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10:07 PM PST
It’s SuperCrawl time. We have waited all year for this moment and we are a day away from the start. This is the third year in crawling history where the top drivers from around the world are gathered up to compete for a one shot, winner take all, event. Drivers don’t have to worry about season points for this one. What they have to worry about is keeping their rigs together and driving better than everyone else over the 3 day weekend.
This year we have gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah for this premiere event. This is not at your local trail or standard competition site, this is on a specially designed rock crawling man made course with championship driving skills in mind. This is the first time a major rock crawling event has had courses designed in this way. Tons of dirt, rocks, cement pipes, and cement were trucked in and massaged into a crazy set of 8 courses. We walked down the courses and were amazed at how well UROC has designed them. Not only are the courses very challenging looking, but they also have such realism to them as well. Textures and colors were put into the terrain to simulate real world rock. The courses are situated side by side like mounds of ant hills with unique challenges on them. I would say that these courses could be made over several times before the uniqueness of them wears off. There are several lines on most of them that could make for a real technical nightmare. The only course that appears to have only one real line is course #1. It is basically a wall. Go up, and then come down the other side. There might be a few different ways to get drivers over that wall, but it is basically a horsepower, lets get those tires lit up, kind of wall. One side is fairly smooth and steep while the other side is steep, but has a pocket on one side of it to make an interesting disruption in a climb or decent. No matter how you look at the obstacles presented to us this weekend, UROC has just stepped up the notch for professional rock crawling.
The weather out here this weekend will also be favorable to drivers and spotters since it will not be your typical 110 degree heat wave. 70 degree temperatures are going to be the norm out here with no dust to blow through. This will lock down the real challenge to who can drive the course and not who can survive Mother Nature best. One more interesting aspect to that is with the courses being man made; they are solid and one piece. Therefore, from vehicle to vehicle, it seems that the courses should remain consistent. I think there will be some change throughout the weekend as the granules of cement get chipped off and the courses smooth out, but overall, they should be solid all the way through. This is truly a test of the best of the best.
We will have pics and driver interviews up in a little bit. I am having hotel internet issues currently, but should have stuff up soon.
11:30 PM PST
| A look above the tech inspection |
| A view at course #1 at the site|
While out at the courses today, we caught up with one competitor, Mac, who won’t get to run this weekend, but is out here with his extremely small front engined crawler. Built by Toby Lavendar, it has taken on the name of “Hubba Bubba” as proclaimed by Tracy Jordan. This purple bubble gum looking wheeler is super small and has a unique passenger offset seat with one leg extending over the top of the transmission. It looks to be a design for the wave of 2005 designs. Small, compact, yet still front engined to keep the weight forward.
Mac was in UROC earlier in the year but was driving Chris Durham’s old rig until the Vernal event. He took the new Hubba Bubba to Farmington but wound up having torque converter issues that was misdiagnosed as a transmission problem. They were knocked back at this event and were forced to wait until St George to run again where they had driveshaft carrier bearing issues. The carrier would flex enough in its rubber mount that it would lock up. This knocked him out early in the event. Mac does say that the repairs are in the works and from what he has been able to wheel so far, it works pretty well. It is super low, has plenty of articulation, and climbs like crazy he said. He has since reduced some of the weight of the mini rig by switching over to the super light Walker Evans cylinders from the old Fox shocks. These new units weigh in at a mere 4.5 pounds each.
| Mac's super tiny rig|
Craig Stumph and Ed Purcell are back with a new look to an old rig. What I thought was a whole new rig was actually a revamped Commando with new tubes, skins, and what looked like a lower profile. After a nasty roll in Farmington, the rear suspension was swapped out from the old leaf springs to bring in a new 4-link design. Going above that at this event, the rig looks cleaner than I have ever saw it and looks to have a great probability for a run at the Super Crawl cup.
| Craig Stumph’s slick looking Commando?|
Parker Garrett is back with the ever smoking #252 rig. Taking an awesome near win in the West series, Parker has pushed his silver rig to the top of many rock courses in the past to impress the best. Will he have a great run this weekend going head to head with the Pro Series drivers or will the smoking motor clog his vision. I bet he will show a lot of people the way of the right pedal.
| Parker Garrett lining up for tech|
Rob Steffy in the 911 crawler was recently seen on T.V. with the Dan Rather on CBS. Rob is a cop who uses his career as a crossover to his other passion of rock crawling. With lights flashing, cuffs dangling, and an official police siren strapped under the tube chassis, Rob made a valiant effort to make it out here this weekend to put on a great show and hopefully a victory. Originally planning to fly out here, he was called a mid day through his shift that the rig towing his crawler to the event had broken down on the way. He was forced to leave work early with his own rig and race….. errr… I mean “drove within the speed limit… wink wink” to recover the broken down hauler. So instead of a plush flight out, he had to make a brutal long drive to get here. Let’s hope the drive doesn’t tire his spirit.
| Rob Steffey sports the 911 call sign|
Gib and Gib are back with a new look to their rig in their yellow schemed crawler. The #916 rig is a master in art. The lines look great on this thing and the new paint job looked sweet. The artistry that went into this thing was also mechanical as well. Extremely low slung, the Gib’s are pushing their weight even lower with upside down 9s front and rear while rolling on the rocks with the narrow Toyo tires. They say they like the tires and that they work really well. However, he would like to have a narrower tire; something in the 12 range instead of the 15.5 that these currently measure in at. I had to ask what his rig would cost the normal joe like me an he said with the items found on his rig, you might look at one in the 35K to 40K range. From what I saw, it looked very tempting.
| The Gibs getting ready to rock |
One of my favorites out here is Ken Blume in the #192 PT Cruiser. This yellow buggy has always been so simple yet so functional. Stuffed into a tight package, Ken was forced to swap out his old underpowered motor with a new 3.8 thanks to a weird mishap at Neuroc. A stray rock decided to hop up into the engine area and destroy the power steering pump. In the same motion, it also took off a chunk of the motor casting. So what was originally a thought to improve the power in his rig was now a requirement if he wanted to run at SuperCrawl. He now runs this 3.8 but with a supercharger. It puts out an estimated 240HP with 280ft/lbs of torque. Ken said he wished he did it earlier because the power makes such a difference. I questioned if the new found power would hurt more parts, but he felt that it wouldn’t since he changed out the 4:1 case for a 2:1 case in light of the power gain. He felt he had more feel of the bind and would be able to back off sooner than when he was compensating with gearing. Now he says he can pull his tires off the ground with the power that it is putting out. Running Volvo portals and a good amount of power in a tiny low to the ground package, he should be one to watch going for the chrome cup. His skills as a driver are more than enough to show the top dogs where they should be running. Ken said he feels good about this weekend.
Larry McRae is stepping into the Tiny rig, #80, this weekend instead of Jon Bundrant. Tiny is the defending champion here and Larry looks to hold onto it for another year. He will have a lot to deal with now that so many competitors have stepped up their game and vehicles to catch the capabilities of Tiny. Will they have enough? Kelly Lee, who is spotting for Larry, sure hopes so. You might recognize Kelly from his last appearance at St. George Utah when he spotted for Jon Nelson in the Scrapper rig. They took home a first for that event, and he hopes to add another victory this weekend.
| Larry not ready to give up the cup |
An always smiling guy is Charlie Melchner. He is out here with his brand new moon buggy built by Dave Kemner of Skunk Works. Now there are a dozen moon buggies competing out here this weekend, but Charlie’s is a little different. His is the first with rear steering. What makes that so great for him is that he is used to the rear steering already from his previous rig, so using it won’t be a new challenge to learn. This could mean big trouble for those that relied on their rear steering to overcome the limitations of the moon buggies. Charlie said, “I have wanted this for a while and Dave did a great job. This buggy is working well, but I need more seat time. This is just training for the finals in Paragon.” Charlie will need the seat time for his first run out in the rig, he was only 15 minutes into driving it when he was able to flip it all the way over on an obstacle. The rig survived well, but it just shows that even the moon buggies can be flipped easily. Charlie does have a lot more than his rig on his mind. He is about to be a father and his wife Steph is back home and unable to attend this event. He wanted to get a word out to his wife, “Hey Steph, I know you’re home and pregnant and I miss you so much. We made it here safe with the new buggy and I can’t stop thinking of you. We’ll be home soon.” We congratulate both Steph and Charlie on their new-to-be child and wish them the best of luck this weekend.
| Charlie Melchner modeling his new moon buggy|