Loren Healy Conquers The Glen Helen Motocross Track Again - Ultra MotoPosted in Events on October 29, 2014
ULTRA4 is generally considered the toughest off-road series. Its marquee King of the Hammers event perennially sets a new standard for off-road races, punctuating triple-digit speed sections with low-range rock gardens.
Other ULTRA4 venues have entirely different terrain. For example, southeastern stops incorporate woods racing and even rock-bouncer-style hillclimbs.
Since conditions vary so widely among races, ULTRA4 teams have a tough time devising winning combinations. A vehicle setup and driving approach that works at one ULTRA4 event can be totally irrelevant at the next.
To illustrate, one unique stop on the ULTRA4 schedule is Glen Helen Raceway, just north of San Bernardino, California. ULTRA4 creates three- to five-mile laps at the facility by linking the raceway’s famous motocross track and its Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series’ stadium course.
The terrain is all dirt—no rocks. On the surface, that sounds like an easier day at the high-horsepower office than at some of the other ULTRA4 stops. That isn’t the case. Speeds are fast, jumps are long, the weather is normally over 100 degrees, and the crashes often do race-ending damage. Glen Helen is its own animal.
This year’s 4Wheel Parts Grand Prix champion Loren Healy elaborates: “Glen Helen is deceiving. People think it would be an easier race because it doesn’t have rocks, but that’s just not true. The failure rate is very high, and only four cars finished on the lead lap this year. The best advice I can give for that race is making sure your cooling system is up to the task because everything is sure to get hotter than any other race of the season.”
Healy also won the inaugural 4Wheel Parts Glen Helen Grand Prix in 2011, in a solid-axle buggy. So he has a track record of finding the winning setup for what’s primarily a motocross circuit.
Motivated by a rules change that allows drivers to campaign more than one vehicle, Healy debuted a new Jimmy’s 4x4 IFS buggy at Glen Helen. The lighter IFS rigs seem best suited to this dirt track. Healy estimates he was able to learn about 80 percent of the vehicle’s capabilities during limited seat time in practice and qualifying. Previous success helped dial it in.
“For Glen Helen I take the winch off, drop the suspension down, take off the 40-inch-tall tires full of Tire Balls and replace them with a 37x12.50-17 DOT Nitto Trail Grappler,” Healy says, noting he was able to run a single set of tires for qualifying and the main event. “Basically, I try to get the car lighter, lower, and faster.”
Hammer King Productions modifies the format for the 4Wheel Parts Glen Helen Grand Prix every year. The early events were longer—both in terms of overall duration and lap length. One Grand Prix even started at dusk, running the bulk of the race in the dark.
Entries were numerous, which makes sense since Glen Helen is within a couple hours’ drive for more than 10 million people: 115 race teams were disbursed over the various classes. The Unlimited 4400 class had 76 entrants, 40 of which survived to qualify for the main event.
This year’s 4Wheel Parts Grand Prix had the shortest laps yet—about three miles. The format called for a 20-lap main.
Healy led the pack throughout. He was the fastest qualifier and ran up front. Levi Shirley nipped at Healy’s rear tires frequently during the lead lap but came in Second, slightly more than two minutes off the winning pace. Jake Hallenbeck was a few seconds behind Second Place Shirley.
Other notables in the field included former King of the Hammers “King” Jason Scherer (21st) and rock-bouncer video legend Tim Cameron (24th). The Campbell family occupied three slots in the Top 40: teenagers Wayland (4th) and Bailey (13th) whoopped their dad, rock star Shannon, who suffered electrical problems and only completed five laps for a 36th Place finish.
Although the 4Wheel Parts Glen Helen Grand Prix is one of the most grueling ULTRA4 events for racers, it’s one of the most spectator-friendly. The race finally found its audience this year—previous events were primarily word-of-mouth, with most of the spectators being racers’ family or friends.
Temperatures remained in the double-digits this year, and RVs packed the camping area. Race fans chose their favorite vantage points: grandstands in the stadium or at the motocross start/finish line, lawn chairs along pit row, or even from the bed of a truck parked by the upper tower.
The short laps made the 2014 event entertaining for both fans and racers. As 4Wheel Parts Grand Prix winner Loren Healy said, “Glen Helen is one of my favorite races of the year. I really enjoy the door-to-door action that turns in to such intense racing.”
Ultra-Low Budget: 4600 Class Action
ULTRA4 created “limited” classes to attract novice racers to the sport. The theory makes sense; the reality is that many established race teams simply added stocker-spec vehicles to their stables. These racers’ experience and built-in sponsorships make podium finishes fantasies for most entry-level racers.
Glen Helen 4600 Class 2nd place finisher Brian Behrend is an example of the spirit of the class. Behrend and his brother saw King of the Hammers a few years ago and wanted to participate without having to buy or build an Unlimited 4400 buggy. When the 4600 “stock” class was announced, Behrend jumped in with the best-bang-for-buck platform available: the XJ Cherokee.
A beater XJ was procured for $500. Behrend then spent a few more bucks adding an approved rollcage, PRP seats, a fuel cell, and the other necessary safety modifications necessary to comply with Ultra4 rules. The interior door panels remain in place.
A glass contractor in Cathedral City, California, Brian Behrend uses the XJ to promote his business as well as cancer awareness. Contractor friends give him a few bucks to run their stickers on the Jeep. These sponsorships help cover travel expenses to races.
A Second Place finish behind Ben Varozza at Glen Helen this year is Behrend’s best result so far; he finished Fifth in class at the 2014 King of the Hammers.
Brian Behrend and his family’s B and B Racing team are a reminder of how the sport originally started: family supported 4x4s with mostly factory parts squaring off in the dirt.