The clock was started for the Goodyear/Skyjacker 2002 RCAA Event (Rock Crawlers Association of America, formerly American Rock Crawlers Association, ARCA) in Farmington, New Mexico, when 65 drivers competing for $20,000 in cash plus contingencies rolled away from the starting gates. There is nearly $400,000 in cash and prizes to distribute over four events in the RCAA Series. Farmington was the first location of four events. Competitors will again compete in Vernal, Utah, Cedar City, Utah, and Johnson Valley, California, to accumulate points toward the overall series winner. Chris Durham and Kevin "Moose" Nalley won the 2000 series, and John Currie and Jeff Waggoner won the 2001 series. But the question is, who will win the 2002 RCAA Series?
One thing is for sure: Mike Shaffer in his Suzuki-based vehicle has taken the lead by winning the 2002 Farmington event. We caught up with Mike after the event and asked him a few questions.
OR: What city do you live in, Mike?
SHAFFER: Carson City, Nevada
OR: Who's your spotter?
SHAFFER: Lance Clifford in Farmington
OR: What is your occupation?
SHAFFER: I own Shaffer's 4-Wheel Drive Shop. We basically specialize in building customized buggies or any built-to-suit four-wheel drive.
OR: How long have you had that shop?
SHAFFER: Five years
OR: What did you do before that?
SHAFFER: Actually, I was an auto tech for Dodge. I had planned to start my own shop for a while; it was just a matter of when
OR: What kind of projects are you working on now?
SHAFFER: The one we're finishing up now is a '98 Amigo with Howell steering, Dana 60s, and 38-inch Swampers. It has a pretty quick little engine.
OR: What motor is it running?
SHAFFER: It's running the stock motor, but it produces 230 hp, stock.
OR: What about the transmission and T-case?
SHAFFER: It actually uses the transmission out of an '87 Toyota turbo.
OR: OK. So have you been specializing with the Suzuki line?
SHAFFER: Not really. We don't have very many Suzuki customers. We have maybe one or two locals with Suzukis. I would say we have more customers with Land Cruisers, but we work on any type of 4WD.
OR: Tell us about the vehicle you won Farmington with. Was it a buggy or a Suzuki?
SHAFFER: Well, it is a Suzuki-based vehicle. We built a 1-3/4- to 0.120-inch wall tube frame around a '99 Sidekick Sport with a 1.8L 160hp, all-aluminum four-cylinder motor.