1999 Johnson Valley WRCC

A Contestant's Perspective:
Jason Bunch

David vs. Goliath?

Jason Bunch/Steve Hastings
89 Wrangler - 35" Tires
8th on Claw Hammer
8th on Wrecking Ball
5th Overall

Photo courtesy Tri-County Gear
Photo courtesy Tri-County Gear

Intro

In the 25 years I've owned Jeeps and been employed in the off-road drivetrain industry, I've driven thousands of miles of trails. Between mud bog racing, sand drag racing, driving the dunes at Glamis and Dumont, running the mountainous Rubicon trail, crawling the slick rocks of Moab, and playing on countless rock piles of the Southern California deserts... I thought I'd done it all.

Preparations

As I prepped my vehicle and myself for the 1999 Warn Rock Crawling Championships, I knew I'd need all my years of experience to pull off a good finish. The two months prior to the event were literally saturated in building a vehicle to compete with. As the owner of Tri-County Gear in Pomona, California, I'm fortunate to have the shop space, parts availability, and any number of loyal customers willing to donate their time to the effort.

Johnson Valley

Photo by Mike Pulskamp

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Mike Pulskamp

Photo by Mike Pulskamp
Steve Hastings spots the 'Rock Star' YJ.
Mike Pulskamp

Arriving at the event, I was beyond sleep-deprived and running completely on empty. As a result, I felt that during the Friday preliminary trail, on Clawhammer Trail, I was totally off my game. What usually comes as second nature to me had to be hard fought... with only mediocre results. However, after a long night of rest, I found my focus and awoke ready to take on the last preliminary trail, Wrecking Ball, and accomplished my goal of making the Dirty Dozen.

On the last day, Finals, I was ready to perform. The trails were challenging even though I off-road in this area several times a year. Paying attention to the positioning of flags and trying not to back up or stop forward motion takes great concentration.

Finished Fifth Overall

I came into the finals placed 8th and finishing an overall 5th out of 60 vehicles was very gratifying. I would be remiss if I did not give credit to my spotter, Steve Hastings. His expert guidance and ability to work with me as a team was invaluable. I also owe special thanks to Danny Grimes, our unofficial team manager who kept us fed and focused.

Event Best?
The camaraderie of fellow team members and drivers and the chance to test out a virtually untested vehicle.

Event Worst?
The Saturday night and Sunday devil winds!! Gusts up to 70mph made the dry lake bed a sand-blasting chamber.

Would I do it all again?
In a heartbeat! I can't wait til the next round!!!

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