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The parmesan was great, but the racing was even better.

June 24th2014
 By Thom Kingston on 2014-06-24T09:00:16-07:00 | King of Italy |

The Mountain King -- 2014 King of the MountainsSpidertrax | Thom Kingston | CC BY 3.0

There’s no getting around it, my evening meals in Italy were the makings of heaven. These grand tableside feasts were joined by massive quantities of the finest food, drink, conversation, more food, even more drink… and the rest gets a little blurry.  By the sound of it, one might think these banquets were the work of $200 a plate 5 star restaurants, but as it happens I visited no such place. No, this multi-hour culinary extravaganza took place night after night, right in the camping grounds of last weekend’s Ultra4 European race, The King of the Mountains (KOM). As grand as these meals were, they marked only the prelude for what was to come. It was over the next few days, as the race played out, that it became clear… this brand new racing venue would quickly go down in history, as one of the best Ultra4 European races yet.

It was a three-day event, with a racing structure reminiscent to what we’ve seen in other Ultra4 European competitions. Day 1 marked the prologue (qualifying), and day 2 & 3 marked the racing which consisted of two laps per day, 25km (15.5 mile) each lap. While drivers were welcome to survey the track, no vehicles’ of any kind would be allowed on course prior to race day; if you wanted to run the course, you would have to do it literally. This effectively made “pre-running” impossible, which added a bit of mystery for what was in-store come race day. Without maps and GPS coordinates (yellow course markers were the only source of navigation), without pre-running of any kind, drivers were at the full mercy of the course designer. Luckily, the course designer was none other than Pier Acerni, and this area just happened to be his home turf.

Pier took on the massive task of creating this course, as well as organizing many other bits that made this race possible. The pressure was on to create the next best Ultra4 playground, heightened in priority largely by having to follow the slightly underwhelming King of the Glens. Who better to design this ultimate race course than a seasoned, top placing, Ultra4 racer? No one, the answer to that no one. Pier needed a home run, but he delivered an out of the park grand slam.

Like perfectly crafted marinara, this course had the precise amount of the finest Ultra4 ingredients to make every driver happy, and wanting more the minute they shut off their engines. Fast sections and wooded paths started the racing journey, leading to an opening of majestic meadows, followed by traversing down switchbacks into rock infested dry river beds, all while surrounded by mountains on every side… it was breathtaking from every angle. By the end of day 2, you didn’t need to ask the racers if they were enjoying the course. The smiles that filled the grounds made sure of that.

As all Ultra4 races go, it would be speed, consistency, and endurance that would win the day… and that day had come for US’s very own, Levi Shirley. With his brand new, mid-engine, Spider 9 powered ORA Ultra4 racer, and his dad Brian co-driving by his side, everything just came together for the Shirley family. Taking everything he has learned for races past and pushing it to the absolute limit, by lap 3 it became clear it was his race to win. Levi’s lap times were the fastest, but it was no easy race to conquer. The European circuit is a growing one, getting faster, getting stronger, making the competition that much more fierce each and every time. While the vehicles and drivers get better, Levi continues to put in the seat time both at home and abroad, giving him that edge needed to stay ahead of the pack all weekend long. Crossing the finish line, at roughly 12 pm Parma time on the 22nd of June, it was Levi who was crowned the first ever King of the Mountains.

A huge congrats to Levi & Brian, and the rest of the Shirley family, for an amazing victory. It proves, once again, a never give up attitude is the golden ticket if you want that sweet taste of Ultra4 victory. We would also like to congratulate 2nd place finisher Roberto Ciani and 3rd place finisher Rob Butler, whose rigs were also powered by Spider 9 axles. A shameless plug, we know, but for the 2014 Ultra4 season, Spider 9 axles have taken every top spot to date. That’s King of the Hammers, Ultra4s at Superlift, MetalCloak Stampede, King of the Glens, and King of the Mountains. And bit more to add, there’s also the victories of the two bonus Ultra4 events, KOH Backdoor Challenge & Ultra4s vs Rockbouncers, both won on Spider 9 axles. We would be lying if we said this wasn’t euphoric, it’s been a great year and we’re not even at the half way point of the 2014 season.

Keep an eye out for a few more photos and stories, which we’ll be sharing throughout the week. Till next time, arrivederci.