2012.
As with all technical analyses such as this one, conclusions are left entirely up to the interpretation of the reader. What are your thoughts based on this information? Let us know in the comments. If you’d like, you can download the data used for this article in CSV format by clicking here. (The CSV format can be ready by many different types of programs, including spreadsheet software such as Excel.) You can also check out the GNCC results archive, which is where the data was compiled from.
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By Jeff Baker