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2002 Rock Crawlers Association of America - Rockin' The Roof

Posted in Events on August 1, 2002
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Contributors: Team OFF-ROAD

The clock was started for the Goodyear/Skyjacker 2002 RCAA Event (Rock Crawlers Association of America, formerly American Rock Crawlers Association, ARCA) in Farmington, New Mexico, when 65 drivers competing for $20,000 in cash plus contingencies rolled away from the starting gates. There is nearly $400,000 in cash and prizes to distribute over four events in the RCAA Series. Farmington was the first location of four events. Competitors will again compete in Vernal, Utah, Cedar City, Utah, and Johnson Valley, California, to accumulate points toward the overall series winner. Chris Durham and Kevin "Moose" Nalley won the 2000 series, and John Currie and Jeff Waggoner won the 2001 series. But the question is, who will win the 2002 RCAA Series?

One thing is for sure: Mike Shaffer in his Suzuki-based vehicle has taken the lead by winning the 2002 Farmington event. We caught up with Mike after the event and asked him a few questions.

OR: What city do you live in, Mike?
SHAFFER: Carson City, Nevada

OR: Who's your spotter?
SHAFFER: Lance Clifford in Farmington

OR: What is your occupation?
SHAFFER: I own Shaffer's 4-Wheel Drive Shop. We basically specialize in building customized buggies or any built-to-suit four-wheel drive.

OR: How long have you had that shop?
SHAFFER: Five years

OR: What did you do before that?
SHAFFER: Actually, I was an auto tech for Dodge. I had planned to start my own shop for a while; it was just a matter of when

OR: What kind of projects are you working on now?
SHAFFER: The one we're finishing up now is a '98 Amigo with Howell steering, Dana 60s, and 38-inch Swampers. It has a pretty quick little engine.

OR: What motor is it running?
SHAFFER: It's running the stock motor, but it produces 230 hp, stock.

OR: What about the transmission and T-case?
SHAFFER: It actually uses the transmission out of an '87 Toyota turbo.

OR: OK. So have you been specializing with the Suzuki line?
SHAFFER: Not really. We don't have very many Suzuki customers. We have maybe one or two locals with Suzukis. I would say we have more customers with Land Cruisers, but we work on any type of 4WD.

OR: Tell us about the vehicle you won Farmington with. Was it a buggy or a Suzuki?
SHAFFER: Well, it is a Suzuki-based vehicle. We built a 1-3/4- to 0.120-inch wall tube frame around a '99 Sidekick Sport with a 1.8L 160hp, all-aluminum four-cylinder motor.

OR: What about the transmission?
SHAFFER: We're using the stock five-speed Sidekick transmission and transfer case. I also have a divorced Samurai transfer case giving me a 172:1 Low gear.

OR: Oh, so you have a dual transfer case?

OR: What did you call the second transfer case?
SHAFFER: A divorced Samurai case. That means it's not bolted directly to the first transfer case, and it sits by itself, connected by a short driveshaft.

OR: Do you feel that's an advantage when you're out rockcrawling?
SHAFFER: Most people don't think that it is an advantage as far as competitions go, but in the really technical senses, I love it to death because I have a lot of options.

OR: What differentials are you running?
SHAFFER: The axles are Dana 44s, set up with Warn 'shafts, CTM U-Joints, ARB Lockers, and 5:38 gears.

OR: What about the suspension?
SHAFFER: It's all custom-built - basically a three-link with a 14-inch Bilstein coilover.

OR: What tire were you using in Farmington?
SHAFFER: The standard 37x12.50x17 BFG Mud-Terrain mounted on TrailReady bead-lock wheels.

OR: How much air pressure did you run?
SHAFFER: Um, about 7 pounds.

OR: Your vehicle seems light. How much does it weigh?
SHAFFER: It weighs 2,633 pounds.

OR: Is that with fuel and without you in the driver seat?

OR: How large is the gas tank?
SHAFFER: Well, in Farmington it was 16 gallons, but we plan to install a 5-gallon tank to reduce the weight.

OR: It was impressive when the vehicle flipped over on its side and you spun it around, got out, and with the help of your spotter, flipped the vehicle back onto its wheels and drove through that last gate.
SHAFFER: (laughing) That was probably the worst obstacle of the weekend as far as luck goes. I did have another one [obstacle] where I laid it over on the finish gate and I did the same thing; I spun it around like that, but it ended up coming back onto its wheels without getting out of the vehicle.

OR: Did the judges count it as a backup?
SHAFFER: No, because I didn't use Reverse. I was always in forward gears.

OR: (laughing) So even though you spin on your side, as long as the vehicle is still in a forward gear, judges don't count it as a backup?
SHAFFER: Exactly.

OR: What did you think about the Farmington course?
SHAFFER: There are a few obstacles that if you didn't get it just right you would have multiple rollovers; and I think some of these obstacles are a little too dangerous. Not too hard, just too dangerous.

OR: We understand.
SHAFFER: Something could go wrong, such as when Rich Hudson rolled, he went over four times off the side of a wall and went down about a story and a half in a brand-new rig.

OR: Wow! He's lucky he didn't get hurt.
SHAFFER: It bent the frame pretty bad. He was a little unaware of where he was when he came out of the vehicle.

OR: How would you compare this course with what you were running last year?
SHAFFER: It seems like every event has been stepped up a notch. There's a lot more vertical stuff and hair-ball stuff to get over.

OR: Tell us about your spotter.
SHAFFER: The biggest psychological thing was that Lance [spotter] and I had never 'wheeled together. No practice time. Lance met me at the event and that was the first time we ever 'wheeled together. We've never actually competed as a team.

OR: Where did you meet Lance?
SHAFFER: He does my Web site. Lance told me if I needed a spotter to give him a call. My spotter quit, and I called Lance about two weeks prior to the event.

OR: It seemed like you guys worked pretty well together?
SHAFFER: I never expected to win First Place. I was just hoping to get in the Top 10.

OR: How much of your success do you contribute to the spotter?
SHAFFER: A large portion of my win is contributed to my spotter - probably 75 percent.

OR: Was it tough to get your vehicle ready for Farmington after going to CalRock the weekend before?
SHAFFER: Yes, my wife rolled the vehicle end-over-end at CalRock, leaving me with just three days to put it back together. I got to tech inspection in Farmington one hour before they closed.

OR: That was a little tight. Your wife didn't get hurt, did she?
SHAFFER: No, a little shaken up, but OK.

OR: Do you want to thank anyone for helping you win?
SHAFFER: Yes. Summit Racing, ARB, CTM, Shade Tree Machine Shop, Drive Line Service in Carson City, Vital Signs, and all the people who helped me put the vehicle together.

Farmington At A Glance
Generally, the drivers thought the Farmington course was technical but not very hard. Ian Lijeblad ran the last day without a spotter and finished Eighth. Don Campbell, a spectator, was the first serious injury since rockcrawling began - a rock fell on him, crushing his legs and feet. A cold storm moved in during the final hours of the event and forced the awards presentation to be moved back to the hotel. Will Mike Shaffer be able to maintain his lead after the Vernal, Utah, event? The Vernal event is being held May 16-18, 2002. The third event will be held in Cedar City, Utah, on July 11-13, 2002, and the final RCAA event is scheduled for September 19-21, 2002, in Johnson Valley, California.
For more information and rules, contact:
(801) 448-5337

Top 10
In Farmington, New Mexico
1. Mike Shaffer, 6 points
2. John Gilleland, 13 points
3. Joel Randall, 17 points
4. Ken Shupe, 31 points
5. Jason Paule, 35 points
6. Nantz/Bonney, 51 points
7. Currie/Waggoner, 54 points
8. Ian Lijeblad, 57 points
9. Mitch Guthrie, 75 points
10. Rich Hudson, 76 points

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