Rear steering was one of the major changes this year. And we saw many rigs taking advantage of the capabilities that it provided. Although it is allowed this year for competition, there is a 3 point penalty assessed once it is used in an obstacle. But the penalty is only added once per obstacle when used, so if you use it early in the obstacle you can continue to use it for the duration of the obstacle with no additional points assessed.
Above you can see Walker Evans making use of this trick system to make the turning radius tighter. On the right you can see how it is possible to 'crab walk' the rear of the vehicle in one direction while steering the front end in another to make use of multiple lines. While this has it's benefits, it complicates the responsibilities of the spotter and can get him into a bind quickly if he is distracted. Unlike the monster trucks that have made this mod popular, these rigs have ever-changing terrain under their tires that can shift with every turn and tumble of the rocks.
Here is a good view of the rear-steer components on one of the aluminum bodied Jeeps in the competition. You can see the hydraulic ram mounted to the rear differential that is needed for turning the big meats..
This rig was just plain unique! This is a two seater, tube framed Jeep. Yes, I said two (2) seater. The seats are installed one behind the other, fighter pilot style. The vehicle itself has been heavily squeezed to allow it to fit in tighter locations. Yes folks, someone has finally built a Jeep that is skinnier than a Zook! They have seen the light.
While this vehicle looks very capable of taking on any terrain, it seems the axles tend to break as much as with the rest of us. This is the same scene that spectators witnessed during the last event in Johnson Valley. I was surprised at how few axles were actually broken during the event though, or at least how many were replaced on the trail.
The photo to the right shows the newest of the wild vehicles to come out of Avalanche Engineering. The 'Assassin' is a single seater that resembles a wingless sprint car on full width portal axles. Both axles are coil sprung steering units. Although it is almost impossible to make out in this picture (click through to view), there is a legal license plate on the back. This is a street legal rig.
Mike Shaffer, driver/owner of the original 'Assassin' made it to the event with his 87 Samurai. This rig was first seen by most of us at the Zukfari in Moab last year (2000). It is outfitted with a Sidekick 1.6ltr engine and the coil suspension kit that his company (Shaffer's Offroad) manufactures.
Mike made short work of most of the obstacles at the event taking his team to an overall seventh place victory. The zooks seem to do very well in these events. But it takes a special combination of driver, spotter and machine to take the team into a top ten finish.
Obstacle B3 was actually the real starting point for Rocotillo Rapids, the normal (4+) trail. Mike made it higher up on the shelf than I saw anyone go, but he still ended up taking out the lower flag with his left rear tire. This is the same shelf (but a reverse photo angle) as seen on page one of this article.
I figured I was safe hiding up on top of the shelf until I saw the hood coming at me with the large iZook logo right out front. I'm glad he had to turn... At that point Mike was running on adrenaline you could see the concentration in his eyes.
Here Mike Shaffer and his spotter Dave Gibson accept their winners check for a seventh place finish. The awards were handed out on Saturday night around 9:30 after all of the points were tallied and the rigs were put away. This was early compared to the night before when the last rig didn't finish the final obstacle until after 10 pm.
Ok, top honors didn't go to a zook team, but they showed off some great driving and spotting skills to take the number one spot. Matt Burkett and his spotter Jake Koetting are shown accepting their first place award at the podium. Take a look below at the top finishers and their scores and you will see some names from last year plus a few new ones.
The table above shows placement, Drivers name, team number, scores from trails A&B and their overall total for the event. In the case of a tie, the team score for obstacle A7 was used as a tie breaker. In this series, low score (the least penalties assessed) wins. Although they mispelled it, Mike Shaffer is in 7th place for this one.
The next event is in Ceder City, Utah and then back to Farmington, New Mexico for the finals. Catch them if you can, it's worth it! IZook will have more coverage of the Farmington event and the overall series winners in September. Until then, drive safe and pick your best line!