Home > Badlands UMC > Unpack the scuba gear, it’s time for some racing.

Unpack the scuba gear, it’s time for some racing.

July 1st2014
 By Thom Kingston on 2014-07-01T10:13:12-06:00 | Badlands UMC

Another Year, Another Win -- 2014 Badlands UMCSpidertrax | Thom Kingston | CC BY 3.0

We are now officially half way thru the Ultra4 US & European circuit (6 races down, 6 to go) and it’s worth pausing, even for just a race second, to reflect on how far this sport has come. I need to be careful, as to not repeat myself when returning from every race, but this year has truly been an amazing achievement for our sport and racing in general. From parmesan to corn dogs, Ultra4 is the ultimate everybody come together experience. If asked “can we all get along?” you answer “Hell yeah!” in Ultra4. Do not mistake this camaraderie, in a magnitude unlike any other motorsport on the planet, for lack of competitive drive and spirit. Every race I have hit this year commanded a field of drivers & machines faster than ever before, and in numbers far exceeding my wildest expectations.

Last weekend’s Badlands UMC, hosted at the Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica Indiana, is testament to this growing trend. We watched 40 racers battle it out in the harshest of harsh terrain, a venue increase in over 70% from just two years prior. More racers paves the way for more competition, and it was the fiercest racing battle I’ve seen since King of the Hammers. The best of the best were there, and the carnage even among the great was uncanny. Dead alternators & batteries, blown axles, unhappy motors & transmissions, upside down machines in the woods, double scratched cornea’s (yes, even Chuck Norris needs vision to race), “I lost count” roll overs… it was true racing madness. In a good way of course, all be it the muddiest and nastiest conditions I’ve seen yet.

Let’s talk a minute about the racecourse, and its addition of an optional climb or time penalty that would be a game changer in terms of racing strategy. As in years past, the racecourse was roughly 6 miles long, and from 6:30pm to 9pm drivers battled it out in a lap based, mixed rock and trail driven, endurance style race. As was always the case, the driver with the most laps wins. In the event where drivers tie in lap count, the winner is than decided by best time. The course was wetter than ever, thanks in large part to mother nature crying all over the track sporadically for days and stopping only minutes before the drop of the green flag. It was this rain that caused once climbable obstacles to be near impossible. Enter the optional climb or time penalty.

The final Wall in the rock quarry would be optional this year. Done more in an effort to help control the flow of traffic in this ever so packed race, this option would play out as follows: drivers could attack the Wall, as one would normally do, or elect to bypass the Wall and receive a 5 minute time penalty. Sounded simple enough, but this little mix of option added a deep level of racing strategy, a trend that seems to be finding its home in Ultra4 a little bit more each race. There could be two methods of controlling the penalty, each equally fair but each laying out its own type of strategy. The first method would involve physically holding drivers for five minutes. In this method, if you could knock out the Wall in less than 5 minutes you would be ahead of the game. However, it was the second method that was used, in that you were stopped at a checkpoint, identified and recorded as bypassing the Wall, and free to carry on. You would receive a 5-minute penalty on your total time, but remember it is the total lap count that decides the victor, with time only playing a roll in the event of a lap count tie.

So if you could one shot the Wall, the best strategy would have been to do just that, one or two times more than the lap leader but likely no more, assuming of course you were able to stay on their tail everywhere else and match (or beat) their lap count. It was a strategy that I found myself only truly figuring out after the race was over, the more I thought about it the more I appreciated the added element. Ultra4 is known for its technical flair in course design, notably the rock sections that require careful calculations to maneuver without destruction of vehicle, but the added elements of optional climbs also fuels this technical side, albeit from a different angle. In the end, everything added together makes for a race that requires not only the best drivers, and the best parts, but those with the foresight to find the best path to victory.

Shannon Campbell is fast, we all know this, but I still find it amazing he can travel all the way from his shop in Gilbert, Arizona and be right at home in the 165% humidity driven marshes of Badlands. Shannon qualified in the morning before the race in the top of the field, and like many others tackled the optional Wall early on. While he was able to pull off his first attack with ease, by lap 2 the Wall had already changed by the other drivers who passed, and Shannon would end up on his side nearing the top of the climb. Getting rolled back over, and finishing his work on the Wall that 2nd go around, it would be the last time I saw Shannon attack that obstacle. He elected to bypass the Wall every lap after, and while he was racking up penalties lap after lap, his command for the course and insane 15 minute average lap times, allowed him to complete 11 total laps. If you wanted to beat this machine, you needed better than 11 laps, or 11 laps with a few less penalties. The race was close, as we now come to expect with the prowess of today’s Ultra4 driver & machine, but it was Shannon who took top honors in the end. A huge congrats to Shannon, it was a brilliantly run race and his to win.

It was Shannon’s second win in a row for Badlands (Shannon took the top spot last year as well), and the celebration for the Campbell family was only getting warmed up. Shannon was racing alongside his daughter Bailey and son Wayland, who finished 12th and 15th respectively. That’s enough to earn the entire family spots in the 2015 King of the Hammers, yes that’s three Campbells racing in KOH. I was already having a hard time telling the difference in racing speed between Wayland and Shannon, now we can officially add Bailey to that list. These two young Campbells are only getting faster too, so watch out.

Next up in the top three, we had Mike Colville taking 2nd place. Running an absolutely amazing race in his brand new Spider 9 powered IFS racer, Mike knows this course better than most. He took top honors at Badlands two years prior, but since then the field of competition has grown exponentially. I headed straight to the pits after the race was finished to congratulate Mike, no idea really where he finished but confident enough it was in the top 5. His daughter (guessing around 5 years old?) came up to me, a large smile on her face and hands neatly folded, and proclaimed “we are anxiously awaiting the results” and then stood there, smiling away. I know there’s nothing better in the world then your kids thinking you are the most badass rock star in the world, they were on cloud 9 in that tent. Congrats Mike, it was great watching you in your element.

Finishing it off, we had Loren Healy taking the 3rd place spot. Loren only gives out those big smiles when he takes 1st, I get it… he’s one of the best out there and wants that top spot. As of the writing of this post, I couldn’t find official series points, but running some quick numbers Loren took 1st at KOH, 13th at Hot Springs, 2nd at the Stampede, and 3rd at last weekends Badlands UMC… all in his older than most Spider 9 powered solid axle machine. If he isn’t 1st in the series, he’s got to be close; the consistency race after race really is a mark of an amazing driver who knows his machine inside and out.

We have plenty of photos to go thru, a few extra stories to tell, and in typical fashion we’ll share those throughout the week. Next up in the Ultra4 series is the Ultra4 Grand Prix in San Bernardino, California July 11-12th. That’s right, we have this weekend off no better break from the action than spending a little quality time with the family. Till next time.