During the last five years, we've seen a transformation in four-wheeling that we never could have imagined. What we referred to as trick suspensions and extreme terrain in the mid-'90s is now looked upon as kids stuff.
Today, fully tube-framed rigs sporting high-tech four-link and coilover suspension technology, crawler gears, four-wheel steering, and hybrid axles have not only pushed the envelope of off-road vehicle capabilities, but the drivers of these rigs have completely redefined our definition of hard-core. So, what has it all come to and where is it going? We got a taste of rockcrawling's future at the inaugural international World Super Crawl in Farmington, New Mexico.
What was this event intended to be, you might ask? Super Crawl 2002, which was sanctioned by United Rock Crawling and Off-Road Challenge (UROC), was the Super Bowl of rock wheeling, a three-day gathering of the top competitive rockcrawlers from across the country and around the globe. It was an international who's who in extreme off-roading. From what we saw, Super Crawl was the culmination of everything that rockcrawling and rock racing have become, and quite possibly a preview of where it is going.
Over the past few years, several brands of competitive rockcrawling events have surfaced across the country. You've seen them here in the pages of 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility as we've brought you hard-rockin', in-your-face coverage of CalROCS, ProROC, EROCC, RCAA, and UROC events. These premier events have been grinding out the country's top drivers. However, there hasn't been one singular event in which the nation's top rock dogs could compete tire to tire for the nation's highest honors...until now.
Nineteen states and four countries were represented as 106 driver-spotter teams converged on Farmington's Choke Cherry canyon for the first World Super Crawl. To qualify for a slot in this inaugural event, drivers must have pulled down a Top 10 finish in one of the aforementioned qualifying events; the exception being the teams from Italy, Canada, and Iceland, some of which received special invitations. Teams also had to be fully committed to a no-holds-barred assault on 10 of the toughest obstacles we have ever seen.
Milling around the pits were the likes of '02 season champs Chris Durham, Tracy Jordan, Mike Schaffer, and legendary off-road racer Walker Evans. Icelandic off-road champs Ragnar Robertsson and Einar Emilsson, along with Guilio "Dr. G" Rebesco from Italy, were also on hand and ready to take on the field. Super Crawl itself, however, was a stand-alone event. When the green flag dropped, the title was up for grabs.
More than 15,000 spectators filed through the gates, packing the sidelines of the 10 courses. Choke Cherry Canyon, a Bureau of Land Management Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation area, provided an ideal setting for an event of this magnitude. The obstacles, designed around seemingly insurmountable ledges, insane side hills, near vertical sandstone hill climbs, and frame twisting crevasses, were designed to push the limits of vehicular travel.
Rules of engagement mirrored UROC guidelines. The field was broken into two classes: Legend and Unlimited. Legend class rules stipulate that the rig must have an original-type boxed frame, some semblance of the original body, stock-type steering, and a maximum tire size of 36 inches.
As for the Unlimited class, this is where you'll find the lunatic fringe and the vehicularly demented minds of rock-buggy engineering. Basically, as the name implies, anything goes. Cutting-edge coilovers, three- and four-link suspensions, fire-breathing big-blocks, 10,000-rpm rotaries, mid-engine, 220hp VW mills, and even a six-wheel-drive, six-wheel-steering, six-passenger, Unimog-axled `03 Jeep TJ.
Following a day of registration and tech inspection, each team was required to run five obstacles on the first day of competition, then complete the final five on day two. At the end of day one, it was anyone's game in the Unlimited class as nine teams were within 50 points of each other. The Legend class was equally close. Resonating through the canyon was the sound of failing axles, U-joints, pinion gears, and engines being pushed far beyond their design limits. Thousands of fans cheered as dozens of rigs went belly up in the attempt to surmount each obstacle.
As the dust settled and the crowd dissipated on day two, First, Second, and Third Place trophies went to the teams of Amy Bulloch/Steve Bulloch, Kevin Hawkins/Jacy Chrisiansen, and Garrett Sission/Matt Sission in Legends, and Ken Shupe/Kevin "Moose" Nalley, Tracy Jordan/Jerry Watson, and Ken Blume/Jake Ahaway in the Unlimited class. Since you had to be a champ to get into Super Crawl, we've listed the Top 20 finalists in our coverage.
As competitive rockcrawling events have made their mark in the world of extreme sports, spectator numbers have increased dramatically and the aftermarket manufacturers have stepped up to the plate with major sponsorships. Randy's Ring & Pinion was on site with a full array of drivetrain products, and the racing support team for BFGoodrich Baja not only provided up-to-the-minute scores and point standings but also rolled in with a full machine shop to lend mechanical support to anyone who needed it, regardless of what type of tire they ran.
Red Bull kept the event staff, competitors, and media energized with an endless supply of cold Red Bull. Other key sponsors of the '02 World Super Crawl were Skyjacker Suspension, Red Line Oil, Advance Adapters, Yukon Gear & Axle, CMT Racing Products, Tom Woods Custom Drivelines, Allied Wheel, Master Pull, Miller Jeep, Advantage Dodge, Factory Tubular, Off-Road.com, Invictus Productions, and of course, 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility Magazine.
As we roll into the '03 season and the rockcrawling phenomena gains momentum, we can probably expect to see larger spectator numbers, increased manufacturer involvement, and larger prize money and sponsorships. As for cutting-edge suspension and vehicle technology, we can't wait to see what comes next.
|LEGEND CLASS TOP 20|
|1 Amy Bullock||Steve Bullock||Jeep CJ||Goodyear||45|
|2 Kevin Hawkins||Jacy Chrisiansen||Jeep YJ||Goodyear||70|
|3 Garrett Sisson ||Matt Sisson||Jeep||BFGoodrich||72|
|4 Tyler Wolford||Allan Wolford||CJ-7||BFGoodrich||80|
|5 Chris Holley||Ryan Lindstrom||Bronco||BFGoodrich||89|
|6 Bob Standage||Mark Mc Gee||CJ-7||Goodyear||102|
|7 Von Werrett||Carl Whitmore||Toyota P/U||BFGoodrich||114|
|8 Jeff Rector||James Berry||CJ-7||BFGoodrich||122|
|9 Brian Errea||Joachin Schweisow||CJ-7||Interco ||132|
|10 Braden Kemp||Chris Kemp||Jeep||Interco ||136|
|11 Davis Laws||Randy Wells||Jeep YJ||Interco||137|
|12 Cody Waggoner||Jim Waggoner||Jeep CJ-5||Goodyear||155|
|13 Kinsey Beard||Jason Beard||Jeep CJ-7||BFGoodrich||156|
|14 Dustin Webster||Frank Johnson||Jeep CJ-7||ProComp||158|
|15 Dean Bulloch||Karl Munford||Suzuki||BFGoodrich||159|
|16 Rob Pickering||John Albright||Unimog||Michelin ||171|
|17 Michael Smythe||Kevin Shipley||Toyota P/U||BFGoodrich||175|
|18 Tony Zimmershied||Jae Kaneshiro||Jeep||BFGoodrich||178|
|19 Cathy Crook||Renee LaBaron||Jeep||Goodyear||179|
|20 Allen Ball||Brian Pace||Jeep TJ||Interco||184|
|UNLIMITED CLASS TOP 20|
|1 Ken Shupe||Kevin Nalley||Jeep TJ||BFGoodrich||9|
|2 Tracy Jordan||Jerry Watson||Toyota P/U||BFGoodrich||30|
|3 Ken Blume||Jake Ahaway||Jeep CJ-7||BFGoodrich||33|
|4 Walker Evans||Ted Lebaron||Chevy S-10||Goodyear||48|
|5 John Gilleland||Kip Gilleland||Jeep Liberty||BFGoodrich||59|
|6 Neil Lillard||Joe Shaff||Jeep YJ||Goodyear||70|
|7 Joel Randall||Mike Vokoum||Jeep TJ||Goodyear||72|
|8 Don Robbins||Steve Luly||Toyota FJ-40||BFGoodrich||74|
|9 Brandon Gillen||John Thompson||Jeep TJ||Interco||74|
|10 Matt Peterson|| ||Jeep YJ||Interco||87|
|11 Rusty Bray||Darrell Mottey||Jeep YJ||BFGoodrich||87|
|12 Terry Howe||Jean Lazelle||Willys CJ-3A||Interco||92|
|13 Jason Paule||Travis Wadeson||Buggy||Goodyear||93|
|14 Mike Shaffer||Lance Clifford||Buggy||BFGoodrich||100|
|15 Ian Liljeblad||Erik Busarello||Willys||Goodyear||108|
|16 Eddie Casanueva||Jason Gibneg||Suzuki||Goodyear||114|
|17 Jon Bundrant||Mitch Guthrie||VW Buggy||BFGoodrich||116|
|18 Jason Bunch||Steve Hastings||Jeep YJ||Goodyear||123|
|19 Jeremy Faber|| ||Toyota FJ-40||Goodyear||128|
|20 Troy Myers||Mike Hope||Willys||Interco||128|
Just when we think we've scene...
Just when we think we've scene it all, someone like Jon Bundrant shows up in a VW. The 220hp, 3.0L VW mill transfers power to an Atlas II transfer case via a GM Powerglide two-speed automatic.
Terry Scheetz entered his...
Terry Scheetz entered his homebuilt buggy in his first competition less than a year ago. A TH350 sandwiched between a Chevy Vortec 4.3L and 4:1 geared Toyota transfer case motivate a pair of Dana 44s fitted with ARB lockers.
Driving his totally tubular...
Driving his totally tubular '73 Ford Bronco, Top Truck Champ John Reynolds rode the four-wheel-steering pony hard. Under the bonnet lies a 426 EFI big-block, C6 slush-box tranny, and an Atlas II transfer case. A pair of hybrid axles combine Detroit locked Strange differentials and Unimog portal ends.
Super Crawl obstacles fringed...
Super Crawl obstacles fringed upon pure lunacy. The near vertical chute on "Make It or Break It" sent tires sky-high, finding nothing but air. Anything but the perfect line sent competitors belly up.
Ken Shupe, with the help of...
Ken Shupe, with the help of spotter Kevin "Moose" Nalley, piloted his Jeep TJ buggy to victory in the Unlimited class. Detroit lockers, fitted into a pair of Dana 60s, keep a set of 37-inch BFG Krawlers turning in sync.
Jeepin' girls like Jennifer...
Jeepin' girls like Jennifer Little are right at home playing with the boys. Jennifer and her husband Todd were one of two husband/wife teams competing. Her '43 flattie has been stretched 12 inches, and a pair of three-link, coil-sprung Dana-44s keep 37-inch BFG Krawlers firmly on the ground.
With competitors from Canada,...
With competitors from Canada, Italy, Iceland, and the U.S., the World Super Crawl was one of the first truly international events of its kind. Icelander and Formula Off Road champ Ragnar Robertson flew in to take on the wilds of Choke Cherry Canyon.
You don't see many four-seaters...
You don't see many four-seaters in competition these days. Running the only Unimog at the Super Crawl, Rob Pickering demonstrated the advantages of a long wheelbase, factory cable-locking differentials, and a super-flexy frame and suspension.
Although the Legend class...
Although the Legend class had slightly more streetable rigs, by the look of the hood on Allen Ball's '00 TJ, you don't want to take your daily driver out here. Under the surface of this tame looking rig sits a pair of disked and Detroit-locked Dynatrac HC 60s and an Atlas II 3.8:1 transfer case.
Hailing from Travelers Rest,...
Hailing from Travelers Rest, South Carolina, Ken Shupe and spotter Kevin "Moose" Nalley cranked off First Place wins in EROCC, RCAA, and ProROC. They can now add the Super Crawl to the distinguished list.
Can a marriage survive the...
Can a marriage survive the rockcrawling circuit? You bet! Amy Bullock, with the help of her husband Steve, gave everyone a run for their money and walked away with First Place in the Legend class.