2000 Warn National
Rock Crawling Championships Montrose, CO

by Lance Clifford


We left Pollock Pines around 9:00 PM Tuesday night. Driving non-stop, and driving in shifts, we made it to Montrose, Colorado, in 19.5 hours. Vince was already in Montrose and called us to let us know his friend who lives there said we could park the motorhome at his house. You can't go wrong with that! So after a long drive we set up camp at Brian's house and called it an early night.

Thursday Bob, Maniac, and Vince headed out of town for some sight seeing. Kelly and I stayed in town and did some final touches on the rig. We drove over to the headquarters for the event and got some information. Tech inspection would begin at around noon. There were already a lot of rigs driving around town. I could already feel the excitement of the weekend to come. I pulled my rig up for the tech inspection, and quickly realized there was going to be a problem. With all of the commotion at home with getting the rig ready, etc. I forgot to bring my vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. The rules require your vehicle to be legally registered and insured to compete. All of my paperwork was sitting in my 4Runner 1,000 miles away in California. So after telling the official that I didn't have my paperwork, they told me that I had to have it. I called up fellow Pirate Troy Muse who had my truck for the week and asked him to fax me the registration and the insurance. He said he'd send it right over. Thank God. Troy was a life saver. Of course things never go smoothly for me....

After about 45 minutes the hotel received my fax. Insurance: Check. Registration: Troy sent the wrong registration paperwork! He accidentally sent me the registration for the 4Runner. So I immediately called Troy back, but there was no answer. After calling him over and over for about 4 hours, I was getting desperate. There was no way I was going to drive all this way and not get in because of a stupid piece of paper! I went and begged and pleaded with Bob Hazel and gave him my sob-story. He eventually felt sorry for me and let us in. Man, what a relief!

Friday morning rolled around, and we were ready to get it awn. The Cruiser was in excellent health, as I had rebuilt the axles and driveshafts before the competition with fresh u-joints. I was still concerned about the front Dana 44 holding up to the 39.5 Boggers in heated competition. Competition rock crawling strains your vehicle to the limit, and the 44 was definitely going to be my weak point......

We lined up at the hotel and followed the escort to the trailhead. We would be running the "Cactus Trail" today. On the first course we ended up getting DQ'ed for running over a flag. My rear driver's tire slid sideways and knocked over a flag. The rules for this competition are a little different than ARCA. If you run over a flag, you are DQ'ed for that course. If you knock over a flag, it's 6 points.

Course number two netted us a perfect score, as we easily walked it.

Course three is were it got interesting. It started off with a large shelf, about 4 feet tall. The shelf had a groove in the middle of it. There was loose dirt on top and on bottom of the shelf. We tried to climb to the left, and slid over into the groove. The Cruiser began to climb, and then she laid over on her side. Bob ran over and heaved the rig back onto it's wheels to the delight of the crowd. Running out of time, I gunned it, and I quickly ended back on my side. I floored it again, but no dice. We timed out. This was not a good thing! We winched the vehicle up and off the course, and vowed not to let the rest of the day go to hell.

After loosing 20 points a piece on course 1 and 3, it was critical that we ace the rest of the courses. And that is what we did. Courses 4-7 were aced by team POR. With only one or two backups for the rest of the day.

Saturday rolled around, and we started off HOT. The first obstacle of the day was not kind to many of the competitors. It was a very steep off-camber waterfall. If the perfect line was not taken, you would slide sideways and accumulate lots of points for backups and stops. We crawled the obstacle without a hitch, and earned a perfect score with no backups or stops. We needed that.

Obstacle two Had a 3 foot shelf parallel with the course. There was a flag below the shelf, and you had to sidehill on the upper part of the shelf to avoid falling of the shelf and hitting the flag on the lower part of the shelf. This was the rollover obstacle of the day for a lot of people. Just before us, a white FJ45 rolled as he tried to avoid the lower flag.

We crawled up and onto the shelf. The Cruiser leaned over, and Bob grabbed hold of the cage. I wasn't able to get the rear tires high enough onto the shelf, and the passenger rear slipped off the shelf. I gunned it to try and miss the flag, but it was too late. The tire knocked it over, and they gave us -6 points for knocking it down. I think that the scoring for flags left too much to the judge. We did the exact same thing to a flag on two different obstacles. One judge gave us -6 points, and one judge DQ'ed us.

On obstacle number three, I made an attempt to climb a steep waterfall type climb. On my first and second attempt, I was unsuccessful. Not wanting to take anymore backup points, I shifted her into 2nd gear and dumped the clutch. The Cruiser lurched forward violently and bounced into the air and landed with a loud bang, busting my rear driveline ujoint at the pinion. Thanks to excessive axle wrap, the u-joint binded and blew out the caps and ubolts. I raced to swap out the ubolts and caps, and ran out of time. We received the maximum points for the obstacle. This really hurt our chances of getting into the finals.

Not letting the breakage get us down, we hit obstacle number 4. We nearly aced it only getting one backup in the process. On to number 5. This was a extremely gnarly rock garden, with huge boulders and flags placed strategically to really get you screwed up. Bob and I agreed that this obstacle would require exact tire placement and that he would have to be my eyes one this one. After watching several rigs get eaten alive by this course, it was our turn. We took it nice and slow, inch by inch, and walked it with a perfect score. Can't go wrong with that!

Obstacle number six proved to be another walk in the park, as we easily aced it. Now it was on to the grand daddy of the day. The final obstacle, number seven. There was a massive crowd gathered for this obstacle, as it provided an insane off camber waterfall to climb, and nobody had made it all day yet. Of course 2 minutes before it was our turn, mother nature decided to dump rain/hail on us. After a solid couple minutes of rain, Bob and I decided to give the waterfall one or two tries, then we would winch. After a couple of futile attempts, the winch cable was pulled, and we winched to the top. Bob crushed his finger stacking rocks, so we immediately had to whip out the first aid kit and patch him up.

All in all, we did very well. We came oh so close to making the "dirty dozen." A simple driveshaft failure cost us making it. Maybe better luck next time.

Sunday rolled around, and we went and watched the "dirty dozen" get it awn in the finals. It rained all night Saturday night, so the trail was very muddy. This was going to make an already insane course near impossible! Sure enough, the first few competitors were eaten alive by the absence of traction. Full throttle was still not enough. Rig after rig timed out on obstacle one. Once the trail began the dry (the sun was shining) competitors began to make the obstacles.

When the dust (and mud) settled, Steve Rumore walked away with 1st place. He drove consistent, and spanked everyone. He is the 2000 Warn Rock Crawling Champion. Congratulations, Steve.



Friday's Pictures

Saturday's Pictures

Sunday's Pictures