While Polaris has been successful in US off-road racing, including the Baja 500 and this year’s UTV World Championship, they’ve yet to taste Dakar victory as a factory team.
SSVs first raced in their own category at Dakar in 2017 and a privateer Polaris entry won that year, but Can Am have dominated since, with the best-placed Polaris at the 2020 Dakar finishing a lowly 21st overall. The category has boomed in those four short years, too, from just eight entries in 2017 to 46 this year.
The Polaris RZR Factory Racing lineup for the 2021 Dakar consists of Wayne Matlock and navigator Sam Hayes in the first entry. Wayne’s wife Kristen Matlock, with Max Eddy as navigator, will pilot the second RZR, while Craig Scanlon and navigator Keith Redstrom will be in the third factory entry. All are Dakar rookies, but experience comes in the form of team leader Darren Skilton, who’s a past Dakar competitor and won the Open class in 2011 and 2012.
The RZR Pro XP that the factory team will campaign is powered by a turbocharged 925cc twin cylinder engine and is capable of a top speed of 130km/h. A rear-mounted radiator with a custom roof scoop, 130lt fuel cell, Motec ECU with custom wiring and dash, custom switch pad, onboard diagnostics, Sparco racing seats and a lightweight lithium battery are other features.
The chassis is based off the Polaris RZR Pro XP platform, but customised by Jimco Racing and FIA homologated. Custom Fox Racing Shox suspension offers an additional 38mm of travel over stock, as well as increased cooling, performance and adjustability. Wheels are 15-inch Method Race beadlock alloys, shod with 30-inch high-performance BF Goodrich tyres, while the braking is made up of discs on all four wheels, with a dual master cylinder and a driver-controlled brake bias system.
Each RZR Pro XP also features integrated spare parts and tool storages ections, as each team will need to be able to make their own repairs.
“As the clear-cut leader in side-by-side racing, there’s a lot of expectation and pressure as we make our debut at Dakar, but the RZR Pro XP provides us the ultimate weapon to take on what are arguably the harshest, most-demanding racing conditions in the world,” said Steve Kemp Vice President of RZR.
The 2021 Dakar Rally starts on 3 January in Saudi Arabia and will cover more than 8000kms over 12 days.