WE Rock competitors descended on Rausch Creek Off-Road Park for the Eastern Finals and slugged it out, putting their wits and skills to the test on the newest stage for rock crawling in the North East. Obstacles took on affectionate names from the competitors: Whale Back, Horse Shoe and the Helmet. With the course designed by WE Rock's Rich Klein, the weekend was shaping up to be just another stroll in the park. Yeah, right.
Matt Deas commented on the Helmet obstacle, "That was one of those courses that was kind of deceiving, it was man-made with good traction. I looked at it and thought it wasn’t too bad. We just kept battling around on it and I’m thinking Oh My. Two or three backs later we finally got through. It was a pretty tough little course. I thought the event was great and I really liked Rausch Creek. The thing I liked about it most was that it was half natural and half man-made, so you got both ends of the field there. I thought that was kind of neat."
"We did okay at the Eastern Finals, we ended up fourth," said Matt. "You always want to do better, but considering the fact that we had a real tough first day, we were able to come back and fight our way back to fourth, I was pleased with that. That was enough to get us the series win which was our main focus.
Strategy: The guy in second was Brad Styles, so basically my big plan was to stay close to him all weekend and finish in front of him. That was Plan B I guess, Plan A was to win, but I just wanted to go out there and be as clean and as smooth as I could and stay ahead of him because that series title was our goal.
Looking Back: We have won three titles now, '05 and '06 UROC and now '07 WE Rock, I have to say that the one that was most memorable was the 2005 win because that was my first one, and I felt that I finally accomplished a goal I was striving for. Will we be competing again next year? Yeah, absolutely full steam ahead, thanks to all our sponsors.
Competitors on the course, friends on the trail: We caught up with Matt just as he was preparing to go on a wheeling trip. "We're going trail riding and camping this weekend, I haven’t been trail riding since I can’t tell you when. We’re going to Tellico with my buddies: Troy Meyers, Mike Hulfish, his spotter Junior, Danny Rohrer, and Brad Styles."
Rausch Creek's Newly Developed Rock Course
Setting the stage for WE Rock’s Eastern Finals was a newly developed rock course at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park. "There was that rush to get things done. The uncertainty of 'Are we going to make it and get the course done in time?" said Bruce Shallis owner of Rausch Creek Off-Road Park and WE Rock competitor.
"Getting the course ready was more mind-boggling a month before the competition, but once we had the concrete down I felt better. All things considered it was a great event all around. Everything that I learned over the years competing at different sites, we took all that into account as we built this place, for logistics and everything. For the first National Competition at Rausch Creek, the attendance was pretty good. I can’t complain."
On Competition Rock Crawling
Bruce Shallis: The sport is on the edge of going in either direction. It is either going to take off or stay stagnant. As a competitor and off-road park owner, I want to see the sport grow. To me it is very important that we keep pushing the sport to that next progression.
Bruce: We have a competition coming up at Rausch Creek with close to fifty teams that have never competed, ever. Fifty brand new competitors coming out to try the sport, to me, that says something.
Low-RANGE: The course was kind of a unique mix of natural and man- made sections. When you are spotting do you think about the different layout and textures of man-made versus natural obstacles?
Bruce: Absolutely. In between a couple of our runs, we went from the natural rocks over to the circular concrete portion. At the Helmet, we actually raised the tire pressure up about 5 lbs in each tire. It keeps the sidewalls from buckling and kind of holds the line better. It was a very off camber technical turn. So absolutely, you have to adjust things as you go.
Low-RANGE: Looking back on the year, How do you think you guys did as a team competing?
Bruce:We had higher expectations for the year when we started out. We started the year out with a blown motor, which killed the first event. We swapped the motor and came back and ran, which is huge. For the mechanical problems we had this year, we overcame a lot. We could have folded and took last, so I am proud of where we finished.
Low-RANGE: Will WE Rock be back at Rausch Creek this year?
Bruce: Yes, right now the tentative date is the first weekend in August. That will be the Eastern Finals.
Low-RANGE:Gavin, your driver, do you think he is more of a finesse driver, or more throttle?
Bruce: He is both; he is finesse until he has to get on it. Once he gets on it I got to tell him to get off it. When he puts that hammer down, then you have to talk him off it. He said he wants to try rock racing, but I don’t think the rig would survive it.
Low-RANGE: What did you think of the course?
Gavin Lewis: We need more courses like this in the East, and in the West. Consistent venues that are spectator friendly and that can also handle the crowds we hope to draw.
Low-RANGE: Why do you compete?
Gavin: I am a very competitive person by nature. Through high school and college I competed at the junior Olympic and NCAA Division one levels. I started going wheeling with some friends, and when the first rock crawling competition hit PA back in 2002 my competitive nature took over and I had to enter. I started as a spotter that year because my rig was not up to par for the class, however when 2003 hit I updated my Jeep and drove that entire season. The rest you could say is history.
Low-RANGE: Do you have any advice for someone interested in testing their skills on the rocks?
Gavin: If you are looking to try competitive rock crawling out, watch Rausch Creek in 2008 as they will be hosting their own local series sanctioned by WE Rock. The purpose of this series will be to create a "feeder system" for the national series. It will allow teams to try the sport out without having to make the large personal and financial commitment to traveling the country. We need more of these series country wide to allow new competitors to enter the sport.
Low-RANGE: Throttle or finesse, which best describes your style of driving?
Gavin:This is a funny question as I am sure I will give one answer, my spotter would give a second, and my friends a third. When I started I was a complete throttle jockey to say the least, I had the philosophy of "there is no replacement for displacement". I feel that I have become a finesse driver over the past two years, for the most part. When things get hairy and time is ticking down, the throttle guy in me comes back! There are times that it is a good thing the motor has a rev limiter!
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