1999 Johnson Valley WRCC

Different Championships, Different Rules

At the end of 1999, two major national Rock Crawling venues exist. In 1998, Sports-in-the-Rough put on the BFG Rock Crawling Championship in Las Cruces; and in November, 1999, they produced the Warn Rock Crawling Championship in Johnson Valley, CA. ARCA sanctioned its first event in September, 1999 in Farmington, the Goodyear Extreme Rock Crawling Competition.

There are many differences and similarities between the events, and the key difference for the competitors break down three ways:

The following tables highlight some of these similarities and dissimilarities. Refer to the full rules for comparison: Sports-in-the-Rough Rules and ARCA Rules. The rules cited in these links and discussed below were the specific rules used at the Warn Rock Crawling Championship (Johnson Valley, CA) and Goodyear Extreme Rock Crawling (Farmington, NM) events.

Rules Comparison
Points Deducted

Type of Penalty
Points Added
-1 Ceasing forward progress for a time period (WRCC 5 seconds, ARCA 6 seconds) +1
-2 Intentionally reversing course. Note: Stopping and reversing is 2 points total. +2
-6 Knocking down a gate +10
-14 Using a winch or other tool to assist progress +20
-20 Exceeding the time limit for a stage +40

Stage-by-Stage Scoring

Both competitions use paired gates, like Olympic slalom skiing. Competitors have to complete each stage and pass between each pair of gates within an allotted time. In both events, teams are penalized a point for stopping, and two points for reversing.

A significant difference between scoring is that ARCA tallies additive penalty points, and Sports-in-the-Rough starts with 20 points per stage and subtracts penalty points. ARCA contestants aim for a low score; the team with the fewest points wins. Sports-in-the-Rough contestants compete for a high score; the team with the most points wins.

Also, ARCA allows up to 40 penalty points per stage, if a competitor attempts it and doesn't bypass the stage. Sports-in-the-Rough sets the ceiling on point deductions at 20 points, then counts the number of completed gates against the deduction. Thus, a team that has a miserable stage, but somehow manages to complete it anyway, can have a much wider point swing in the ARCA series. In Sports-in-the-Rough events, contestants can still come back from a single bad stage.

Scoring Example Comparison
ARCA Sports-in-the-Rough
A perfect score (no penalties) for a 5-gate stage is 0 points. A perfect score (no penalties) for a 5-gate stage is 30 points.
A team that points-out and clears 3 intermediate gates earns 40 points for that stage. A team that points-out (-20) and clears 3 intermediate gates earns 6 points (2 for each gate passed) for that stage.

Strategic Rules

In the BFG Rock Crawling Championship, strategy (winching or bypassing an obstacle) stole the spotlight, and both subsequent events have subtly changed the rules to encourage more driving, and less of these strategies. Ironically, Warn sponsored the most recent event, where winching was heavily penalized. This rule change forced teams to rely on their driving and spotting skills, using the winch as only the absolute last resort. Generally, at the Warn Rock Crawling Championship, if teams winched, it meant that they had already timed or pointed out.

In the Warn Rock Crawling Championship, teams could take one no-penalty time-out between stages per day. If any teams had exceeded 20 minutes during a time-out or dropped out of order a second time in a day, they would have then been charged 10 points for each of the remaining stages that day. The ARCA series had no timeouts. If contestants were broken or otherwise delayed enough to prevent them from lining up for the next stage in order, they earned a 5-point penalty for every vehicle that passed them.

At the Warn Rock Crawling Championship, the teams could also lose significant points for technical fouls (mostly common sense-related: seat belt violations, alcohol or empties in the vehicle, entering stage before start of clock, etc.) As with most organized events, documenting common sense and responsibility helps minimize misunderstandings and differences of opinion. These seemingly small infractions can result in large point swings, but should be less of a scoring issue as the rules become better known.

Finals / Qualification Scoring

Sports-in-the-Rough used cumulative scores for their finalists, counting all three days of competition toward the final standings. The Warn Rock Crawling Championship winners had to perform well every day of the event - consistency was key. ARCA counted the first two days' scores only to identify the finalists, then restarted the finalists from scratch. The finals had much tighter competition as a result.

In the Warn Rock Crawling Championship event, Team Meyers/Trudeau finished the qualifying round with a huge 42-point lead over the rest of the field, which they subsequently carried through the finals. With that much of a lead, they could have coasted (not that they did), because all the drama was about second place... first place was a foregone conclusion. If Sports-in-the-Rough had reset all of the finalists' scores to 0, like ARCA did, the scores would have been a bit different, but the rankings would have been very similar:

Final Winners Based on All Three Days
Place Driver/Spotter Qual. Total
1 Meyers/Trudeau 310 458
2 Rumore/Barber 268 414
3 Ristau/Curoe 264 401
4 Patton/Cox 261 395
5 Bunch/Hastings 249 389
6 Gremillion/Sumner 267 383
7 Yoder/Webb 276 380
8 Hawkins/Barton 242 373
9 Currie/Waggoner 277 369
10 Stump/Miller 238 362
11 Lockwood/Moore 242 357
12 Reynolds/Reynolds 236 324
13 Bacon/Blada 234 238
Final Scores Based Only on the Final Day
Place Driver/Spotter Finals

Bunch and Hastings, in their 'Rock Star' YJ, would have moved up to third, based on their STRONG finish. Places 6 through 11 would have rotated among themselves, as well. Since the crowd had no way of knowing the scores of each contestant, and the contestants could only keep approximate relative track of each other, it likely would have made no difference except to the armchair quarterback contingent that will rehash the event, and the finishing places ad infinitum.

Armchair Quarterback

Warn Rock Crawling Championship
To keep the armchair quarterbacks busy until next year, here are some details to argue about:

Future Events
For the sake of argument:

Pundits, skeptics, and cynics can argue the results all they want, and bench racers can describe how their rig would have come out on top...


...but the only real way to find out how a rig, a driver, and a spotter stack up is to pack up the spare parts, stoke up the courage, and bring that rig, driver, and spotter to a competition. It doesn't matter that much if it is ARCA-sanctioned or Sports-in-the-Rough-produced; they have similarities and differences. Let's face it, competitive rock crawling is a young sport, so the rules are still developing.

If you really think you're ready for the show, quit bluffing and procrastinating, but think about what one contestant said the night after returning home from the Warn Rock Crawling Championship:

"Nothing you have ever done can prepare you for what we had to do...


... It was brutal ... broken axles / hubs / ring & pinion gears / u-joints / driveshafts / suspension parts, etc. I'll give you some more of the inside story once I recover."