2011 Ricky B'Day @ Morris Mountain ORV Park Story and photos by Ricky Berry
It's back to Alabama again for RBD 2011 at Morris Mountain ORV! After last year's show from the southern "rock bouncers", Pirate4x4 knew they didn't want to miss the action from this year's event! This article is always a difficult one for me to write as I'm not only the Pirate4x4 photographer and writer, but I'm also the event promoter and organizer for RBD. Needless to say it's a busy weekend for me! For those who may not know, RBD (Ricky B'Day) started out as a small invitation only event as a little birthday ride/party, and has now evolved to one of the most anticipated events of the year in the southeast! This year boasted over 800 people! That's over 200 more people than last year and is Morris Mountain's biggest ride they've ever hosted. The best thing about this event is the variety of wheelers from around the country. We had guys come from Texas, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, and everywhere in between, all wheelin' and partying together.
As I arrived back at the park on Friday morning to get ready for the morning rush, I rolled up on BJ Allen, winner of the 2011 ECORS series parked at the front gate crashed out in his truck waiting on morning! He drove 600 miles from Texas through the night to be one of the first guys through the gate. This was my first indication that this year might be big! Soon after, rigs began lining up on trailers as far as I could see to get in, each from a different part of the country. I finally got a chance to get out on the trails to see what everyone was up to and stumbled upon some friends from Louisiana playing on V-notch, one of the "classic" MMORV obstacles. Scott Lemon was doing what he considered "taking it easy" since he wanted to be sure to be able to enter the RBD hill climb comp the next day. Scott's has the new Smith Motorsports chassis "Da Situation", which modestly boasts specs like a 502 RamJet and steering Rockwells decked out with 2" Ouverson shafts front and rear. Right behind Scott and his crew was Chris May from North Carolina in his V6 powered buggy on 37" stickies which came right up V-notch, no problem. It's cool to see rigs so vastly different wheelin' the same trails together.
Morris Mountain is split by a creek, and it's almost like two parks in one. On one side you have small rock ledge trails with loose boulders and rock piles, and on the other you have steep, slick, and loose hill climbs that test any driver at all levels. I found myself on the trail appropriately named "RBD" watching a guy in a mildly built TJ on 37" krawlers bouncing off the rev limiter! He gave it an awesome effort but ended up taking a violent bounce and stood his Jeep straight up and over backwards. A longer wheelbase really makes a difference on this trail!
The highlight for me on Friday was finding everyone gathered in the "Loop Springs" area watching rigs try a new line on the hill. The most entertaining part was watching John Thomas aka "Stump" from NC launch his Hayabusa GSXR powered Zuk buggy at what sounded like 10,000RPM over and over only to slam into the trees or bounce sideways and drive out of a roll, laughing every time!
The days are short in the winter so that made for less wheelin', but also made for more partying at camp! After some camp fire hoppin' hangin out with everyone, I called it a fairly early night to prepare for the big competition on Saturday morning.
Saturday's competition brought the best of the best rigs in the South East. From endurance racers with Ultra4 style cars like PJ Mallory and Adam Carter, to hometown rock bounce heroes like Bobby Tanner and Wes Kean. The comp was simple, fastest to the top wins! Payout was $1000 to first, and only $20 to enter. Pretty good deal if you ask me! The competition took place on Morris Mountain's famous "Los Primos", a moderate hill climb with a steep double ledge at the top that will belly out any rig that tries to crawl it. The competitors got three runs, fastest run took the win!
Chris May ran first and felt out the course which gave the other competitors an idea of what to expect. The conditions were a little more dry than the year before which made for the tacky traction rich dirt often referred to as "hook dirt". This allowed everyone to get a good launch at the ledge, but the real concern was going to be keeping it in between the trees. Easier said than done at full throttle! The first driver to air it out was Trenton Parks from Tennessee. He launched his Smith motorsports chassis and the crowd went crazy, but he landed short and bellied out on the 2nd ledge hard. Later we learned he got beat up pretty bad from the hit but it didn't stop him from making his next couple runs!
Remember what I said about keeping it between the trees? There is a pretty good jump at the bottom of the hill before the ledges, and a tree that is fairly close to the course. Well the "Dynamic Duo" found that tree, and clipped it HARD! Shelby Tanner and codriver, Lori Shirley (Mrs. MadRam11) came into the jump area fully committed on the throttle but the rig slid too far to the outside of the turn and the driver's front tire hit the tree so hard that the impact rolled the rig onto the passenger side nearly in mid-air. Luckily both were fine, only damage was a 44" swamper and an axle u-joint.
In true "Run what ya brung" fashion, against the 700HP rock bouncer rigs was Alan Clark, in his relatively stock Polaris RZR S. When he lined up at the start the crowd went crazy. He was definitely the underdog and one of the crowd favorites. He smoked the big rigs at the bottom of the course through the tight trees but he couldn't keep up enough speed to jump the ledges and power through the landing up to the finish.
With 600HP rigs launching 10 feet off the ground comes epic carnage. From Mark Statum's ColeWorx Eleanor buggy shearing a front Dana 60 pinion to the Richie Keith in the "John Deere" buggy and Peter Basler in the BTF buggy both breaking Atlas gearsets. But one of the most memorable breaks was Adam Lee in his EOR buggy who launched full throttle and landed hard on the drivers rear tire right into a tree stump. The impact sheared his spindle studs and the entire hub, wheel, and tire assembly broke off and started off down the hill!
Biggest air would probably go to Travis Lovett in his new light-weight Sosebee's Off-Road buggy. Travis hit the ledge perfect and landed clean but it was a little too much for the coilover shaft and it bent on impact.
Not every competitor was going for the win. Ethan Tanner was all about having a good time and showing off for the crowd. On his last run he rolled up on the ledges and aired it out pretty decent, but that wasn't enough for Ethan. He slowly backed down the hill to get another run and the crowd went crazy. It was like being at a football stadium with 300+ people on the hillside cheering! Ethan hit the throttle and launched his old Smith Motorsports chassis high into the air and landed hard on the driver's side. Without a doubt he was the best show of the comp and received a small prize from RBD and MMORV that will hopefully help put his rig back together!
One of the closest calls for me was Jordan Tanner's jump on his last run. He was going for the win and hit the bottom ledge faster than most everyone and was probably going to have one of the fastest times of the day but he took a bad bounce and launched right into the trees at the top, where I just so happen to be standing. It was a violent hit but his ColeWorx chassis took the beating and bounced back with a full throttle assault to the top.
Last year's winner, Wes Kean was back to defend his title driving the EOR rear engine KOH car. He was fast in the bottoms but took a bad launch at the ledges and ran up a tree and ended up rolling backwards from the top. It took a good 10' freefall to the roof. Luckily he was fine and the rig only suffered a couple scratches.
The winner with a time of just 19.09 seconds, was Donovan Jeffreys from Louisiana. He ran smooth and took a near perfect launch up the ledges landing in the throttle and sailed through the finish.