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UTV Best in the Desert competition, Turbo class
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Phil Blurton Interview | Monster Energy’s Hottest UTV Desert Racer

May 162022

Like many with a serious passion for competitive off-road motorsports, Monster Energy’s UTV racer Phil Blurton burns the candle at all three ends. Racer. Builder. Father. Just so happens that Blurton, since 2017, has been more successful at it than anyone else.

Count ‘em – four (4) Best in the Desert UTV World Championship trophies, including three consecutive championships from 2017-’19. Another four (4) BITD Vegas to Reno Championships. Numerous other wins across the west coast off-road spectrum, including victories in Parker and Laughlin, Nevada. And for an exclamation point, add last year’s prestigious SCORE Baja 1000 title (Pro UTV Forced Injection).

Blurton showed so much promise in his Rookie of the Year performance in BITD’s 2017 season that UTV factory giant Can-Am signed him to their program.

Beyond that racing, for every hour Blurton spends in the seat railing through the desert, he spends hundreds of hours in his shop – No Limit Race Development in Loomis, Calif. There the term ‘Man & Machine’ comes to life, with Blurton quite literally creating the M-claw shod off-road Frankenstein Monsters that have wreaked havoc on the West Coast off-road scene the past six years.

Blurton’s busy and considering his modifications to stock UTVs can run upwards of six figures, his time is extremely valuable. But we were able to score the keys to the candy store and teed up some questions on what makes this dude so fast in a UTV.

Who is Phil Blurton

 

Phil, hey, you’re off to a great start this season, especially on the Best In The Desert series tour. Back-to-back BITD wins at the Parker 250 and UTV Legends Championship in Laughlin, Nev. Talk about 2022 so far.

It’s been good. Started off at King of the Hammers with a 4th in the desert race. Haven’t won that one yet. … It’s haunted me. Started Best In The Desert qualifying 4th at Parker (Nevada), led at Mile 20 and won it from there. Laughlin (Nevada) was similar, checked out and led, got closer at the end – until the guy I was battling got a flat and I ended up winning by six minutes.

Next up was another Nevada race – the Silver State 300 (BITD). And that didn’t go quite as planned, right?

Silver State started by points, so I started 1st there. The racing was tight the first couple of pits. We had an eight-minute lead, then had our big crash. Caught up to a rookie spec class racer, and when we were pushing to pass, he decided to stop in the middle of the race course. We (Phil & co-drive Beau Judge) hit him at 59 miles per hour and stopped in six feet. Both of us were OK, nothing broke, just real sore… super sore neck. I bit my tongue, so I kind of talk funny now. … Worst part was it was, literally, a brand new race car, finished it only a few days before the event. So I took about a quarter million dollar hit there. I can save some parts for a practice car – but that’s about it.”

Let’s rewind a bit here, talk about how you got involved in competition off-road events. Glancing at your company’s (No Limit Race Development) website, safe to say your dad had a pretty big influence on you.

We were living in SoCal, Orange County, and my dad (Philip Blurton Sr.) moved us up to NorCal and he pretty much stopped racing off-road. My dad got me into dirt bike racing. I raced amateurs until I was 15, and at that point my dad was trying to get me into cars. But that didn’t really seem cool at that age, so I got into a fabricating class in high school and built my first rock crawler out of a pickup truck. Then I turned to building Pro Mod buggies. Started competing a bit in the Cal Rock Series, the moved into the 44 class – Ultra4 racing, King of the Hammers stuff. I ended up building two of those. By the time I was 21 I had my own fab shop, started building some (UTV) cages, the started racing BITD. I won the UTV World Championships in my second pro race (2017). Nobody had any idea who I was. A week later I signed a deal with Can-Am.

So you grew up in NorCal, and ended up staying there – despite SoCal being the hub of off-road industry fabrication scene?

The advantage we have (in NorCal) is that SoCal’s flooded with builders. So up here our name got out quickly on the racing scene – and we (No Limit RD) had a lot of business. The local off-road scene is good in NorCal. We’ve got a race series out of Prairie City (Home of the MX Nationals’ “Hangtown” round), we’ve got the VORRA Series, which I won, and I won the NorCal Side-By-Side Series in 2015.

It was around this time, when you were growing your business, when you ended up meeting your now longtime co-driver – Beau Judge.

Yeah, I was dropping of some roll cages to get powder coated, met Beau, who worked there, and got to talking about racing. I asked him if he wanted to come race sometime. He said ‘Yeah,’ and now we’ve been best friends and have raced together ever since.

You’d mentioned Prairie City. Ever make it over to Hangtown for the dirt bike races?

Yeah, I actually got some motocross racing lessons there from Tallon Vohland (former NorCal factory racer, pro wins in both AMA MX and SX). He was always the fast guy at the local track and, when I was coming up, my dad hit up Tallon and I ended up getting private lessons from him.

That’s rad!

We’d always hit Hangtown and Washougal (MX), raced the amateur day at both those tracks a number of times. Then I ended up getting into 50s (mini bikes) during that craze back in the late 1990s, and early 2000s. I worked for Fast50s for a while before focusing on off-road fabrication and racing.

Are you able to harken back to your motocross days and those skills to assist in your UTV racing?

I think there is an advantage for sure, having a background in motocross that helps you learn the lines and read the terrain. Also, dirt bikes definitely help with your fear level. And on a bike you have no gauges, so you really learn RPMs and how the bike is running by sound and feel. And that knowledge helps when you’re racing UTVs as well.

UTV Racing History

 

Talk some more about your dad. Did we read somewhere that he actually got the UTV game rolling with Sal Fish and the SCORE off-road series all the way back in the early 1980s?

 

Yeah, what my dad did was basically take a Honda Pilot (the precursor to the UTV) and, along with the help from Sal Fish, turned them into a new class of vehicle for the SCORE events. My dad worked on taking the Pilots from air-cooled to liquid-cooled, which allowed them to race over far greater distances and in rougher terrain. So these were the 34 and 44 class vehicles at SCORE. And it was basically the first UTV class. They didn’t race in Mexico at first, because Sal thought they were too small and had too low of a profile – making them more difficult to see when faster vehicles were overtaking them. But now, in any off-road race you go to, UTVs are the largest class at every desert race.

 

The Pilot, man. Every kid wanted one of those. Do you remember anything from that era with your dad, or were you too young?

 

The story my dad tells is that when I was six days old, the first time I actually left the house, my mom and dad took me to a Mickey Thompson off-road race at the LA Coliseum.

 

Were you chasing the desert race scene as a grom back then? What vehicle did you first run out in the desert or high country, and how did it progress from there? Minibikes, dirt bikes, quads, off-road trucks?

 

I started out on a Suzuki 50cc quad, then moved up to a 90cc quad - all passed down from sisters. Once I got into dirt bikes it went from a CR80 to a CR125 and then a CRF250R.

 

In addition to your dad, what racers did you really look up to when you were starting out – both off-road and motocross?

 

A guy named Glen Harrison, when first started getting into desert racing, I leaned on him a bit. Glen was a Factory Mazda racer back then. But I really didn’t have that many idols, really. I was more along the lines of focusing on the challenge of just making my own car that I built better. Beyond that, I hadn’t really followed off-road that much, to be honest. While I was into motocross (Jeremy) McGrath was big. I’d broken legs, ankles, and feet. Met my wife in high school, at 17, found cars, and then you pretty much just forget about motocross (laughter).

 

Off-Road With Monster Energy

Talk about how you got involved with Monster Energy and how many years you’ve been with the company as one of your sponsors?

 

This is my second year with Monster Energy, with last year (2021) being our first full year. Monster’s always like the company you want to partner up with. Didn’t pursue Monster, but Matt (Chapman, Monster Energy Motorsports Manager) got ahold of me – which I was hoping I was on their radar. Worked out a deal and it’s been a good relationship since then.

 

Your go-to Monster Energy flavor?

 

I’d have to say Ultra Zero.

 

What is it that really draws you to off-road racing in UTVs, as well as the rock crawling events?

 

I like the logistics. The challenge. The pit strategy. The car setup to the support vehicles. There’s so much to it. And you’re so remote. No ambulance next to you. That makes it even more challenging and exciting. That and the endurance is unbelievable in a 24-hour race.

 

Do you travel much with the Ultra4 series, or pretty much just stay on the west side of the US?

 

At this time we just do the King of the Hammers, Best In The Desert, and SCORE.

 

UTVs are off-the-charts popular right now. And really an affordable way to go from trailer-to-desert, without much modification. At what point does somebody need to enlist the help of you and your engineering team, fabricators for their UTV?

 

The tipping point, from a weekend warrior to doing what we’re doing, is the majority of our business. Play cars – and having one that’s better than your buddies is pretty much it. People bring us brand new UTVs, $30K, and can put $80K into it – before they even drive it. Side-by-sides are like Harleys. People want them tricked out. But even then, these days the ones right out of the box are amazing. Crazy fast through the desert.

 

You’re listed amongst a wide range of athletes that Monster Energy backs. Outside motorsports, which action sports do you get a kick out of the most… doing and/or watching?

 

I love the downhill mountain biking the best. Have so much respect for that. I had a short phase of snowboarding at high school and used to hit Boreal (Mountain, Calif.) a lot. We’d go on the cheap. Then, like most kids, I raced BMX before I raced motocross. We had a pretty good track in Roseville up here. But now the only stuff out of all that I do is hit the trails a bit on my KTM 500 EXC.

 

The Future of UTV Racing

Back to UTVs, being you’re on the cutting edge of the technology that’s raising the bar of the sport, what is going to be the next big advancements in UTVs?

 

Honestly? I don’t really know. They’re getting so much faster. We’re in a weird debate now in that we’re starting behind certain classes – and the UTVs have got so fast that now we’re passing them. We might be faster than a 6000-pound truck and we weigh only 2000 pounds. And they (SCORE) don’t want to the larger vehicles to tangle with us. Beyond that, we’re the only factory-backed class anymore. So unlike the other classes, UTVs are just getting faster and faster in every race.

 

Will they go electric soon?

 

I know all the big manufacturers have absorbed electric companies. Word is that Can-Am is releasing an electric motorcycle. That might be a test to start releasing another vehicle – possibly an electric UTV. But that would likely be for an industrial or agricultural application to start.

 

Finally, do you have a preference between running flat out in the desert, in BITD and SCORE events, and the explosive rock crawling/rock racing events of Ultra 4?

 

That’s tough. The higher the intensity the better for me. One of my favorite things is qualifying. And that’s coming from motocross where everything’s intense. Like Laughlin, built up, berms, jumps. Lot more fun than cruising down a fire road. But yeah, the closer to motocross the better.

 

Look out for Phil in the SCORE Baja 500 (June 1-5) then BITD Vegas to Reno (Aug. 10-13) – the longest off-road race in America. 

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