Desert Turtle Racing KOH 2018 Race Recap

Desert Turtle Racing KOH 2018 Race Recap

KOH 2018 Race Week:
First and foremost, we were stoked to be setting up our pits in the Lasernut Laser Town hanger. We arrived at Laser Town and got the Turtle set up in the hanger and set up all our camp stuff. We did a little last minute shock tuning on the Rock Krawler shocks to get them dialed in for race day, then headed over to get registered for the race. Monday was our qualifying day and in practice we discovered that the motor was running not so peppy. We learned that we had to shift to 4-Lo just to get up the hill climb and then shift back into 4-Hi to finish the lap. It hurt our qualifying times a bit but we were still able to get an 11th in class start for Thursday’s race. We also discovered that we had a melted coil pack and spark plug that were causing the engine to run poorly. We were able to get in a run around Lap 1 of the KOH course and mark down some trouble spots on GPS as well as set up our lines to get through the new “Notches” area that Ultra4 added to the course this year. We were feeling pretty good about the course of Lap 1 and the car was running well. We headed out for a pre-run of Lap 2 and got through a couple trails but unfortunately cracked the oil pan on a couple big hits and that caused us to call the pre-running extremely short. A big part of our pit support this year was provided by Dust Junkies Racing and they just so happened to be near where we broke down and gave us a helping hand to get back to Laser Town. We spent the rest of our pre-running time hunting down an oil pan and making repairs to the rig and studying the course map.


KOH 2018 EMC Race Day:
Let’s just start with, the green flag dropped and we were off and running! Darin was behind the wheel and ready to attack the desert lap. The first few miles had us on edge, knowing that race nerves can cause you to overdrive the rig and/or potentially suffer flats. As we clicked off the early miles we passed many rigs that had suffered exactly that, and a couple others with some quick driving decisions. We were able to maintain a good pace and cruise through unscathed. As we passed by RM12 we felt the rig was doing well. We radioed to Dust Junkies at Remote Pit 1 that we didn’t need a tire change and opted pass through without a stop. They responded with “Well done. We’ll catch you on the flip side at RM48”. We waved on the way by the pits and were feeling great about the rig. We kept clicking off the miles, passing other racers along the way. As we arrived at “The Notches” a little ways past RM24 we followed a couple other rigs into the banner area. Again, we passed a few others that were floundering in the rocks not knowing where to go. We stuck to our pre-planned route and managed to maneuver around a couple more. As we exited, we were on the tail of a 4800 rig and we decided to go for the pass in a whooped-out section to the drivers left. We made the pass, but we also went for a good ride when the front end got bucked pretty high, and we were reminded that we needed to tone it back.


We got back on our pace as we rounded the half-way point at RM32, and we continued carrying a good pace, picking our way through the tight desert section before reaching RM47, where we again needed to radio to the Dust Junkies at Remote Pit 1 what our plans were. We chatted for a bit about how the rig was doing, we were not hearing any strange sounds, and we again didn’t need to stop for a tire change. We hit the pit zone and again gave the big thumbs up as we passed by. Heading out crossing the base line we knew the speeds were going to pick up as we rounded the big bend at RM52. Around RM54 we had a close encounter with a bird — this bird was about 20 feet off the deck and clocking us for speed about 50 feet off the front passenger corner of the rig. At least it seemed that close. So we mashed the gas to pick up the pace and see what they would do. We gave them the applause and enjoyed the camera man hanging off the side of the helicopter. Let’s hope it makes the cut into some footage somewhere.


We reached the intersection at the baseline exit and headed out across the dry, dusty Melville lakebed. At times we couldn’t see much more than a few feet in front of us. Picking our way up into the top of Resolution, preparing for our drop down it and Backdoor, we knew we had just a couple more miles before we were back to Main. We had a bit of a close call at Backdoor — we got in a little bit of a hurry to prevent another rig from passing us and did a great nose pose with the rear tires straight up in the air. We hit the gas to prevent the roll-over and hit the rear bumper hard on the rock wall behind us… BUT we were down and all four wheels and the rig was still moving. We called in to pits that we were down but took a hard hit and would need to look the rig over really well. We made the last of the little climbs before hitting the short course and the Main Pits. At this point we were pretty stoked Darin just had a VERY clean run on Lap 1 and suffered ZERO flats with our Falken tires. We had a feeling that we were sitting in a pretty good position and it was time to change drivers.

And so the race continues… Lap 2 — Randall is now in the driver’s seat and ready to take on the rock sections. Before we got there, we had to run through the first 8 miles of the Lap 1 again, and then around the desert for another 9 miles before reaching Remote Pit 2A. Again, we kept a descent pace intent on not overdriving the rig. As we reached Remote Pit 2A the rig was feeling pretty good and we called in to let them know that we would just be passing by. We headed into the first rock trail, Boulder Dash, and made pretty quick work of it. We headed down Upper Big Johnson and continued across the valley and around to the bottom of Wrecking Ball. While we were in Wrecking Ball we had a few difficulties leading up to the waterfall but cruised right up the bypass line and continued on. At RM85 we headed over to Fissure Mountain to run across the top of the range and down to Sledgehammer. Another new thing for the Ultra4 race this year was the addition of two trails at RM90, Idle Issues and Her Problem, two trails that I did not get to pre-run nor even see. As we approached the trail we saw the trail markers but the terrain looked untraveled and there were no obvious lines. There was no stopping us on this trail we picked it apart, as if we were cutting a new trail. We had a little trouble getting through Chocolate Thunder but were able to keep our cool and get back on track.

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Once we got over into Jack North we felt something strange in the steering and decided we should stop and take a look. What we discovered was the mount on the axle for the Hydro Assist Ram has been torn off and the Ram was just hanging there cycling left and right. We also discovered that all of the drive flange bolts on the rear axle (BOTH SIDES!) had backed out and we were leaking a ton of gear oil. We tightened up the flange bolts, removed the hydro-ram and capped the hydro lines so we could continue the race. We wheeled up to the crux of Jack North and, like a replay of last year, Darin got out and spotted the rigs through and then got us through and we headed for Jack Hammer. The problem with not having Hydro Assist is that every rock the tires come in contact with will jolt the tires one way or another and that makes it very difficult to steer and stay on the line that you need to get over the rocks. Coming down Jack Hammer we made sure to plan way ahead and keep the car on the right line. Heading up the sand hills at RM93 was pretty fun with the new motor screaming as we made our way. We got around to Hells Gate and continued to struggle with the ability to steer and stay on the right line. Thankfully we had a new ZEON 10 winch from Warn on the rig to get us quickly un-stuck when necessary.

We cruised down Devils Slide and headed over into Sunbonnet Pass. We came upon a few other rigs in the trail and made passes when we could but also got stuck a few times, and again had to use the winch to get unstuck. Somewhere in Sunbonnet we got lodged between two big rocks and had to use our jack to get out, which cost us a significant amount of time. At that point we also discovered that we had cracked the oil pan again and it is was dripping. We took some time to look at the leak and see if we could spot the crack. We debated continuing the race with the leak but the concern was, if we cracked the oil pan even worse, we could damage the motor and possibly be stuck in a trail until the race is over. We agreed that we would make our way out of Sunbonnet and then reassess the condition of the rig. It’s always a hard decision to make but we had to make it. We decided to make our way to the stock bypass split at RM100 and call the race. We didn’t want to risk severe damage to the motor and didn’t want a late-night team recovery after the race. We got in touch with our pit crew at Remote Pit 2B and had them relay to Race Ops that we were out of the race at RM100.

We finished our race as the 1st place DNF, putting us officially in 4th place by progression. Yes, you read that right — There were only three 4500 class rigs that finished the race, and only another nine rigs in the 4800 class. This race was a difficult one — Not because of the number of rock trails or a difficult desert lap, but because Mother Nature has not rained on the Hammer trails in some time, and that caused the dirt to be very dusty and the rocks to be covered in dust, and some holes to be extra deep.


We would like to give a special thanks to several sponsors – To Off Road Development for providing the shop space for us to get ready for KOH. To Sucuri Security for stepping on board to support the team this year. To Warn for going above and beyond standard customer service to solve our winching issues. To Dust Junkies Racing for providing pit space and pit support at the race. To Lasernut for providing us space in the Laser Town Hanger at KOH. To Rock Krawler for their continued support in our race program. To Falken for providing ZERO flats this year on the Wildpeak M/T tires. And to our DTR team… Without them we would not be able to do what we do. We are a team that is more like a family and we are all in it together. Even though we did not finish, we did not lose. We come away smarter and stronger. We are still a young team and we continue to learn at every race.

Thanks to all of our sponsors for your continued support: Rock Krawler Suspension | Falken Tire | Sucuri Security | Axial Racing | Poison Spyder Customs | Raceline Wheels | DJ Safety | Fuel Safe | Rugged Radios | J. E. Reel | Rugged Routes | Lasernut | Currie Enterprises | Magnaflow | CTM Racing | sPOD | Artec Industries | PRP Seats | Luxwurx | Warn | Sharq Skinz | DGP Motion Media | Factor55 | 212 Performance Gloves | Off Road Development | Pacific Advisors | SoCal Services | Beachview Insurance | Villa Landscape Products | SoCal Land Maintenance | EctoVentures

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Casey Currie – Rubicon Adventure


We all know Casey Currie as about the most passionate racer on the earth. He spends every waking hour developing a strategy to surpass his competition on every level. His ability to conquer the rocks at the King of the Hammers, the wide open deserts of Baja California and the shout course venues across America is nothing short of phenomenal. When you spend 40 weekends a year on the road, sometimes you need to sneak in some personal time. So, what does a hard core racer like Casey do to unwind? Have a look!

Silver State Rock Crawling Championship


Silver State Rock Crawling Championship

September 26-27, 2015

Success in the West

Words and photos by Michael Plunkett

This weekend’s inaugural event of the Silver State Rock Crawling Championship held at the Wild West Motorsports Park in Reno, Nevada proved to be a huge success. Jesse Haines’ idea to establish an event in the Reno area is a part of a campaign to help bring rock crawling back to its glory. Jesse is a veteran rock crawler, a local metal fabricator, and a business owner of Jesse Haines Fabrication. His knowledge of fabrication goes far beyond his welding skills. His decades of experience and success in rock crawling have served him well for his business; not only can Jesse turn metal into a piece of art, his knowledge of suspensions is like no other! If anyone is looking for wheel travel out of a suspension and would like to know what works or what doesn’t, Jesse is like an encyclopedia of knowledge in that department and is willing to either build or share his knowledge to those who have questions.

Since the late 1990’s thru roughly 2008, when rock crawling was at its peak, the number of spectators, sponsors, and competitors have declined dramatically! Different rock crawling series came and went, right along with spectators, then sponsors, and finally competitors. In the last couple of years with the help of many veteran rock crawling teams, there has been a movement of internet action to help keep rock crawling alive! The WeRock rock crawling series is one of the larger series still putting on events across the U.S. along with CalRocs and the newer Idaho X Rocks series. There is still a struggle with the amount of attractive venues for teams to be able to compete in local events.

Without the time or funds it takes to create a whole new series, Jesse and his fiancé Sara decided to create an event to give competitors yet another venue to run at. After hearing about his plan to put on this event in our home town of the Reno/Sparks area, I sat down with Jesse to hear what he had in mind. While I listened to him tell me he had chosen to work with the Wild West Motorsports Park, an established track in Sparks that designed the Lucas Oil series in mind, it made total sense to me. When creating an event like this everything from pit crew areas for competitors, to spectator parking, to ticket sales have to be established. Since most of this was already established at this track it was a great starting point! Jesse met with Eric Pender of the Wild West Motorsports park to see if they could locate an area at the track that works for them. They chose an outcrop of rocks to the left of the race track that at the time only had a small access road up to it, but with some work it looked possible. He explained how just finding the location was just the beginning of the process. How they spent countless hours on top of their real jobs in meetings and sending out emails trying to get a title sponsor to jump on board with their vision. I had the opportunity of meeting with Jesse and Dennis Volkoff at the track with Ryan Del Ponte of The Redline Projects to shoot a promotional video on the course. The ball was rolling…

To attract sponsors, competitors, and spectators, Jesse masterminded a plan to do all of the above as well as try and bring back a few retired rock crawlers into the sport. He contacted about ten well known crawlers from back in the day that could commit to making and competing in the event as long as they were voted in by the fans as the one they wanted to see compete…genius! Because most retired rock crawlers have moved on and didn’t even own a competitive crawler anymore, and since Jesse wasn’t going to be able to compete in his own event, he was going to loan his buggy to the fan-voted competitor to compete with. The voting took place online and the fans voted in Matt Deas of Bryson City, NC. Matt was a three-time eastern series champion, winning nine events from 2005-2009. This was Matt’s first time competing in six years. As it turned out, Jesse was contacted by another local named Bill Kunz from Torchmate that happened to have a competition buggy sitting in his garage that he was willing to let another old school rock crawler named Jason Scherer use for the competition. Before winning the King of the Hammers in 2009, Jason was one of the sports’ top rock crawlers. He was runner up at both the Super Crawl 4 and Super Crawl 5 events and behind the wheel of the legendary buggy named Tiny. This not only gathered the interest of competitors that would love the opportunity to compete against former legends of the sport, but it gained the interest of spectators that would get the chance to see these guys compete again. It was to be a win-win for everyone!

Four Wheel Parts, a local company of Sparks, jumped on board as the primary sponsor. And not to leave anyone out, it is easier just to say that a few companies offered their help with gift certificates and such with prizes for the winners. Jim Markham of JM Rigging and Supply is always a welcomed presence at these events offering winch line support and usually a winch line to the winner. Jesse added a trail class to the event that attracted 23 more competitors to compete. By the week of the event roughly 57 teams had signed up to compete! A huge thanks to Steve Johns, a friend of Jesse’s, that came all the way from Australia on vacation to help set up and maintain the event. I was excited to see all the interest this event was gathering. Matthew Messer and his daughter Olivia of Trail Gear would not only be competing in the event, but Matt also wanted to help Jesse in sponsoring a bonus line prize of a 10,000 lb trail gear winch to whomever completed the the bonus line first or had the highest score on that course if the bonus line could not be completed. As the event unfolded, it was that course and the bonus line that ended up being the deciding factor for the win.

As I drove up to the event on Saturday morning, I was pleased to see all of Jesse and Sara’s hard work had paid off. The months of preparation and advertising, the local radio station ads the week before the event all played a large part in the amount of teams and spectators that were present on site! They had shuttles running everyone from the parking lot to the top of the hill; everything was in place. After reaching the top I walked out to the A1 course and ran into John Herrick of Crawl Magazine who was there covering the event. I happened to arrive just in time to see Uriel Varela in his (Axial sponsored) rig out of Arizona staging to tackle the course. Uriel made quick work of the course, making it look rather easy! I talked with Uriel for a minute and let him know I would meet him over at A2 in a few minutes. I climbed to one of the highest points so I could get a better look at the other courses. As I topped the hill I could see buggies lined up for days! Spectators were wandering all around the other courses trying to get a better look at the action. This place was thriving! As I was making my way to A2, I ran into several old friends I haven’t seen in the rock crawling scene for several years. This was for sure to be a good day!

I had never met Matt Deas and had only heard of his accomplishments rock crawling, so when I saw Jesse’s buggy staging with Matt at the wheel and his spotter Mike Berard, I hurried down to get a better look. I could tell right away that Matt was still comfortable at the wheel, and as they made their way through the course with a clean pass you could tell he was comfortable with Pokey (Jesse’s buggy) as well. After watching Uriel pull off another clean pass, I chose to move around and get a better look at all the courses. Witnessing several rollovers and timeouts, I could tell that these courses were well thought out and set up perfectly. By the end of day one James Treacy was leading the unlimited class, Dennis Volkoff was way out front of the pro-mod class, and Uriel Varela was out front of the trail buggy class. I couldn’t stick around long enough to get the legends and stock class results, as I was trying to get to the pit area where Jared Neff of Hooked Triangle racing team was feeding all the competitors and the staff a tri-tip dinner. Thank you Jared and all who were involved that cooked us all a wonderful dinner!

Throwing a twist into the event to add some fun and excitement, Jesse added a night run into the mix. The course was sponsored by Lifetime LED and the idea was to take the three leaders from the Unlimited, Pro-mod, and Trail buggy classes and run a night course on a course no one had the chance to see before. No spectators or teams were allowed to look over the course. The leaders were to just show up and run it the best they could, which could add up to ten points to their scores for the day (depending on how well they ran)! Night runs are not common in rock crawling events, so it added an interesting concept to it all, and from the consensus of the teams they all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Day two went even smoother than day one as everyone got used to the area and their positions. They staged on time and shuffled around much better which sped things up quite a bit. Not that there wasn’t a good share of carnage, that was inevitable! There were strategies being played out by teams that would move them into position to take the lead and some that didn’t work out for others that cost them their lead. Uriel Varela took the biggest hit on his first course of day two. One that he just never could recover from! He had lost his lead on that course and did his best to gain it back, but came up twelve points short to finish in second place for the weekend. Another hit that I didn’t expect was in the unlimited class. This was the last course of the day when Justin Keilman and his spotter Jody Everding were able to complete the bonus line to edge the win from James Treacy and his spotter Tyler Glover. Not only did that win him the event, but he also took home the Trail Gear 10,000 lb winch; not too bad of weekend for those two. The most inspiring story comes from watching team X Rocks from Idaho compete. Todd Young had lost his leg from the knee down about a year ago from a motorcycle accident. That did not slow him down for long. Todd competed in and collected a third place podium finish in the unlimited class with Tate Elquist as his spotter. Todd then turned around and spotted for Tate in the trail buggy class. Even though they were not able to get Tate on the podium, they were very impressive to watch compete to say the least. Another honorable mention would go to Kaitlin Yates and her spotter, Graeme Tydeman, who won the event in the legends class. Kaitlin was one of three women competing in the event and this was her first win in her Samurai.

All in all it was a great turnout for this event’s first time out. Most teams were asking Jesse to go ahead and create a series for next year. He laughed but did say that that was out of the question at this point. However, he did make the promise that this event would run again next year. Congrats to all involved in an excellent event and to the winners of each of the classes!

Here are the top three winners of each class:

Unlimited Class: 1. Justin Keilman/ Jody Everding 2. James Treacy/Tyler Glover 3. Todd Young/ Tate Elquist

ProMod Class: 1. Dennis Volkoff/ Kyle Congdon 2. Cody Gabiel/ Rick Penrose 3. Shawn Mcnearney

Trail buggy class: 1.Eric Wicks 2.Uriel Varela 3.Daniel Zeman

Legends Class: 1. Kaitlin Yates/ Graeme Tydeman 2. Kyle Witherspoon/ Jared Neff 3. Kolt Mieras/ Josh Bart

Street Stock Class: 1.Mark Hodges 2.Jim Martino/ John Black 3. Al Lockett/ Jim Frens

Please enjoy a few photos from what I was able to capture from this incredible event…Great job everyone and see you all next year!


































HobbyTown’s “Crawl for Cash”

Hobby Town’s “Crawl for Cash” was one of the Axial Fall Sponsored events  hosted at the Hobby Town at 4420-A Treat Blvd., Concord CA.

We suspected it to be a success and we were even more excited that everyone loved our donated items for raffle! Congrats to the raffle winners. The following letter was sent from Michael Mann, HobbyTown owner:

Hi Axial,

Thank you for the follow up.  I think it was a huge success!  Our final count was 57 drivers from all over Northern California.  We even had several drivers who recently competed at the Worlds Competition in the finals.  So the competition was fierce.

For a lot of drivers, it was their first time at taking on an indoor course and I think the intimidation factor was high.  The courses were tough, but very enjoyable.  Each having a mid-course bonus line that could be attempted for an additional 10 progress points.  We invested into our course prior to the event and built two additional large structures and added several extra tons of rock to add new elements that would make the course fresh and give no driver an advantage.

Top Ten drivers ended being

1.) Dean Hall
2.) Bryan Crofts
3.) Troy Faber
4.) Travis Crockett
5.) Joe Donnel
6.) Daniel Flemming
7.) Kris Williams
8.) Kevin Rodriguez
9.) Joel Gallegos
10.) Anthony Redfearn

Dean came away with $200 in Cash Prizes and a First Place Trophy.  It was Dean’s first big win at a comp ever!

What I was most excited about was we were even able to make arrangements at the last moment with John Hubbard (Badger) and to have him come out of a two year retirement in the 2.2 class to compete  He was also gracious enough to also set up a LIVE feed of the entire event which was broadcasted on the RCC Live TV portion of the RCCrawler website.  This really made the event special for the drivers attending and gave exposure to our sponsors and the HobbyTown Crawler Course all day long.

Our Raffle was the highlight of the day and Axial’s donation to this went over tremendously.  Everyone loved the new t-shirt designs and I even saw some local drivers/customers who won them wearing them the very next day!  As well, one of our Top 10 drivers Daniel Flemming was actually the winner of the AX10.  Thank you so much for the support of our event.  We realize that it’s your contributions that really make these things a success.


We look forward to your next event Mike, and keep up the good work! :)