It isn’t exactly a common sight nowadays to see praise heaped upon Naturally Aspirated (N/A) engines. Turbo models tend to be flashier with impressive performance specs and turbochargers aren’t the infant technology they used to be. However, Natural Aspiration still has its die-hard fans, and its own inherent advantages to those willing to put the time and effort into drawing them out. Candle Motorsports is here to provide the anti-turbo movement with its Messiah.
From its inception in 2019, Candle Motorsports has been focused on providing support to teams racing in the biggest series the world has to offer. Ranging from BITD to WORCS, if there’s somewhere tire touches dirt, the odds that Candle Motorsports has helped someone get there are decent. The brainchild of Carey McCandless, a long time Polaris technician, this car represents their first dedicated and purpose-built shop racecar.
To go about making the N/A world great again, Candle started off with the Polaris RZR XP1000. While lacking some power in its stock format, this build began life in Candle’s workshop as a bare frame, ready to be deified into the beast it is today.
Despite its now full-fledged racing pedigree, this RZR keeps a surprising amount of its OEM equipment. Such things as the cupholders and dash come right off the factory model. This extends even further when one considers that the engine is also the factory unit, albeit with a tune from EVO Powersports.
Their focus on simple, proven parts as a methodology runs through this car as its blood, or well, oil. With virtually every component used to make this deity of the N/A world being one that could be sourced from a dealer or otherwise readily available on the aftermarket.
On a mission to prove that naturally aspirated cars could do everything their turbocharged rivals can do, this RZR from Candle had its work cut out for it. The ground up build focused on enhancing the safety and comfort of this Polaris and incorporated the know-how from a premiere race support and logistics group such as Candle Motorsports at every turn.
While the XP1000 on paper is lacking some power that other models sport, it has proven itself to be a perfectly capable platform for off-road racing. Sitting on an LSR MTS Long Travel suspension kit, and Fox 2.5 RC2s tuned by Vital Motion Co., Candle gave this RZR the suspension it needs to compete for podium finishes in any class. This just goes to show, as we so often hear, tuning even factory shocks can completely change the driving feel, and on a set of shocks like these this RZR becomes even more responsive, and capable of handling any terrain that tries to stop its crusade.
To provide podium level traction and reliability, this crusader of natural aspiration sits on a set of Method 401 Bead lock wheels wrapped in BFG KM3 tires. These get driven by a set of SuperATV Rhino 2.0 axles, powering this car with all the grip you would expect from something built for competition, and the reliability it takes to compete on 5-hour race stages.
At face value the most complex of changes to this XP1000 is the drivetrain conversion to that of an RS1. Taking full advantage of the more aggressive clutching and the heavier duty transmission of that model. The setup of this RZR is one that reads like a greatest hits list of the aftermarket, with immense care put into each choice of part.
As with any race car, comfort is an asset many don’t expect to be a priority. However, Candle has made sure that this RZR is both lean and ready to fight but not hard to imagine oneself sitting in for hours at a time. This has its benefits on longer stages or days in the dirt, letting a driver’s focus be on the battle against turbo cars, rather than any intrusive thoughts about their comfort. A set of PRP echo composite seats, and Impact 2” 5-point harnesses make this comfort readily apparent. And the lovely PRP Suede steering wheel in front of you invites you to try your hand at chasing down any of those pesky turbo cars ahead.
This choice to keep it simple, proven, and utilize readily available parts makes this XP1000 stand out among the field in its respective competitive series. Going up against a wide gamut of exotic modifications that are just simply impractical for the average hobbyist, this car is ready to take on the field and prove that N/A cars still have the bite to compete.
While this UTV may have set out to demonstrate that the nail is very far out of the coffin for non-turbo cars, I feel that it also does a great job at showing off what is possible when you let a shop like Candle take their time with building. No rush in a month to get ready for a race here; this XP1000 was lovingly built with the benefit of time.
Really, what’s a cooler reason to build something than to just prove its possible? Setting their sights squarely on forced induction monsters that seem to draw throngs of entries at nearly every race with a well built and thought-out plan feels like a charming underdog story; however, to call this RZR an underdog is doing it a disservice.
The results so far speak for themselves, a fantastic showing in its first outing this past December at SNORE Rage at the River, finishing in second place in the Pro N/A class. If one was to compare times, it would have received a fantastic third place finish in the Pro Turbo class to boot. Proving its holy war in the name of natural aspiration is possible. Oh, and all of this was done with a start from dead last after missing a qualifying run.
You can expect to see this all-black crusader taking on the typical range of events this year, from BITD to Legacy and SNORE. It’s built to make sure your first glimpse of it will be a fleeting glimpse of a black blur, followed by some dust and that lovely sound of a naturally aspirated engine being pushed to its limit.