It’s official. The 2011 4Wheel Drive Hardware Rausch Creek Qualifier was my favorite of the Ultra4 races I’ve attended to date. Technical driving was left at the start/finish line and the skinny pedal was the only tool needed to navigate the slick mud and rain-soaked obstacles.

Friday:  Qualifier for position

The 4Wheel Drive Hardware sales team arrived to the park at 7am. The trails were more similar to streams, with 3” or more of standing water and the rain just kept coming. It wasn’t until 9am that the rain began to taper off, which was perfect for a 10am qualifier. Rain, mud, rocks, and humidity didn’t slow down the drivers. Out of the gate the first obstacle was made into a jump by driver Lucas Murphy (video below). From there, the mile-and-a-half short course navigated by the drivers gave them a taste of the park’s rocks, flats, and newly acquired mud sections.

Top Qualifiers:

1)      Shannon Campbell

2)      Erik Miller

3)      Derek West

4)      Rusty Bray

5)      Brian Shirley

6)      Levi Shirley

Saturday:  Race day

The rain had cleared and the sun was shining on us for the third annual 4Wheel Drive Hardware Rausch Creek Qualifier. The 29 cars were set on the start/finish line, prepared to fight it out for a top 10 finish, which was the ticket into 2012 King of the Hammers.

The flag dropped to start the race at 10am and from there the mess started.  Within the first five minutes, there was an engine fire to Erik Miller’s 4421 that left him on the side of the course for a period of time. The rest of the field sped off to rock sections, and soon everyone found the bottleneck at Lower Talisman.

 

Talisman was a nightmare for the field of drivers. It was a giant mud slick that had the majority of the field backed up. This forced many drivers to watch the rest of field slip, slide, stumble, and eventually roll on the big hill. This wasn’t a technical obstacle; this was all about jamming the accelerator pedal through the floorboard and holding on for a wild ride. The wild ride for racer Shannon Campbell found him climbing on the back of Dave Cole’s 4454 car, driven by JT Stephens. The piggyback maneuver ripped the bumper off Dave’s car and eventually caused Shannon to roll backwards down the hill, wedging him between two trees. See the video below.

After the tempers settled and teams began working together, the pileup was calmed on lower Talisman. The damage, however, was already done. The course took its toll on the racecars with only a third managing to finish within the allotted timeframe. I counted three separate blown engines and know there are probably a few more that should be added to the list. The top three spots went to:

1)      Rusty Bray

2)      Brian Shirley

3)      Derek West

This truly was my favorite Ultra4 race to date. Watching the buggies have to use their horsepower to conquer an obstacle, and not just crawl it, is exciting. I have this event marked on my calendar for next year and hope to see everyone there again!