March 17, 2012

story by Richard Walker

It’s not often that I get to go to an event as a spectator, but when a friend of mine from New Zealand said he was coming to Canada for a year, I decided that the Reno Stampede would be a good event to check out to show him what North American off road racing was all about. The drive was fairly uneventful; however, a couple times I caught myself looking in the rear view mirror with a startle, wondering where my trailer and buggy were. A guy can get used to seeing that behind him after all those miles. The new truck gets exceptional mileage without the trailer and buggy though!

We arrived in Reno just in time to walk around the contingency rows. All the race cars and racers were hanging out, talking, and waiting their turn to be interviewed for the live feed streaming through internet land. All the who’s who of the Ultra4 and rock crawling world were there and it was nice to catch up with some of the people I only get to see a couple times per year. I would have to say the most popular buggy there was the new TTB buggy built by Torchmate. It is truly a masterpiece of metal.

After walking around for a couple hours we decided to check into the hotel and get our party on for the night (yet another benefit to not racing the next day!). Before dinner we checked out the huge drivers meeting where Dave Cole made some announcements regarding the 2012 Ultra4 season. Starting in 2012, Ultra4 will have a Pro series (King of the Hammers, Vegas to Reno, and the American RockSports Challenge) and a Regional Series (2 races in the East, 2 races in the West and a National Championship race to crown one winner).  Should prove to be a busy year with 8 races on the schedule!

Saturday morning started out a bit slow for us, but a quick breaky at McD’s had us up on our feet and ready for a good day of racing. Our plan was to hike up to the Giant’s Throne where the rock section and remote pits were, then head off to the finish line later in the afternoon. It was quite a hike up to the Throne (remember, I am used to driving up there), but once we got there it was all worth it. Soon, race cars started coming in from the distance, flying into the pits. Some cars were in and out of the pits rather quickly, but others took some time to make needed repairs and fuel up.

Right out of the pits is where another one of the tough rock sections started. Competitors had to traverse a nice little “pinch” spot with a good “crack” on the other side before dropping off a good 6 footer, only to climb a small 5 footer before hitting the fast section again. We had some flops and self recoveries, some full rolls, and even some good saves. Once the bulk of the rigs came through the first time (2 lap race), we hiked back down to move onto the next spot.

On our way to the finish line, we saw some people we recognized parked on the side of the road. We stopped to see if they were OK and they had stopped to watch the race. Turns out the race course came right down to the road and followed it along the mountain side. This turned out to be a great place to stay and watch. We could hear each race car off in the distance. The drone started off quiet, echoing through the mountains, then, as they got closer we could hear the crazy horsepower opening up. Once to us, the racers had to slow right down, make a 90 degree turn, then walk on it again all the way to the finish line. The dust clouds were easy to follow, that’s for sure!

While the race finished, we made our way back to the hotel to prep for the awards and epic party that took place right after. As darkness fell by the pool, the beer flowed, and JT Taylor and the TTB Torchmate car were crowned the 2011 Reno Stampede champs. This is the very car that we were drooling over during contingency!

My last recollection of this event was sitting at the bar, having a drink with some friends and watching people walk by with luggage. I thought it was so odd that people were checking out at night? Turns out it was 6:30am and we had been up all night! None the less it was worth it and this is certainly an event that I think everyone should check out. In addition to the parties and good times, the race is worth it too!

Check the full story and photos in Volume 14 Issue 1

March 17, 2012

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