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Rock Crawling - The ARCA Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals

Posted in Features on June 1, 2001
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Venturing all the way from Rapid City, South Dakota, this '84 CJ driven by Jason Paule and spotted by Travis Wadeson grabbed the ninth spot in this year's first event. The CJ sports a Dana 44 up front and a 60 in the rear with springover leaves with Rancho 9000s all around. Jason and Travis were real standouts from the rest, with Jason's hair color the same burnt orange as his Jeep and Travis' in Day-Glo yellow.

It's a little bit country and a whole lot of rocks and rolls. Everything from Jeeps, Broncos, and Land Cruisers, not to mention a bevy of purpose-built rigs, descended upon Johnson Valley, California, February 16 and 17, for the American Rock Crawlers Association (ARCA) Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals, the first leg of the 2001 Goodyear Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Championship Series. The competition was fierce, with nearly 140 drivers and spotters signed up for two days of hard-core 'wheeling. The vehicles were even meaner, with many equipped with rear steering and cutting brakes, and most using as big as 44-inch tires and large displacement mills. With vehicular carnage abounding, two teams walked away with a shared title, which is sure to make for even more spectacular displays at the next event in the series.

The course layout for a rockcrawling event is different from any other course we've come across in the off-road racing world. Red flags serve as markers to indicate course boundaries, and competitors are penalized for even the slightest touch. Competitors must pass through all of the gates in a specified amount of time to complete each obstacle. The flags were laid out Friday morning without even a test run by an official vehicle. Before the first competitor of the day, and in some cases the second or third, it wasn't even known whether the obstacle was actually passable. We're talking rock faces and boulder piles that were a challenge to hike, let alone traverse in a mass of steel with rubber legs. Not one of the competitors ceased to amaze us, as each dove in to give it their all, broken parts and rollovers or not.

This event kicked off the second season for the ARCA, giving a glimpse of what's to come in future events in the series. Crowds flocked to the scene to cheer on their favorite teams; competition grew from last season with more extreme vehicles and sponsorship monies involved. In addition to promoting the sport of rockcrawling, one of the goals of the ARCA is to protect it. The association accomplishes this endeavor by involving such organizations as the Bureau of Land Management, the United Four Wheel Drive Association, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and SEMA. For more information about upcoming events or how to join the ARCA, contact (801) 446-5337, or visit the ARCA site online at www.rockcrawler.org.

Gotta Love the Spotters: When you can't see a thing and you have rocks up to your ears, how in the heck are you supposed to know which way to steer your rig, let alone how much to stab the throttle? You trust your spotter. One of the unique aspects of rockcrawling is that it isn't a one-man competition in the least. A driver would be lost trying to negotiate his way through some of these gnarly obstacles without assistance from the eyes and ears of the operation. Spotters climb the course along with the rigs, guiding the way, picking lines, tossing rocks, and, all in all, kicking ass so their driver will make it through in the shortest amount of time. The following is a peek at some of the standout spotters of the weekend.

Scoring A 'Crawl
You wouldn't have a sport unless there was a way to score it, and rockcrawling is no exception. Each vehicle starts at zero and is assigned points with each infraction. Like a round of golf, the lowest score wins. The following is an overview of the basic scoring process. For a complete list of rules, check out www.rockcrawler.org.

Stopping: 1 point
Stopping is defined as a halt in forward motion. The judge of the obstacle will begin counting out loud until 4 seconds has passed, then the point will be issued.

Backing: 1 point
Backing or rolling backward by means of putting the vehicle in Reverse or pushing in the clutch or putting the transmission in Neutral and rolling back receives one point. Since backing also means forward motion ceases, two points for a stop and Reverse will be counted.

Rear Steering: 3 points
As the sport thrives, competitors continually adapt their vehicles to work better through the obstacles. This being the case, rear steering has become a popular addition. Rear steer vehicles are given 3 points for the entire obstacle once the rear steer option is activated. Once the points are given, however, rear steering can be used as often as needed on that obstacle.

Touching a Gate: 10 points
Gates serve as the boundaries for each given obstacle. Touching a gate or having a tire outside of a gate is grounds for penalization.

Winching: 30 points
Whenever a winch cable or rope is hooked to an anchor and given tension, a team is assessed 30 points. A safety strap may be used without points being issued as long as it isn't used to pull the vehicle.

Recovery Tools: 20 points
If any tools carried in the vehicle, such as a jack, prybar, tire, or anything else considered or used as such, is used to assist completion of an obstacle, the vehicle will be penalized. Rocks in the immediate area can be used but must be put back prior to moving on to the next obstacle.

Pointing Out: 40 points
This is the maximum allowable amount of points for any one obstacle attempted. Once 40 points are given, a competitor must exit the obstacle and move on to the next section.

Bypassing: 50 points
A competitor can opt to skip over any obstacle, but they will be issued 50 points for doing so. Applies if competitor is a no show.

Breaking: 50 points
If a competitor breaks on an obstacle, they are allowed 45 minutes of breakdown time. The time is cumulative, however, 45 minutes is the maximum allowable per day. Once the total time has expired, the team forfeits the rest of the obstacles and receives 50 points for each.

Timing Out: 40 points
Each section must be completed in an allotted time determined by the ARCA. If the competitor doesn't pass through the final gate within this time, they time out and 40 points are assessed.

Trees and Plants: 10 points
Maintaining its dedication to preserving the environment, ARCA will dole 10 points to any competitor who comes in contact with trees, bushes, or any other area-specific plant life. This assessment of points is at the judge's discretion, although courses are rarely laid out in an area that might warrant such penalization.

The Results
1. (T) Tracy Jordan '67 {{{Toyota Land Cruiser}}}
Jason Jordan
1. (T) Shannon Campbell '53 {{{Jeep}}} Willys {{{CJ}}}-2A
Brett Epperley
2. Rich Hudson '83 {{{Jeep CJ}}}-7
Steve Jones
3. (T) Mitch Guthrie '70 {{{Toyota}}} {{{Land Cruiser}}}
Matt Guthrie
3. (T) Joel Randall '73 Jeep CJ-5
Mike Vokoun
4. Randy Ellis '86 {{{Suzuki Samurai}}}
Rob Bonney
5. John Gilleland 2000 Jeep CJ-7
Kip Gilleland
6. Ken Shupe '86 CJ-8
Andrew Schafer
7. (T) Harold Off CJ-8
Peter Fogel
7. (T) John Currie '01 Jeep TJ
Jeff Waggoner
7. (T) Michael Weaver 2000 Sniper
Ross Fahlan
8. Mike Shaffer '87 {{{Suzuki}}} {{{Samurai}}}
Dave Gibson
9. Jason Paule '84 Jeep CJ-7
Travis Wadeson
10. Gene Wilson '76 Jeep CJ-7
Bud Harris

The Obstacles
Each competitor draws for which course and order that they'll run. The two courses consist of seven obstacles each, which are subdivided so that two vehicles will start a course, one after the other, and then move on together. The following is a listing of the obstacle names and times in which they had to be completed.

COURSE A
1. {{{Escape}}} from L.A. 5 minutes
2. Conspiracy Theory 5 minutes
3. Maximum Risk 7 minutes
4. Project 86 5 minutes
5. Git It Billy 5 minutes
6. Desperate Measures 6 minutes
7. Seven Up 7 minutes
COURSE B
1. Kidney Stone 5 minutes
2. Turbulence 7 minutes
3. Say No to Crack 7 minutes
4. Chain Reaction 5 minutes
5. Death Wish 6 minutes
6. Technical Knockout 5 minutes
7. Armageddon 9 minutes
Upcoming 2001 ARCA Events
Upcoming 2001 ARCA Events
May 3-5 Las Cruces, NM
July 12-14 Cedar City, UT
September TBA

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