Days 1 and 2: Qualifying
Day one began with all contestants divided into two groups, and then these two groups were subdivided again with approximately 15 rigs placed into each subgroup. Each subgroup went to their designated section of obstacles based on an order determined by lottery. They proceeded to challenge each other and themselves while entertaining the large crowds.
|Pat Gremillion does it with poise and style on Day 1
Big Rock Film & Video
There was nothing easy about any of these qualifying obstacles, but the most challenging obstacle, with a voracious appetite for snapped axles and shredded tires, was in section two, at Stage 6.
|Pat Gremillion's wild ride!
Although Pat Gremillion did not make the finals, he did give the crowds one of the best shows of the event on Stage 6. Pat drove his narrowed Bronco up this nearly vertical obstacle, first on three wheels, then for a few feet on two wheels. His poise and expert driving skill earned him huge cheers several times during his valiant attempt. Only three other contestants were able to finish #6 without winching or breaking. Pat almost joined that elite group, driving the hardest "V" part of the obstacle with relative ease, but near the end, a tire slipped off the right front edge and fell into a hole. With only seconds of his allotted time remaining, unable to back up, his only option was to try to power out. A loud snap rang out when the right front Dana 60 axle shaft sheared at the carrier. With no spare shaft, Pat was doomed to finish well out of contention for the top 12.
Pat's well-traveled orange Bronco hardly stood out in this crowd of able vehicles. All the rigs were heavily built with lockers front and rear, low gearing, full cages, meaty tires, winches, hooks, etc. (FINALIST'S RIG SPECS)
|Jeff Beach's underside!
While Pat Gremillion was putting on his wild show, Jeff Beach was tackling stage 3 of section two. He eased to the wall, popped his tires up, gave a little too much throttle, then BAM! The front of his rig toppled over and it landed on the hood, finally coming to rest on its rollcage. Jeff was uninjured and he was able to get his rig back on its tires quickly with the aid of Kevin Hawkin's Willys, and a sturdy strap. With only cosmetic damage, Jeff was back, ready to roll again, at the top of Stage 5, section one, in the next day's competition.
|Shannon Campbell's token winch climb!
Shannon Campbell seemed to make easy work of all of section one's challenges, until he reached Stages 4 and 5. Stage 5 seemed to be where most competitors had to winch. The wheelable line was so obscure that only a select few spotters recognized it. The wall looked impassable, but those that did recognize the line, managed to climb it did so with relative ease and very few infractions.
|Jeff Beach sits in peaceful contemplation
Big Rock Film & Video
By the end of the second day, almost all the rigs had sustained broken parts or body damage. Some were damaged so badly, they had to be winched onto trailers for the trip home. Others may have looked a bit worse for a day's wear, but still managed to maintain their rock crawling ability. Fortunately the people fared far better that the vehicles and there were no injuries report by either the drivers or the spotters beyond a few of the usual trail nicks, bumps, and bruises. (FINALISTS)
If these mere qualifying obstacles took this much toll... what damage would the final obstacles cause?