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2009 W.E. Rock Grand National Championships - Multipurpose Rocker

Posted in Events on May 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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Tracy Jordan built his "Rock Bug" to be versatile-capable of running in the treacherous King of the Hammers race and, with a few minor changes, also competing in the Pro Modified class on the W.E.Rock circuit.

Jordan thrilled the crowd with this bonus run during the shootout.

Recognized as one of the most technologically advanced rockcrawlers, the "Rock Bug" demonstrated even more of its flexibility by stepping up and winning the Unlimited class at the 2009 W.E.Rock Grand National Championships.

Held October 2-4, 2009 in the Glade Run Recreation Area north of Farmington, New Mexico, the championships drew 30 teams from across the U.S. and Canada that had the best rankings in the Eastern and Western divisional series held throughout the year.

Jordan, who is spotted by his brother Jason, won the final two Western regional events in Pro Modified and was a heavy favorite to capture that division at the Grand Nationals. In a last-minute move, the team announced it would compete in the Unlimited class. Jordan said the Rock Bug was already fitted with rear steer and 39-inch tires from the brothers' recreational wheeling around the Phoenix area, and they decided to "show off" what the car could do in the tougher division. The move went against the grain in a sport that has seen a migration from Unlimited to Pro Modified. Cost doesn't appear to be much of a factor, according to officials and competitors. They see Pro Modified as offering more challenges and marketing opportunities.

Defending Pro Modified national champion Derek West was Seventh after the first day, but struggled on Sunday and finished 11th. His spotter is Ritchie Keller.

"It's a chance to have a 2-seater for trail riding besides competition," says W.E.Rock president Rich Klein. "Also, Pro Mod is built with the idea that it's our NASCAR-type class."

Pro Modified vehicles must have two seats and three-dimensional bodywork that resembles a production vehicle's. Other requirements include a front-mounted engine, a bumper, and maximum 37-inch-tall tires. Unlimited vehicles are often referred to as "moon buggies" due to their stripped-down, purpose-built, "jungle gym" appearance.

"NASCAR is popular for the simple idea that it's Ford against Chevy against Dodge against Toyota," explains Klein. "Indy Cars all look the same. In Unlimited, spectators may ask, 'What is that?'"

Other Pro Modified drivers suggest that the Unlimited vehicles have become "too good," and that the restrictions placed on Pro Mod cars make the competition more challenging for the drivers. "With the bodywork, there's more real estate for sponsors," adds Nicole Johnson, one of two women at the championships. "It gives us a better chance to market ourselves."

The Farmington rock pile was divided into eight courses. Competitors challenged four on the first day and the remaining four on Sunday. Points were assessed against the drivers for using Reverse, hitting a course cone, missing gates, or not completing the course within the 10-minute limit. Teams could also have points subtracted by clearing bonus obstacles and by successfully clearing each set of course cones. Teams are ranked starting with the lowest score. The leading six teams in each division after the second day carried their points over into a final shootout over a course that stretched across the natural rock stadium.

Despite its impressive high-tech credentials, Jordan's Rock Bug wasn't given a free pass in the Unlimited division. Jordan led after the first day with just three points, while former champion Jason Paule was slightly behind with 15 points. Brent Bradshaw's super-clean, single-seater buggy was within striking distance at 32 total points.

On Sunday, Bradshaw, along with spotter Chris Poblano, earned negative scores on all four courses, pulling within just six points of Jordan, who earned negative scores on three courses.

In the shootout, however, Bradshaw rolled off a tall hill and was assessed 37 points. That gave Jordan a 43-point lead, but the most any driver can accumulate on a course is 40 points. Jordan was going to be the champion, even if he rolled during his shootout run-which he did.

If you don't think the spotters are agile, check out Chris Poblano during the Unlimited shootout. His driver, Brent Bradshaw, starts to roll at the top of the hill. When Bradshaw is at the bottom ledge, Poblano has already leaped down a couple of steps to be by his side. Poblano tried to upright the vehicle immediately after it came to rest, but to no avail.

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View Slideshow

Midway through the run, Jordan rolled on his side in a deep bowl. He used his rear steering to gain just enough traction against the walls to power upright and continue on course. He also cleared a massive 20-point hill to finish the course with just six total points. His final score for the championship was -34 followed by Bradshaw at -28. It was Jordan's eighth championship in all forms of crawling, but his first in W.E.Rock.

In Pro Modified, the team of Brad and Roger Lovell maintained a tight but steady lead throughout the competition. They led Troy Bailey and Travis Heslington by 14 points after the first day, and stretched that advantage to 18 points entering the shootout. Bailey scored a respectable 8 points in the shootout to put pressure on Lovell, but Lovell's Ford Ranger scored a low round of six points to win the overall title by 20 points. Buzz Bronsema and Shon Wilson finished in Third, 55 points behind Lovell.

Becca Webster and her spotter, Mike Berard, were the sentimental favorites in Pro Modified. They were Third after the first day, but slipped to Fourth going into the shootout. Webster had announced her intentions to retire after the event. Unfortunately, she rolled in the same bowl that nearly sidelined Jordan and was forced to give her farewell address as the recovery teams pulled out her vehicle.

2009 W.E.ROCK Grand National Championships
Driver/Spotter Total Points
Unlimited Class
Tracy Jordan/Jason Jordan -28
Brent Bradshaw/Chris Poblano 9
Jesse Haines/Brian Howard 14
Cody Waggoner/Jim Waggoner 21
Carl Shortridge/Mike Fox 68
Jason Paule/Mark Berger 87
Shannon Campbell/Lance Clifford 158
Rick Mooneyham/Scott Ward 176
Todd Young/John Hoffman 211
Brandon Montgomery/Kenny Rose 226
Matt Messer/Tim Florian 229
Pro Modified Class
Brad Lovell/Roger Lovell 13
Troy Bailey/Travis Heslington 33
Buzz Bronsema/Shon Wilson 68
Craig Thompson/Red Dragon 135
Nick Campbell/Jason Berger 145
Ken Blume/Kyle Brusso 172
Mike Thompson/Eric Johnson 177
Dean Bulloch/Carl Munford 181
Bill Kunz/Mike Shaffer 186
Derek West/Ritchie Keller 195
Danny Rohrer/Chad Rolfert 197
Nicole Johnson/Frank Johnson 198
Brian Errea/Joel Randall 200
Todd McCullen/Troy Dagen 215
Mike Klensin/Chris Adamen 241
Justin Lawson/Cody Keller 256
Barry Beadle/Todd Stephenson 260
Richard Walker/Colin DeRosa 262
View Slideshow
View Slideshow

The Rock Bug: How It Was Built
Construction on the Rock Bug began in late 2008 at Spidertrax Off-Road in Longmont, Colorado. Jordan consulted with owners Eddie Casanueva and Tom Kingston on the overall goals and requirements, not only for rockcrawling, but also for running in the King of the Hammers race.

"Through years of experience, I let them know what I wanted. We decided we wanted it to look like a bug. They pretty much threw it on CAD and built around that," says Jordan.

Weight reduction was the key strategy. In rockcrawling trim for Pro Modified, the Rock Bug tips the scales at just over 2,300 pounds. That's at least 400 pounds lighter than most other Pro Mod cars. Add about 200 pounds for rear steer and bigger tires for Unlimited. And Tracy adds another 150 pounds plus a co-driver for the KOH race.

The frame is constructed from 4130 chrome-moly tubing. Front and rear suspensions are a four-link design with the upper control arms triangulated. Again, chrome-moly is used for the links, and Spidertrax fabricated their own hollow chrome-moly mounting hardware to save weight over traditional Grade-8 nuts and bolts. King quad-bypass shocks will be installed for KOH, while King air shocks designed for 16 inches of wheel travel are used for rockcrawling

"I like a certain amount of ride height at the skidplate, about 17 inches. And I need as much downtravel as possible for the way I drive," explains Jordan. "With a 17-inch belly, I think we're running about 31/2 inches of uptravel. That gives me more than a foot of downtravel. It starts to be a problem with King of the Hammers because you want more uptravel for that. We had to find a happy medium. It's not perfect for any one event, but it's pretty good for both."

Spidertrax fabricated and heat-treated the axle assemblies, using chrome-moly for the housing, axletubes, spindles, and knuckles, while the hub is machined from 6061 T6 aluminum. Axleshafts, and every other type of shaft on the vehicle, are rifle-drilled to save weight. Spidertrax also fabricated the 14-inch drilled brake rotors, which are squeezed by Wilwood four-piston calipers. Most competitors use hand-operated, two-way boosters (a.k.a. cutting brakes) to control braking. Jordan utilizes electronic line-locks at each wheel that are operated with toggle switches mounted on the custom dash panel. It all rolls on 17x9 Trailready beadlocks wrapped with BFGoodrich Krawler T/A tires: 39 inches tall for Unlimited and 37 inches tall for Pro Modified.

Power comes from an aluminum Scat V-4 engine built by Powerhouse Motorsports. The Scat V-4 was originally designed for midget sprint cars and is capable of revving over 9,000 rpm. Powerhouse worked with the cam timing and a FAST engine-management system to lower the torque curve and give Jordan 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The engine is backed by a modified Ford C4 transmission that offers Jordan three speeds, but is as compact as a Powerglide. The transfer case is a Stak Dana 300.

The Rock Bug satisfies the Pro Mod requirements with a Baja Bug fiberglass front clip. The interior features Mastercraft seats and a custom console for the gauges, controls, and shifter. For racing, a Parker Pumper is installed along with a larger fuel cell and spare tire.

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