This past weekend, April 24-26 was the start of the WeRock East Series. We left Thursday evening headed for Dayton Tennessee. We arrived mid day on Friday to some beautiful weather. It was sunny and warm, temperature in the mid 80’s. This was a great change from last year with all the rain. We unloaded the Jeep for the first time. My crewmates Matt and Dave and I went over a few last minute details, then headed for Tech. After some picture taking at Tech inspection and talking other teams and fans we heading settled in for a good nights rest.
Well here it is Saturday morning, and the start of my first event. It is a beautiful morning: blue skies and no rain in the forecast. We picked our running order last night. We drew well for today, we are last in our group. This will give us an opportunity to watch some of the other competitors run before it is our turn. We started out on B2 which had a nice rocky area at the bottom with a rocky hill climb then down. We were able to complete the course but took two cones and several back-ups to do it. My first professional course is done and over, what a relief.
On to B3, two cones, one bonus, several back-ups, and a climb few had been successful with. By this time, my long 106” wheel base has some advantage. I am also getting better at Front Digs (more throttle). We had one of the best scores on this course which was uplifting.
Our next course is B4, large rocks at the bottom with a fairly steep stair step climb at the top. We got through the first gate but took the lower cone like everyone else had done before us. Bruce being the spotter that he is went up the hill and pushed a rock out of our way that probably weighed twice as much as him. After several attempts at the hill it looked as if I had it lined up to make the climb. I hit it pretty good with some throttle and the front end jumped up when Bruce started yelling to stop. Apparently the front wheels were not turning. I ended breaking both front axle stub shafts. That was it for that course with no front axle pulling us up the hill.
We got the Jeep back to the trailer to make some quick repairs. We are now on break down time with only 45 minutes to change out both front axle assemblies. We got it back together and are headed for B1 with only minutes to spare.
Over on B1, we made the first gate clean and backed off the bonus only to slide to the right and catch the cone. Gave two is a steep uphill climb on a huge smooth rock. I almost had it, my front tires were on top when it slid to the left pulling me back off and sending me onto my side. I need to work on my reaction time. I may have been able to save it if I had grabbed reverse sooner.
Well it is the end of Day one and we are sitting in seventh place at 111 points.
Sunday, Day two, and you couldn’t ask for better weather. Sunny and hot is the forecast. Day two brings on some harder courses. Today we get to run the A courses. These are the courses for the unlimited guys ran the day before. Being my first event, I am feeling a bit nervous and intimidated. We went over the Jeep to make sure it was ready for the day then walked courses.
Since I drew last in my group the day before, today I am first. Our first course is A2. We have a choice between a big climb for a bonus or a loose climb for gate one. We knew everyone would try the bonus and we needed the points so we gave it a shot only to slide into a crack. When I tried to back up the front got light and over on the Roof/side I went.
After checking the Jeep over, to course A3 we went. This course had a steep stair step climb with a big differential catching rock at the top. I tried to come at it at an angle hoping to be able to walk the rear tires around the cone. Well that didn’t work and I ended up on my side. Bruce ran down the hill and was able to roll me over onto my tires. He asked if I was alright and did I want to try it again. I said I was okay and let’s go. We tried to move over a little and try another line, unfortunately with the same results. I tried to upright the Jeep with no luck.
Onto A4, a steep long hill climb with a lot of outcropping rocks at the top and an under-cut drop off beside it. Bruce asked me how I felt about it. I told him I would give it a try but I didn’t want to destroy the Jeep. My first attempt, I got a good running start but let out of the throttle to soon and was denied. Bruce said is looked good and asked if I wanted to try again. Matt said don’t let off the throttle. So off I went for my second attempt. I never thought a Jeep could fly but I was wrong. It flew right on top of that hill. I ran it over to the drop and with some direction from Bruce, dropped off and out the gate. We were only the fourth team to make it by then. A quick look and I broke another stub shaft. We borrowed a shaft and had if fixed before our next course.
Off we went to A1 and boy was I ready. We made gate one and lined up to drop off gate two; a clean drop through gate two bonus. And off to gate three. At this point we where ready to take on the last gate when we ran into another mechanical failure. The fuel system had an issue which starved the engine from juice. Not the way to finish an almost perfect run.
Overall it was a great weekend. We ended up tied for ninth with a 10th place finish. It was a good learning experience for my first Pro competition with less than five hours seat time in a new rig. We feel we did well. We have some work ahead of us but with some more practice and vehicle tuning, I think we will do well.
We hope to see everyone in Hannibal MO for the 2nd WE Rock eastern nationals event.
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