The victory of a full-time Polaris engineer over the Polaris and Can-Am factory racers at the 2022 Amsoil Championship Off-Road event in Elk River, Minnesota in July was a surprise for everyone. For Robert Loire it was his first victory in the Pro Turbo class, but the office worker and weekend warrior proved it was no happy coincidence. He finished third out of 39 Pro Turbo Side-by-Sides at year-end and is hungry for more.
Having raced motocross and supermoto as a teenager, Robert always enjoyed wrenching as well. After graduating from engineering school, he applied to work for Polaris and has been there since, moving from the snowmobile department to becoming senior engineer of the off-road group over his nine-year tenure. He has been racing UTVs for five years, and looks about ready to enter the top league. In the run-up to the 2023 season, we talked to Robert about his racing passion and about what it takes for a privateer to compete on a par with Pros.
UTV Sports Mag: That’s a good racing season you had! Ending the season right after Kyle Chaney and Hamish Kelsey in Pro Turbo standings, how does that feel?
Robert Loire: That is an indescribable feeling! It is really rewarding to know that my hard work and dedication are finally paying off. I have spent the last five years getting to know the sport, learning from others, and taking my own knowledge and implementing it into my vehicle. It is not easy being so passionate about the sport and also having a full-time job, but it was great to have a very successful season.
USM: Have this season’s victories actually changed something in your life, maybe you got some new sponsorship proposals?
RL: This past season has given me the confidence and motivation I needed to keep going. It feels like people take my racing more seriously after seeing our great success. I don’t think everyone understands how much time and dedication we put into racing and what it takes to win against a stacked field. I am lucky to have great friends and coworkers who are willing to help behind the scenes and at the track. I wouldn’t be as successful if it wasn’t for them. Sometimes it’s nice to just run your own show and make the calls. There is also that little bit of extra fuel to be the little guy out front. Now, there are definitely more conversations happening with new and existing sponsors.
USM: What’s your favorite race of the series this year and the most memorable moment?
RL: That’s a tough one, I feel like this year was filled with memorable moments. I think I’ll go with my first win of the season at ERX, Elk River! It was the first time I proved to myself and everyone that helps me that we really do have what it takes to run up front against the big guys. This was also the first time my good friend and Pro Stock SxS racer, Matt Bohn filled in and spotted for me. At one point I thought he was going to give me a heart attack. He was yelling into the microphone so much, ha! He told me after the race, “I think I had more fun being in that tower and being a part of that win than I do racing”. Needless to say, he’s been my spotter ever since.
USM: You’ve been racing for five years, and the results are starting to roll in now. What have you done differently this year to achieve this?
RL: I honestly didn’t make many changes to the car between year four and five. I think the biggest difference for this past year was my mindset. I went into this season ready to have fun! That seemed to take some of the pressure off and allowed me to really show what the car was capable of.
USM: How were you dealing with pressure before the final AMSOIL round, having to back up those first season’s victories?
RL: Crandon and I have never gotten along. There always seems to be something that happens at Crandon that prevents us from being successful. This year, I knew my car was solid, I had the right guy in my ear and I was confident. I knew what the car was capable of, it was just a matter of having a clean consistent race.
USM: What are the plans for 2023; have you already thought of your racing schedule and set new goals?
RL: I can’t reveal all my cards, ha! We are in discussions with a few different drivers and sponsors. I’d like to shake things up a bit. I think we have the goal nailed down though – Win!
USM: If you were offered to race full-time and give up the engineer job, would you go for it? (We promise not to tell Polaris.)
RL: Now that’s a tough one! I guess I would really have to think on that one. They both have their pros and cons. I just want to do things I enjoy and be able to hang out with my wife and daughter. That would be a hard offer to pass up though!
USM: You’ve raced MX and Supermoto as a kid and teenager, how did racing on four wheels feel after riding on two for so long?
RL: I would say my dad inspired me to get into motocross, he would always bring me to races to watch. I started racing motocross at the age of 5 and competed all over the country. I raced the Loretta Lynns Amatuer National for 9 years. At the age of 15 I moved to the Pro class, but shortly after that I decided I needed a change of pace due to multiple injuries. This is when I began to race Supermoto.
I joined the Husaberg factory team and raced both in the U.S. and overseas for a few years. Racing on four wheels was definitely something to get used to, but in the end it’s still powersports racing. You don’t have the advantage of using your body to make corrections, instead you have to anticipate how the car will react and be confident. The throttle is your friend.
USM: You work in chassis/suspension, do you also test the suspensions for Polaris? Or do you just stick to engineering — of course also contributing some of your racing experience?
RL: Working at Polaris you end up contributing to your job in many different ways. Between designing, fabricating, testing you are involved in all the steps along the way. I feel like my job and racing both benefit from this as it allows you to think outside the box.
USM: Which do you think helps more to the other: having racer insight as an engineer or having engineer knowledge while racing?
RL: I think they go hand in hand. Having an engineering background while racing has its own advantages. It has helped me solve some difficult issues that we have come across at the track. Between my own racing experiences and working alongside desert racers, it helps to learn how a top tier driver uses a vehicle in multiple different terrains.
USM: How does being a Polaris engineer help you prepare your RZR?
RL: Being an engineer, I am always looking at the fine details. I am very detail oriented when it comes to everything on my RZR. I am always analyzing my race data trying to figure out where we can be better. I am a firm believer that races are won in the shop.
USM: How do you feel when you’re back in the office on a Monday after an intense race weekend? Are you still buzzing? Is it harder or easier to concentrate?
RL: There are definitely some days where it is harder to focus than others. If I have a good weekend I don’t have much of a problem jumping back into the 9 to 5. It’s always cool to be able to pull that podium medal out of my backpack and display it on my desk. But Mondays following the race weekends where I struggled are the hardest because I want to solve the problem and get back in the driver seat and redeem myself.
USM: Is there a racer you look up to in UTVs, or maybe other racing categories?
RL: As I mature, I look up to anyone that has that undesirable passion for the sport and winning. Someone that puts in the time and dedication to do their best. There are quite a few Polaris racers and even some of my direct competitors that I look up to based on their drive and determination in UTV racing. Pro motocross racer James Stewart has always been on the top of my list based on where he started and where he ended up. The stuff he does on a dirt bike is just unreal!
USM: Does your family go to the races with you?
RL: Yes! Racing is, and has always been a family event. My wife is right by my side, helping in any way she can when she isn’t taking care of our daughter. Both my parents and my in-laws also come to every race to help and support. This past year, my sister decided to take her try at UTV racing, as well.
USM: Presumably, you have a fairly busy life as an engineer, racer, husband, and father. If you still have some free time at the end of the day (or week or month), is there anything else you enjoy doing?
RL: I enjoy helping others with racing, whether it’s help with fabrication or vehicle setup. Being able to share the same passion and interests with another racer has always been enjoyable.
USM: Have you already picked out a kids UTV for your young daughter? 🙂
RL: Haha not quite yet. She is getting pretty good on her Strider bike though, so it won’t be long. But I assure you it will be a Polaris!
As the new season is about to start, Robert announced he’ll be racing as a part of Hoosier Racing Tire Hero Program, and we expect more news to come. You can watch Robert’s racing endeavors on his Instagram account.