When you talk about some of the greatest comebacks in desert racing history, Marc Burnett’s story is one that needs to be included in the list. After winning the SCORE UTV points championship in 2014, Burnett and his team suffered through a difficult 2015 season from which many racers or teams would call it quits. But Burnett and his team persevered through the punishment and came out in the first race of the SCORE 2016 season to win the UTV Class at the SCORE San Felipe 250. With a change in luck and some new team members, Burnett believes this will be a great comeback year. As he and his team prepare for the SCORE Baja 500, one of the toughest races in the world, we talked to him about the experiences during the 2015 season and how he and his team have changed because of it.
SCORE Journal – You had a great race at the SCORE San Felipe 250. What were your feelings when you won the UTV class?
Burnett – Yes, finally! I felt relieved! All our hard work and dedication had finally paid off. After a devastating 2015 trying to get our car dialed in, this win was exactly what my team and I needed to get back in the game. As you might recall I had a tragic string of events that started last August. I broke my ankle while doing an FMX show in Washington. Then a few weeks later I was getting ready to race when both my $100K race car, and my pre-runner burned down to the ground the same day.
Right after the accidents with my cars, I ended up in the hospital with a staph infection. I was hospitalized for two weeks. After breaking my ankle in August I’ve been hospitalized three times, dealt with three staph infections and a pick-line going from my right arm right into my heart. It’s been a brutal recovery and I’m still not well so to win the SCORE San Felipe 250 this past February was a great achievement for me and my team. It set the precedence for the rest of the year. We look forward to the rest of the season.
SCORE Journal – Has anything changed over the course of a year with your team and Polaris UTV that will hopefully keep you competitive this season?
Burnett – Yes, a lot has changed. I believe we finally got the right team, which includes a new vehicle prepper and new pit crew behind us. This has made a huge difference. As you might recall (although I rather not) last year we were having a hard time just finishing races. To go from not finishing races last year to placing second, and third at the UTV World Championships, and then placing first in class at the SCORE San Felipe 250, it told us we’ve made the right decision.
SCORE Journal – Who has been influential in helping you get back on track to winning races again?
Burnett – Well, a lot of it has to do with your mental attitude. Never quit no matter what. You have to keep pushing yourself no matter what obstacle stands in your way. But there are a few very influential people that keep me going. My cousin Rick Johnson and my prepper Thad Mayhew from Fabwerx Inc. and his crew. Without them, my wins would not be possible.
SCORE Journal – What lessons have you learned after an up and down career within SCORE this past couple of years?
Burnett – Like I had mentioned earlier, I’ve been racing SCORE for many, many years. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. As far as the two past years, they have been a huge learning curve. I went from racing Class 6 trucks to racing in Class 19. I went to Can-Am and won the championship in 2014. In 2015, I went to Polaris and the learning curve started all over again. 2015 did not work out very well for me but I see the future as bright. I’m ready and hungry. Never, ever, give up. Even if you lose you never really lose, because there’s always a lesson learned — and that is priceless.
SCORE Journal – How has competing in SCORE’s UTV class changed over the years? Are the challenges different now that the class has grown?
Burnett – UTV’s have come a long way. It is the fastest growing class. Because it’s so new, technology is constantly changing. The cars are getting faster and faster. Most challenges come from the new technology constantly evolving. Also, the level of skilled drivers has grown over the past year or so.
SCORE Journal – What are your feelings about SCORE changing the rules to separate the UTV class between normally aspirated and forced induction vehicles?
Burnett – There’s pro’s and con’s to everything. I would like to see more competition in my class but I believe that’s not too far into the future. As the class grows so will the competition. The Turbo class has changed the name of the game. The cars are so much faster and more fun to race. The top speed on the Turbo cars have changed tremendously. Can’t wait to see how much more the industry will evolve.
SCORE Journal – You work closely with Polaris, do you think that they, and other UTV manufacturers will be taking the turbo engines farther in the future?
Burnett – By all means, these machines are constantly changing. I’m thrilled to be part of this exciting time. Polaris is a great company to race for. They really take a sincere interest in their athletes, they understand what it takes to win. They are very involved with their races. I’m proud to be part of such a great company. I look forward to an exciting 2016 race season and look forward to bringing home the championship this year for Team MB & Polaris.