We love it when the guys who sell us cool off-road swag are actually into the sport. In Canada, those guys are The Gear Centre Group. When we received an invitation to head north to Kelowna, British Columbia, and the verdant Okanagan Valley for the second annual Rumble on the Rocks, it took us all of a millisecond to book that ticket. The Gear Centre, based in Edmonton, Alberta, operates over twenty retail shops and has been purveyors of high-quality transmissions, transfer cases, driveline and steering components for more than three decades. And a few years ago, they even jumped into the electric winch market. The rock-racing scene in Canada is on the rise, and while the inaugural Rumble was a low-key endeavor with a small but enthusiastic turnout, this year they partnered with newly established Can-Rocks (Canadian Rock Racing Association) and became one of a four-race series. And the numbers-both of competitors and spectators-grew threefold.
Lowdown on the Showdown
The Rumble rules are pretty straightforward, and that is, fastest time wins . . . it's a race, right? Teams have 25 minutes to complete each course, and if you miss one course, you'll see the podium from the back of the crowd. There are no penalties (other than the clock ticking) for stopping, backing, pulling a winch line or stacking rocks, but go off course, or forget a winch-cable weight, and the judges tack on up to 60 seconds. Self-righting a rolled rig, if you can do it, is okay, and a 60-minute allotment is given for breakdowns. The final course, a bonus line up a sheer granite slab, was an option to improve your score. Nine teams opted for the bonus, and four tentative podium positions changed hands.
As with most rock racing events, the Rumble has three vehicle classes-Stock, Trail and Buggy-but how you are placed in your class is based on a point system. Each modification-reconfigured suspension, non-OEM axles, tube chassis-is worth a given number of points. You can pick and choose where you want to what you want to build your rig. The only exception is tire size. Max size for the Stock is class 35 inches; 36 to 42 inches fall in the Trail class; and tires of 42 inches or more classifies you as a Buggy (even if you shoehorned them under a Geo Metro).
The Rumble is a collection of the region's up-and-coming rock hounds, and competitors came from across western Canada to trash their junk. The Rumble even attracted a Yankee named "Money" Mark Lynum, who rolled in from Washington to pull off a Third-place finish in the buggy class. Day one was about tech inspection and registration. In the pits, teams were making last-minute adjustments, upgrades and repairs... and talkin' smack. Last year's champ, Kris Fraser (he says it was actually a tie), returned to take home his second Rumble title, followed by Curtis Warner in Second place.
Overall, Rumble on the Rocks was a rockin' good time. The Canadian boys are learning from U.S. rock racing, and jumping in with all tires. The technology-monster axles, four-link setups, rear and hydraulic steering, and moon buggies-is all there, and we saw a much larger number of full-bodied and leaf-sprung rigs. Keeping the entry price-point low allows the grassroots guys to play the game. With the Gear Centre/Can-Rock partnership and three additional series events-the Highrider's Challenge, Apex Crawl, and the Mainland Cup-we're looking forward to more of the Canadian rock racing scene.
This guy missed his departure angle, hit the brakes, and did a rather ungraceful half-pirouette before landing on his lid.