• Words: Tony Arnold • Photography: Tony Arnold
That Kevin Costner movie was right… build it and they WILL come. Except this time it was one state over from Iowa in Nebraska and it had nothing to do with baseball, it was all about 10th scale 2.2 class rock crawling. This year’s 2009 Axial 2.2 Midwest Indoor Challenge happened and in a very big way with over 100 entrants and over 400 attendees. Not only did I have a ring side seat as a competitor, I was the promoter for this event hosted by my very own club, the NSCA (Nebraska Scale Crawlers Association). In an era of 200+ person ROAR competitions, why get excited over 100 entrants? Simple, because it’s never happened before in crawling at any 2.2 class event and it shows just how huge crawling has become. What’s more amazing was that there were twenty three states represented, yep nearly half the US and they all made the pilgrimage March 14th to Omaha, NE.
THE EVENT SETUP
Event planning started early January when the Kansas City club lost their venue for this third annual event. Our newly formed club picked up the ball and decided on using the HobbyTown Hobby Plex with a massive retail showroom and even larger pitted indoor track arena as the stage for this year’s Axial sponsored event.
The $50 tickets sold out in less than 30 days. Sharp readers will notice the title included “indoor” which means that we didn’t simply stumble into a state park the day of the event and throw down gate markers. Every course had to be hand made, set up, and torn down after the event. Of course there is the expense as well… over $4000 in course construction costs for wood, foam, and nearly 20 tons of rock and T-shirts, venue costs, prizes, and other misc event costs tipped the budget to over $6000. Through gracious sponsorship from our title sponsor Axial, and Platinum sponsors MaxAmps, DNA, Hitec, and Tekin, we were able to have enough to pay for the course construction and all the costs. The result was one of the most sadistically designed set of man made and natural crawler courses ever conceived that pushed every competitor and rig to the very limit. The courses were so hard that not one competitor finished all five courses… based on USRCCA rules everyone either pointed or timed out.
USRCCA COMP BASICS
You get one shot at clearing each course with penalty points touch/reposition, roll-over, reverse, hitting gatemarkers or boundary markers and you have to stop once the time limit set per course has been reached. Basically try to get through all the gates in the time allotted without hitting anything or tipping over. See full USRCC rules at USRCCA.com, but those are the basics. All competitors had to do was assure their rigs were USRCCA rules compliant during a very brief tech check and then start lining up and working through the courses in any order of their choosing, but the courses were not that easy.
LOOKS ARE DECEIVING
This year’s event consisted of five courses plus a finals course. Looking at the pictures you would think that these should have been pretty easy to run, however Gerame (from Eritex Wheels) club trail boss and course designer and Tom (our club president) both decided to make it very tough this year with pitfalls in all the wrong places. Each of the five initial courses were composed of man made obstacles including hollow landscaping stones, contoured foam boards sprayed with slick black truck bed liner, and natural river & limestone rock and logs.
The Axial “double V” course was the toughest of them all and assured that not one person finished the Axial course. The course was basically an oval track where you would finish where you started. Axial’s title course was composed of loose and fixed natural rough limestone with two 60+ degree ascents, two equally steep descents with table top with fixed logs with and rock overhangs as obstacles. Most competitors only cleared the first gate.
The next hardest courses was the Tekin Sponsored course.
Tekin’s course had a concrete covered 60+ degree incline embedded with river stones followed by a foam/bedliner slide with rough limestone between each section and only let about a half dozen competitors pass. One would think that a rough concrete 60+ degree incline wouldn’t have been a huge problem, however most only made it a foot up the incline before tumbling back down.
DNA’s 100% man made materials course started with a slick steep foam/bedliner incline that only a few ascended.
Once at the top of the incline the man made sculpted concrete and foam-based boulders with extremely tight turns, high clearance breakovers, deep passes, and a near vertical drop off that needed to cleared to finish the course.
Hitec’s incredible tight course used similar materials to DNA’s but focused on traversing very tall Moab UT style deep valleys and crevices that required your to clear the first gates by wiggling through sideways.
The next segments required near 90 degree turns and transitioning wide and deep chasms. Only the most experienced or lucky crawlers passed.
Most people enjoyed the MaxAmps course because it provided a more typical rock and forest Rubicon style course, however it was one of the most deceiving.
Competitors either completed it quickly or struggled through every gate. Tom, our Club President has jammed a number of log branches and rocks upward that snagged on almost everyone’s chassis.
COURSES THAT PUT THE HURT ON CRAWLERS
To put the difficultly of the five courses in perspective imagine if you had an 1/8th buggy course that no competitor, even the best in the world, could lap once… that’s how hard and technical these courses were and as far as us crawlers are concerned it was almost perfect.
As I watched the top drivers in the US point and time out on every course, I knew I had little hope of finishing anywhere but at the bottom of the Pro Class so I like many others just had fun and put on a show with my 3S Tekin powered Axial crawler. The experience of competing is completely different from crawling around on the rock with friends. Points and time become the limiting factors and planning crawling lines far ahead of the rock in front of your wheels. To get involved take a look at the local competitions in your area on RCCrawler.com > Competitions. I can guarantee with nearly every state now with local crawler groups, you and your Axial kit will be in a comp in no time.
What I think everyone enjoyed the most was seeing 101 variations on Axial and other crawlers. Very few competitors ran stock crawlers, in fact most were very heavily modified. Some featured more typical bodied stock designs, other were bodiless designs featuring custom and hand made tube style chassis and other variations.
A WHOLE DAY OF FUN
As you can tell from the excited looks on the above drivers at 6AM, the event started in the early dawn and the finals course run extended competition well until after 10:20PM, but there were no regrets and only smiling faces even on those that didn’t place well.
Axial’s own Brad Dumont was a top ten competitor with his Bender Customs Axial Chassis (above). Axial Sponsored Austin Dunn not far behind (left).
A COMPETITION ENVIRONMENT UNLIKE ANY OTHER
No elbowing off the drivers stands, no drivers yelling at other drivers for nudging them… it was just a bunch of people who all enjoyed crawling and wanted to hang out together and help each other. I saw parts being given from one competitor to another who in the 1/8th scale buggy world would have been mortal enemies. Competitors who did clear a gate were telling other competitors what to watch out for. This was not a competition against other competitors, it was a competition against the course and everyone wanted to see the course beaten.
Entire families showed up for the event. Although the majority of competitors are middle aged males, it was nice to see that we had several females and a bunch of kids competing this year and I might add doing very well.
The Amateur top placements were dominated by near stock ARTR Axial rigs that with only a little tuning put their drivers in top placement. With tons of vendors a family friendly environment at the HobbyTown, the Axial 2.2 Challenge was the biggest single class crawler event ever and is guaranteed to be even bigger next year.
A cornfield in Iowa may be the place for baseball, but even here in near pancake flat Nebraska we can build some of the hardest crawling the world of 2.2 crawling has ever seen. *