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2001 Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Championship - Rockcrawling at Its Best

Front Driver Side View Car Off Mountain
Rick Russell | Writer
Posted August 21, 2002
Contributors: Aaron Vandersommers

The Final Event in the 2001 ARCA Series

Thousands of spectators found their way into Chokecherry Canyon in Farmington, New Mexico, to watch 70 teams compete in the final event of the 2001 Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Championship. The first three events of the season produced a different winner each time. The Johnson Valley, California, championship ended in a two-way tie between Shannon Campbell and Tracy Jordan. Matt Burkett took home the gold from the Las Cruces, New Mexico, event. Then in Cedar City, legendary Walker Evans won First Place. After Cedar City, Team Currie took the series lead from Joel Randall. All of the vehicles were finely tuned, and the teams had honed their skills for this final event. With only a small gap between the top five contestants, the competitors fought hard for their final positions in the series. But in the end, it was the team of John Currie and Jeff Waggoner who had accumulated the most points and won First Place in the 2001 Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Championship.

Team Currie entered the 2001 competition with a custom-built TJ nicknamed Fire Ant. The Fire Ant's narrowed Jeep body sits on a modified TJ frame and is powered by a 2000 Grand Cherokee 4.7L V-8 engine and matching transmission. This motor produces a total of 300 lb-ft of torque, but it reaches 200 lb-ft at just 1,500 rpm -- perfect for rockcrawling.

"Be conservative. Don't break and always finish in the top of the pack at every event." That was Team Currie's strategy in the 2001 ARCA series. It worked. John Currie and Jeff Waggoner finished Eighth in Johnson Valley, Fifth in Las Cruces, Third at Cedar City and Third in the final event in Farmington. Team Currie accumulated 532 points from the four-event series, which was 22 points ahead of Second Place Don Robbins. Jason Paule finished third overall, Joel Randall finished fourth, and John Gilleland took Fifth Place. There was only 36 points between First Place and Fifth Place. That's not much of a spread when you consider that just using a winch will cost a challenger 30 points.

At the final event in Farmington, Ken Shupe from Travelers Rest, South Carolina, walked away with First Place, followed by Jason Bunch in Second Place and John Currie in Third Place. Chris Durham, last year's series winner, captured Fourth Place in the final event. Similar to the other series events, there are two seven-obstacle courses for the two days of competition. After check-in on Thursday, the vehicles are divided into two groups. On Saturday, one group runs Course A, while the other runs Course B. Then on Sunday, the groups run the opposite course. Each obstacle is assigned a maximum time and 40 points. Point deductions are made for such things as touching a flag marking the course, backing up, stopping longer than four seconds, or using a winch. After point deductions, the net points from each obstacle are totaled for both days of competition to arrive at a final score.

To give the courses a little more personality, names were given to each of the fourteen obstacles. For example, the tougher obstacles on Course A were Wrath of Sandy and The Grapevine. On Course B, The Fluke and Blitzkriek were the tougher obstacles. Wrath of Sandy began with a downhill, off-camber section. The vehicle continued to lean as the spotter used his body weight to keep the vehicle from rolling over. Then it was an uphill climb, providing the driver could turn uphill from an off-camber position without laying the vehicle on its side. On most obstacles, the driver would be done, but not on the Wrath of Sandy. After climbing to the top of the hill, the vehicles made a sharp turn and dropped into a crater. The finish line was at the top of the other side. However, there's one problem: Two ledges in the wall that catch the front tires and rear tires at the same time keep the vehicle from easily climbing out of the crater. It's the double whammy effect we so often find in Moab. If the competitor got this far, they usually made it to the finish line.

The Grapevine offered each contender two choices. The most direct way to the finish line was to aim the vehicle toward a 30-foot vertical wall and drive straight up. However, this method required the team to stack a few rocks at the bottom to give the vehicle a chance to transition from a horizontal to a vertical position. Some made it and some rolled over. The other way up Grapevine required the driver to work the vehicle up three very slick ledges, then back up along the top of the wall, turn the vehicle around without knocking over any flags, and drive through the finish line. Sound confusing? It was. The competitors were not likely to roll over going this way, just time-out.

On Course B, the Fluke caused its fair share of rollovers and breakdowns. Although the Fluke is a short hillclimb, the really, really, big, flat rock lying in the path caused problems. The rear tires would dig holes at the base of the rock. This required each competitor to bump the rear tires up onto the rock in order to get through the hole. But this flat rock is slick and slanted toward a wall on the downhill side. It was just waiting to catch spinning tires and slide a vehicle into the wall, which it did several times. For some competitors, the bump up onto the rock broke an axle or some other critical part, while other vehicles fell back and rolled onto their side. The Fluke was a tough obstacle.

Blitzkriek should have been renamed Rollover Hill. This slickrock with carved craters at the bottom large enough to catch a rear tire and kick up the front end, caused several rollovers. If a spectator wanted a picture or video of a rollover, they need only to stand at Blitzkriek. You didn't have to wait long. If the vehicle managed to get past the craters at the bottom without rolling over, the top section might snag them. As the vehicle approached the top, a large crevice would pull the vehicle over on its side.

There is no doubt that rear steering gives a driver an advantage. With the cost running near $10,000 to retrofit a vehicle with rear steering, ARCA has decided to create two classes of vehicles in 2002. The Open Class will include rear-steer rock buggies, while the Modified Stock Class will be limited. However, a competitor in the Modified Stock Class can also compete in the Open Class by paying the fees for both classes. The new classes just level the playing field.

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  • At the Farmington, New Mexico, event, Ken Shupe from Travelers Rest, South Carolina, slid into First Place by 140 points. Ken and his spotter Brandon Gillian finished 12th in the 2001 series. Ken owns Foothills 4x4 in South Carolina.

  • The Hypertension section ran along an edge then made a short climb to the finish. Because of the 50-foot cliff next to the short climb out, each competitor was required to hook up a winch cable as a safety precaution. Walker Evans works his way along the edge before turning right to climb out.

  • The Chop Chop obstacle was a narrow crevice with two ledges for the vehicles to climb before they could reach the finish line. The wider axle-stance vehicles made Chop Chop a little easier.

  • Boobery starts as a drop-off, then the vehicles circle around and climb an even steeper ledge. Losing traction near the top and sliding backward to the bottom claimed several rollovers by kicking the vehicle sideways.

  • Epicenter was a natural rock crater flagged to keep the competitors in tight as they make a 270-degree turn -- so tight that some competitors drove in and backed up to the finish line.

  • Thousands of spectators found their way into Chokecherry Canyon in Farmington, New Mexico, to watch 70 teams compete in the final event of the 2001 Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Championship.

  • Jason Bunch took Second Place at the Farmington event with 138 points. Jason and his spotter, Steve Hastings, finished 13th in the 2001 series. Jason operates Tri County Gear in Pomona, California.

  • At the Grapevine obstacle, the most direct way to the finish line was to aim the vehicle toward a 30-foot vertical wall and drive straight up. However, this method required the team to stack a few rocks at the bottom to give the vehicle a chance to transition from horizontal to a vertical position. Joel Randall transitioned from horizontal to vertical and back to horizontal and flipped on Grapevine.

  • Wrath of Sandy contained more challenges than any other gate on the course. It began by dropping into a ravine on an off-camber slab of rock. Then it's a turn -- off-camber, of course -- upward across some very slick rock. From the top, flags mark the way into a natural crater. Two ledges in the wall that catch the front tires and rear tires at the same time keep the vehicle from easily climbing out of the crater to the finish line. It's a double whammy effect. After several tries, Shannon Campbell powered up the last obstacle on the Wrath of Sandy.

  • Chris Durham earned Fourth Place in the Farmington event and Eleventh Place in the 2001 series. Chris won First Place in the prior year's series.

  • The Rash obstacle began by dropping down onto an off-camber ledge, driving to the end and then turning right to climb up a ledge. If your rear wheels happen to slide off the off-camber ledge, it becomes nearly impossible to climb the final ledge -- as demonstrated in this photo.

  • Shattered Dreams required the vehicles to drive in an unnatural angle to miss a flag. Some contestants just took the flag rather than risking laying their vehicle on its side. With the help of his spotter, Dan Dunaway was able to clear the flag and drive up the ledge at the end of Shattered Dreams.

  • John Dallaire in his Scorpion climbed up and over Blockader. A very large hole in the rock near the start makes Blockader a challenge. If the vehicles were able to drive around the hole without touching a flag or falling in the hole, the upper portion was easy for most vehicles.

  • The Fluke caused its fair share of rollovers and breakdowns. Although the Fluke is a short hillclimb, the really, really big flat rock lying in the path caused problems for many of the competitors.

  • The Game started with a short climb, then an off-camber ride across the face of the rock. Kathy Crook, like many others, intentionally took out the flag and drove across this section on a higher and safer line.

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