Johnson Valley is a great place. It's wide open, it's wild, it's extreme. The one thing I truly hate about JV is the wind. When we pulled into Rausch Creek Off Road Park this morning, I had flashbacks of tent destroying Johnson Valley winds as the unformidable Pennsylvania wind welcomed our arrival.
Wind, snow or rain, the show must go on. Charlene and I rolled our eyes, and decided the best spot for our coverage would be perched on top of a rickety scaffolding in the 25-30mph winds. I could tell that she wasn't really feeling confident in our coverage spot. I reminded her that she is not entitled to worker's comp if she were to fall off the scaffold, so she better keep her damn balance!
Today's event was all about starting position. Taken from the pages of BITD desert racing, Hammerking Productions and Rausch Creek Off Road Park setup a 1 mile qualifying course to determine who would get pole position tomorrow in the big race. Whoever finished the qualifying course the fastest today would be first off the line tomorrow. So the big question this morning was, "who will be the fastest? East Coast or West Coast?"
21 drivers (out of 33) elected to run the qualifying course today. They
lined up for a "parade lap" around the course, to get familiar with the jumps and corners before hitting it at full speed. Once everyone completed the parade lap, it was time to get it awn!
One by one, the racers hit the course with gusto. Some planned to hit it with everything they had, and some elected to play it conservative. At the very end of the course was a tricky hole with a side hill and breakover. When driven conservatively, it was a rather easy spot. When driven under the pressure of the clock, it bit many drivers.
Doug Bigelow, the very first racer on the course, had a smooth run until he got to the "hole of doom". He knew the hole was nasty, but with the goal of setting a fast time, was off his line a few inches and ended up on his side in the soupy mess. Doug wasn't the only one - check out our video highlight clip to see a few guys put it over in the "hole of doom"! (video is currently processing, and should be up soon).
After the dust settled it was clear who had brought their "A" game today. Derek West, from Missouri, set a blistering fast pole position time of 1:26.4. Only 9 seconds behind him was none other than the King, Mr. Loren Healy at 1:35.4. Finishing out the top three was Will Carter who never had a chance to pre run the qualifying course!
Tomorrow's action should be wild as reports from today's pre runs suggest the course will most likely still be muddy in areas.
"We will be covered head to toe in mud tomorrow. It's going to be insane!" said "EZ" Rick Mooneyham.
After all the racing, it was time for the driver's meeting and dinner. Dinner consisted of BBQ chicken, tri tip, and beans. Oh yeah, and a little Apple Pie!