Cody Rahders with his Polaris RZR XP 1000 Experiences the Rigors of the Baja 500

       Printer Image
Cody Rahders racing awards

Cody Rahders has earned a considerable amount of hardware for a racer so young.

It's just days before the start of the annual SCORE Baja 500 off-road race in Mexico and Cody Rahders has a problem. A big one. In pre-race testing his brand-new UTV won't run right. At some point during the process of splicing additional electrical connections into the factory wiring harness, a small mistake was made – but with a large outcome, Rahders' UTV isn't running properly.

This is not a situation to which Rahders is accustomed. Driving his modified Polaris RZR XP 1000, Rahders took second place at round seven of the 2015 Lucas Oil Regional (short course) Series and in doing so won his second consecutive Production 1000 title. By winning and defending titles in both the RZR XP and Production 1000 classes, Rahders has earned four titles in three years at the Regionals and seven since he started racing UTVs in 2007. Not just that but he did so while pursuing an engineering degree and working a day job at Fox Shox. Cody definitely lines up on the overachiever side of the gym.

That the team is having issues prior to the Baja 500 shouldn't actually be a complete surprise to anyone who has tracked their progress in the desert. While Rahders has dominated short tracks, starting at a ripe old age of 13, desert racing has been more of a challenge for the team. The website "UTV Driver" rated Cody's odds of winning the Baja 500 at 5:1, adding "the desert hasn't been good to him." When he heard that comment Rahders laughed, and said "it's definitely true" then rolled out a list of maladies and circumstances at previous desert events that have kept him off the podium.

Cody Rahders Polaris RZR XP 1000

While a dominating force on short tracks, Cody Rahders is still working on unlocking the secrets of desert racing.

Take the Mint 400, run earlier this year. Cody had a fever of 102-degrees days before the event, a prescription knocked that down in a day or two, but in the race, his vehicle had overheating problems, melting the wiring headed into the ECU.

For the uninitiated, this year's is the 48th running of the Baja 500, starting and ending in Ensenada, Mexico, on the Baja peninsula. It's the third round of a four-race series which includes various types of classes beyond UTVs such as motorcycles, production-based vehicles, off-road buggies, and the dominating big-bore pickup "trucks." A list of past overall Baja 500 winners reads like a Who's Who of racing, including Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, Ivan Stewart, Malcom Smith, and Robby Gordon.

Just days earlier Cody was working his day job, in the desert tuning shocks with UTV heavy-hitters like Johnny Angal and previous Baja 500 winner Wayne Matlock. Part of his responsibilities with Fox is to assist drivers in tuning the shocks on their UTV to maximize performance. Asked whether the experience provides an advantage, Rahders replied that having been through the process with other drivers "means I don't have to guess - it helps shorten the tuning process."

The team packed up for a week in Mexico: testing, qualifying, and the race itself. Cody and co-driver James Hill, a friend he'd been racing against since he was 15, lined up at the start. Then word came back of a horrific accident that claimed the life of an eight-year-old spectator and caused grievous injuries to his mother, both down from Orange County to watch the race. After police cleared the scene racing resumed, and two hours later Cody and James were on the road.

Cody Rahders Polaris RZR XP 1000

Not matter how light or heavy the dust, Cody Rahders relies on K&N Polaros air filters to keep his engine running strong.

As the pair drove through the desert the two-way radio broke free from its bracket only 80 miles into the race. The pair disconnected the radio, knowing it would cut contact with the support trucks paralleling the route, but unaware it would also cut in-cockpit communication, resulting in plenty of silence for 420 miles. But the 115-degree heat during the day was plenty to keep them distracted until night fell. While it cooled off, the pair discovered the light bar the team had fabricated had failed, and that they lost three out of their four headlights. The pair pressed on and were rewarded with a finish, Cody's first in a desert race, though it was ninth out of 10 finishers in his class.

Cody feels he's learned plenty about racing in the desert from his experience in the 500, and is looking forward to racing in the Rosarito Beach Challenge in September, a desert event configured more like a short-course race, which should suit Cody.

His attitude about upcoming races certainly expresses his feelings clearly: "Now it's time to go back and do it fast," the young racer said with confidence.

About the future, Rahders was asked about moving up to another class, to which he replied "if there's an opportunity and support I'd definitely like to try another class."

Cody would like to thank his sponsors, particularly Polaris, Cognito Motorsports, Sparks Racing, Fox Shox, Superchips, Black Rhino Performance, GMZ Race Products, Method Race Wheels, K&N Filters, PAC Racing Springs, RacerX, Race Radios, Streamline Performance, UTVunderground, Twisted Stitch Seats, and Lucas Oil. And his supporters: spotter Nick Novak, mechanics Jon Kelly and Kevin Sullivan, Gina Snew, and of course his mom and dad.


Horizontal Advertisement

Did you like this story? Select 1 to 5 stars to rate it.

K&N Engineering in Riverside California is the world's leading manufacturer of washable performance air filters and air intake systems. K&N invented the reusable high flow cotton air filter in 1969 and has been perfecting the technology ever since. K&N is a world class filtration company selling air filters, oil filters, and intakes in over 50 countries. K&N sells over 5,000 products designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines, and industrial applications. From their Million Mile Warranty to their Consumer Protection Pledge, K&N stands behind their products and their consumers 100%. The distinctive K&N logo represents performance from one of the original performance companies. For more information, visit