Qualifying & Finals: 2007 Skyjacker UROC RockCross Round #1

Coverage Brought to You By BFGoodrich

Aug. 18, 2007 By Katrina Ramser


"Sometimes new things are not easy," began Pratt at this morning's RockCross Team Meeting on the Rocky Mountain Raceway. "I know we made changes this year that weren't so happy for the rock crawlers."

For the first ever RockCross event, UROC's Pratt confirmed 18 willing competitors ready to experiment with a format Pratt claims "brings in the right aspects of racing ... such as motocross and stock racing."  We've got a perfect balance of classes which goes as follows: 9 contenders in Pro Mod (B. Hanks, J. Schweisow, B. Lovell, S. Bullock, C. Egan, C. Nielsen, J. Maybe, C. Stumph, R. Brown); and 9 in Unlimited (C. Rodd, J. Andus, S. Campbell, B. Billington, N. Williams, J. Feuilly, B. Johnson, R. Lucero, A. Clough).

Pratt goes on to explain in his opening statement how "RockCross allows fans to come in and understand what we're doing" and that this course is the toughest course of all three (Ponoma and Phoenix included).

Now onto the format, rules, and track, which have competitors and enthusiasts like yourself scratching heads. We begin with Qualifications at 10am. Drivers for both classes pull numbers out of a hat and that's the order they run for Qualifying, mixing the Pro Mod running order in with the Unlimited. When up for Qualifications, you go two times around the track and your best recorded time determines what bracket you fall into come 6pm tonight when the Semi and Finals begin. More later.

So exactly what is the track formation? If you've ever been to the Rocky Mountain Raceway, stand facing north (on the drag strip) with the infamous Matterhorn to your left and the entry into the course on your right. The right entry way is the Start.

Starting anywhere you want at the gates, you hit the far right large rock mountain first -- up and over you go, gunning it on the backway ground until you get to the Matterhorn. Here you swing a hard left around the 'Horn, and then a harder left that weaves you into the left-of-the-middle rock pile. Crawl through the rocks, come down near the middle, gun it again on the straightway in front of the bandstands/drag strip and through the Start gates.

Qualifying, again, is one at a time. Once brackets are grouped, it becomes three at a time.

"Rubbing is part of racing," Pratt continues at the Team Meeting. "It will happen, but it shouldn't happen on purpose. You will get black flagged if you hit someone on purpose." Pratt says officials will be on both sides, but not as many officials are there are in rock crawl.

"What if someone rolls over?" a driver asks.

"Go until a Red Flag is out," answers Pratt. Which leads to questions about drivers being able to see a Red Flag. If spotters are not allowed on the track -- and there is a long arm of concrete blocks holding teams and media back from the action -- they are obligated to inform via headset. And if you roll, are you allowed help back up, and if so, can you keep on going?

"I have a problem with a vehicle just sitting there, rolled over. There's gasoline involved," points out BFGoodrich's Brad Lovell.

Pratt interjects. "We'll stop the race if you roll over. There's a million circumstances we could go over." And so we move on to the actual Qualifications, the testing ground.

"I'm doing this because it's real racing -- once the details get ironed out," comments Campbell. "It's something different."  And it does look pretty cool to watch Campbell burn around the bottom of the Matterhorn and come back hard on the rocks during his turn.


There is still the pressure of time, and as we know in rock crawl, that kind of pressure can create problems. Egan and Brown roll, as do a few others during Qualifying.


This portion of the event took roughly 3 hours to complete, and we have the Top Qualifying Score Times:

Jim Maybe 1:15:79
Craig Stump 1:21:10
Brad Lovell 1:24:06

Shannon Campbell 1:09:44
Aaron Clough 1:32:75
Jason Feuilly 1:45:00

So, you're looking at the top times for each of the three class brackets that begin the event. As we explained in our Tech Day coverage, teams will be staged evenly into the groups of three to compose of a fast, medium and slower speed for each bracket. We'll have three groups of three for each class, 18 competitors total, for the 1st Heat. 

We're still trying to figure out exactly how many laps will be expected once the event begins.

Like Pratt said, there's a million circumstances we could be going over. Talk to George Wadeson, Owner of Rock Runner Racing, and he'll tell you Pratt's plan was for it to be exactly like this. "We're testing new ground," he comments.

Schweisow, like Campbell, says Rock Runner is here because it is something new. "I'm just curious how it is going to go with three teams on the course," Schweisow notes as Qualifying wraps up.



At 5:30pm, the raceway is crowded. Hundreds, soon to be thousands, of spectators will attend.
When announcer Sarge asks the crowd what they think, we get enormous shouts and cheers. The first RockCross event is nearing attendance in what could be five figures. For $15 at the Rocky Mountain Raceway, you get access to the entire grounds, which also includes a stock racing event one stadium over. It's a good way to get spectators into the sport.

The agreement is each Heat Bracket will run three laps. Starting at 6pm on the dot, RockCross begins with Pro Mods. In the first group of three, we have Maybe, Lovell, Egan. Adrenaline at its best is the only way to describe these teams hitting the rocks at once. The first-ever RockCross Heat goes like this: First lap, the three scramble up the first rock obstacle, race around the backway, and immediately become bottled-necked on the middle of the rocks. The pressure of three vehicles climbing in a tight spot at once throws Egan off and Egan flips. Eventually a red flag is thrown and it is Lovell's win by default. Catching up with the BFG driver immediately after, Lovell had this to say: "It's pretty wild. It's a pretty good jolt -- it turned into an endurance race." You could hear Lovell continue to mutter the words, Pretty wild, as he sat in his vehicle. Adrenaline at its best.

As we move along the Pro Mod 1st Heats, Hanks, Stumph and Nielson hit it hard, and Hanks gets towed off. We restart the remaining two at the Start line. You can start to see where speed is important, as well as where crawling is vital on the course -- and you'd better be good at both. Oh, and negotiating through small spaces. And that your competitors are good at all those things too. Did I mention it also might help if you have a cheap mechanic and big wallet?


As we progress, Bracket Elimination 101 is not for the faint of heart. Let's first keep it simple by explaining if you have two losses in a row, you do not continue. The overall running structure works like this:
With the Pro Mods and Super Mods flipping turns at each Heat stage, we start with the 1st Heat, which includes all drivers. The 2nd Heat gets broken down into a Top (winners) and Bottom (for lack of a better word -- losers). We then move on to a 3rd Bottom Heat, a Last Chance (for those who lost in their Top 2nd Heat), Finals, and then our winner. Competition gets stiff fast, and stays stiff.

Campbell runs in the first group of the Super Mods with Feuilly and Rodd. Campbell gets a big lead and comes ripping around the back of the Matterhorn in his 500+ horsepower buggy, only to wedge himself in the middle of the rocks come the crawling portion of our show. Campbell's out, and a restart for Feuilly and Rodd only at the Start line.

When he begins again at Bottom 2nd Heat, he immediately gets pushed over by Johnson, who has joined him with Andus in his new bracket, which can now be considered the Semi-Finals. A restart is called for Andus and Johnson. Andus breaks before the third lap, and Johnson wins by default. Twenty minutes and some video footage later, Johnson and Campbell make an integrity call and agree to re-run the Bottom 2nd Heat. This means Campbell gets a lucky third chance to prove himself. Campbell once again has initial trouble getting over and just loses too much time to catch up on Johnson's one-lap lead. Had there been four or five laps instead of three, he might have had a real chance. Even the best drivers have bad races. Campbell's out of the first RockCross race.

Contrary to what Pratt estimated about ending early, it just isn't going to happen. In Pro Mod's, because Lovell lost the Finals against Maybe and 
Schweisow but won his first two Heats, he gets to go into another elimination round against Maybe, as Schweisow placed third between the two. Surprisingly, Lovell rolls and Maybe, who lost in the 1st Heat but won in his 2nd Bottom, takes First Place in Pro Mods for Round 1 RockCross.


For the Super Mods, in the Finals we have Rodd, Lucero, and Williams -- who has not lost one of his Heats. Money is on Williams, but it is an incredibly tight race all three laps around. Lucero really wants it, but sure enough, Williams pulls off the First Place in Super Mods, with Rodd taking Second, and Lucero third. Despite the fact he did not have a top three Qualifying time, with a 4-0 record, this was by far Williams' race, out of his class and Pro Mods.

This was all the action that it was hyped up to be, and the fans were there to soak it in. It did have a tendency to drag on and the crowd starting groaning after 10pm, but the limited amount of drivers helped the fans identify drivers, and the elimination structure helped them eventually pick their favorites. As Pratt said in the Team Meeting, the format of RockCross "allows for the fans to come in and understand what we're doing."



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