2003 RCAA Finals - Farmington, NM
Brought to you by Superior Axle & Gear
Story by Tom Clark
Edited by Kelly Clifford
Photos by RP Films

[Pre Event Story] [Day 1 Action] [Day 2 Action]

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Click here for a Quicktime video clip of Mitch Guthrie and other action!

Update, Goodyear-Skyjacker Rock Crawling Nationals Review

The competition and controversy of this season may have ended, but the turmoil regarding next season's post-merger shakeout and the future of professional rockcrawling itself lingers on.

With payouts to the top competitors a fraction of what they had been for last season's finals, teams wonder how they will be able to continue building world-class rigs. The lower payouts left a bad taste in the mouths of all but the most optimistic contenders. Those that didn't mind either hoped to bring rockcrawling back to its low-budget roots or maybe a big-money blow-out next season.

At any rate, the merger of UROC and RCAA was more than likely a key factor. What it means in reality for competitors is a higher reliance on individual sponsors and contingencies.

The world's top rockcrawlers represented completely different ends of the spectrum. Jeff Mello (event winner, Stock Mod) with his mildly-modified Jeep, and Jon Bundrant (season winner, Unlimited) in his purpose-built buggy.

Mello proved you can be competitive with leaf springs, no Atlas II, junkyard AMC 360 and only a 79:1 crawl ratio. With great driving and the right spotter (Kevin Carey) anything is possible.

Bundrant pushed the envelope with his mid-engine, air-cooled, fuel-injected Tiny. The general sentiments throughout the season were "looks funny, works great".

The uncertainty of what the UROC / RCAA merger will bring was on the top of everyone's minds; what will be the new classes and what will be the vehicle requirements and limitations.

Only time will tell.

Update 12:00PM 10-11-03

FINAL Event Standings - Unlimited

1 Shannon Campbell
2 Mitch Guthrie
3 Tracy Jordan
4 Mike Shaffer
5 Jon Bundrant
6 Walker Evans
7 Jason Paule
8 Matt Petersen
9 Joel Randall
10 Matt Wooley

FINAL Series Standings - Unlimited

1. Bundrant, Jon 542
2. Jordan, Tracy 538
3. Shaffer, Mike 532
4. Randall, Joel 520
5. Guthrie, Mitch 516
6. Campbell, Shannon 516
7. Paule, Jason 514
8. Gilleland, John 508
9. Peterson, Matt 496
10. Howe, Terry 476

FINAL Event Standings - Stock Mod

1. Mello, Jeff 179
2. Hastings, Steve184
3. Standage, Bob 186
4. Errea/Schweisow 192
5. Sisson, Garrett231
6. Hawkins, Kevin 274
7. McCurrie, Lonnie 303
8. Bureau, Scott 312
9. Foutz, John 527

FINAL Series Standings - Stock Mod

1. Sisson / Sisson 546
2. Mello, Jeff 544
3. Errea, Bria 540
4. Standage, Bob 538
5. Hastings, Steve 538
6. Hawkins, Kevin 516
7. Buraru / Burau 492
8. McCurry, Lonnie 492
9. Webster, Becca 388
10. Kelsey, Kurt 362


Update 2:00pm, Saturday

As the competitive sides of the drivers come out, so do the rolls and flops.

Chris Durham is fully getting it as he launches through the squeeze on B5.

He comes to rest on the other side of the squeeze in a bad spot. He tries to drive out.

Things are looking bad.

Yes, he’s over.

Durham rolls bad on his side in a dicey place. On the other side of his rig is a steep crevice that runs all the way down to the valley floor.

They hook up a few winch lines. Not safe says the Marshall, get a different line on it.

That’ll do.

Back rubber side down, he drives out. Nobody hurt, just a few light battle scars on the rig.

Bob Standage looks like he’s got a good line going.

When all of a sudden, he finds himself on his side. Note that the previous picture was taken from the exact location where your P4x4.com correspondent was standing just a few seconds earlier. His quick feet saved his own hide, and more importantly, the pictures.

Despite a valiant effort of trying to drive it out with a heave-ho from his spotter, he gives up and shuts down the engine.

Two good clean flops, not five minutes apart, no one hurt in either. With minimal damage he drives on to his next challenge.

Update 11:40 Saturday

Feelings are really starting to run high today and parts are breaking as the competition really gets down to the wire. The points race is close.

Bart Jacobs and spotter argued with each other, but still managed to pull off a 22 point run on obstacle A2 despite the shouting. By the time they get to the next obsticle they will be best buddies again and shoot for the same goal.

Brandon Johnson’s rig gets a little trail repair with a flat bastard (not Lance) as the knuckle flange is bending down into the U-joint on their rear steer axle.

Just at the beginning of what was turning into a good smoke show on a little hill climb, Mar Pepper blows out his front driveshaft on B6.

It’s a long drop, but Mike Shaffer pulls but a single point on B5 despite the use of only one front brake. Mike explains, “On our last obstacle, our front suspension bottomed out, and we just added a skidplate, and we didn’t take in account for the clearance of the brake line. So it cut a brake line right in half.”

A grand total of less than an inch pushed Tracy Jordan from a perfect run to the 18 points he had to take for brushing the leaves of an off-limits tree and scuffing the base of a cone on the ending hill climb. Unfortunately for Jordan, that makes for at least 5 cones hit by Jordan so far this morning.

Becca Webster rockets up the final hillclimb on A4 in the Red Bull RockIt as her husband / spotter Dustin Webster scrambles up after her. Dustin: “Stop! Stop! Stop!” Crowd: “Go! Go! Go!” Becca listened to her inner voice and hauled ass up that was supported by the cheers and applause from the crowd.

Update 10:30am Saturday

Local New Mexico singer Erica Wagoner starts us off with a solo rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

Bob Standage squeaks by a cone. That would be a 10 pt ding that he didn’t need.

Neil Lillard high centers his funny looking rig while his spotter offers some moral support. Kimmy Lillard is his wife and spotter one of the few couples that can work well together. She and Neil made an agreement that she will not use a rope on in a competition.

Brandon Johnson spends 3 minutes watching his spotter stack rocks, inching forward every time the judge started counting for the stopping point.

That’s not smoke rolling off Johnson’s tires, it’s steam. This wicked hill climb at the end of B4 took another two full minutes of burning the wet sand, swishing the rear steer from left to right stops, cranking on the steering and a whole bunch of pulling by his spotter. Johnson finished with less than a minute left on the clock and a huge round of applause for defying gravity and completing the climb.

Not everyone is cursing last night’s rain. These girls are enjoying the wet sand, working on a sand castle with a tire rut moat.

Update, 08:30am Saturday

Up at six, off to McDonald’s for a McGriddle, forgot the laptop, back to the hotel, it doesn’t take much to break our concentration this early in the morning, so we got lost on the way to the comp. At least last night’s thunderstorm is keeping the dust down. However, the sandy washes are now all wet sandy washes. The ride out to the comp in the Honda was a hair-raising experience. Momentum and Kelly Clifford’s skillful (and gutsy) driving was the key for not getting bogged down.

It promises to be a very different set of courses from yesterday as the wet New Mexican sand sticks to tires. We’re expecting lots of tire spin as drivers clear tires for traction. The sun this morning is a welcomed change from the cloud cover yesterday, and should help dry out the course. However, the temperature was a nice change for the spotters. In the series of these events most of the temperature have been in the 90's to over 100 degrees. We didn’t have to worry about Lance Clifford looking like he is going to keel over with heat exhaustion. Good thing because what would Pirate4x4.com do without him?

Today is guaranteed to be a very exciting day for these spectating enthusiast. With the point scores being so close in the top 7. It is still very much anybody’s game at this point. Today promises to be a heated day as the battle for points continues in both the Super Modified and the Modified Stock.

In the Modified Stock Class, Errea leads Hastings by a mere 16 points. Close on their heels is Jeff Mello just 3 points behind Hastings. What the rain shower may have done to the course, means that Errea’s 16 point lead could be may be a challenge to keep up. And only halfway through the comp, the 3 point difference between Mello and Hastings is academic at best. There are 7 teams within 67 points of each other; that’s just a timeout and three cones. But to these professional competitors it is a large gap that often gives some of them a nervous stomach.

In the Unlimited Class, Tracy Jordan is walking away with a 36 point lead over second place Shannon Campbell. With only 14 point spread between Campbell and third place Mitch Guthrie makes for a close running for 1st place. The next few competitors are running neck and neck with John Bundrant currently in fourth place is only a single point behind Guthrie is Jon Bundrant. The tight scores continue as Mike Shaffer is a mere two points behind Bundrant. Walker Evans is in the running as well with a three point spread under Shaffer, and then Jason Paule is in a close 7th. That means there’s a slim 11 points that separate third place Guthrie from seventh place Paule. Jordan with is large lead is will be a real contender for the other competitors. The others are to have to have a phenomenal day to gain points on Jordan. There is a whole pack nipping at his heals for the win.


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