The place: Cedar City, Utah. The time: Memorial Day weekend. The event: Round 2 of the three-event UROC series. Rockcrawling competitors came from as far as Florida and as far north as Washington to compete for more than $12,000.
Many fans were in attendance, with 10,000 excited spectators blanketing the mountainside. The excitement and roar of cheers echoed through the canyons. It was evident the fans got their money's worth. This event drew out more than 50 of the world's most purpose-built 'crawlers that squeezed through tough obstacles all weekend.
UROC promotes two classes for its teams of competitors. The Legends Class is designed to encourage people to bring out their Jeeps from decades ago. The rules limit tire size to a physical 36 inches. The steering is limited to a hydraulic assist, and the chassis must adhere to the original vehicle frame. Although the technology is limited, in order to offer entry-level competition, the Legends Class had some of the most hair-raising contention. The second class, sanctioned by UROC, is the Unlimited Class. In this class, tires must be larger than 37 inches, and beyond that, anything goes. This class promoted the absolute latest in rockcrawling technology. It is common to see four-wheel steering and tube chassis 'crawlers with hydraulically adjustable ride height.
The format for this weekend is simple: 12 different courses, and no matter what class you are signed up for, everyone has one attempt on every course over a two-day period. Teams begin their run with zero points on each course. Points are then tallied for any number of infractions. Hitting a cone or bush, backing up, stopping, spilling fluid on the rocks, going over the time limit, and, of course, using a winch warrant the addition of points. The 'crawler with the lowest score at the end of the weekend wins.
Thursday was the day to check in and get in line for tech inspection. It was not until Friday that the real fun started. The spectators were hauled in by the dozens on trailers fitted with seats made from hay bails, and fans lined the rocks in anticipation. Just after 9 a.m., the quiet desert came alive with the sounds of rockcrawlers ready to decipher their way through the treacherous courses.
Although most of the courses proved challenging for the teams, much of the weekend's most thrilling action came from Courses 4 and 5. Course 4 was appropriately named Stairway to Heaven. This perilous course had all but 10 of the weekend's competitors pulling out their winch. Even with a winch, the obstacle proved too tough for many to conquer. Winner John Gilleland tied with Lee and Josh Mattingly for a weekend's low score of two points on the dicey climb. John's Avalanche chassis walked up the climb like a spider on the wall. On the contrary, Lee muscled his 302-equipped Ford 'crawler to the top in a crowd-pleasing effort. Both climbs lit the crowd off in a shower of applause.
Course 5, titled Armageddon, should have been called the Destroyer. If a driver could even make the initial ascent, they would more than likely wedge their front wheel into a small cave, which seemed to be designed perfectly to suck in tires of all sizes. Once the tire was in the cave, it was like a pair of Chinese handcuffs;the harder the driver pressed, the more it would lock the wheel in, inevitably exploding the driveline. Challenger after challenger tried, only to dig in and succumb their U-joint to the pile stacked at the bottom of the cave.
The winner performed almost perfectly on this course. As the clock started, John crept through the obstacle unassisted by his spotter, who had frantically run ahead to build a wall over the infamous cavern of destruction. John used the wall his spotter built for him to climb over the cave. John dissected this course into a simple equation, finishing it with only four points. With just two weeks in his Avalanche-designed Jeep Liberty, great things are sure to happen for the team.
This event had the most difficult courses of any event this year. Reviews were mixed among the competitors, but most important, the spectators liked it. The treacherous courses provide the fans with one rollover after another. The action never seemed to run out. The vehicles that required repairs were able to count on the BFGoodrich truck to help out. From new tires to welding, the guys from BFGoodrich were ready for anything.
In the end, the best driver and spotter of the weekend came home the winners. John Gilleland demolished the competition with a score of 23 after the 12 courses. The hard-working duo brought home almost $5,000. Second Place was Scott Gadsen, 81 points behind.
In the Legends Class, Dean Bulloch brought home the top honors. Dean and his Samurai fought hard all weekend long for a grand total of 168 points. The impressive score would have brought home Sixth Place in the Unlimited Class.
The courses were exciting to watch and within a minute's walk of each other, making the action easy to follow for the entire family. As if the view from the ground wasn't good enough, rockcrawling enthusiast Curtis Olsen was selling helicopter rides in his favorite off-road vehicle. There were plenty of food vendors for everyone to stay refreshed, and the event sponsors had several huge T-shirt tosses keeping the crowd enthusiastic all day long. Everyone had a good time.
The three-event series is perfect for competitors to warm up for the Super Crawl this September in Farmington, New Mexico. The Top Ten finishers from each of these events will qualify to compete. With $50,000 in prizes and an expected 100 competitors, this event is sure to be the one to watch.
|LEGENDS CLASS (36-inch tires; stock frame)|
|1. Dean Bulloch||168 points|
|2. Garrett Sisson||186 points|
|3. Von Werrett||260 points|
|4. David Laws||261 points|
|5. Jeff Rector||264 points|
|1. John Gilleland||23 points|
|2. Scott Gadsen||104 points|
|3. Don Robbins||120 points|
|4. Curt Hildebrand||132 points|
|5. Chris Monk||140 points|