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Ultra4s Take on the Fallon 250

August 30th2015
 By Thom Kingston on 2015-08-30T18:40:46-07:00 | Fallon 250 |

Spidertrax | Thom Kingston | CC BY 3.0

Spidertrax | Thom Kingston | CC BY 3.0

Diversity is the beauty of Ultra4. From rock crawling to short course, to tree dodging to more short course, Ultra4s offer a unique blend of slow meets fast racing that no other class can match. When it came time to find a new home for this year’s final western series race, picking a desert venue seemed fitting. Ultra4 is no stranger to the desert, Silver State 300 & Vegas to Reno come immediately to mind. In the spirt of trying something new, this year we found ourselves home to the VORRA Fallon 250, which took place last Saturday.

Sharing some track with Vegas to Reno, the VORRA (that’s Valley Off-Road Racing Association) offers not a point to point race but rather a lap based racing that stretches from morning to night. Back and forth negotiations with BLM had this year’s Fallon 250 landing on 6 laps in total at 40 miles per lap. For you math geeks like me, yes this is technically a 240 mile race. The Fallon 250 sounds better.

VORRA is grass roots at it’s core. Wes Harbor, VORRA president and wearer of many hats, is a racer at heart with one clear objective: make it fast, and make it fun. From their previous year’s land rush start, where teams had to make a tire change before drivers left the line, to the new tradition of The Blind Date, where one team is randomly partnered with another and together, their total time competes against other Blind Dates for a cash prize — every element I saw had the driver and team in mind. It felt great, and a clear fit for Ultra4.

With Friday night’s drivers meeting underway, we realized history was being made. Previous to this race, VORRA’s largest race (in vehicle count) was just over 80. This year, Ultra4s brought 105 of it’s own. Just like that, VORRA had set a record for its largest race in history. Although positive in its own right, this also felt like a double edged sword — how well could the tight course of the Fallon 250 handle so many machines? No sense dwelling, race day starts first thing Saturday morning. Time to get to it.

VORRA is known for its night racing, but with so many vehicles looking to play, the night element would be reserved for the 4400 class only. All other classes started first thing Saturday morning, 6am to be exact, and continued racing until the last lap cut off at 1:30pm. A total of 67 vehicles ventured off in the morning race, this would include Ultra4s UTV, 4500, 4600, 4700 & 4800 classes as well as the variety of VORRA classes ranging from UTV to Class 1.

Although I expected carnage to be low, given how brutal rock thrashing is, it would be the no wind + blankets of perpetual dust that would crush this early expectation. The track is mostly single lane, and of the 40 miles of terrain there’s only 1 mile of lake bed that’s “easy” to pass. All other passing opens up the strong chance of saying hello to unfriendly rocks & boulders nestled in the sand. Add to that visibility conditions of near zero, and the mixture of hitting obstacles not on your GPS grew exponentially.

Despite the low visibility and difficulty in passing, the morning race pushed on and it would seem, despite the carnage, drivers were in their element. A few laps in and the field thinned out, allowing the fastest of the fast to push further into sub 1-hour lap times.  Ultra4 morning class victories went to 4500 Shawn Rants, 4600 Matthew Peterson, 4700 Luke Johnson/Jason Caufield, and 4800 Anthony Arreola.

As the 4400s began to line-up at 2:30pm (with their race kicking off at 4pm), a bit of luck would head their way. The wind had picked up, and while this wouldn’t completely solve the visibility issues, it was a far cry from what we witnessed earlier. There was early talk of having the 4400s go out in pairs, but that got squashed shortly before line-up. No problem, but single out did carry a bit more weight to the pole position, which was graced by Driver of the Year Loren Healy. Rounding out the top 3 would be Derek West and Wayland Campbell, a starting order determined by current western series season points.

The flag dropped and racers took off in 30 second intervals. It’s a timed race, so the clock doesn’t start until you cross the line, but at least for the 1st mile Loren would enjoy the luxury of having clear sights of the road ahead. This in no way sealed the race for Loren, but pole position carried a big advantage for sure. I caught up with the entire group at Check Point 1 (CP 1,) just past mile marker 5 (MM5). A few early issues plagued some vehicles, but all in all things were moving right along.

Leaving that spot after all 4400s passed, I headed over to CP2 near MM 27 to catch most of the group on their second lap. I didn’t make it in-time to catch Loren, who was driving even faster then I had guessed. I stuck around to watch Loren pass on his 3rd lap, and man was he moving! At these speeds, it occurred that those guys in front may not even need to turn on their lights. That would all change, as it often does, when I headed back to the Main Pit for updates.

It would seem Lap 3 carried with it some drama, and vehicle carnage. Loren went from a commanding 1st to a just barely 3rd, with Wayland & Horschel rounding out solid 1st and 2nd positions. Other leaders had also lost ground, with Shirley & West stuck out on course and Wayes loosing a lot of ground, all suffering with issues that weren’t clear at this stage of the game. As the sun began its decent, the top three would mix up yet again in a surprise twist. It became clear from talking with crew that Healy had lost early ground due to 3 flat tires, and the same fate would now land on Wayland. His 1st place would drop to 3rd as he limped into Main with 2 flats. This gave Loren the opportunity to push forward to a physical 1st, but a technical 2nd with Horschel just behind him (Horschel started 4th, so he would have a 1-1/2 minute corrected time). Both ventured off into their final lap, and with hours of racing it came down to just seconds.

And then we were left waiting. Remember that VORRA grass roots bit in the beginning? There’s no live satellite tracking, just a timed transponder at the Start/Finish — add to that a large course that reaches past the range of the race radios of our day, and we were now searching for clues. A good reminder to catch up on mediation, no sense getting over excited, or so I constantly told myself. With now dozens of us waiting at the finish, in the distance we could see the eyes of the Spider 9 IFS powered Red Dragon itself. Just like that, Healy crossed the finish and took his checkered flag. First thing he asked, “Where’s Horschel?”. No idea, so we waited a bit more, filling the time with Healy’s first Red Dragon solo tire change mini-adventure. With just over 6 minutes passing, Horschel took his checkered and would un-officially claim his 2nd place spot. This meant only one thing… Loren Healy would take top honors. Not only did he grab 1st at the Fallon 250, but this win will now seal his western series title championship. That’s two years in a row, a true testament to not only machine, not only driver, but to an amazing team that has defied all odds.

This year’s Ultra4 series racing is not yet over, in two weeks we’ll be at Hot Springs for the Ultra4s at Superlift east coast finale. But wait, there’s more! Next weekend we have the privilege of watching Brad Lovell tear it up in his brand new Spider 9 powered Pro 2 in Crandon; the racing never stops. Until next time, enjoy our photo set from the Fallon 250, watermark free and licensed under creative commons attribution, so please download and share. Photos by me (Thom Kingston).

Edit 2015-08-30T18:52:38-06:00: For you photo geeks, full res photo set available on our Flick page.