ULTRA4 @ VORRA Fallon 250
Words and photos: Michael Plunkett
August 29 – 30th, 2015
When it comes to ULTRA4 racing, anyone that has been around rock racing understands how versatile these machines are. They are designed to reach up to 130mph across the desert, yet capable of crawling rock sections the size of school buses. In order to be able to withstand the punishment in the rocks and cross the desert at speeds of over 100mph, they must be engineered and designed with the toughest components on the market. ULTRA4 Racing got its start in 2008 at an event that is now known worldwide as King of the Hammers, or KOH for short. They since have started a west and east coast series of races and have ventured internationally to the likes of France, Italy, the UK, and even Portugal. In order to keep up with this rapidly growing sport of rock racing, ULTRA4 is constantly looking for fan friendly venues.
They have rapidly caught the eye of the desert racers by entering races such as Best in the Deserts Series – Vegas to Reno race, The Parker 425, and The Bluewater Challenge. On the other side of the desert racing spectrum, Currie Enterprises’ Casey Currie managed to take his rock racing ULTRA4 4400 buggy down to the BAJA 500 and finished that brutal race within the Trophy Truck class this year!
So when it came to choosing another course to round out the western series this year, choosing to venture together with the VORRA Series at the Fallon 250 seemed to be a legitimate match for Dave Cole’s ULTRA4 Series. Teams were excited with the thought of a desert race for the simple reason of getting more of an opportunity to stretch their legs a little and see if they can manage to conquer a desert style race course.
Teams started arriving Thursday afternoon in order to get out to see and pre-run the course. Some chose to show up Friday and venture out in the early afternoon and into the night to get used to running in the dark. To best fit the two series together, JT Taylor and VORRA president, Wes Harbor, went right to work sorting the classes and when each class would start.
During the drivers meeting Friday evening, the drivers from each series would get the chance to meet each other as well as see the order of which they were to start. It was also stated in the drivers meeting that this would be their largest race to date! Wes explained the various different rules of conduct to the ULTRA4 drivers so there would be no confusion on race day. As it was to turn out our lower classes sort of speak from the ULTRA4 4500, 4600, 4700, 4800 and UTV’s would run during the day starting at 6am with the variety of classes from the VORRA series varying from UTV to class 1 with a cutoff time of 1:30pm. That reserved the night racing to the ULTRA4 4400 class only!
It was a beautiful Friday night in the desert with very little breeze whatsoever which only meant one thing for the drivers that had to leave the line early the next day…DUST was going to be miserable!! True to that thought as the early classes left the line and off into the desert, I was already struggling to get clear photos even at the lineup. Without a ride to get around in, I was fortunate when I ran into Phil Kaos, another desert race photographer, and he offered to let me ride with him. We finish up at the start line and quickly headed out to check point one to see what we could find. Never having shot or seen this course before I was now at the mercy of Phil. He got us to pit one and we ventured off trying to see through all the dust, let alone get a picture of anything…Yes, it was dusty!! We stayed there to see the leaders come back through on the second lap and cover the racers we needed, then loaded up to head to Pit 2. Immediately after getting on our way, Phil’s truck started missing and running really rough…fortunately Phil being handy as he is, went right to work figuring out how to get us moving again.
After a short while on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere we were on the move again.
We arrived at Pit 2 not really knowing their lap times well enough to figure out what lap everyone was on by now? So we hung out quite a while there until we were satisfied with what we got for pictures and figured we better get moving back to the finish line. We arrived early enough to venture out into the wash to get some shots of the racers going out for which appeared to be their last laps. Getting myself out in there to get some photos meant I would end up missing some of the faster teams crossing the finish line on the final lap. I chose to get more shots out in the wash and gather up results later, which the top three in their classes went like this…4500 Class winner was 4531 Shawn Rants, 2nd Place went to 4596 Jason Wilkins, and 3rd Place 4540 Michael Bedwell. In the 4600 Class 1st Place went to 4608 Matthew Peterson, 2nd Place 4696 Sean McNamara, and 3rd place with only completing 5 out of the 6 laps went to Ben Varozza. In the 4700 Class 1st Place went to 4714 Luke Johnson, followed by his father for 2nd Place 4748 Ricky Johnson, and rounding off the podium for 3rd Place was 4702 Larry Nickell. In the 4800 Class 1st Place went to 4861 Anthony Arreola, 2nd Place went to 444 Rick Waterbury, and 3rd Place 4824 Sean Leonardini. In the Pro UTV Class 1st Place went to the father son driver – co-driver combo of 83 Raul and Darian Gomez. 2nd Place finishing only 5 laps was 1920 John Duckworth, and 3rd Place finishing 4 of the 6 laps was 1958 Andrew Goman. The UTV Sportsman Class’ 1st Place went to 125 Phil Blurton, 2nd Place 1927 Ben Wilson, and 3rd Place 18 1961 Bill Hermant. As I was hiking back up to the start line to see the stragglers come in and and get ready to see the Big Boys in the 4400 Class get lined up, I got to witness one of the interesting things from my weekend! I was looking at the Falken race driver Bailey Cole coming across the desert hooked up behind the UTV of Goodall Racing pushing him the last 10 miles through the desert to the finish! Very cool to watch to say the least…great job everyone! Now for the Main event…
Thank goodness the wind had started to pick up for the main even, maybe the dust wasn’t going to be too bad!
After getting a shot of the lineup and making my rounds wishing everyone good luck, Phil and I chose to shoot the start from in the wash and then cover this race in the same manner as we just did the first race. We shot the wash until everyone was off the line and quickly loaded up and headed to Pit 1. As we arrived at Pit 1, I was able to jump out and catch the rear end of Loren Healy going by on his 2nd lap!…We just made it in time! We shot that area for what we could tell was a whole other lap and a half before we decided to head out for Pit 2.
We made it to Pit 2 without any issues this time, but now it was time to figure out where the leaders were and what lap they were on? After a full cycle of vehicles went by we figured we must have missed Loren go by before we arrived and now Wayland had come by again with still no sign of Loren? We could make out that it was Wayland out front with Paul Horschel following close behind. It wasn’t long before we saw Loren come by like a man-on-a-mission, but with all the drivers starting every 30 seconds off the line, we could make out a few possible drivers on the move! We could tell Tom Wayes who started 22nd off the line had moved up closer to the front runners as well as Brian Capprara and Randy Slawson were charging hard as well! But since it is a timed race we couldn’t be sure exactly where everyone stood in the ranks. We decided to go ahead and wait for Brian Capprara to come back through before we left for the finish line. In doing so we noticed Wayland had not come through as normal when all the sudden Loren was coming by just as the sun was setting. We hadn’t seen Tom Wayes come through for quite some time before we got word that he had hit a large rock and and went end over end to finish his day short. We also had noticed Levi Shirley hadn’t come by for a long time and wasn’t sure what had happened to him, until we later found out at the finish line that he had mechanical issues and was still out there working on it. He was finally able to get going again and get in a couple more laps before the cutoff time to better himself in the points standing. What seemed to be about 5 minutes had passed since Loren went by, we saw Paul Horschel come through with still no sight of Wayland. We finally did see Wayland come through several minutes behind Paul and now were waiting on Brian to come through before we headed out for the finish. When we saw Brian come through a few minutes later and as we were loading up, we saw Randy Slawson come through. Now we were off to the finish line to see how things were going to pan out!
After getting to the finish line we had the results that Loren Healy had taken the win with 30 some odd seconds over Paul Horschel and Wayland Campbell had rounded off the podium coming in several minutes behind Paul. With this win for Loren it secured him the West Coast Championship for the second year in a row. Congrats to Loren and his team on another incredible year! On a interesting side note, Randy Slawson with his ULTRA4 rock racing Bomber Fab chassis set the fastest time of any of the straight axles rigs.
We were also getting word that Wayland’s dad, Shannon Campbell, was down in the desert with drivetrain issues and was calling on his daughter Bailey Campbell, which was racing steady all day to help him get to the finish. Bailey reached her father and was able to pull Shannon the last 20 miles through the desert to both finish the race and better themselves in the point standings. All in all it was one heck of a race that went well into the night with a cutoff time of 12:00am. Every bit of that time was used for some teams as 33 of the 49 starters in the 4400 class finished! After going around talking to a lot of the teams that night and in the morning after the race, everyone that had raced said they really enjoyed it and some even claimed it to be the most fun they’ve had in a race before! So what seemed to be a race that no one was quite sure of how it was going to go, it sounds like we found another venue for years to come, or we can only hope anyways. ULTRA4 Racing has one more race back east in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the east coast finals. Then, The National Championship will be held in my hometown of Reno, NV in October! Enjoy some of the photos from the event and I hope to see everyone again at the Nationals!