During the past 30 years, off-road enthusiasts have improved their vehicle's capability in the same way golfers improve their clubs or NASCAR teams improve their times - by trial and error. Beginning in the year 2000, the Goodyear Rock Crawling Championship provided a forum for rockcrawlers across America to match skills and machines against one another.
The American Rock Crawling Association, commonly referred to as ARCA, organized five competitive events beginning last February and ending in September 2000. Each event was open to 60 street- legal 4x4s, and we use the term street-legal loosely. The drivers and spotters were matched against each other on two obstacle courses over a two-day period. Each obstacle course contained seven obstacles on which the competitors were timed and points deducted for such acts such as knocking over a trail marker, stopping, backing up, losing forward motion, or winching. Points were accumulated from each of the five events, and the team with the best record would win the ARCA Series.
Ranch Pratt, the founder and chairman of ARCA, put it this way, "Match all these guys against each other over several events, and the cream always rises to the top." Ranch is hoping these events will enlighten more people about four-wheeling. "It's the people who don't have an opinion about land access that will ultimately make the decision about closure," Ranch stated.
The first and final events were held in Farmington, New Mexico. The remaining events were held near Phoenix, Cedar City, Utah, and Vernal, Utah. Going into the final event were Jeff Waggoner in a Currie-built TJ running First Place with 440 points; Chris Durham from South Carolina with an J-10 pickup in Second Place with 438 points; and Steve Rumore in his tube frame Sniper, built by Avalanche Automotive, with 402 points. By the time the dust settled after the last day in Farmington, Chris Durham took First Place, earning himself $10,000. Jeff Waggoner came in Second and Steve Rumore held onto Third Place. Prize money was distributed to the top 10 positions in the Goodyear Extreme Rock Crawling Championship Series.
The competition was keen. Most of the drivers had plenty of rockcrawling experience, and they know their vehicles inside and out. All of the vehicles were running at least a Dana 44 or Ford 9-inch axles and many have upgraded to Dana 60 axles in the front for the strength it offers. Detroit Lockers are as common as hot dogs at a baseball game. And 35x12.50-inch tires are the minimum size for a vehicle to be competitive. Although a few vehicles entered the competition with 42-and 44-inch-tall tires, that's a thing of the past. In 2001, tire size will be limited to 40-inch-tall tires measured from the ground to the top of the tire.
Some drivers entered a couple of events for the competitive spirit while others just got started late. Walker Evans, the famous off-road driver, missed the first event but now has his rockcrawling Chevy S-10 pickup dialed in for next year's competition. At the last event, Dave Hickman from Phoenix entered his custom-built tube frame buggy, which sported more hydraulics than a farm tractor. Dave appropriately named his vehicle Big Iron, and we're sure we will see more of Dave next year. Regardless of why four-wheelers entered the competition, they all had a great time.
As we enter the new millennium, optimum rockcrawling vehicles will be lightweight, have sticky tires, the drivers will have good off-road driving skills, the spotters will be experienced (it helps if they're real big, too), and the vehicles will be equipped with a cutting brake or rear steering. Of course, a lot of luck never hurts. If you would like to enter the Goodyear Extreme Rock Crawling Championships next year, contact: ARCA, (801) 446-JEEP (5337) for an entry form or visit www.sidekickoffroad.com for an ARCA update and a streaming video interview with Chris Durham and Jeff Waggoner.