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Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Staff: Technical Director - UTV & Karts, Brian Axup

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A native of Southern California, Brian has been heavily involved in the motorsports industry since the 90’s when he began working as an engine builder for Esslinger Engineering. It was here where Brian’s love for automotive racing was born. During his time at Esslinger, Brian gained valuable experience building competitive race engines for race teams with full factory support and vehicles competing in Sportsman Saturday Night racing and circle track.

In 2005, after a tragic loss in the family, Brian and his younger brother decided to pursue racing as a fun outlet the family could enjoy. Being 17 years older than his brother and carrying around vast experience building race engines, Brian took on the role of crew chief and let his brother do the work behind the wheel. Together, the duo began competing in the Championship Off Road Racing Series (CORR) before eventually making their way to the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) where they competed in the Kart class.

As crew chief during the early years of Kart racing, Brian used his knowledge building high-performance race engines to find modifications that would meet the relatively few Kart rules that were enforced at the time but still allow his brother to push the envelope while out on the track. Brain’s work helped his brother run up near the front of his class and compete against RJ Anderson and Sheldon Creed, both of which have gone on to see vast success in off road and stock car racing, respectively. This experience building Kart engines since the class’ inception would ultimately prove valuable to LOORRS and prompt the Series to recruit Brian as the fill-in Technical Director - UTV & Karts. What started out as a one-race deal, turned into a season-long contract and has since blossomed into a relationship that runs 10 years strong.

As the Technical Director - UTV & Karts for LOORRS, Brian is responsible for creating and maintaining a fair and level playing field for all UTV, Modified Kart and Jr. Kart competitors. One aspect of his job requires overseeing the inspection of all competing vehicles before and after they go out on the race track. At the races, Brian’s three-person team of tech inspectors, which also includes his brother, help with onsite inspections to ensure competitors meet the minimum ride height, max vehicle width, max wheelbase and fuel requirements. Aside from overseeing all pre and post-race inspections, Brian is also working to clearly communicate the tech process to all drivers, new and old, so they learn the proper inspection routines and therefore avoid a surprise disqualification because they forgot to complete a portion of the inspection process. Additionally, Brian is also in charge of writing and updating the Modified Kart, Jr. Kart and UTV class rule books for LOORRS. This is where his experience working with Esslinger really pays off. With decades of experience building engines that meet different rule book requirements, Brian is no stranger to the tricks race teams try to pull in an effort to find loopholes within the rules and gain an unfair advantage. Furthermore, Brian stays in constant communication with manufacturers like Polaris, Honda, Can-Am and Yamaha to brainstorm different ways they can work together to keep UTV and Kart racing production-based. This in turn minimizes the need for big money and factory support to be competitive since all vehicles competing must have a production-based engine. With money playing as little a role as possible in the success of the competitors in these classes, the focus is then placed on driver skill and ability.

During his tenure at LOORRS, Brian has been responsible for major changes in the rulebook for the UTV class and both Kart classes. In the Modified and Jr. Kart classes, Brian has introduced a list of approved engine modifications and builders teams can legally work with. Having this list has helped both the teams and the Series keep the racing competitive without giving teams with more money an advantage. For the UTVs, Brian initiated a new rule that requires all competing engines to be sealed by an approved engine builder before each race. This rule has since lowered the ability for teams to make illegal engine modifications at the last minute or between rounds. The rule also makes the tech inspection process faster for everyone since Brian’s team can take a quick look at sealed engines and verify everything is up to code without having to dig under the hood of each vehicle.

Having been involved in Kart racing since its inception, Brian holds a soft spot in his heart for the class and its drivers. He remembers the challenges of racing on a small budget and works tirelessly to keep the UTV and Kart classes as competitive as possible while remaining fair for everyone. His favorite part of the job comes from watching his work off the track transfer over to the racing and hearing drivers share their appreciation for the work his team does.

“One of the best parts about my job is when someone stops by the tech area to give us a ‘thank you’ and tell us they’re appreciative of the inspection process,” said Brian. “That’s always a good feeling, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching a kid who didn’t think they’d be able to compete because they can’t afford the most expensive equipment then they go out onto the track and battle near the front of the pack.”

As for the 2020 season, Brian is ready to get back out to the track and watch some racing. But what he’s most excited about is watching the development of young drivers within the Series.

“I’m looking forward to seeing people progress in racing. I love seeing someone come in and turn into a competitive racer. We have so many talented drivers that started as true beginners and worked their way up to the top of their class. That’s what I’m excited to watch.”