“With countless feeder series already in place to support the likes of Indy Car, Formula 1 and NASCAR,” the reads, “it only made sense that Formula Cross fill in the missing gaps in the world of rally and rallycross.” That’s true, but there’s much more to the project than that—Rhys Millen Racing’s ambitious conversion project turns any ATV into a fully functional car that both corresponds to the driving experience of larger vehicles and allows riders to continue enjoying their ATVs with additional safety benefits, all at a reasonably inexpensive price point.
We talked to Rhys Millen at length about the inspiration behind the Formula Cross project, as well as the results of testing and some of the details about the conversion process. Thus far, he suggests, the project has been overwhelmingly positive, and those interested in the vehicle can expect multiple models, and perhaps a racing series, very soon:
Where did the inspiration behind the Formula Cross concept come from?
(laughs) The inspiration came from about six or seven years ago, breaking my back on a quad, parking it in my garage since then, and multiple years walking past it not really wanting to sell it. And then a few years ago, probably three plus years ago, looking at the quad in a different light, that perhaps this can be stretched and changed into a driving experience. Taking into consideration the safety element of incorporating a cage and seat and so forth as an extension of the driving experience, but with safety.
After kind of mentioning the idea to a couple of people, I heard very similar stories—riders had become a little older, they’d been hurt on them, their wives wouldn’t go near them, or their kids were becoming teenagers and wanted to ride quads and the parents didn’t want them anywhere near them. So in hearing all of that, I kind of started to commit to the thought, and this year in January we decided to develop this vehicle. And I think it was a shock to us on how well balanced, how amazing the driving experience was, and how much car control you could pick up, both from throttle control and steering, that would translate to a full-sized vehicle.
When did work on the project start? How far into the development process was the vehicle when you unveiled it to the world last month?
We started the project January 1 after laying out multiple sorts of designs, but the fabrication started then. It went into a four to six month sort of test phase once it was produced, while the body and everything was being developed as well in our composite shop. And we were going out doing multiple setups, balancing the chassis and drivability and so fort for handling until we started production on the vehicles which will be available here shortly. And it’s been received very, very well.
We’ve had multiple people drive it, from top ATV riders in the US to friends of mine that run the Ducati 1205 bikes up Pikes Peak and NASCAR drivers and rally guys, and some of my good stunt friends as well. Even my father’s been in it, and he loves it. And the feedback has all been positive. Over that testing period of some 400-plus miles, we never had one mechanical, and the whole package has proven to be very capable as a driving tool and a very exciting experience behind the wheel.
For those who are looking to buy the kit and install it themselves, how long does the process take, and how complex is the conversion?
It’s offered in several manners. The first would be, if you are a current ATV owner of the Yamaha models, which we’re starting with first—the 2004 and up 450, 660, and 750 Raptor—the retail on our kit is $7500, and it will take you about 20 hours to flip everything over. So (it’s) a two, two and a half day thing, comfortably, and utilizing about 90 percent of the production vehicle. If you’re not mechanically inclined, not a do-it-yourself kind of person, we also offer a service in house to make you a turn-key model that can either be based off a vehicle you own, a used vehicle that can be found on Craigslist or eBay or wherever, or the third option is to go to a local distributor/dealer and purchase a new vehicle that can be brought to us and we can do that transformation as well.
You’ve done plenty of demo days at tracks like Adams Motorsports Park and Pikes Peak. When are you planning for the next one, and will it be open to the public?
We’ve fit one more day in there as well—we took it up to DirtFish Rally School in the Seattle area and had their instructors run it over there as consideration as a stepping stone into a full-size rally car. There was a lot of interest expressed up there as well. But now we’re very happy with what we’ve been out to achieve. Our testing phase is done, and now we’re really focused into production over the next couple of months.
We will release some more videos, and the main focus next is going to be showing the diversity of the vehicle. We can put paddle tires on this vehicle and take it out to Pismo Beach or up to Glamis; you can put full dirt tires on it and go romping through the desert. So that’s kind of going to be the focus, showing the diversity of the chassis, with its built-in different ride heights to be able to allow the driver not only a fixed experience like a go-kart does on a smooth surface on a specific track, (but) a diversity to take this in different locations with different surfaces and enjoy the vehicle in that manner.
You’re planning on creating a series for the Formula Cross kart—when can we expect to hear details on that?
You know, there’s been more developments than we’ve kind of given credit for on the platform. The interest level has definitely surpassed the timeframes that we thought would come about. Probably the most exciting this is that everyone wants one to race one, or a good 90-plus percent of the people. With that in mind, we’ve been approached by some already existing sanctioning bodies that run karting national series and so forth that look to add this as a class, and then some others that are based around the ATV world. So the interest level is there, even without ourselves forming a sanctioning body or sanctioning series. So we are focusing on specific designs that are safe for the chassis construction, and also considering a set of rules to allow these sanctioning bodies to implement the vehicles into their current setups.
- Chris Leone