Many of us consider ourselves pretty good drivers. But do any of us really have what it takes to stand up to the pressure of a timed competition, driving on technical trails, hearing the taunts and cheers of comrades and competitors, while battling the added challenge of a mud swamp? Well, 40 brave souls signed up for just such a competition and showed up to flex their Raptor-driving-skill-muscles. We decided to visit the Texas Raptor Run Raptor X and witness first-hand just how well these drivers could push their Raptors through the course.
The Texas Raptor Run Raptor X took a year off during 2016, and perhaps the volume of inquiries about why such a fun event was put on hold overwhelmed the folks at Texas Raptor Runs. We aren’t sure, but we’re sure glad they decided to host the event once again this past January. There are a variety of Raptor events that take place all over the United States, many of which happen in Texas. But this particular event is unique in that it tests the driving skills and endurance of Raptor owners. This year, the event took place at Rally Ranch in Dale, Texas.
The Ranch is owned by Dave Carapetyan, and is home to the Rally Ready Driving School. Rumor has it Dave holds multiple driving records for Pike’s Peak performances. You may need to ask him for stories about his racing past at one of the upcoming Texas Raptor Run events. His school offers drivers the opportunity to hone their skills driving on a dirt track. Participants are given a car to drive, safety equipment to wear, and an instructor to guide them through the technicalities of drifting through corners and sliding at high speeds beyond your normal cruise-to-the-grocery-store-limits. On the weekend of January 22, 2017, this driving school was visited by a host of Raptor owners ready to pound the mud in an attempt to take home the First Place trophy for the fastest around the course. But before the competition began, a bit of research had to be done by Trey Paliero of Texas Raptor Runs.
The prior Raptor X took place at Texana Ranch in Blackwell, Texas. This year Trey was looking for something new for the Raptor drivers to experience, so he contacted Dave at the Rally Ready Driving School, and they brainstormed how to make an experience all the participants would remember. Some tweaking needed to be done in the planning of this event. The Rally Ready Driving School course is set up for their own vehicles and standard dirt-driving curriculum. The course would need some changes to handle the speed, weight, and power of the Raptors. Likewise, the folks at Rally Ready Driving School hadn’t driven a Raptor before. Fortunately, the Ranch has a good friend named “Ol Dirty” Roy Tomkins who holds a Second Place finish in his 1400 Class desert racing Ford Ranger. When he and Trey put their minds together, a fun and challenging three-mile course was designed for the Raptors to punish.
To participate in the event, drivers began registering for the event back in October 2016. Texas Raptor Runs has a simple-to-use registration system on their website, making it easy to sign up. The cost was $400 per truck with a $25 transponder rental. The event was capped at 40 trucks, and the fees included event placards, two event T-shirts, driver bag, winning prizes, and payouts to the winners. Accommodations included onsite camping for campers and tents, or hotels within a short driving distance.
The time-trial event was set up into three classes: stock, mod, and unlimited. The stock trucks had to be running 35-inch tires and stock suspension. Modified trucks had 37-inch tires and 3.0 shocks, while the unlimited category trucks had long travel suspension, bypass shocks up front and 18-inch shocks in the rear.
The Ranch stands about 36 miles from Austin, Texas, so traveling there was convenient for the participants. We arrived to the ranch early on Friday and scoped out the racecourse since it was our first time to the ranch. As we were exploring the course, two-wheel-drive vehicles were getting stuck in multiple spots along the track. Raptors with four-wheel drive had no problem driving the entire course, however those vehicles without four-wheel drive got stuck often. Trey wanted to be considerate to all drivers and not have a stuck vehicle slow the weekend down for all of the participants. So they shortened the course by taking out the wooded section, about 2.5 miles of the track. Friday afternoon the majority of participants arrived at the ranch, greeted old friends, and listened to the driver’s meeting. That night about a dozen trucks camped on the ranch while everyone else got a nearby hotel.
Saturday morning, drivers attended the mandatory driver’s meeting. Unfortunately, the tractor that was working to clear the course got buried in mud and blocked part of the racecourse. The course was therefore changed to avoid the blockage, shortening the course a bit more. Prerunning took place all morning until about 3 p.m., allowing drivers to get familiar with the personality of the course, and master the driving technique for the twists and turns. During this time, an Ultra 4 Buggy went around the course many times to solidify the paths on the course, defining the course so that the drivers would easily identify the paths. Once the prerunning was complete, the race was on!
During prerunning, one of the sections of the course was so deep in mud that a stock raptor running BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires found itself stuck. Really stuck. Robert, a crewmember for the event, brought Trey’s Raptor to help tow the truck out of the mud. In the first attempt to pull him out, a 1-inch diameter kinetic rope snapped, fortunately leaving the truck with only a dented tailgate. Afterward, a 1.5-inch diameter 50-foot-long kinetic rope was used, which did the trick.
During the race laps, a couple of water crossings became impassable even with four-wheel drive, so the course was modified again to avoid any blockages that would slow the race. As you can see, the rainfall from a few days prior caused massive runoff from nearby lakes and streams, and this runoff created a huge volume of mud that was very challenging to truck performance. Otherwise, the majority of the ground was dry during the weekend. Each driver had one attempt at the course during the race, and the race laps were completed by 5:30 p.m. The weather predicted a major windstorm to arrive Saturday evening and into Sunday, so Trey rescheduled the awards ceremony from Sunday to Saturday evening to avoid this weather. This was a fun change of plans, as it gave the drivers more enjoyment out of reliving the day together immediately following the race. Due to the changes in course length during the race, some trucks drove the longer version of the track while others drove a shortened version. Therefore, 18 awards were handed out for the two courses, First, Second, and Third Place in each of the categories: Stock, Modified, and Unlimited.
As with every Texas Raptor Runs event, any funds raised go to a wonderful cause. Texas Raptor Runs donated $1,250 raised at the event to help the Decker family. Will Decker and his wife have twin toddlers, Joel and Seth, who were diagnosed with low platelet levels, and just before Thanksgiving, Seth was diagnosed with Myeloid Sarcoma, a sub-type of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an incredibly rare disease. Seth just completed his second round of three month-long chemotherapy treatments. His brother Joel is equally as ill and both boys will need bone marrow transplants that require 30 to 45 days of inpatient hospital stays. Will and his wife will have both children in the hospital at one time or another from November 2016 through May 2017. Needless to say, this family could certainly use all of the support and help they can get.
Overall the Texas Raptor Runs Raptor X event was a success and a great time was had by everyone. The mud proved very challenging on many levels, but it didn’t discourage the old-generation drivers from improving their times over previous events, and even more impressive were the brave Raptor owners who brought their just-off-the-showroom-floor Gen2 trucks to the event. We had a great time hanging out with fellow Raptor owners, chatting about our latest mods and bragging about lap times. We look forward to next year’s event and hope that the mud factor will be less impressive than this year. Thank you to Trey Paliero of Texas Raptor Runs, Dave Carapetyan of Rally Ready Driving School, and all of the vendors who helped make the event a great success.