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California Rock Crawlers Association
& Pavement Optional
"Ultimate Rock Challenge"

Photos and Story by Tony Bothwell

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Ultimate Rock Challenge
Located in sunny southern California, the Wooden Nickel Ranch provided the ultimate playground for seasoned four-wheelers to try their hand at winning this year's 3rd Annual CRCA "Ultimate Rock Challenge."

For the uninitiated, the "Ultimate Rock Challenge" is much like an ARCA Rock Crawling championship. A team consisting of a driver and spotter do their best to navigate a rather short, yet very extreme rock course. The event is timed with a maximum time of 15 minutes to run the full course per team. To make things a little more challenging, there are flags throughout the course, which if bumped or knocked down, give the driver an additional time penalty.

The event is divided into two classes; Class 1 being the "modified" class and Class 2 being the "stock" class. Essentially, the "stock" class are vehicles with less than or equal to 35" tires, stock motor, transmission, frame, etc. Aftermarket lifts are allowed, however the factory suspension form must be retained with the exception of SOA. Class 2 "modified" is essentially everything else - motors, axles, etc. can be of any type, however tires must be less than 40" tall and no sharp edges or unfinished metal is allowed.

Let There Be Rocks...
Now that you know all about CRCA and the Ultimate Rock Challenge, you're surely wondering what the course was like. Although seemingly only a hundred feet long, the course was quite difficult.  It started off with the first rock ledge on the course being much tougher than it looked, as it claimed more than one vehicle's front end.

Once past the gate, drivers had to round a slight bend, crawl through an area that knocked everyone's rockers that tried to get through it, and attempt to finesse a rather steep hill climb with a tight turn at the top and a very nasty rock section that was dubbed "Hell's Kitchen" before the day was done. After having cleared that little bit of fun, the stockers had a relatively easy way out while the modified class had a very steep drop to the finish line that threatened to put more than one rig rubber side up.

Spotters and drivers were allowed to walk the course to try to find the best lines they could before the run began. Being a timed event, some drivers opted for mega-testosterone levels and pedal to the floor tactics, while others tried to squeak their way through with as smooth a run as possible. The competition started roughly at 8am and ran into the night, with only one driver finishing in the dark.

Between the two classes there were a total of 23 vehicles from mild to wild with all sorts of trick innovations. The course claimed many parts with nearly every other truck having some sort of mechanical failure. Carnage ranged from pulled slip yokes to grenaded axles. Ah, there's nothing like the smell of burning gasoline and the sound of grinding metal first thing in the morning.

Hell's Kitchen at the top of the hill climb exposed many a wheeler to the possibility of a rollover and certainly kept more than one driver in check. Short but sweet, it is a trail to be reckoned with, and although difficult as it was, for the main event the trail was made just a bit tougher by moving the flags in to make for an even tighter, more challenging course.

The Players
Trucks covering the better part of the off-road spectrum at this event, which had entries from Scouts and Toyotas to Jeeps and Samurais. There was even a big yellow full-size Wagoneer.  When it came down to who did well on the course,  Don Gardner in his squeaky-clean TJ managed to roll through the course with an excellent time of 7:31 to qualify for the finals where he again made it through without so much as a scratch.

Scott Waterbury was dubbed "Air Samurai" after blasting his way through the course with a time that put him into first place on his qualifying run in the stock class, while Ron Schneider flew through the course with an incredible record breaking time of 2:25 in his highly-modified YJ.

Naturally it was quite an upset when the main event came along and the crowd pleaser, Ron, broke his front end doing the hill climb. 

Although there were many close calls, amazingly there were no rollovers by the time the day was done, and as usual, the crowd loves nothing more than seeing carnage, blasting speed and near rollovers. But in their favor, more than once the audience was yelling at drivers to put their seatbelts back on when they would forget. To quote one spectator, "it's all in fun. I just don't want to see the guy get hurt."  It was a fun day and everyone there had a great time. I can't wait until the next one.

For more information about the C.R.C.A. and future events, call 909/679-3879 or visit their website.

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Note the leg sticking out that is holding this Samurai from rolling over!

And now for the part you've all be waiting for! Check out the Ultimate Rock Challenge photo gallery.

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