UTV off-road racer Rodney VanEperen was the Pro Mod SxS World Champion of the AMSOIL Off-Road Championship last year. But behind the scenes of his final race, VanEperen pulled an uncharacteristic and bold move: switching out his brake calipers for Hayes Sovren calipers after testing them only once.
VanEperen is particular and calculated when bolting new parts on his UTV. As an owner of the Powersports1 dealership in Appleton, WI, he doesn’t take any decision lightly when representing his shop on the racecourse. VanEperen initially felt nervous about changing to Sovren calipers for the final weekend of the championship in Crandon, WI.
“I wasn’t sold on it. I had heard rumors of some guys running them and how great they are, and I kind of went, ‘Eh, I’m sure they’re good, but what we’ve got is good,’” VanEperen said. “I put them on for one race. It was probably the single biggest difference from any one part I’ve bolted on a car that I’ve really ever seen.”
VanEperen ended up getting second in the race, despite only needing a “halfway decent finish” to win the championship. This was an especially pleasant surprise considering the Crandon International Off-Road Raceway’s extreme track conditions.
“Crandon is probably the highest speed track that we race at. We come into the gravel pit at Crandon at pretty close to 90 miles per hour,” VanEperen said. “It’s a big difference when you’ve got good brakes versus spongy brakes or fading brakes, so it was a night and day difference.”
Fading brakes is one of many problems VanEperen was running into throughout the season – problems that he did not come across with Hayes’ Sovren calipers.
“It was worth it for me because I was fighting all year against brake fade, bent rotors, and warped rotors,” VanEperen said. “It was a great savior right at that point and really helped us a lot in setting the direction we needed to go for the ’22 season.”
Hayes’ Sovren calipers are strong and consistent, providing superior braking performance in extreme applications like the course in Crandon. Any skilled off-road racer understands the importance of stopping power. A consistent brake can maximize the graceful technique of a driver.
“Like I said, you're going 90 miles an hour and you gotta stop in a heartbeat,” VanEperen said. “But I was kind of laughing in my helmet because the brakes were so good. I could drive it in way deeper than the rest of the guys and I really wasn't even braking all that hard.
“I didn't even feel like I was pushing it, yet we still ended up second in the race. I was braking later than everybody else and still stopping with all kinds of extra time in the corner.”
This braking power is all thanks to Sovren’s caliper pressure of up to 1800 psi (125 bar) clamp force combined with double-acting pad springs that delivers higher braking capability – a feature that VanEperen was able to pick up on.
“Well, I don’t really know what their magic potion is but they have the right amount of braking pressure,” VanEperen said. “The pedal feel is better than stock, you can feel the brakes and put them on gradually, but the stopping is way more extreme when you get midway through the pedal.”
Another extreme that off-road racers are all too familiar with when it comes to brakes is heat. The consistency that Sovren calipers provided VanEperen in his race allowed him to confidently take corners without worrying about mushy, faded brakes.
“I know the longevity of them is going to be longer for sure. We had zero heat issues with them. And a lot of times calipers get damaged. Sovren calipers have a really stout bracket to mount these things,” VanEperen said. “When you get brake fade and you're halfway through the race, you're kind of going, ‘Alright, I'm not going in this corner too fast because I'm not sure if this thing is going to stop or not.’ The Sovren brakes from Hayes had a solid pedal feel from the very first lap ‘til the last lap.”
Off-road build-up like gravel, dust, and mud are a common element (and cleaning nuisance) for UTV racers and enthusiasts alike. While these elements are fundamental to the excitement and spirit of off-roading, they can pose a threat to the integrity of a vehicle’s parts. That is why Hayes was sure to engineer Sovren calipers with a durable design that includes automotive pin-style boots, resulting in less dirt intrusion.
“At the end of the day, we had zero issues. We didn’t have to clean any of the plungers out or scrape anything out,” VanEperen said. “We never touched them. We looked at them in between races and that was it. There was no maintenance involved with anything. No dust or corrosion or mud or anything like that.”
Along with keeping his shop clean, VanEperen also likes to keep his shop organized. He found the bi-directional nature of Sovren calipers helpful and convenient when including them in his UTV.
“They made it easy. You don't have a specific caliper for each side. So there's a bleeder on the top and the bottom, and the same calipers are used from side to side. So essentially if you had an issue or you wanted to stock one spare, you could use that one caliper for both sides,” VanEperen said. “They made it really easy because they're interchangeable.”
VanEperen is looking forward to using Sovren calipers in the coming year. After a championship win, VanEperen isn’t looking to make a lot of changes, but he is confident that switching to Sovren calipers will make the biggest difference in his lap times this year.
“It's the single biggest upgrade you can do to a UTV right now that's just bolt on and upgrade. I mean we constantly bolt parts on these things nonstop to try and make them go faster and be better,” VanEperen said. “This might be the single biggest thing that you can bolt on to literally lower your lap time. That you could go out there and go, ‘Alright. I definitely went faster around that track than I did before.”
You can follow VanEperen’s racing journey this year on Instagram: @rodneyve45. VanEperen’s son, racing partner, and fellow Hayes’ Sovren calipers enthusiast, Owen, can be found @owenvaneperen5. Don’t forget to follow @hayespowersports while you’re there!