Consistency Pays Off For The California Team
The radical narrowed Jeep Wrangler that brothers Ray and John Currie call the Fire Ant stung the competition and crawled away with championship honors in the 2001 Goodyear/Skyjacker Rock Crawling Championships finals held in the Four Corners backcountry of Farmington, New Mexico.
Co-drivers Jeff Waggoner of Kearney, Nebraska, and John Currie, of Anaheim, California, placed Second in the ARCA championship last year in the Fire Ant, and this year they consistently placed in the Top Eight in all four ARCA events in their custom-built TJ.
Still, they didn't win this event. They finished Third behind Ken Shupe, of Travelers' Rest, South Carolina, and spotter Brian Gillian, driving an '86 Jeep Scrambler, which won the Farmington event, and Jason Bunch, of Pomona, California, and spotter Steve Hastings, motoring an '89 Jeep Wrangler into Second place.
Things have changed dramatically from the first year of the ARCA series in 1999, when drivers simply put their foot to the floor and throttled their rigs up and over boulders and rock ledges. It's quickly becoming a professional sport, with extensive modifications to the rigs, and as a result has drawn an increasingly wide group of sponsors, currently lead by Goodyear and Skyjacker.
The Farmington course was designed by resident Phillip Collard as an extreme test for what some consider to be the 70 best rockcrawlers in the world. Collard, an ARCA staff member, has been involved in course-building for the past two seasons. He builds 14-obstacle "puzzles" with flags or gates. Drivers and spotters have to figure out the lines and have the courage to go for it, since many defy the laws of gravity. The multi-stage ARCA series is also designed for the safety of spectators and is set up in a Tread Lightly! environmentally friendly fashion.
Racing legend Walker Evans, who piloted his Chevy S-10 pickup to an overall win at the third series event in July held in Cedar City, Utah, placed Seventh in final series points.
Besides Waggoner, Currie, and Don Robbins, who finished Second in overall points, series finalists included Jason Paule, of Rapid City, South Dakota, Third place; Joel Randall, of Gibbon, Nebraska, Fourth place; John Gilleland, of Durango, Colorado, Fifth place; Mike Shaffer, of Reno, Nevada, Sixth place; Walker Evans, of Riverside, California, Seventh place; Shannon Campbell, of Gilbert, Arizona, Eighth place; Rich Hudson, of Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska, Ninth place; and Randy Ellis, of Kingman, Arizona, 10th place.