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C.R.C.A. Rocktoberfest Finals

October 18-19 2002
Story and Photos By Tony Bothwell

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Rockcrawling extremesCRCA Rocktoberfest
The California Rock Crawlers Association "Ultimate Rock Challenge" had an exciting start this last weekend at the Wooden Nickel Ranch, located in beautiful Southern California. This was the first of a three-part series that will conclude in March of 2003. For those not familiar with the C.R.C.A., much like RCAA, they hold extreme rockcrawling competitions where competing four-wheelers attempt to negotiate a relatively short, but very difficult rock course.

The C.R.C.A., rather than scoring by points, uses a time-based scoring system, where the faster and farther the competitors go, the higher their ranking. Competitors are given a 30 second time penalty for each gate knocked down, where a gate is a flag or cone, with a 15 second penalty for gates that are simply touched. This event had a new addition, which was an optional 3 minute bonus time for those in the Pro class who chose to take an alternate, and a more-extreme course entrance.

The event was divided into three classes; Stock, Modified and Pro, with the top five competitors from each class moving on to the semifinals for the main event. Essentially, the stock class had tires no larger than 35", lift kits were allowed, but otherwise, they were relatively "stock" vehicles. The Modified class took on the vehicles that exceeded the stock class requirements, but still retained things like a stock frame and body, for example, while the Pro class was comprised of everything else, such as Team All Pro's VW-powered rock buggy, driven by Jon Bundrant with Chris Geiger acting as spotter. For complete rules and class divisions, please see the official CRCA website.

She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain
CRCA RocktoberfestThe competitors each had a different route to follow based on which class they were in and no one had it easy. One thing that was drastically different this time around was that, overall, the drivers seemed to have slowed down quite a bit from the last event, which had its share of high-speed thrills. This time we saw some incredibly skilled drivers and spotters negotiating their way through the course as quickly and efficiently as possible, and those that managed not to panic did the best in the end. It didn't take long for drivers to realize that a lead foot out there will only rip things apart.

The standard route took the teams through a fairly wide opening to the course with an optional obstacle to the right of the entrance, that if attempted would earn the team a 3 minute bonus. But due to the extreme nature of this particular obstacle, only Pro class Team All-Pro even attempted it, and to the absolute approval of the crowd they drove over it like it wasn't even there.

Once past the entrance, the courses split depending on which class theywere in with a very challenging Stock course, a quite difficult Modified course and a Pro course that got the comment, "This is a little extreme for me" more than once. This type of extreme course is just the sort of thing that attracts a big crowd and big names.

STOCK
MODIFIED
PRO
CRCA Rocktoberfest
CRCA Rocktoberfest
CRCA Rocktoberfest

This was just the beginning. As the course opened up it got harder from there. Once the stock class made it over the collection of rocks they had to work their way up the same hill-climb that threatened the Modified class. This was assuming that they could manage to get through the variation on the stock course that not only added some interesting twisty sections, but a nice off-camber area that put the Jeep below on its side. Through quick planning and careful execution, this driver and spotter team managed to flip this Jeep back rubber side down and kept on motoring!

CRCA Rocktoberfest
Note the location of the rock sticking in the driver side door opening
CRCA Rocktoberfest
Pay attention to how the winch is hooked up around the rock
CRCA Rocktoberfest
Finally, the Jeep is rubber side down and ready to wheel. What damage?

The fun doesn't end there, however, as once the stockers and the Modified class teams made it past that tight little squeeze, they had to deal with a rather nasty hill climb that managed to prevent a good deal of the drivers from making any progress past it. Thanks to a very soft, silty, sand area at the bottom of the climb, there were a few Jeeps that threw a rooster tail or two into the crowd. You knew who the real hardcore fans were, as they were still standing there covered in dirt once the Jeeps made it out, cheering the whole time.

CRCA RocktoberfestBut the hill climb only lead them up to something even more fun, called "Hell's Kitchen." This obstacle was named back in February where it claimed a variety of undercarriage wares, yet this time managed to take less of a toll than before.

For this event, it was the new Pro course obstacle "Carnage Canyon" that did the real damage. Here we see Ron Schneider with Team Purple from the Off Road General store down in the trenches of Carnage Canyon. Be sure to check out to photo gallery for complete coverage of this insane new course and the vehicles that tried to make it through.

And That's Just the First Obstacle On the Pro Course
Once out of the Canyon, the Pro course dumped its teams right into the middle of Hell's Kitchen. While the stock course after exiting Hell's Kitchen had essentially a rocky trail with some off-camber sections to clear on their way out, the Modified course took drivers down a very steep drop on their way out. But to make things really fun and challenging for all, the Pro course took drivers out the stock route and upthe nasty drop that the Modified drivers had to go down. Take a look at some of these pictures to get an idea of what happens after Hell's Kitchen.

Exiting the stock course
CRCA Rocktoberfest
Finishing the modified course
CRCA Rocktoberfest

Working out the pro exit
CRCA Rocktoberfest

 

The final official standings from the day are:
STOCK - Drivers
Final scoring
Carey Steiner
Adjusted Final Time: 8:50.00
Don Gardner
DNF
Bart Dixon
DNF
Kevin Howard
DNF
Scott Waterbury
DNF

MODIFIED - Drivers
Final Scoring
Cody Waggoner
Final Time: 3:12.00
Garry Hall
Final Time: 3:33.00
Laura Munroy
Final Time: 14:36.00
Tommy McElmeel
DNF, after running a 2:52 in the qualifying round.
Doug Lowrey
DNF

PRO - Drivers
Final Scoring
Team Purple
Final Time: 7:45.00
Team Extreme Image : Joel McClure
DNF
Team All Pro
DNF
Bart Dixon
DNF
Kathy Crook : Red Bull Jeep
DNF

The two big upsets for the day were Team All Pro's DNF (Did Not Finish) after a very impressive start and Tommy McElmeel's DNF after a qualifying run of 2:52! Best of luck to both of them at the next competition.

But the action doesn't stop there!
Here are a few more preview shots from the gallery. Check out our two Gallery Pages here:
GALLERY 1
GALLERY 2

Big tires, huge lifts, clever engineering and some of the best off-road drivers in the sport were the running theme for the weekend. The C.R.C.A. Ultimate Rock Challenge series is something any four-wheeler that can, should check out.

For more information please visit the official C.R.C.A. website.

Tony Bothwell

Tony Bothwell is a photojournalist for ROCKCRAWLER.com and resides in Los Angeles, California.

Contact Tony at tonyb@rockcrawler.com