The sport of recreational rock crawling and hill climbing has evolved quickly in the southeast to what is being called “rock bouncing”. High horsepower buggies built to launch up insane climbs, and fast. The Southern Rock Racing Series was formed after seeing these guys out on the weekends putting on a show and decided to put together an organized racing series that would allow these guys to do what they enjoy, only with the added excitement and risk/reward of competition. The first Southern Rock Racing Series event was held at Choccolocco Mountain ORV park in Jacksonville, AL. The park boasts to be one of the most hardcore wheelin’ spots in the area. With steep, loose, rocky climbs and huge slick rock slabs the trails at Choccolocco will challenge even the most hardcore wheeler, which is exactly why SRRS chose to hold the first event there.
The competition consisted of three separate hill climb races, and the combined times from each course would determine overall ranking. 17 competitors lined up for the drivers meeting and then headed out to the first course, a trail called “Backside”. It is a long narrow climb with loose rocks and one large ledge at the bottom, and a ledge near the top. The first competitor lined up was Bobby Tanner in his ColeWorx “Screamin’ Blue” chassis. Bobby is one of the more exciting drivers to watch as he never holds anything back. He launches up the course and lays down a time of just 30.9 seconds, which ended up being the fastest time on that course.
Richie Keith was a competitor everyone was very interested in. In his 755HP “PlowBoy” chassis he made the decision to run bolted tires. Long bolts in each tire anchored on the inside with large washers and tire-tubes. The bolts were roughly 3” long outside the tread with welded nuts.
“Backside” claimed a few DNFs. Bree Molitor of 4x4Nation started full throttle and never lifted but took a hard bounce and ended up breaking. Adam Adair had a fast run all the way to the top ledge but the rear bucked and ended up breaking a 9” ring&pinion in his “Mini Monster” chassis. Brent Mewbourn looked to have overheated his steering and ended up catching fire after his steering wouldn’t allow him to navigate the course.
The infamous “Boat Ramp” obstacle was the next course and it proved to be one of the most exciting courses of the day. Boat Ramp is a 20’+ smooth rock face with water seeping out that provides no traction at all. Competitors must carry enough momentum to launch up the face without sliding back down. Boat Ramp claimed several tires, a driveshaft, an RCV shaft, and some pride. Randall Key had a very promising run in his “Green Goblin” Smith Motorsports Chassis until his rear tire clipped a tree about ¾ up the rock face at full throttle. His buggy violently whipped around the tree 90 degrees and was brought to a quick halt.
In contrast, Lori “Mrs. MadRam” Shirley, one of the 3 lady drivers in the competition seemed to have had her Jim’s Garage JK buggy on cruise control as she climbed the entire course at a very consistent speed with a time of 1 minute, 2 seconds. BFG Red Label Krawlers may have had a bunch to do with it.
Lawrence Collins and Wes Kean hit the bottom ledge harder than most of the competitors. Unfortunately, they both took similar bad bounces that threw them right into the same tree that Randall’s rear tire hit.
The third and final course was on a freshly cut trail named “Pick your Poison”. It is a long steep climb with a nasty ledge in the middle and an optional 10 point bonus exit at the top with car-sized boulders. Shelby Tanner was the first competitor to attempt the climb in her Smith Motorsports chassis “ole Black”. After watching her bounce around on the middle ledge for 4 minutes full throttle before backing down, we soon realized this climb was going to be much harder than expected.
As each competitor gave it a shot the loose dirt quickly disappeared exposing nasty rock ledges. The most promising line to climb was to cross the ledges from right to left; however this exposed a violent rollover hazard as Jordan Tanner almost found out.
Adam Lee attacked the ledge with full commitment and no fear. He took a nasty bounce and the rear tires hooked hard and sent his Essentially Off-Road chassis over backwards for one complete backflip and one full barrel roll, landing on the tires. Adam walked away unharmed but his rig suffered minor damage to the rear steering and suspension mounts.
Darryl Jones was the first competitor to winch up the middle ledge, but unfortunately he timed out. A $350 bounty was put on the optional boulder exit line so after timing out he attempted the bounty line and made it look like nothing as he easily crawled out the top.
Peter Basler was consistent all day with 2nd place finishes on both Backside and Boat Ramp. His tuned trailing-arm suspension Blue Torch “KOH” buggy soaked up the trails and allowed him to easily cruise over most terrain that the other competitors were bouncing unpredictably on. Peter made it to the middle ledge on Pick your Poison faster than any of the other competitors and quickly made the decision to winch. Co-Driver and fellow competitor Adam Adair quickly jumped out with winch rope coiled up in his hands already hooked up and got Peter over the ledge in under a minute, allowing him to be the first, and only one of two competitors to finish the course. This strategy was also used by Lawrence Collins and he too was able to finish the course, but a minute slower than Peter.
After Bobby DNFs on “Pick your Poison”, that allowed Peter to take the lead and win the overall points at the first Southern Rock Racing Series event. Thanks to all who competed and gave it their all, and thanks to the more than 500 spectators who came out to cheer on their favorite driver!
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