Home > Stampede > Well, that was an insane weekend.

Well, that was an insane weekend.

June 11th2014
 By Thom Kingston on 2014-06-11T09:16:56-07:00 | Stampede |

It Was The Race of All Races -- 2014 MetalCloak StampedeSpidertrax | Thom Kingston | CC BY 3.0

Action, suspense, nail-biting to the very end… last weekend’s Ultra4 MetalCloak Stampede packed in more thrilling plot twists than a Tom Clancy novel. It was a racer’s race, marked now as the largest of the entire Ultra4 season outside of King of the Hammers. While the race itself spanned two days, you didn’t have to wait to the end for the excitement to begin. No, this story grabbed you at page one.

It’s Friday, sometime shortly after 9am PST, and the course opens for practice. It’s the time every driver has the opportunity to get in a few laps, feeling out the race track that is guaranteed, thanks to course promoter/designer John Goodby, to be different every event. We find elements of John’s motocross background in this course; careful blends of jumps, whoops, and groomed rhythm sections along with Ultra4s staple technical rock gardens made up the field (it was a course of racing greatness). Practice not only gets you some much-needed seat time, those lap times are recorded and used for positions in the first preliminary races later that same day. The field of over 90 racers already started to thin out, as unexpected vehicle failures found their way early on.

It was the surprise crash of Tom Wayes in practice that caught the most attention. He would have the fastest pre-running lap time, granting him the pole position in the first preliminary race that would shortly follow. Unfortunately, his rig suffered some carnage on the front suspension along with a damaged flex plate… and likely a few other small issues hiding within. The crash was so violent, he ended up chipping both of his back teeth, as I would find out standing next to him during the drivers meeting. Flexing his jaw, in obvious pain, he immediate follows the drivers meeting with “Time to find a flex plate,” and walks off. He will end up forfeiting his top preliminary spot, electing to race LCQ the next day for a chance at the Main.

At this point, it’s best to detail just how the Ultra4 MetalCloak Stampede is laid out. Friday afternoon following pre-running, there would be 3 preliminary races, 15 cars max per race, with the top 3 finishers from each advancing into the Saturday evening Main race. For those that didn’t qualify for Saturday’s Main race, there would be 3 LCQ races Saturday morning thru early afternoon with, once again, the top 3 finishers advancing to the Main. Last but not least, there is one more chance to get into the Main race, we’ll call it the LLCQ (otherwise known as Main B), where just the single top finisher from that race will earn a spot into the Main. With each heat lasting about 30 minutes (top lap times just under 3 minutes on average) you can get the sense of just how much racing is demanded of driver and machine. Couple this with 100+°F temperatures, and the endurance factor was in high gear.

Friday’s preliminary races continue with more suspense, action, and plot twists. While many Ultra4 household names earn their spots for Saturday’s Main, a few well-known names were left behind. Jason Scherer, with his new Ultra4 IFS machine nicknamed The Gavel, was still fighting a few new car blues and didn’t finish high enough to advance straight to the Main. Neither did local seasoned race team, and all around bad asses, Gary Ferravanti Sr. & Jr. . They were not alone, of course, as a number of teams either didn’t finish high enough to advance, or didn’t race the preliminaries at all, still working on repairs from practice. The sun would set, and a new day of racing would begin.

It’s now Saturday, approximately 11am PST, and the first of 3 LCQ races are underway. It’s the chance for any racer who didn’t already advance to the Main yesterday to do so today. As one would expect, a number of top Ultra4 drivers who, as bad luck would have it, didn’t qualify yesterday would do so in LCQ. This included the Ferravantis and Jason Scherer. Jason would find himself spending the entire night prior, with his commendably devoted race team, ironing out the bugs to make LCQ a race they could win. Working on roughly 2 hours of sleep, and the charms of Murphy’s Law, their hard work would pay off. Luck, as it happens, was not on the side of Friday’s fastest lap holder Tom Wayes. After repairing the damage from Friday, an unexpected throttle issue had Tom pretty much sitting still the entire LCQ race. He would not advance to the Main, but if he could get the throttle issue figured out fast enough, he would have one more chance for glory in the LLCQ (Main B).

Of course, we’re mixing all of this racing with other classes as well, including UTVs, Legends, SPEC, Modified, and Stock. All of these classes would have their Main before the Main B / LLCQ, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The top racers in each class were fast, very fast in fact, and while the field of racers thinned out fairly quick as attrition got the best of them, it was a close race to the end for those in the front. Congrats to Jordan Townsend (Modified), Ben Varozza (Stock), Jessi Combs (Legends/SPEC), & Phillip Cagliero (UTV) for taking the top spots in their respective races. These classes combined made up 24 of the finishing drivers for Ultra4 MetalCloak Stampede, nearly matching the number of finishing 4400s, so all in all the turnout was plenty solid for laying out a competitive landscape. If you have a rig that fits the specs of any one of these classes (or better yet, rent yourself a SPEC car from Hammerking owner Dave Cole), mark your calendar next year and come out. You will not be disappointed.

Now, on to the LLCQ Main B race. We see Tom Wayes in the line, assuming now he has the throttle issue figured out. Only 1 driver from this race will get a ticket to the Main, which would follow immediate after. The majority of vehicles racing the Main B have already raced practice, preliminary, and LCQ… making the total wear & tear for car & driver well beyond the limits of any superhuman. It is the final chance for Main, and lady luck would have to be on your side if you expected to finish on top. Well, Tom finally got his first bit of good fortune as he crossed the Main B finish line in 1st place. He would get his Main race ticket, but he would start in the very back of the line with a rig that has likely raced more miles that weekend than any other.

The moment we have all been waiting for, the climax of the story if you will. The rolling start of the Main race, marked with literally the best in the Ultra4 business, was something to be seen in person. I mean this literally; pictures, video, stories do not do this justice. Having been to a number of TORC short course races with some of the meanest Pro4 machines in the world, it’s hard to be impressed by a short course style race after the power and speed seen there. Well, that’s pretty much old news now… the Ultra4s in the Main race effectively land rushed into an opening rock pile that was something reminiscent of a Mad Max movie on steroids. I may be mistaken with who said this on Saturday shortly after the Main race, but I believe it was Andrew Mclaughlin who told Dave Cole, That was nuts. I’m going to have nightmares, we’re talking Freddy Krueger shit. But in a good way!. That pretty much summed it up for me, it was 45 minutes of pure insanity. Lap after lap, we watched the story unfold and slowly, one after another, we saw Ultra4s getting picked off a little at a time. I can say with all certainty, this is the only Ultra4 race that comes to mind where a driver could have a catastrophic mechanical failure, we’re talking transmissions and engines exploding, and still have a smile on their face. It was that good.

When the dust finally settled, and heart rates came back under 200 BPM, it was the man on a mission who took top honors. Yes sir, Tom Wayes would finish the Main with enough fast laps under his belt to secure the win along with the fastest single lap time of the weekend, an astounding 2:27. Starting from the back of the pack… having just raced the LCQ & LLCQ for only the chance to participate in the Main… with the pressure of driving the same proven IFS machine that won the Stampede last year (by Jason Scherer)… Mr. Wayes delivered in a big way.

Tom’s Ultra4 racer is sporting our first prototype Spider 9 IFS design, and now on its 3rd+ year of brutal punishment, it’s rewarding for us to see it still shining to this day, grabbing podium finishes like it was simply just something expected. Congrats to Tom Wayes for a well-earned victory, it was the weekend to rise above and Tom certainly rose to the occasion. He can now finally get some rest, and those two back teeth repaired.

In typical fashion, we have some photos to share and we’ll do that throughout the week. Till next time.

Source for times and placings: Ultra4Racing.com