The boys of Hellenbach Racing came together over a shared passion for the sport. As a UTV desert racing team based out of British Columbia, they travel days to get to each race. For longer races, they are away for up to two weeks including travel time, pre-running the track and the race itself. The trek is worth it for Hellenbach—especially when they come out on top.
In 2014 Ben Bischoff—Hellenbach’s original driver—and a friend built their own car. They took it to The Mint 400, a prestigious race in the Las Vegas desert. “We didn’t finish that race,” Bischoff said, “but we learned a lot about what needed to be done to a RZR to be able to compete. We went back to the drawing board.”
Rebuilding the dream
Unfortunately, the original friend couldn’t race with Bischoff anymore, but that didn’t stop Ben from racing again. “I had to keep going,” he said. Instead, Bischoff asked Holtz Racing in Washington to build a car that could compete. Hellenbach has been racing that car since 2014.
Hellenbach’s first race with their custom-built UTV was the Baja 1000, an off-road race in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. It’s a difficult race that some teams spend 10 years just trying to complete. With the new car, the team started falling into place. “We took a whole team of rookies,” Bischoff said, “a lot of friends—anyone who wanted to come. We finished the race!”
Hellenbach Racing recently added a second car to its roster. In shorter races, they run both UTVs. Longer races focus on getting the original car across the finish line.
Despite their recent achievements in placing, Bischoff said the best part of a race is the start line. “Sitting there waiting to go,” he said, “your heart is racing. You are so focused . . . a lot of nerves and fear of the unknown. But when the gate drops, it is all left at the start line.”
Hellenbach Racing was founded by two friends in 2014. Their homemade car didn't finish the race. Now, the team includes 15 members and two cars, and they've placed in the top five at a handful of major races. — Photo courtesy Hellenbach Racing
Dreaming of the desert
UTV racing is a lifelong dream that Bischoff has fulfilled. “I always wanted to race the Baja 1000,” said Bischoff, “ever since I was little. I saw a documentary on it, and I thought it would be cool to someday do that. I thought it was the ultimate test of man and machine against the elements.”
After a few years of racing, bringing together a team of new friends and a handful of podium finishes, Bischoff is officially hooked. “I fell in love with it and I can’t give it up now," he said. "It’s too much fun.”
It’s safe to say that the entire team is clearly hooked. They dedicate huge amounts of their time to prepare for and attend week-long races in the United States and Mexico. “It’s a long way to drive," Bischoff said. "It just amazes me of how passionate guys are about this.” A combination of passion, mental preparation and physical training has brought Hellenbach’s success on the racetrack. The team has learned how to think quickly mid-race and deal with desert elements.
Each team member brings a different personality to the team, which includes competitiveness, camaraderie and helping hands. “Everyone has a job, and we all work together for a common goal,” said Bischoff. All of them bring an intense passion. “Everyone is passionate about UTV racing,” he said. “We are there to have fun, and we are there to be competitive. The whole team just jives well.” The current team of 15 members includes drivers, co-drivers, pit crew, technicians and administrative hands.
At each race Hellenbach’s motto is to have fun, despite the competitive nature and the challenges that come with UTV racing. “We are competitive, and we do well,” Bischoff said. “We are adaptive to the challenges thrown at us during the races.” At each race the team learns something new about the sport, their car, the terrain and their own ability to compete. “But at the end of the day, if you aren’t having fun, what is the point of doing it?”
The entire community of desert racing is like Hellenbach’s close-knit team. “Desert racing is like one big family. You might have rivals, but you still respect them," he said. "Everyone is willing to help each other.” Bischoff gives the example of teams from all categories willing to lend a hand for a repair while trackside.
The team, shown at the Mint 400, is a well-oiled machine. — Photo courtesy Hellenbach Racing
Hellenbach’s race schedule
Vegas to Reno: In August 2017, Hellenbach will race the “Longest Off-Road Race in America” at 550 miles.
Baja 1000: In November 2017, Hellenbach will head to Mexico for the 50th anniversary edition of the Baja 1000. The race will be over 1,300 miles—a huge event for the team.
Desirae Bischoff—Administrative, pit crew
Mike Hewitt—Main tech
Simon Wessel—Pit crew
Tyler Collet—Pit crew, marketing, sponsorship director
Jeff and Shelly Thompson—Pit crew
Murry Handfield—Pit crew
Travis Harris—Pit crew
Raj Owens—Pit crew
Craig Johanson—Pit crew