Since the inception of extreme rockcrawling in the late-'90s, participation and fanfare have grown exponentially. During the past five years, a half dozen different brands of rock-racing competitions have captured the limelight of the hard-core heartland. Regional organizations and promoters have attracted top local talent in extreme tests of man and machine on courses designed to pummel the meek and intimidate all takers. In the process, race fans and the curious public have come in droves to witness seemingly impossible feats of off-road prowess.
It all started back in 1998, when Sports in the Rough promoted its first event in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on a section of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In 2002, UROC moved to the forefront with the inception of an annual invitation-only competition for the best of the best. The brain child of Craig Stump, Super Crawl was coined the "super bowl of rock racing." Drawing more than 20,000 spectators, it took the sport to a higher level. 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility was on hand to bring you exclusive coverage of that first in automotive sports.
Our sport is continually challenged in the political and land-use arenas, (presently hitting home with the current situation on the Rubicon) and rock-racing events on courses crafted by Mother Nature's own hand have resulted in less-than-desirable results with the non-off-roading populous. As of late, there has been a lot of speculation as to the feasibility of holding events on manmade courses. That said, the concept of creating man-made courses in an arena-type event, which would provide the appearance, sensation, and challenge of Mother Nature's own craft, would be a daunting one. Could it be authentic enough to create the feel and excitement of real rock racing? Would it draw the spectators? What would the racers think? And furthermore, could manmade courses be conducive to providing the hard-core action and wheel-to-wheel competition we have come to expect from the Super Crawl?
This was a task only to be taken on by an organization such as UROC. With the merge of RCAA and UROC at the end of the 2003 season, and the combined efforts of RCAA's Ranch Pratt and UROC's Mark Patey, the odds were good. As the leader in rock-racing promotion, UROC took it upon itself to bring Super Crawl III indoors for an arena-style event.
We tip our collective hats to UROC for stepping up to the plate. Amid considerable speculation as to whether it could be pulled off, UROC whipped up a series of world-class courses and a world-class event that matched anything to date. Held at the Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City, the UROC design team had to push the limits of creativity and engineering to measure up to what Mother Nature has been dishing out. As for the manmade course, we like to refer to them as "courses by design."
So what did the obstacles look like? They looked like an open can of whoopass with an attitude. Crafted of several hundred tons of rock and fill dirt, and then encased in sculpted concrete, they resembled natural obstacles from places such as Farmington, Cedar City, and Reno's Moon Rocks.
Some were so technical that all but a handful of competitors pointed or timed-out. Others were so heinous that they were downright scary. And the racers' take? Milling through the pits and talking to competitors, we heard nothing but positive comments both before and after the event. We can honestly say that the evolution of technology, course difficulty, and mental approach demonstrated by competing teams far surpassed our expectations. Without exception, teams tackled the technical obstacles with calculative prowess, and the insane courses with the intestinal fortitude of a Top Gun pilot.
The field was broken into two classes, Modified and Super Modified, and to walk away with a trophy, the winners needed to prevail through three days of intense competition. Drivetrain carnage, dozens of rollovers, and racking up excessive points narrowed the field by the end of day two. When the dust settled on day three, Dean Bullock and spotter Karl Munsford claimed the top position in the Modified class, narrowly edging out Brad Lovell/Rodger Lovell, and Mike Bailey/Troy Bailey for the Second and Third seats. Taking honors in the Super Modified class were Randy Torbett and spotter Eric Nixon, followed by teams Jason Paule/Travis Wadeson and Mitch Guthrie/Bob Schwendenman.
So are courses by design here to stay and are we excited about it? You bet! Rock racing is growing and is finding its niche in motorsports. Like supercross and arena racing, we think sculpted courses in private venues are the wave of the future, and it's a transition we embrace.
|SUPER MODIFIED CLASS TOP 10|
|1||Randy Torbett||Eric Nixon||24|
|2||Jason Paule||Travis Wadeson||39|
|3||Mitch Guthrie||Bob Schwendenman||42|
|4||Tracy Jordan||Jerry Watson||79|
|5||Jon Nelson||Tom Geviss||103|
|6||John Gilleland||John Williams||110|
|7||Don Robbins||Paul Robbins||117|
|8||Mike Shaffer||Lance Clifford||133|
|9||Larry Mccrae||Kelly Lee||151|
|10||Shannon Campbell||Mike Dieu||179|
|MODIFIED CLASS TOP 10|
|1||Dean Bullock||Karl Munsford||40|
|2||Brad Lovell||Rodger Lovell||54|
|3||Mike Bailey||Troy Bailey||75|
|4||Joachin Schwiesow||Brian Errea||111|
|5||Mike Cole||Keith Chiswell||119|
|6||Bob Standage||Tom Ahern||133|
|7||Becca Webster||Frank Johnson||152|
|8||Less Allan||Mark Andrews||173|
|9||Brandon Dawson||Lee Mattingly||185|
|10||Ted Grady||Dave B.||191|