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Red Bull RockCrawling Team  -  2008 Event Report #4

SUCCESS at Donner  - Becca and Mike Make the Cut for Grand Nationals!

July 22, 2008 - On the drive north from San Diego to Donner Ski Ranch (near Truckee, CA) the topic of discussion was Grand Nationals.  Although the weekend's event was the W.E.ROCK Western Series final, the top 5 positions were all but wrapped up and that meant the Red Bull Team was "on the bubble" and worrying about finishing high enough in the rankings to receive an invite to the Grand National Finals.  The plan for the weekend???  PLAY IT SAFE, finish courses, and worry exclusively about national qualifying and NOT the competition for the weekend.

I must say, it's difficult telling the team that the best they need to finish is 7th place and the worst they need to finish is 7th place.  Anything lower and they may not qualify.  Anything better and they've taken too many risks that could ultimately push them too far out of the rankings.  Not an easy line to ride, but it's the game-plan we decided on and the team was tasked to accomplish.

For this event, we arrived two days early and gathered the team (Becca Webster, Mike Berard, Dallas Ashley, Matt Peters) to create a plan of attack for finishing 7th. After looking at the insane courses Lil Rich lined up, we decided that taking every single bonus line, save one, was the way to go.  HOWEVER, instead of trying to clean the bonuses, the team was to sacrifice a cone on each bonus gate to be sure things went smoothly.  They really must finish at least 7 of the 8 courses to complete the goal...Good plan, now the question is, "can they pull it off?"

Well, driving in was a good sign...Red Bull DID come through after worries that MotoGP would keep all display assets tied up!

 

Well, things started out rough as Becca drew first run on the weekend's toughest obstacle.  Right out of the starting gate, we knew it would be a tough go and sure enough, after 10 minutes of BEATING the RockHer II, Bec and Mike were unable to complete their first course.  Our game-plan showed that they now had to finish EVERY obstacle from there on out in order to reach the goal...wow, the odds are not good.

The second Obstacle brought the crowds to a roar as Becca pulled off a BIG save, reversing out of an endo...yeah, reversing out of an endo isn't normally the way to escape that problem, but with careful attention to the throttle, she drove a reverse wheelie that lasted about 20 seconds.  Her right rear was over 5 feet off the ground and everyone was blown away she made the save.  With a quick change of line, Mike had her out the exit gates with one of the best scores of the weekend.  Most teams would go on to 40 that obstacle (40 means to receive max points, which are 40) so after having a rough start, Bec and Mike had some breathing room.

Third obstacle was dead center in the main crowd arena and the team lined up for an obstacle with a BIG 130 degree razorback breakover.  Many teams had rolled coming over the top of the razor but using the Lovell Air Shifted Transfer-case and super high traction of the Pro Comp SCC competition tire compound, Becca schooled their third obstacle and was suddenly sitting in fourth place.  The crowd was fully behind Becca and when I'm talking crowd, you should know it was W.E.ROCK's fifth record breaking attendance in a row.  That's right, another Donner event record broken as the spectator count rose above 3700. Considering the economy is where it's at, all of these record attendance numbers show RockCrawling as a sport is getting stronger and stronger.

 

The 4th obstacle of day 1 was the technical nightmare course but because of the RockHer II's capabilities, Mike and Becca shot right through the nasty turns and wedge canyons, setting the high-score mark and ending the day in 4th position overall.  We all got nervous that they were doing too well ;-)

All through the day, Dallas and Matt worked their tails off keeping the RockHer running as it should and we definitely owe a debt of thanks to them for how many times they traveled up and down the mountain as they ran for parts at the hauler down in the pits.  Day one, as it turns out, was only half the work of day 2...

Day 2 began with the team facing an obstacle that claimed numerous teams...the unreal canyon bonus line was so narrow that many teams fell in and ended their course, requiring a major recovery winch effort from many people.  As Bec lined up, it was clear their wider front axle was going to cause some difficulties and force them to the very edge of the hungry ravine.  With only about an inch of the inside of her X-Terrain Tire on the ledge, Mike guided the team over the bonus line and off the big ledge, claiming yet another low score that only two would surpass this weekend.  Uh Oh...things are going too well.

 

 

Course 2 went similar.  With only a single un-planned reversal, the team walked one of the crowd favorite obstacles and soon found themselves on obstacle A4, the course with the biggest wall climb. Lining up, tBecca was confident they could make the regular climb, but could they do it without taking a cone that was right in the climb line?

 

 

The team navigated the first two gates with ease thanks to the skid-steer abilities of the crawler, and with 5 minutes left on the clock, they lined up for the big wall climb.  Looking from the bottom, it was clear that they were lining up further left than other teams but Mike seemed to be on a mission stacking anything and everything he could find at the base of the climb.

With a purposeful burst of the throttle to get the RockHer rolling, then letting off the throttle at the climb's transition so the suspension could absorb the bump, Becca found herself being propelled upward by not only the crawler, but also by the thunderous cheers of her fans.  On a climb where many tried and failed numerous times, the team found themselves lined up perfectly to make the bonus line, something we didn't see being done by the other Pro Modified teams.  Looks like the Pro Comp tires prove themselves yet again and the Sway A Way suspension holds the RockHer to the wall as the team completes the bonus line and storms out the exit...now we're positive things are going too well ;-)

 

The last course has arrived...a weekend's worth of work that will either send the team on to the Grand National Finals or send them home with their tails between their legs...we can't believe it's come down to a single course.  Doing the math, heading into the final course, we MUST finish to reach our goal of 7th place...if we don't, we'll fall back in the rankings and a season of work would end right there.

A struggle on the first climb ended with success and the second downhill drop went much the same...now for the final gate and out the exit...20 feet to go and qualification to the Grand Nationals is assured...don't sweat it, there's still 2 minutes on the clock...get lined up to back off the wall, careful...careful...just back off smooth, put it in drive and turn left and out the exit you'll go...well...maybe not.

On the backup, the team cross loaded the RockHer and maxed out the suspension.  With opposing corners of the crawler way off the ground, the crawler decided it wanted to lay over and with 1.5 minutes left on the clock, Becca lands on her side in a pile of boulders.  With a crowd of about 1000 standing right there, Becca nails the throttle and spins around and around on her side, thrashing the RockHer in vein as she hopes to bump against something solid enough and the right shape to flip her back onto her wheels...over a minute goes by as she spins around hopelessly, but refusing to give up.  The crowd is ballistic by this point with the judge yelling out that she's down to 15 seconds.  It's NOT going to happen....but it's showtime for Becca so at least give the fans something to remember you by!

 

NO WAY...absolute ignorance of the damage she's causing the RockHer and with no chance of saving the season as she flounders on her side, then somehow, with 15 seconds on the clock, the RockHer springs up off its side and lands on all fours...NO WAY!!!!

But then irony strikes...the engine dies right then and there...13 seconds left on the clock and the engine stalls...the crowd can't believe it and Becca is bewildered after making such a huge save...she says a quick prayer, hits the starter, the engine fires to life, and she throttles out the exit with the entire side of the crawler torn off.  7 SECONDS LEFT and the team has recovered in the most exciting save we've ever seen!  THEY ARE GOING TO NATIONALS!!!!

Not only did they qualify for Nationals but they also wrapped up a 6th place finish in the W.E.ROCK Western National Series.  A GREAT finish considering the team is relatively new to working with one another, added to the fact that the Pro Modified has grown into the largest and toughest class of competition in all of rockcrawling.  With over 60 Pro Mod teams in the nation (over 35 on the west coast), a 6th place series finish is awesome, with the icing on the cake being a qualification into the 24 vehicle field for Grand Nationals.

Next, we'll return home to San Diego and drop the RockHer at StinkyFab Racing so the tube and body damage can be repaired and the vehicle can be prepped for the Nationals. 

If you're interested, W.E.ROCK's Grand National Championships will take place in Hannibal, Missouri on September 6 and 7.  For more info, visit the W.E.ROCK series website at www.werocklive.com

For more on the sport, check out www.WeRockLive.com, www.pirate4x4.com, of pick up an issue of CRAWL or DirtSports Magazine...better yet, visit www.haulinorcrawlin.com and pick up one of their Extremey Award winning DVD's, which our team is featured in.  Also, a big thanks to Chris Geiger, Trail Gear, Andy Johnson, Jason at HiRevPhotography, Pirate4x4, and Josh England for the photos.  All of the photos without the Pirate text were taken by Chris Geiger...THANKS CHRIS for these great shots!

The included photos are not for re-distribution in any form.  If you wish to use any of them or access more event or team specific images or video, please contact Dustin Webster and he will arrange official photo releases.

 

Copyright © 2008 Becca Webster