Short Course Racing and Rock Crawling are like vinegar and oil, not something you would think to mix. Which is the epitome of Ultra4: putting the extremes together to morph a new experience. The American Rock Sports Challenge at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, UT was just another experiment gone right.
There were rookies at all levels on the track. Short Course experience seemed to be lacking with only a few knowing how to launch their sometimes bulky Ultra4 car into the air on purpose and across the table tops. While most of the drivers are attracted to this type of racing because they are rock crawlers, majority had never crawled on shotcrete man-made rock piles. And even if the Driver was a master of both, it challenged the Car to be the best at both.
The race weekend started with practice on Thursday where the crane was the most busy vehicle on course recovering rigs from the rock section. Tire sizes were changed, gear ratios were cursed and experience was gained. Thursday night the attention was back on the 2011 Griffin King of the Hammers when the premier of 2011 Valley of the Kings produced by Heavy Metal Concepts was shown in Legends Hall. It was excellent, as we would expect nothing less of Heavy Metal and the topic at hand.
Friday’s Tech and Contingency line led straight to the green flag for qualifying. Teams spent the morning prepping the cars and getting ready to go green, and the hot afternoon talking to vendors and getting signed off to go racing.
The Qualifying was one-at-a-time for the fastest complete lap, including the rock section. Shannon Campbell qualified first in the Monster Energy rig with a time of 2.20. Torchmate Racing Jesse Haines qualified second, AMSOil Racing Brad Lovell qualified third and DynoMax Nick Campbell Qualified fourth. Each would sit on the pole position for their respected Heat Group.
Race Day weather was hot and windy. It felt more like a day at Johnson Valley in June than what we would think to expect in Utah. Consistency paid off for the top four qualifiers, who also can claim both of their Heat Wins making Shannon Campbell, Nick Campbell, Jesse Haines and Brad Lovell at the top of their game and one that we would expect to see at the final checkered flag.
The race was started with four Heat groups that ran twice for a total of 6 short course laps, and at least 2 of those laps had to include the rock section The combined times would then place them into one of two Last Chance Qualifiers or straight into the Semi-Finals. The results of the Semi-Finals then placed them into either the Consolation race or the Main Event.
There were transmission swaps, engine tunes, hub replacements, flat tires and a whole list of mechanical issues that almost all of the drivers had to consider in the downtime that was unpredictable from 15 minutes to an hour. As with every Ultra4 event the common thread is: They will be back. There were only a handful that didn’t finish the day.
Some of the drivers were not quite ballerinas while tangoing with other cars their size. They hadn’t found their wings to fly their cars, or approach the rock hole that could engulf an entire car on 44” tires, muchless the 35” tires that most came prepared with. There were quite a few roll overs that caused some excitement, and glad to say everyone walked away from the crashes unscathed. The rigs on the other hand, had visible damage and I can assure you there will be a couple “re” build threads on Pirate4x4.com as the destroyed cars get a new look.
If the word Domination was to be used for anything this weekend it would be to describe the 3 car Monster Energy team. Shannon, Nick and 15 yr old Wayland Campbell took the wheel of their own single seat Campbell Enterprise cars and reminded the competition at every turn that they were at the helm. Shannon and Nick won both of their heat races, they were seeded into separate semi’s which they both won, and come time for the main race they started side-by-side in the front row and finished 2nd and 8th respectively. Wayland Campbell, first time racing in an Ultra4 event, was the tentative Campbell on the track, until it came time to side-by-side racing then he perked up and gained valuable experience for upcoming races.
When it came time for the main race, the two Campbell Enterprises rigs lined up next to each other. Wonder what they were saying on their radio frequency! That would have been good commentary! Nick got the hole shot, but by the first turn Shannon slid to the inside and took the early lead. When going through the valley of rocks Nick rolled onto his side and had to utilize recovery, which backed up a whole line of traffic. As Nick and Levi Shirley were recovered, the rest of the field continued to do laps, and laps, and more laps. It has been commented that Shannon’s and Jesse’s engines went into limp mode, but they were both actually running out of fuel. Kevin Sacalas got to take advantage of the situation and continued to drive as aggressive as he had all weekend and grabbed the checkered flag first!
Congratulations to all of the racers for their effort at making the green flag up to 5 times on Saturday. There was certainly no lack of entertainment!
Official Results As of Press Time:
As an Ultra4 Qualifier, the following were added to the list of 2012 King of the Hammers participants: