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Justin Lambert Takes 1st In Class At The 2016 Mint 400!

NEWS DATE: 02/29/2016
Right after the 2012 Mint 400 we knew we were hooked on desert racing, picked up a Polaris RZR and built a new race car and raced every BITD race since then, never seeing a podium finish at The Mint 400, until 2016.




Justin Lambert Wins 2016 Polaris UTV World Championship!
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The Mint 400 is a race that has history, fame, and notoriety. Its first run was 1967, and then it disappeared in 1988 for 20 years, and then was resurrected in 2008. Celebrities of all sorts have raced the Mint 400 over the years, and in 2012 the Mint 400 opened up a class for UTVs. The Cognito team was there, took 4th place in a Kawasaki Teryx we had built to get our feet wet in desert racing and test some of our suspension product. Right after the 2012 Mint 400 we knew we were hooked on desert racing, picked up a Polaris RZR and built a new race car and raced every BITD race since then, never seeing a podium finish at The Mint 400, until 2016.

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For the 2016 Mint 400, we were starting front row of all UTVs since we won the previous race, the UTV World Championships. The start is 2 cars wide every 30 seconds, and we left the line next to the Redlands Turbo RZR (different UTV class than ours). We are still racing an NA RZR (naturally aspirated RZR XP1000), and Redlands left us at the start of the race as we are underpowered next to the turbo charged cars.

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There were a good 50 race cars of faster classes that left in front of us, and the course was already chewed up, the first 20 miles were choppy already and shaking our guts out. Mitchell and I took it pretty easy through that not wanting to break an axle, and pretty soon 2 more turbo RZRs would pass us, it was Burnett and Sims. As Burnett passed we smelled rubber and figured he might lose a drive belt soon. We came to Pit A and there was Burnett pulled over in pit, not sure for what, we never saw him again during the race.
We were 3rd on course and had a lot of miles ahead of us, we made it around the loop, past Pit B, and then into Main Pit for our fuel stop. Back out into the desert we went and the chop was worse, I am telling Mitchell we need taller tires as this chop is killing our momentum, but we were patient and got thru it with no issues, just cost us some extra time. We passed a few broken UTVs on course during the second lap, I figured there would be a lot more, the helicopter was pacing us for quite a while so we assumed we were part of the lead pack and as we passed thru pits a and b, our support team would give us a time split and we were pulling away from the rest, still chasing Redlands and Sims, we were still holding down 3rd overall and first in class with half the race left.
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Towards the end of the second lap we passed Redlands who were pulled over for a repair, putting us second on course chasing the overall leader Sims. We spent some extra time in Main Pit looking things over, as the 3rd lap is where a lot of racers will not come out of the desert under their own power if they have made it that far. Heading back out we heard word that Sims was still in pit, so for the first 30 miles of the last lap we were not sure if we were first on course or if that rumor was mistaken. We passed thru pit A and our team told us Sims was 3 minutes ahead of us, confirming the rumor was false. We picked up the pace a bit running about 95% while dodging the rocks that were littering the course, passing by more broken down race cars of all classes.
Two thirds of the way thru the last lap we pass thru pit B and our support team tells us that Sims is 2 minutes ahead of us, there is about 35 or 40 miles left in the race and we pour it on, running at 100% hoping to run down Sims, we figured it was a long shot as Sims has turbo power, and if he had not broken his car by now then he would most likely make it to the finish line well ahead of us as most certainly his support team has informed him that we have gained on him slightly. We were on a mission that last 40 miles, knowing what to expect of the course since this was our third time around the loop, we literally could not have gone any faster, running 65-70 mph down whooped out roads and 81mph nearly flat out on the dry lake bed as we didn’t want to over rev the engine at those speeds.

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There was fifteen miles left, we saw a dust trail about 2 miles ahead and then another trail a half mile in front of it, I pointed at it and told Mitchell ‘I bet that front car is Sims’ but in reality it was more of a hope and I figured it was a long shot. Mitchell called out a slight left coming off the last dry lake bed, I knew the turn by now and didn’t lift, Mitchell again called out ‘slight left’ as I stayed in it at 80mph with confidence and I think he puckered a little but we both said ‘yeehaw!’ after railing the turn. 10 miles out we caught the first dust trail, it was a car from a faster class that was having some issues, he saw us coming and politely moved out of the way and we didn’t even skip a beat. 8 miles out we catch the last dust trail we could see, and I see it has a flashing blue light on the back, must be a UTV. We get closer and the number plate said 913 and we then knew it was Sims. We pull up on his rear bumper and he moves over to the right but we can’t pass him, not sure if he sped up or if we lost a little power but we were both doing 75mph down this power line road heading to Primm, NV. He moved back over in front of us and we gave him a bump with the war hammer but he wasn’t going to give us another inch after the first opportunity. We were now 6 miles out from the finish, we were eating his dust and had to back off a little and lost him in the dust until the speed zone when we had him back in our sights at 25mph while on the pavement.

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We came off the pavement back at race speed, we caught him again and went for a pass on the left and got blocked, then coming up on a right hander we were on his bumper, pulled to the right figuring he would let us go on the inside, but got blocked and we nearly crashed into him. At that point I decided to back off as there was only 4 miles left to the finish and Sims still had a minute on us due to corrected time since he left the starting line 1 minute behind us. There was no way we were going to overall the Mint 400, but we still were looking at a win in the naturally aspirated Pro Production UTV class. 2 miles from the finish I felt a loss of power on our machine so I backed out of the throttle, then came a nasty rattle which I thought was a drive belt coming apart. We cruised the next few minutes just praying to make it to the finish, we made it through the infield section and exited the short course track doing about 10mph, the finish line was a quarter mile ahead in sight as we heard a bang and the engine shut down, we coasted for about 50 feet and came to a stop assuming the belt finally let go and had to be wadded up in there to cause the engine to stop running and not able to turn over.

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Mitchell and I hopped out and started pushing the car, we pushed for about 500 feet then stopped to take a breather and get our helmets off. We started pushing again and were totally gassed at this point. We started rolling the tires instead of pushing the car since the tire has more leverage, we were closing in on the chicane just before the checkers, then I hear ‘Lambert go steer!’ as Sims and Krause are running up to us and start pushing, being great sportsman they helped us get that last 50 yards and over the finish line as we all tried to catch our breath, it took me the longest to catch mine, but I guess that comes with age unfortunately. Our next competitor in class came through about 20 minutes later, and that affirmed our first win at The Mint 400!

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