By early spring, the word was out. Competing in the Rockcrawling Nationals was the topic at almost every 4x4 event we covered. Stories about bulletproof rigs engineered to defeat the Hammers could be heard over every campfire all across the country. It so happened that Johnson Valley, in the California desert, would become the theater for a showdown of trail-toughened men and their extreme machines against some of the most forsaken terrain anywhere on the planet. The stage was known as the Hammers, trails made up of several incredibly rocky canyons a mile or so in length. The competitors were 58 of the most capable 4x4s and their drivers. The prize was being crowned King of the Rocks for an entire year.
Last years inaugural event in New Mexico was such a success, its no wonder this years drew a record crowd. Spectators seemed to be everywhere, some estimated two thousand in all. The competition was held at a site made famous by the Victor Valley Four-Wheelers, the local four-wheel-drive club. Trails around there have names such as Sledgehammer, Clawhammer, Jackhammer, and Wrecking Ball representing some of the most difficult terrain in the country.
The Victor Valley clubbers were the backbone of the competition and served as judges, course builders, and land-protection diplomats. Their knowledge and expertise of the area proved invaluable and helped the event tremendously.
Logistically, the competition was simple. Fifty-eight teams, each consisting of a driver and a spotter, met each morning and were divided into two groups. Fridays and Saturdays competitions were held on Wrecking Ball and Clawhammer, each with several required stages competitors had to complete. The stages were marked with small flags (gates) that each of the 58 competitors had to pass through within an allotted time frame.
Wrecking Ball consisted of six stages, each with its own judge monitoring the progress of each vehicle. Clawhammer had seven stages with judges at each stage as well. The competitors started each stage with 20 points and hoped to keep them all by the time they had passed through the finish traps. The 12 finishers with the most points throughout each section would make it to the finals.
Points were deducted from each stage total for the following reasons:
1 point: Ceasing forward momentum for 5 seconds or more
2 points: Intentionally reversing the course
6 points: Knocking down a gate
14 points: Using a winch or other tool to aid progress
20 points: Exceeding the time limit for a stage
20 points: Driving over the top of a gates intended location
20 points: Entering a stage before the given start time
20 points: Not wearing a seat belt while driving
10 points to disqualification: Blocking the course
10 points to disqualification: Interfering with another team
On Saturday night, the scores were tallied. The top 12 scorers, dubbed the Dirty Dozen, advanced to the finals on Sunday to compete on the masters course for the Crawl Off, held in a new area dubbed The Rock Pile.
Competitors had to maneuver their rigs through six very difficult stages in their effort to claim the title. These stages were so difficult that by the end of the day, the extreme terrain, howling wind, and relentless dust storms had taken their toll on everyone involved, competitors and spectators alike. Nevertheless, the 12 rigs displayed incredible sportsmanship and proved their abilities in driving, spotting, and winching skills. This was rockcrawling at its best. Out of 58 of the baddest rigs in America, the Dirty Dozen put on quite a show.
The men and machines of the Second Annual Warn Rockcrawling Championships rolled into the community center in Yucca Valley deserving a heros welcome. Although only 12 were allowed to compete in the Crawl Off, each team was congratulated for its efforts. The sponsors, promoters, spectators, and media alike gladly attended the dinner banquet and awards ceremony Sunday night, where an exhausted Troy Myers (driver) and Neal Trudeau (spotter) were crowned King of the Rocks.