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Cheap Racing, Tons of Fun: Red Bull Scramble Series

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I’ve done a lot of performance driving schools, but never before wheel-to-wheel racing. That all changed for me at the 2023 Red Bull Ice Scramble. My first experience with proper frostbite also occurred at the event. But, it was all very worth it!

I think the Red Bull Scramble Series might just be the best value in racing. While the travel between events might not be inexpensive, the entry fees are. And, the equipment needed to race can be minimal and relatively unmodified.

Let’s dive into what this racing action is all about.

Red Bull Scramble Series

The Red Bull Scramble Series is a collection of UTV races that happen across a variety of terrains across the U.S. each year. There are classes for both amateur and professional racers, allowing just about anyone to get in on the action.

For 2024, there are five events. These events are all linked this year, offering up the chance to compete for a season-long championship.

  • March 16, 2024: Red Bull Sand Scramble — Glamis, Calif.
  • May 4, 2024: Red Bull Ranch Scramble — Decatur, Texas
  • May 18, 2024: Red Bull Beach Scramble — Wildwood, N.J.
  • June 22, 2024: Red Bull Solstice Scramble — Wasilla, Alaska
  • October 12, 2024: Red Bull Farm Scramble — Garwin, Iowa (new event for 2024)

The number of events and locations changes each year. While 2024 won’t see a super-wintery race like I experienced last year, it will cover some diverse terrain and low-traction surfaces.

Expect a mix of naturally groomed and manmade features on the race courses. And yes, there will be jumps!

Red Bull Scramble UTV Racing

Red Bull Scramble events are usually one long day of racing. The race course lengths and styles vary widely but offer two-to-six-lap heat races and five-to-10-lap finals. Each race takes from 15 to 45 minutes, again depending on location, conditions, and at what point in the weekend of racing you are.

Practice and qualifying are one and the same, so don’t expect any seat time on the course before you need to get after it and put in clean fast laps.

In the race, you’ll need to do a “dead engine start.” This is something you should practice, as there are lots of tricks from engine off to ripping off the start line in a UTV.

Prices vary between the series stops, but expect $80-200 for pros and $40-150 for Sportsman for entry fees. Spectating is free, but you can upgrade to pit passes and VIP experiences with some cash outlay.

Events are capped at around 150 racers, over both classes. You’re sure to find some fun competition and also plenty of opportunity to put in laps on the course.

And, of course, a Red Bull event wouldn’t be complete without at least one massive party — likely a few.

Scramble Classes

There are two classes at Red Bull Scramble UTV races: Sportsman and Pro.

Sportsman Class

The Sportsman Class is the everyperson race class in the Scramble series. Basically, you need to have a stock UTV with some basic safety additions and some personal safety gear, and you’re ready to race.

Here are the regulations for the Red Bull Scramble Sportsman Class.

Racer/s
  • Must be 16 or older
  • If desired, a co-driver can sit in the right seat
  • Good condition SFI fire suit, gloves, and neck collar or head/neck restraint
  • DOT-certified helmet with Snell 2017 or newer certification
Vehicle
  • Production turbo and NA UTV with VIN numbers and over 500 units produced
  • Stock OEM roll cage is allowed
  • Aftermarket suspension allowed, as long as it uses the factory pivot points
  • Must run SXS-specific tires no larger than 32x15x10.5 inches, with no paddles or grooving allowed
  • Side panels/doors are required, with opening doors having a secondary latch
  • Window nets
  • Roof panel (OEM plastic roofs are ok)
  • 5-point seat belts
  • Quick release mounted 2.5-pound Fire Extinguisher on board
  • Stock fuel tank and FIA FT3-199 fuel cell allowed
  • Must have rear-facing tail and brake lights
  • 4-seat UTV must run in Sportsman Class, with no rear-seat passengers
  • Yamaha GYTR and Honda Jackson Racing Turbo allowed
  • 8″+ tall black numbers on yellow background on both sides of vehicle

Pro Class

The Pro Class has very similar regulations, but allows for faster UTV and requires a few more safety features.

Here are the regulations, above and beyond the Sportsman Class, to race in the Pro Class at a Red Bull Scramble.

Vehicle
  • Polaris Pro-R (including 4-seater) must race Pro Class
  • Aftermarket roll cage
  • Front and rear bumpers
  • Aluminum roof panel with a minimum thickness of 0.063″
  • SFI-approved 5-point seat belt tagged within 2-year manufacture date
  • 8″+ tall numbers in black on a white background on both sides of the vehicle

My 2023 Red Bull Ice Scramble Experience

The 2023 Red Bull Ice Scramble was held in Okoboji, Iowa, on a very cold, windy, and snowy winter weekend. It was part of the 43rd annual University of Okoboji Winter Games. The race course was plowed into a frozen lake, with a small on-land section that provided abrupt up and down elevation changes — which were essentially jumps.

This race was my first-ever wheel-to-wheel race — besides some casual go-kart races. I was stoked for the opportunity, especially with a fully prepped racing Polaris RZR on studded tires at my disposal, along with the guidance of experienced racers Pleasant Cook and David Fisher.

Qualifying

I buckled into the UTV with no real idea of what the course looked like — because of the near-whiteout conditions and no course map on offer — with no practice or having ever driven on studded tires or on a frozen lake. I then rolled onto the course with eight other Sportsman Class racers for four laps of qualifying, with my best lap time seeding me in the heat races.

While we were let onto the track a few seconds apart, I was still quickly eating the spray off of the studded tires of the UTV in front of me. I basically took a lap to figure out how the vehicle handled, how slippery the surface was, and learn the track layout. With the spray in my face and dead flat light, it was extremely hard to figure out and spot the braking zones to hit the corners at the right speed.

While I was very focused, I was also having an absolute blast on the 1-mile course. The four laps flew by way too quickly, but in the end I managed to qualify fourth out of 30 competitors. Not bad for my first time ever qualifying for a race and never having driven this UTV, on a frozen lake, or on studded tires!

The -9 degrees, with windchill factored in, had caused some damage, though, as I couldn’t feel my fingers, toes, or cheeks for quite some time. While I had good winter gear on, it just wasn’t enough for the conditions.

Scramble Racing

The quality qualifying time put me in the number one position of the fourth of four heat races. This was key to success, as passing was extremely hard on the tight, low-friction, low-visibility course. In order to move directly to the final, I needed a top-three position, otherwise I’d have a final shot in the last-chance qualifier (LCQ).

Once the green flag dropped, I had to turn on the engine, move the gear selector to drive, and bury my right foot. I had never done such a sequence, especially when rushed and in bulky gloves and boots. Of course, I fumbled a bit, but still slid into second place before the first corner and held the position, even fighting for the lead a few times in the five-lap heat race.

Near the end of the race, I was going for a pass to first when my UTV went into limp mode. It had overheated — ironic when it’s so cold out — but luckily I realized what was happening quick enough to flip the fan switch, cool the engine down, and hold off the racers pushing hard from behind.

My second-place heat result was enough to advance straight to the final. It put me in the second row of the 16-vehicle, four-row final in seventh position.

My First Finals

I managed to get a better start in the 10-lap final, and retained my seventh-place position on the 16-vehicle grid as I slid into the first corner. Of course, things went a little sideways from there.

On the first lap, the car in front of me nearly spun out, but I bumped them head-on and pushed them back straight. Sadly, that put them back in front of me, knocking out my power steering, and the UTV behind me hit my left rear tire, popping it. I kept racing, not knowing about either of these issues, but instantly struggled for control.

For over six more laps, I wrestled the machine, contemplating quitting more than once. It was nearly undrivable, and I almost flipped it twice and did let one competitor sneak by me. I like type-two fun, though, and kept pushing as my forearms ached with pain.

Luckily for me, on lap seven, a racer rolled and caused a red flag. While sitting on the track waiting for the UTV to be righted, I managed to diagnose and reset the power steering system. Instantly, I had steering control back.

The restart was hectic, with everyone bunched up. My UTV was extra squirrely, as the rear tire was dead flat at this point, which I still didn’t know. But, I managed to hold off the racers behind and lock in an eighth-place finish.

Racing Aftermath

I struggled to get out of the UTV back in the pits, as I had shooting pain in my fingers and my cheeks. I had managed to get frostbite on my fingers — even after wearing two layers of gloves — and cheeks — in the thin spot between my goggles and balaclava that was exposed to the wind. It took months to fully recover from this frostbite.

I also quickly realized why the UTV was so squirrely, seeing the very flat tire. The mechanical issues just made me even more proud of finishing the race, and getting eighth out of 30 racers in my first race ever.

Go Scramble Racing!

All these words are to say I had an absolute blast and am itching for more racing. UTVs are a great way to go racing, as they are quick and super-capable on a wide variety of terrain right off the showroom floor. The Red Bull Scramble series is a great way to get into racing, as it’s serious wheel-to-wheel racing, but not too serious.

Entry fees are inexpensive, the racing is competitive, and the parties and activities surrounding the racing are great for racers and spectators alike. The Red Bull Scramble series is a great way to dip your toes in motorsport racing without breaking the bank, especially if you already have a UTV.

Be sure to check out the Red Bull Scramble Series page to get in on the action for yourself. I found it worth the effort and any pain you might sustain — like frostbite and torn forearm muscles — for the racer high.

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