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American Rock Crawling Association - Rock It In Johnson Valley!

Posted in Features on July 1, 2001
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Contributors: Team OFF-ROADRick Russell
Photographers: Rick Russell

On February 15-17, 2001, the American Rock Crawling Championships, ARCA, kicked off its Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals in Johnson Valley, California, with the first of four events for 2001. The Johnson Valley Off Road Area is home to the legendary Sledgehammer Trail and Jackhammer Trail, providing challenging terrain for the BFG Rock Crawling Champion-ships, 24 Hours on the Hammers event, and the Victor Valley 4-Wheeler's annual event, Fun In the Desert.

This year's vehicle lineup included Toyotas, Broncos, CJs, YJs, TJs, a Cherokee, an S-10 pickup, a Comanche, a couple of rock buggies, and Suzukis. The type of vehicles competing is about the same as last year, but the suspension enhancements just keep on comin'. Everything from modified spring and shackle components to variations of coil springs and airbags can be seen at the competition.

Realizing that the competition is tough, the teams continue to tweak their vehicles right up to the last minute, hoping to gain an advantage over the other competitors. Most of the drivers will tell you not to bring your family trail vehicle to the competition. "You'll destroy it!" says Ken Shupe from Foothills 4x4 in North Carolina. Ken drove a modified TJ, his third vehicle since the competition began last year.

The first day of the Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals was occupied with registration and tech inspection. Each event is limited to about 60 competitors, depending on the location. There were 70 competitors at Johnson Valley. During tech inspection, each vehicle was inspected for its compliance with the ARCA rules. For example, the tires are limited to 40 inches in height, plus each vehicle must be equipped with a fire extinguisher, a full rollcage, and seatbelts.

On the second day, the 70 competitors were divided into two groups. Each group competed on one of two courses. Each course has 14 obstacles to push the suspension, the drivetrain, and the team to their limits. The Johnson Valley course was considered extremely tough. The shortened obstacle times and good traction on the rocks were a recipe for breakdowns. Seven of the first eight vehicles that started up Obstacle One on Course A rolled over. By noon, vehicles with broken axles, drivelines, and suspension components were scattered throughout the area.

On Saturday, the two groups of competitors switched courses. The results were the same: more broken vehicles and more rollovers - a whole lot of four wheeling.

In order to determine an event winner, the competitors are measured on a point system: Run over a trail flag, lose 10 points; back up, lose 1 point; time out on an obstacle, lose 40 points. The points are tallied for each team and the results are announced at the end of the third day. The $15,000 purse at Johnson Valley was awarded to the top 10 teams with the First Place team winning $4,500. In case of a tie, the winnings are split.

Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals is now in its second year, the competitors are experienced, and most have modified their vehicles or built a vehicle just for the 2001 competition. Jason Bunch of Tri-County Gear in California told us that the ability of the driver and spotter to work together is just as important as the vehicle. It's better to run over a flag and take the 10-point penalty than to time out because of a rollover or breakdown and be hit with 40-point penalty.

We asked John Currie, "Why do four-wheelers enter the competition?" He told us that it's the competitiveness and the excitement of the sport that attracts many of the competitors. "It's man and machine against extreme terrain. Plus, we like to prove that our products really work," John told us.

It was interesting and predictable that none of the drivers listed winning money as their number one reason for entering the field of competition. Winning a couple thousand dollars doesn't come close to covering the cost of building a competitive 4x4 or the travel expenses to four locations in a year. If the winning money is ten times as much, would it motivate these drivers? We don't think so.

Top 10
First Place (Tie)
Tracy Jordan & Jason Jordan
'67 {{{Toyota Land Cruiser}}}
Shannon Campbell & Brett Epperley '53 {{{Jeep}}} Willys {{{CJ}}}-2A
Second Place
Rich Hudson & Steve Jones
'83 {{{Jeep CJ}}}-7
Third Place (Tie)
Mitch Guthrie & Matt Guthrie
'70 {{{Toyota}}} Land Crusier
Joel Randall & Mike Vokoun '73 Jeep CJ-5
Fourth Place
Randy Ellis & Bob Bonney
'86 {{{Suzuki Samurai}}}
Fifth Place
John Gilleland & Kip Gilleland
2000 Jeep CJ-7
Sixth Place
Ken Shupe & Andrew Schafer
'86 CJ-8
Seventh Place (Tie)
Harold Off & Peter Fogel
'84 {{{Scrambler}}}
John Currie & Jeff Waggoner '01 Jeep TJ
Michael Weaver & Ross Fahlan 2000 Sniper
Eighth Place
Mike Shaffer & Dave Gibson
'87 {{{Suzuki}}} {{{Samurai}}}
Ninth Place
Jason Paule & Travis Wadeson
'84 Jeep CJ-7
Tenth Place
Gene Wilson & Bud Harris
'76 Jeep CJ-7

Sources

ARCA
Riverton, UT 84065
Victor Valley 4-Wheelers
Hesperia, CA 92340

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