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1977-2007 Anniversary Racing - Racing Through The Years

Posted in Features on December 1, 2007
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Photographers: The 4-Wheel & Off-Road Archives

We shoulda known it was too much to contain in one issue.... When we dreamed up our plan to cover the significant events in our 30-year history for this anniversary series, we thought one issue could encompass off-road racing. Boy, were we wrong. If you were with us last month, you saw that one article had barely enough space to rehash desert racing and its off-shoots-short-course racing and tough-truck competitions.

With those out of the way, it's time to turn our attention to the rest of the world of off-road racing. On the next few pages you'll see highlights of how we've covered trucks, Jeeps, and other rigs going fast (or trying to, anyway) in conditions ranging from sucking mud to freezing water. We start this month's segment with a look at competitive rockcrawling, which has not only become the most popular off-road sport of the past few years but also revolutionized the 4WD industry as a whole.

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April 1999: Only a Matter of Time" recounted the inaugural BFGoodrich Rock Crawling Championships in Las Cruces, New Mexico, an event (and a sport) that has had a tremendous impact on just about every facet of the off-road industry. Wrote Trent McGee: "It was bound to happen sooner or later. With the explosion in popularity of rockcrawling and its increasingly hard-core nature, we're surprised somebody didn't dream up a rockcrawling competition a long time ago. But Bob Hazel, a guy with a keen sense for creating cool off-road events and knowing what the off-road world will watch, finally made it happen...."

June 2001: In "Circus Maximus," Editor Rick Pw and staffer Christian Hazel described the action at the Goodyear Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals in California's Johnson Valley this way: "It's all about pleasing the crowd. At least that's what it seemed like. They come for the action, they stay for the carnage. Or maybe it's the beer and hot dogs."

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July 2002: New as it was, rockcrawling soon began to evolve. As Pw noted, "It's not just rock racing anymore. To offset some of the nutso bash-and-crash events and bring back the technical crawling aspect to the sport, Rich Klein has developed the California Rockcrawling and Off-road Championship (CalROCS)."

March 2005: Rockcrawling took an evolutionary step when trucks first tackled man-made obstacles at UROC's SuperCrawl.

November 1996: Desert racing and rockcrawling are, for the most part, limited to the western states. For the rest of the country, the track surface of choice isn't a surface at all. It's mud-the gooier the better. We've found over the years that mud racing takes many forms. The traditional form of mud-bogging, as seen here at the Anoka, Minnesota, 4xFun Fest, is like a drag race through a straight, mud-filled pit.

December 1996: Not all mud racing is done in a straight-line bog. In this case, at the Muddy-Run Raceway in Pennsylvania, trucks had to negotiate a course that included hillclimbs, water holes, jumps, and lots and lots of muck "in what can only be described as a mud derby," wrote Stuart Bourdon.

November 2005: At this Missouri mud bog, Jerrod Jones noted, "Some of these guys have too much power to even stay on the ground. Sounds fun, doesn't it?"

December 2002: Gravelrama is the only event that rates its own section in this story, and for good reason. It's been around longer than the magazine (the first one was held in 1971); and its unique combination of flat drags, obstacle course races, and the massive Big Eliminator hillclimb has kept us (and thousands of fans) coming back to Cleves, Ohio, for decades. Many of our staffers consider this their favorite event. Even Editor Pw made his mark at Gravelrama, earning himself a place in the Over the Hill Gang by successfully making it to the top of Big Elim in a borrowed Wrangler, powered by a Mopar slant-six.

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September 1986: Because we featured monster trucks in the Aug. and Sept. '07 retrospectives, we'll keep their mention here brief. They deserve a place in this installment, since monster truck competition has been-and continues to be-a mainstay of 4x4 entertainment. Usually our monster race coverage was from the various Jamborees and Fun/Truck Fests, but sometimes we attended-and even put on-special monster-only competitions. One of those was a monster truck hillclimb on Gravelrama's Big Eliminator hill.

September 1993: We rarely covered racing outside of the U.S., primarily because we felt our readers would be more interested in events they could actually participate in and relate to. Occasionally, though, we'd dust off our passports and travel to exotic lands to capture competitions like the Camel Trophy and Warn's Transylvania Trophy. In 1993, staffer Bourdon was in the Malaysian jungles when Americans Tim Hensley and Michael Hussey won the Camel Trophy.

July 1978: In theory, it's the most elemental of truck competitions: Hitch something heavy to your rig and see how far you can pull it. But over the years, the truck and tractor pull has, like all motorsports, evolved into contests with very specialized machinery pulling high-tech, weight-transfer sleds. Back in 1978, when we compared East Coast and West Coast pulling styles ("Latest Rage!" screamed the cover), the trucks were more like what we drove every day.

January 1991: Though it was a fairly regular part of the magazine early on, our pulling coverage got pretty spotty until the late '80s/early '90s, when staffer Brent Ross made regular treks to the pulling championships in Bowling Green, Ohio.

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