Katie Vernola set her sights high for the longest race in the United States August 17, 2018.
Katie trained mentally and physically to be competitive and run up front with such a big car count of over 60 + UTVs in the Pro Turbo class. Katie set out to Iron-women this race, driving the entire 530 miles without stopping to switch drivers. The Pro Turbo class went off the line about 10am and Katie started behind 35 other hungry competitors. Every 30 second the 60 plus UTVs left the line and there was a total of 14 pits. Katie knew she had to really concentrate and drive smart in the very hot, dusty conditions to make it through the entire race in one piece. Katie was off the line with her fiancé Niko in the co-drivers seat. She got in her groove to drive smart the first half of the race but also keep a high speed pace. Shortly after Katie and Niko realized every time they called the chase trucks the motor cut out, so they were forced to communicate at least as possible. Best in the Desert issues trackers to each racer so they know where the racers are at all times; however, Katie’s did not work. Communication is very important in any desert race especially 530miles, but they didn’t let it effect them. Coming into pit one Katie improved her starting position and was running 28th place. Katie and Niko’s first pit stop was race mile 98 to take a quick look over the car, a little gas and she was off chasing the front cars. Around race mile 180 Katie caught a trophy truck in a tight hill climb, she turn on her siren and horn and the truck wouldn’t move. Katie didn’t want to let anymore time get wasted so she nerfed the trophy truck from behind to move over. After the truck got the hint to move she had clean air for the next 100 miles with not one car passing her.
The RZR Turbo was running flawlessly from race mile 180 to mile 380, all the parts were in good condition and our next scheduled pit was for fuel at pit 11. There was no wind, the dust made it extremely hard to see and the night fall didn’t help! Coming into pit 11 around mile 380, Katie noticed the steering was a little squirrelly, the pit crew noticed a front shock coil and sway bar were broken. The pit crew made the adjustments, fueled the RZR then took off into the night.
Unfortunately, shortly after leaving pit 11 they had a right rear flat which came up unexpectedly. The rough terrain and night made for a little slower tire change than Katie hoped for. Changing a tire on a hill full of rocks wasn’t the easiest, two cars in their class passed them. The last 150 miles coming into Reno was very technical being a single lane track up and down the mountains. As the night went on it started raining really hard. Katie passed those two cars back and coming into the last 70 miles they got another flat, so they were forced to continue racing with one flat tire. Katie drove very cautious to last pit before we took on the rockiest sections of the course to the finish line. Katie beat her pit crew to the final pit and was physically in 16th. While waiting for the team, UTVs continued to pass them and she didn’t want to wait any longer. Katie and Niko walked up and down the pit asking racers pit crew for a wheel and tire to continue on. Luckily Mitch Guthrie’s team gave them one of their spares and were off to tackle the last 50 miles to the finish. Katie said, “I’ve never seen so many cars and truck either crashed or broken down in the last 50 miles of any desert race and I’m very thankful for the Guthrie’s that I wasn’t one of them”. Katie continued driving smart and finished officially 22nd and iron-women the whole race! Despite the minor issues, Katie ran an amazing race and with the companies she aligned with this year she will be on the podium in no time. Just finishing the longest race in the United states and iron womening it is almost considered a win!!! Katie was the first female to finish in her class and finishing 5 hours earlier than last year.
Katie, Niko, and our entire team will take what they learned over the 530 miles and get ready for the Laughlin desert night race in October.
Katie will have her newly built 2018 Polaris RZR on display at the Sand Sport Show and Offroad Expo in September so make sure to come by the Gladiator Tires booth and check out her new build!!!
Katie would like to thank each and everyone of her sponsors. Thank you Superatv for building a strong long travel kit, axles and steering rack that withheld 530 miles and a trophy truck. Shoutout to Gladiator Tires for making a tire that performed amazing through the rocks, silt, trees, bushes and everything in between. Their 32″ gladiator tires are a true 32 inch tire unlike other tire companies, which was a huge advantage. Thank you King Shocks for making the ride as smooth as possible. Thank you K&N Filters for keeping my motor sucking in clean air in the horrible dust and rain. Last but not least thank you Got Sand Performance for building and prepping my Polaris RZR!
Check out my amazing sponsor that make it happen: Superatv, Gladiator Tires, Polaris RZR, Got Sand Performance, Grid Offroad, King Shocks, K&N Filters, Gator Wraps, Navatlas, Simpson Race Gear, Baja Designs, Packard Performance, CryoHeat, NRG Innovations, Cody Haggerty, UTV Underground.