Spidertrax | Thom Kingston | CC BY 3.0
Derek West, pictured here, was the first one thru The Wall. I was pumped to see him just fly by, absolutely in his element and never letting up on the throttle. The Wall took many out, I witnessed three rear axle shaft failures, from the best of the best, just from my own vantage point. Unfortunately, one of those three was ours. Unfortunately again, that one happened to be Derek.
You can make parts that exceed the specs of aerospace, but come to an Ultra4 race and you will accept that the unbreakable is in fact breakable. Derek was running the best of the best 35 spline axle shaft on the planet, in service since before the 2013 King of the Hammers. While fatigue will certainly play a part in any failure of this kind, the sheer amount of abuse Badlands dishes out, coupled with a few extra hundred pounds of mud strapped to your car, and the unfortunate can, in fact, happen. Derek was among the top, pulled in a solid 5 laps, but the time taken to replace a shaft didn’t add up. This assumed, of course, it was a shaft that failed. Taking things apart in the pits sometimes unravel even greater issues, best left for the shop.
Failures happen, and it’s why we attend each and every Ultra4 race. Race photography, team & product support before, during, and after every race, publishing stories after it all unfolds… these are all great things that move our sport, and Spidertrax, forward. However, what really drives us… what really moves us… is product design. What better way to engineer a part, manufacture a part, than to be right in the heart of the action… witnessing first hand what these machines are really capable of. Once Derek’s axle lands on our desk, we will workup a full in-depth analysis that not only includes elements of a chemical composition, a hardness traverse, and a tensile test… but all of this will be coupled with our first hand knowledge of physically being on site when it happened. The secrets out, I guess, but that’s how we build the best parts.
Getting Derek fixed up will be easy, no doubt, the bigger question is what’s on Derek’s mind for his new upcoming Ultra4 build. Rumor has it he’s eyeing a new machine for 2015, has the IFS bug finally bit him? Even we don’t have that answer, but time will tell.