with Bill Johnston
ARCA in Las Cruces
The American Rock Crawlers Association descended on Las Cruces, New Mexico for the second in the series of four events planned for the 2001 Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals series. Goodyear, last years major sponsor for the series, was joined this year by Skyjacker to bring the people an awesome string of events.
Last year we saw Suzukis competing in the series and causing quite a stir among the crowd. This year is no different. The participants this year include Randy Ellis in his green 1986 Samurai and Mike Shaffer in his black 1987 Samurai. Randy took 25th place overall in the series last year, but both zooksters are showing their tenacity by placing pretty high in the standings during the first half of the series this year. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
The morning of the first trail day started early with the drivers meeting up on the bluff overlooking the Chile Canyons north of Las Cruces. Like most drivers meetings, last minute details are passed on to the driver/spotter teams. This also gives the teams a last chance to get clarification on any new rules and any problem areas they may encounter on the trails. During this competition, ARCA chose to start with Rocotillo Rapids and Patzcuaro's Revenge. I say 'start with' because they directed the driving lines through portions of the trail that the 'normal' driver would avoid. The larger boulder that you might normally squeeze by on the side would now have a line marker flag up on top and another in the middle of the 'normal' trail. This means you now would have to put at least one set of tires up on that boulder and try not to fall over. And this example is considered tame for this event.
Does it look like these folks are stuck? Guess again. Both got through these obstacles with only limited paint loss! As a matter of fact, the rig pictured on the right just backed out of this predicament with no outside help and took a smarter line!
Here is Randy Ellis on the 'B' trail (Rocotillo Rapids) taking the same line over the notch in the rocks. This is an obstacle that the ARCA folks built into the trail. The actual line is about eight feet to the left on a sedate winding dirt trail. Rocotillo Rapids doesn't actually start until the picture on the right. This is about two hundred meters farther down the trail.
Looks like Randy is going for the 'hard line' eh? Actually, the flags that he tried to get between would take him farther to the right, but he missed. The right side flag was located at the top of the banner string you see to the right. The left flag is right about level with his oil pan at this point. Yes folks, the correct line was supposed to be over that shelf on the right. Not many made that one without taking out the left flag.
Another shot shows spotter Rob Bonney out in front as Randy shows the enthusiasm it sometimes takes to get through an obstacle. This is the last waterfall (obstacle) on trail 'B'. While throwing the vehicle vertical, each tire in turn took to the air until he went over backwards. He landed going on his side facing the wrong direction on the trail. Taking quick action, he hit the gas and did a 180 degree turn (still on his side) to get back into the game. For a second I thought it was going to work, but he ended up timing out before he could get through the obstacle.
The engine hydro-locked so he didn't get too much farther through this obstacle for points. Once time ran out, some of the spectators jumped in to help right the vehicle. It only took a few, gotta love them zooks! After pulling the plugs and clearing the cylinders, the engine roared to life. This team put on a good show for the crowd, but ended up taking 19th overall for the event. Pointing out (taking the maximum point penalty) on an obstacle like this can really drop you in the standings. But watch out for Randy, he has the ability, equipment, drive and spotter that can take this team into the top ten!
We know that there are many folks that couldn't make the trip to Las Cruces this time, so here is a souvenir you can download. It is a background screen with a few pix from the weekend. It is available at 800x600 and 1024x768. Please click on the one that matches your monitor resolution.