Kevin Sacalas makes history as the 1st Ultra4 class winner.
It was a few weeks after the 09’ King of the Hammers competition when I had first heard rumors of rock racers entering the BITD Vegas to Reno desert race. At the time, the idea of rock racers running a 1000 mile desert race seemed novel and not exactly realistic. After all, I had just watched a race where nearly half of the field didn’t make it to the rock section of the course where they were supposed to excel! Well, fast forward a few months and we have a group of 11 rock racers building and preparing cars for this long desert event. Although this race would not be the first time that a rock racer has entered a desert comp it would be the first time that rock racers would have their own class and would attempt to complete 1000 miles.
In the months leading up to the race, several drivers contacted us about the Spider 9 axles inquiring if the components were up to the task of a thousand miles of harsh desert abuse. Most of the concern was directed at the Spidertrax 1 Ton Unit Bearings and their reliability. I know that some people that have bad experiences with unit bearings, (most folks in the desert racing community regard them as junk), but we were pretty confident that the domestic grade unit bearings we use could survive. Spidertrax has spent many hours testing, dissecting and evaluating the quality of the F450 unit bearings made by different manufacturers and are convinced that the Timken brand unit bearings that we modify are of the highest quality and up to the task. Out of the field of 11 Ultra4 competitors, Spidertrax axles and components were on 6 of the vehicles. To date, all of the tests that we have done on the components were in rock crawling, rock racing and the KOH events. To say that this race would be a true test of a product that was developed for rock crawling would be an understatement.
Unfortunately the timing of the race did not allow us to attend the competition in person. Instead, we followed live updates (via text, pictures, & GPS tracking) provided by Pirate4x4 and BITD. While these sources of information were great, it could not replace the excitement and action that only being at the race could provide. We followed along for 3 days of racing, watching the Ultra4 (4400 class) battle the desert environment, learning about the problems that the cars were encountering from the heat and terrain. Not only was this a test of man and machine but a testament of the dedication of the chase/pit crews to recover, fix and push on in an unfamiliar atmosphere.
As the third day of racing came to a close, car number 4435 (built and driven by Kevin Sacalas) was 1st in the 4400 class and 69th overall. Kevin’s team was the only Ultra4 to finish all 3 days and 1000 miles of the race!!! This was exciting for Spidertrax, as Kevin’s car was running complete Spider 9 axles, front and rear. In the week following the race, we contacted Kevin to congratulate him on the win and to find out how the Spidertrax components performed. We were pleased to discover that his Spider 9 axles performed beautifully & that his Spidertrax 1 Ton Unit Bearings were as tight as when originally installed.
Hearing the post race stories from the event can be almost exciting as the race itself. Reports of how the rock racers assisted one another, before and during the race made me proud to be involved in the sport. The race for the Ultra4 wasn’t about individuals doing whatever they could to win, but a class wide effort for all to finish the race. I wish that I could end this story by saying that all of the competitors in the 4400 class finished, but unfortunately that was not the case. Some teams fell victim to the 110+ degree heat, whereas others dealt with the abuse that a 1000 mile desert race puts out. What I can say is that these competitors fought hard to survive, worked together and that the lessons learned are invaluable to our sport. Congratulations to every team that entered, as their representation in the Vegas to Reno race puts a mark in the win column for all of us in the rock crawling community.