I had saved a couple weeks of vacation to be used at the end of 2006 since I enjoy taking time off during the Christmas holiday season. Most of the time is spent at Troy’s shop (Toys by Troy) as I work on my TJ or on one of Troy’s project. Some of those projects include 16 hour wrenching sessions (luckily not too many do) while others are something as simple as changing the tranny fluid in my AW4.
On one of those vacation days, I found myself driving around with Troy as we picked up parts, welding supplies, and other stuff for the shop. He asked me if I had anything planned during the first weekend of 2007. As I rarely makes plans past an upcoming weekend, I responded with a simple “No”. It was then and there that I found myself volunteering to be his and Brad Kilgore’s spotter for W.E.Rock’s 2007 season opener “Put Up or Shut Up” (PUSU) extreme rock crawling event slated for Congress, AZ on January 6 & 7, 2007.
I should have known better and after 5+ decades of living, you think I would. I’d never spotted in a competition event, I’d never spotted a rock buggy (plenty of TJs, no buggies), but for what it is worth, it’s hard to turn down a request to help two good friends. So, I found myself half of two rock crawling teams, with a bunch of work ahead of us, to get things in shape for what would turn out to be a very exciting weekend.
The last weekend of December, the rigs were ready. I had retrieved a truck load of Maxxis competition tires (40″ Crawlers and 37″ Trepadors) from a down-town loading dock earlier in the week. The old tires were removed from the beadlocked wheels and the new tires were mounted. We headed to some trails north of Phoenix on Saturday AM to break in the new tires and give me some time to see what the buggies could do (they say it helps the driver when the spotter knows the capabilities of the vehicle). So….I would have a whole Saturday in which to get familiar with the rigs and their drivers. (gosh, what a deal!)
We hit a trail that starts with a very healthy waterfall. To make a long story short, Troy trashed his rear Detroit on the first attempt and Brad munched a portal box on his rear axle. OK….so I had about 5 minutes of trail time with Troy and Brad and the day was now over (except for limping back to the parking spot to load the rigs on the trailers). So much for getting the spotter up to speed!
My vacation was over and so back to my regular job I went….Troy and Brad had a rear diff and a portal box to repair before PUSU that was just a few days away. I hooked up with them again on Friday AM (the day before the event) as we were planning on driving up to Congress on Friday, registering, and then staying at a motel in Wickenburg during the weekend. I caught Brad finishing up the task of grooving the leading edge of the tread blocks on his tires while Troy made a shopping list of tools and parts to put into the hauler.
Later in the afternoon, we headed out of Phoenix for the drive up to Congress, AZ. We were lucky….only about 90 minutes of driving put us at the registration trailer just as the sun was setting. Of course, we managed to get the hauler stuck going through a big “dip” coming into the event area (long trailers are a pain on tight trails). The rear of the hauler bottomed out on one side of the dip and the three axles were left hanging several inches off of the ground. We unloaded the buggies from the trailer and used one of them to pull the tow rig forward enough to clear the hauler’s frame from the opposite side of the dip. (Needless to say, that same dip was negotiated at a higher rate of speed during the trip going home.)
A restless Friday night at the motel (for me anyway) and an early Saturday arrival at the event site had us ready for day’s activities. As luck would have it, the previous night’s random number drawings for starting positions had Troy and Brad in the same group running back to back. For me, that meant 10 minutes on the track as Troy’s spotter was then immediately followed by 10 minutes on the track as Brad’s spotter. For those of you that are 20~30 years younger than me, that may not seem like much….but I quickly realized that it was a pace I was not physically ready for.
The scoring for the competition is pretty straight forward. You have 10 minutes to run a course. If you don’t make any mistakes, you get a score of 0 (zero)…..and like golf, the lowest score wins. If you back up, you are awarded a point (not good). If you back up 20 times during those 10 minutes, you get 20 points (not good at all!). You have to drive between pairs of orange plastic cones set out on the course. Touch a cone with your tire, 10 points (OUCH!)….the spotter’s foot touches a cone, 10 points (no, I didn’t do that to my drivers). Get through a pair of cones, you get 1 point subtracted from your score (that is good!). Make it through an optional “bonus” pair of cones, you get 10 point subtracted from your score (that is REALLY good!). If you don’t finish the course within the allotted 10 minutes, you max out with 40 points for the course.
Safety is heavily stressed as they don’t want the spotter to get ran over by the over anxious driver. As such, the spotter can’t touch the vehicle while it is moving. There are some other penalty “things” the spotter can’t do, else the team is awarded points….but as I said, it is all in the interest of safety so that’s a good thing. If you are use to “riding” on the rockers of a tipping over vehicle, you can’t do that in the competition either.
OK…..time for some photos.
Troy works his buggy through a gate on one of Saturday’s four courses. His rear steer is very beneficial in helping him avoid a tire touching a cone. If a competitor uses rear steer on a course, he is awarded 5 points (not good). At least it is not 5 points every time it is used during the 10 minute course. There are two judges on each course actively watching and scoring your progress (and penalty points).
I’m already on the other side of the rocks helping Brad get up and over this part of the course. This was the best run of Sunday’s four courses. We finished this one with 5 minutes left on the clock and a score of 0 points. It was, in my opinion, more technical than the other courses which I totally enjoy…..tire placement was important in getting through this course and Brad and I worked through it very well.
Troy on the Saturday’s #2 course. This obstacle presented problems for a lot of the teams (Brad and I included) but Troy managed it very nicely. Getting your rear tires up onto that rock was not easy.
Same obstacle as above….Troy made it up onto the obstacle and is in the process of nailing it coming off the rock….the exit gate is about 20 feet from where he is right there. You pretty much had to launch yourself off of the rock so you could get the driver’s front tire onto a rock that was about 3 feet away from the obstacle. If you didn’t, you would simply roll onto your top as the driver’s side dropped off the rock. Momentum and the appropriate throttle response is something used all the time in this type of competition.
Me on the left….Brad driving up onto the same rock (as the two previous photos). As you can see…..or in this can’t see….Brad’s driver’s rear tire is not to be seen….yet trying to get up onto the rock.
Right up to this point, we had the fastest time right up to this obstacle of any team who had attempted it. With Brad’s smaller tires (only 37″ tall), he wasn’t making it. He motioned to me he was going to make a run on it (read full throttle) as we were burning daylight trying to finish the course. As you can see, it didn’t work and he rolled the rig. Nothing too bad….a broken schraeder valve on his rear shock that was fixed the following morning. But needless to say, we didn’t finish this course. In fact, he was so wedge into the spot after we got the vehicle righted, the rig had to be winched out of that spot.
W.E.Rock PUSU 2007
Troy and I were into our third course on Saturday when his run came to a quick end. He was trying to clear a pair of gates (I think it may have been a bonus gate). The rig did a rear wheel stand as it launched up onto a rock…..when it hit, a bystander said he heard the rear axle shaft snap….and the torque spun the vehicle off of the rock and about 10′ down onto the ground. The passenger rear wheel didn’t survive the landing, as can be seen here.
Fast forward a bit here in story……after Saturday was done and we had dinner, Troy and Brad headed back to Phoenix to get parts to see if Troy’s rig could be fixed. I had orders to go to bed (I’ll admit that I was pretty much used up). The following morning, we all got up at 6:00, caught a quick breakfast, and headed out to the vent site. By 9:00 Troy had wrenched things back together less the passenger rear brake. It was then that he discovered that the Detroit had also not survived the axle shaft break and with no rear drive, he was out of the competition for Sunday
This was one of Sunday’s really tough courses. The second pair of gates caught a lot of folks and just didn’t let them go. Brad and I did our best to get through there but it just wasn’t in the cards for us. We timed out without finishing the course.
This was one obstacle that Brad and I weren’t completely sure of when we walked the course prior to driving it. The correct line was not the obvious one but the Maxxis Trepadors hooked up on the rock and pulled the buggy up and over the top.
I have to put a plug in here for the Brad’s tires. Since he intends on competing in the Pro Modified class, he can not run 40″ tires. 37″ tires are the max for that class. Maxxis doesn’t make a Crawler in 37″ size so he went with the Trepadors. When they arrived and we mounted them on the beadlock wheels, he wasn’t all too excited about how they looked (I thought they were pretty damn impressive myself). By the end of Saturday’s four courses, he was totally convinced that the Trepadors were hooking up really well and doing a great job. I realize that these are comp tires and the compound is much softer (and stickier) than regular off-road tires….but none the less, they did a great job at PUSU. Congrats to Maxxis on one heck of a tire!
Another section of a course we ran on Sunday. By this point in the competition, Brad and I were starting to get in sync a bit. Given that the previous Saturday’s run lasted a total of 5 minutes, it took us a bit to get the hang of everything.
We didn’t use radios as most of the teams did. Troy had a set that we tried but it died on the first course about 10 seconds before we started. So much for that….back to visual signals and the occasional shout to convey our intentions. Hey….it worked pretty good for the most part!
A pic of Brad and myself after we had wrapped up the 4th course on Sunday. We were pretty stoked and kept watching the results as the remaining teams on the other 3 courses finished the runs. It doesn’t take much to cause a significant jump in the standings…..someone ahead of you maxes out a course and you finish one with just a couple of backup points….zap….almost an 80 point change in the blink of an eye
The 2nd row from the bottom…..Brad’s line on the score board. Far right hand column…..201 points…..that put us in 6th place. The final course, called the “Shootout”, is ran by the top 6 teams….and we were #6.
When the Shootout announcement was made, we were surprised to NOT hear our names announced. A quick trip to the judging trailer and we find that because Brad had registered as “exhibition” rather than “competitor”, they weren’t allowing him to compete in the shootout. This was news to us and as far as I know, isn’t specified in the rule book either. So an announcement was made over the PA system to inform the spectators that Brad and I had taken 6 place but that Dean Bullock’s team (they were in #7) was being moved up to compete in the Shootout.
After the Shootout was completed, Dean’s team came in last and so they were awarded the same max points as what Brad and I received (for not running the shootout) and so we were still #6 finishers in the competition.
W.E.Rock’s web site still shows us as being #7…..I guess updating their web site links is too hard to do? Not sure…..but hey, we know how it ended.
One of the W.E.Rock staff members (Glenn) posted the following in the PUSU thread on Pirate4x4.com’s forum. He said….
“There was an omission of a note for the final scores.
Brad Kilgore was actually in 6th place at the end of the regular competition. He was, however, only registered for exhibition and, therefore, was not considered for an attempt at the Shootout.
There were a hidden 17 points added to his score to bump him into 7th place behind Dean Bullock. This 17 points was the difference between Brad and Dean. After the Shootout, and with the 50 points added just like all other competitors who don’t make the shootout, Brad was still in 6th place in the points.
I do hope that Brad gets out to more events this year as a competitor, or even Series Registrant as he shows great skill and abilities on the rocks. Add to that that his spotter for Saturday was doing this job for two different vehicles. Stu Olson worked as spotter for both Brad and Troy Vickery on Saturday. However, Troy broke beyond repair with parts on hand and was unable to continue for Sunday’s courses… giving Stu a bit of a break.”
Brad and I pass along a big thanks to Glenn for posting up the correct event results. It is appreciated.
I want to thank Troy and Brad for letting me participate as a member of their team. I never considered myself doing something like that (and I’m not sure I’m all that eager to do it again). Being a spotter for two people in the same event was not a good idea, that I can tell you. If I was 20 or 30 years younger….it wouldn’t be so bad.
I was part of something that was pretty cool. 22 teams competed…..and we made a pretty good showing. Those finishing ahead of us were mostly Unlimited class buggies…..several were the top finishers in the 2006 comp season. Next time, we’ll try a little harder. <grin>