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Goodyear Extreme
Rock Crawling
Championships
Cedar City, Utah
5/26/00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of months ago, we slaved day and night on my Land Cruiser, to prepare it for the holy grail of rock crawling... The Goodyear Extreme Rock Crawling Championships, in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cruiser was a good rig, but we wanted to perfect it for flawless performance. After 3 weeks of late night wrenching, she was ready to rock... Never again would I rush like that... At least so I thought....

Time sure does fly, that's all I have to say. The next thing you know, it's t-minus 3 weeks to the next event in Cedar City, Utah. Bob insists on taking his Jeep Commando, since he thinks the added wheelbase will help. So with 3 weeks to go, we rolled up our sleeves for an all-too-familiar reconstruction on a good rig, to make it an even better rig. Time became the limiting factor once again, and attention was not able to be given to everything. The motor was ignored for the most part, which as you will soon read will be the demise of our success in Cedar City.

After all the late nights, the Commando seemed to be fairly ready. We were working on it till the very last minute before we left. We swapped out the carburetor at the very last minute, in hope of a smoother running motor. While it wasn't perfect, it seemed to be good enough.

So at about 3:00am Thursday morning, we headed for Cedar City, Utah. Eleven LONG hours later, we arrived at Rich Klein's house, who was gracious enough to let us stay at his home for the weekend. After a much needed rest, we decided to check out the local trails, and test out the Commando's condition.

Rich took us to a trail called "Wild, Wild, West." A relatively easy trail, with one good climb on it, Bob managed to taco the tie rod and almost ripping the ARB line right off the front end. It wasn't his fault, it just turned out that the tie rod wasn't beefy enough for a new Dana 60 front and and 38" tires. So we straightened it out, and headed back the the house. Once back at the house, we sleeved it with some tubing, and hoped for the best. I suppose it's better that we exposed that weekness on the trail, and not during the competition!

Friday morning rolled around, and it was time to get it awn. We went to a great cafe for breakfast, and then over to the driver's meeting. At the driver's meeting they give a quick run-down of any new rules, etc... etc... After the meeting, everyone caravaned to the "secret" area that the event was to be held. Apparently the area wasn't that secret, and some of the competitors were able to do quite a bit of pre-running before the competition.

We had drawn position number 25 in our group of 30. Since the group is then divided in half again, we were actually number 12 out of 15. A good position to be in on day one, since you can watch everyone take their lines, and decide what line you'd like to take. However on day two, the positions are flip-flopped, so we would be in position number 3. No biggie, we aren't afraid!

After watching all of the people in front of us negotiate the first obstacle, it was determined that there would only be one difficult area for us to traverse. It was a deep crevase with a flag positioned just in the wrong position. We elected to run our driver's side tires in the crack and sneak right around the flag, just as the Scorpion MK1 in front of us did. Doing it in this fashion causes both passenger tires to become air-borne, as you grind around the flag on your driver's rocker panel. A very cool photo opportunity area for sure.

As we easily walked through the beginning of the course where shorter wheelbase rigs were having trouble, our confidence grew. Once we made it to the "crack", I used my strap and hung off the passenger side to keep Bob from rolling all the way over as he drove through it. But even with my 250lbs literally hanging off the side of the Jeep, it still managed to roll all the way over. Not quite what we had planned! I jumped off the Jeep (now completely on it's side) and tried to push it. Bob gunned it, and the Jeep drove a good 6 feet forward toward the finish line (only about another 6 feet away) where the front tires enountered a crack that it could not "slide" over. Since it became clear he couldn't drive it all the way through the finish line on it's side, Bob got out and we tried to push it onto it's wheels. Normally it takes a good 5+ people to push a big 4x4 back onto it's wheels, so the deck was stacked against us. With the adrenaline flowing through both of us, and the what-seemed-like 1000's of people cheering for us, we were able to lift it about 2 feet before running out of steam. A second attempt proved futile, as we expended all of our energy on the first attempt. Winching was not an option, since driving on our side destroyed the remote cable. We soon timed out, and received the maximum 40 points. Not the greatest way to start off the day, but exciting none-the-less.

The next obstacle, seemed to be the most technical of the event. With huge boulders in a narrow chute, the perfect line the first time was required, or it would swallow you whole. After watching almost everyone get eaten alive, it was our turn. We took our time, and easily idled over the first 95% of the course. Once we got the the very top, we ended up a little too much to the left, and the Jeep did not want to climb it. After several attempts, Bob called for the winch. While under the gun, you are so focused on getting the Jeep through the course, it didn't dawn on me or Bob that was were actually shooting ourself in the foot for winching. Why, you ask?

Because the ARCA rules go something like this:

40 points is the maximum you can get on a single obstacle. Either by "pointing out" or by "timing out". Winching is 20 points. In addition to the 20 points, you are issued 3 "winch tokens". At the end of the competition, you turn in your "winch tokens" for a face value of -10 points off your overall score for each token you turn in. So in essence, winching costs you 30 points. So if you have more than 10 points, and you winch, you are getting more points than if you were to simply "time out". Well we had 15 points when we opted to winch. Thus giving us 45 points after it was all said and done. Once we realized this, it was decided that winching was no longer an option. We now had a total of 75 points (plus 10 for the lost winch token!!!) and had only done two obstacles! Ok, no more Mr. Nice guy... We ended up doing excellent on the rest of the obstacles for the day, and netting a total of 91 for the day. While we only had a few minor mechanical problems that day (carb didn't care to run on verticle climbs) we would soon find day two to be a nightmare.

After a good day of spottting, you feel like you've been in a Triathalon (at least if you're a fat out of shape guy like me.) Every muscle in my body was sore, so I decided to hit the sack early. Bob and company decided to go out the the local bar. After some serious beer drinking, Bob told Vince to hide his quick release steering wheel so nobody would steal it. Well needless to say, the next day we pulled into the competition, less one steering wheel. Bob didn't remember telling Vince to take the steering wheel, so we thought somebody had stolen it! I went all over the place asking everyone if they had a spare steering wheel, and of course nobody did. Bob left, and went into town to try and find another one. After Bob left, Vince and Donnie pulled up, and handed me the steering wheel. I about punched him in the nose, since I thought he has played a joke on us. When he told me that Bob told him to take the wheel last night, I let him off the hook. :) So now I had a steering wheel, but no driver (Bob was in town looking for a wheel) and I had no way of getting a hold of him. Or group was lining up and heading over to the course to begin. Unfortunately, we were 3rd in line, so our turn would come up quick. I explained the predicament to the marshal, and he told me that there were no exceptions... If he wasn't back by the time it was our turn, all I could do is request our 45 minute breakdown time. The two guys in front of us did their turn, and just when it was time for us to begin, Bob pulled up, and we were able to start in time. Not a great way to start your day, but at least we didn't get penalized. Well the day didn't get much better, because once we began the obstacle, we easily walked the course without even a single tire slip until we got within 10 feet of the final gates. Then the motor quit running on a near verticle climb. At first we thought it was just flooding out, but after multiple attempts at trying to start it, we knew we had a much bigger problem. After lots of cranking, the battery began to go dead. This wasn't good. We soon timed out, and still had not gotten the vehicle to start. After dumping some fuel down the throat of the carb, it fired up.

Off to the next few obstacles, we had to fight the motor and charging problem every step of the way. After timing out on Obstacle 4 thanks to a dead battery and vapor lock, we pulled out the battery and swapped it with a friends' good battery. Now all we had to combat was the vapor locking problem... Or so we thought.

We tried to determine the cause of the vapor locking, but could not figure it out. The exhaust seemed to be far enough away, and nothing else seemed to jump out at us. So after watching some vehicles literally get swallowed by obstacle number 5, it was our turn. The very beginning of the obstacle required Bob to take the high line, to clear his Dana 60's. I hung off the passenger side, and he was able sidehill it prefectly. I went to jump off, and slipped. I fell right under the vehicle, and Bob didn't notice. I slipped out just in time, just before I became traction for the Jeep! With a majorly scuffed up leg, I jumped back onto the Jeep, and accidentally stepped onto the passenger fire extingusher, and busted the valve right off of it. It shot right up into my face, and covered me with the white powder. Man, does that stuff taste like crap! People went nuts, groaning, yelling, and laughing. I had to take off my sun glasses since I couldn't see what the hell I was doing. While I shook my head, and regained my composure, Bob nailed the throttle, and negotiated the next part of the course without my help. Everyone was hooting and hollering, and my adrenaline took over, forgetting about the fact I looked like I rolled around in flour. We now were at the crack that had previoulsy eaten Randy Ellis' entire Samurai (it took about an hour to extract it!) We crawled right up it without slipping a tire... That is until the fuel line vapor locked again! 80% of the way up it, the rig wouldn't start again, so Bob had to back all the way down it, onto flat ground, to try to get it to fire. Of course it wasn't cooperating, and we were running low on time. I popped the hood open, removed the air filter, and grabbed an empty water bottle. I ran to the back of the rig, and dunked my arm into the fuel cell, and filled the bottle with gas. I ran back over, poured a little in, and we tried to start it. It fired, but only ran for a moment. After a couple of attempts, I refilled the bottle and poured a little in... Bob fired it up, and before it could sputter out, I fed it some more gas. I kept slowly feeding it, until the bottle was almost empty. It finally began to run on it's own. I tossed the air filter aside, slammed the hood shut, and shouted "GO!" he re-crawled the line, under throttle so she wouldn't die, and finished the course with only a minute to spare! What a wild one!!!!

The next obstacle unveild yet another problem. The steering box decided it only wanted to turn left, and almost no right hand turn was now available. All the linkage was fine, so it was determined to be internal to the box. We were able to conquer obstacle 6 with only having to make one two-point turn thanks to the non-coopertive steering box. Only 2 points, so that's not too bad. On our last obstacle of the weekend, it looked pretty difficult, and of course it was all right hand turns. Not good! It also had a VERY steep stair step climb. The very beginning of the course consisted of a steep climb that you could see a LOT of people were hitting their differentials on. So Bob and I went way left, and climbed the wall. No tire slippage, and up he went. Now it was time to climb the large stair steps. Since he had no right hand turning, he had to make a two point turn. Once he was lined up, he attempted to climb it. Once again, 3/4 of the way up, the motor quit running. It would not fire, so he had to back it down to flat ground. After multiple attempts to start it, I yanked the fuel line from the fuel pump, and gas squirted all over the exhaust manifold... Yikes! After the air bled out, I reconnected it, and the Commando fired up. I jumped out of the way, and yelled for Bob to "HAUL ASS!!" We were running low on time, so it was time to get it awn! Bob nailed the gas, and pretty much launched over the stair steps with all four wheels in the air. It was bad ass!

Once we made it to the top of the stair steps, it was a hard right, and then another sharp left and down a very steep dropoff to the finish line. Once again, thanks to no left steering, Bob had to make a 2 point turn. What a brutal day it was. I felt like I had been drug through the Rubicon with a tow strap. I was beat. But I felt great at the same time. Even though all the cards were stacked against us, we survived. Maybe not on top of the heap, but certainly not on the bottom.

After a few beers, we headed back to the house and got cleaned up. Later that night, we headed over to the Holiday Inn for the awards ceremony. We had speculated that we were in about 20th place after all was said and done. Not a bad guess, since we ended up in 19th place overall. Two people tied above us, so that would give us a 19th place standing. Not horrible, but certainly not where we want to be. The winners of this competition ended up with an astonishing -4 points. That's right, NEGATIVE 4 points. Chris Durham from South Carolina drove his blue and black tiger striped CJ10 to perfection over the weekend. With a gross 26 points and subtracting the 30 points in winch tokens he had, he ended up with negative 4 points. He literally blew the competition away. My hat goes off to Chris and his spotter, "Moose".

Special Thanks go out to our very generous sponsors:

Central 4wd

Casper's Muffler & Hitch

Driveline Service of Sacramento

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