Desert and short-course racing in Northern California and Nevada experienced a significant change this year when NCRR (Nor Cal Rock Racing) and VORRA (Valley Off Road Racing Association) combined two separate racing events into one giant racing event on April 30th to May 1st at Prairie City SVRA in Rancho Cordova, California. The change occurred when Hammerking Productions acquired VORRA and collaborated with John Goodby from NCRR to create a series of combined events this year.
These events now feature all of the classes available to VORRA drivers and all of the classes available for NCRR. This combination allowed fans to see the widest variety of off-road vehicles competing to take a top podium spot in their class. The new format allows everyone the opportunity to compete with vehicles starting from around $10,000 to $200,000 rock racing vehicles.
Class Rules Document
- 4400: Tube chassis, top of the rock racing food chain
- 4800: Tube chassis eight-cylinder vehicles
- 4500: Tube chassis four-cylinder vehicles
- Sportsman V4: Production four-cylinder vehicles
- Sportsman V6: Production six-cylinder vehicles
- Pre-Runner: Street legal vehicles
- UTV 900: UTVs with 900cc or smaller engines
- UTV 1000: UTVs with 1000cc or smaller engines
- UTV Turbo: UTVs with any size factory engine
Competitors in off-road racing events are broken into classes to ensure everyone is matched up with similar vehicles. This allows for competitive race action that is fun for spectators to watch and challenging for drivers vying to stay up front.
Understanding the available classes in each racing series can be challenging, if not impossible. We often hear from fans asking about classes throughout the race weekend, such as: What are the 4800 class vehicles that are about to race? Which race will I be able to see that truck run in? How many classes of UTVs are there at the event? The complete class descriptions and lists of restrictions can be very complex and the official detailed descriptions of NCRR and VORRA classes are at least 40 pages long.
Class Rules Document
- Class 9: Open wheel, VW type 1 suspension, 1600cc VW engine
- Class 10: Open Wheel, Unlimited Suspension, Any engine four-cylinder or less
- Group T: Mixed Truck and SUV
- Open Four-Cylinder: Unlimited chassis, wheelbase, and track width
- Limited Six-Cylinder: 4.5-liter, 3,000-pound minimum, 87-inch track width
- Tube Chassis 2WD Eight-Cylinder: Max travel 22 inches, anybody, weight chart for short course
- Tube Chassis 4WD Eight-Cylinder: 4WD tube chassis, no IFS, weight chart for short course
- Production Frame Eight-Cylinder: Production frame, 4,000-pound minimum or weight chart for short course
- PRO Truck: Sealed 360ci engine, 5,000-pound minimum
After a walk of the course on Saturday morning, it was obvious the Prairie City course had changed in several ways from the MetalCloak Stampede a few weeks earlier. Races were once again run clockwise and back to what we consider normal for events at this course.
The heavy equipment still sitting on the course had been busy making noticeable changes, and the large rock section in front of the stands that was added for the Stampede had been removed to accommodate heats that did not include rocks.
Corners and turns were moved to allow for higher speeds while different sections of whoops and jumps were removed from one section of the track and added to others. The track appeared to have been made wider than before, allowing three cars to run side by side, where only two may have fit in the past. Best of all, there were several new vehicles still arriving throughout the morning and unloading in the pit area and we were curious to see what these vehicles were capable of.
Time To Wave The Green Flag: Saturday Races
Media photographers had gathered in the most challenging sections hoping for that one perfectly-timed shot with trucks flying off the biggest jumps, UTVs cornering on two wheels, and 4400 cars leaping out of the rocks or bicycling through the corner on two wheels. As announcements were made over the loudspeaker, we could hear the rumble of engines as competitors started heading to the staging area.
Spotters headed to the overlook area for the best views of the entire track, and fans left the pit and vendor areas towards their seats in the grandstand, although many preferred to stand trackside along the fence. We knew the action was about to start and it was going to be a day to remember.
There were several yellow flags in the morning, but it seemed like the seven or eight recovery vehicle teams were getting to them quickly and had them on all fours ready to continue, most of the time.
The only brief delay was from racers who were having trouble keeping up with the quick pace and making way the staging area to start their race on time. Once the race started, it went smoothly. It seemed like drivers were noticeably hesitant at first to push it this early and were being cautious to make sure they avoided any mechanical issues early in the day.
There was little risk of elimination for most classes so drivers were being cautious. We did have some early favorites and were curious to see if the drivers who won their early heat would be able to hold off competitors willing to push their vehicle hard and take the risks necessary in the main to get the win.
It seemed the checkered flag waved and cars for the next heat were already rolling out of staging and onto the track. Organizers scheduled two heats of cars at a time in staging to keep the gaps in between races at a minimum.
The 4500, and Sportsman V4 and Sportsman V6 classes were combined in the first main event of the afternoon. The battle between Morgan Derodoff in the No. 4518 car and No. 4545 Makinzie Townsend was proving to be fun to watch. Townsend led the first two laps until she went out on the third, allowing Derodoff to cruise to an easy first place finish. The Sportsman V4 and V6 classes were less exciting with Curtis Armstrong going out early, leaving only Sean McBride to take the easy win.
The 4800 and the Sportsman V8 classes ran next and are typically some of the fastest laps of the day. We expected some carnage from these top classes as any surprises at this speed usually lead to some pretty spectacular moments. The competition from the heats earlier in the day seemed really close with drivers staying within seconds of the leader.
This main event, however, belonged to No. 4846 James Hubbard, who came out in front and led the entire race, leaving the other drivers pushing hard to catch up. The battle ended when Gene Mooneyham ended up on his side waiting to meet the closest recovery team.
There were at least 30 UTV entries among the different classes, with the first class as the main event, the UTV 900 class. Things got off to a wild start with Jim Martin exiting the race early with a nasty series of rolls through the exit of Turn 1. Martin was the winner of the first heat and a close second behind the blistering pace of Ann Barbarick in Heat 2.
Barbarick took the lead quickly after starting in the second position, avoiding the rollover of Martin, and laid down three of the four fastest UTV laps in this race to extend her lead. She continued extending the lead with every lap to win by over 12 seconds, with Russ Tweed finishing in second, and Malcolm Plessinger finishing in third.
The UTV 1000 class had 14 participants starting in the morning with only 12 able to continue into the main event. Beau Judge would start in second place, but put down the fastest lap of the heat on lap one to move into second past Jeff Barbarick. Judge would then continue with four more blistering laps to take the five fastest laps of the UTV 1000 class. Barbarick was running in second the whole way followed by Rob Parsons. These three would stay first, second, and third after lap two to finish in this same order.
The turbo class was packed with some amazing looking UTVs. Paul Hart, winner of the Turbo class at the MetalCloak Stampede, was an early favorite until he went out following an end-over-end crash in Heat 1 earlier in the day. This left the door open for Phil Cagliero who was running fast earlier in the day and was trying to bring home a win out of the stacked field.
Cagliero led the first four laps of this race only to be run down by Phil Blurton. Blurton put down his two fastest laps of the race, in laps five and six, to take the lead away from Cagliero. Dustin Emicks’ consistency would pay off and he finished third.
There was only one main event left for the day, the one race fans had been waiting all day to see, and everyone was ready. Ten drivers started, with only four able to finish. JP Gomez, the favorite, has been running great this year and looked great to start the day. But, there was no room for error with some Ultra4 favorites like Kevin Yoder, Alex Hardaway, Brendon Thompson, Raul Gomez, and Brian Caprara following close behind.
JP jumped out to an early start and came around Turn 1 throwing dirt in every direction, and ended up on two wheels, leaving this photographer questioning his decision on where to watch the start and diving for cover. Somehow JP would recover, losing only one place to Yoder. He chased Yoder through the first half of lap one until Yoder landed with a weird bounce off a large jump and ended up cartwheeling his 4400 car multiple times through the air and into one of the roughest, most spectacular crashes we have ever seen in 4400 racing. Check out the video of the crash posted by Yoder Racing:
JP continued on to put down the fastest lap of the day through the rock course and continued to lead that lap and every lap after to win the race. Raul Gomez also got out to a great start and was able to hold off Alex Hardaway the whole race to finish behind JP in second place. Marcos Gomez was trying desperately to come up from fourth place to make it a Gomez sweep of the podium, but Alex Hardaway was just not letting up. Alex finished in third place with Marco finishing just off the podium in fourth.
Take Two: Sunday Races
Racing resumed on Sunday with a combined heat with VORRA Class 9 and Class 10 vehicles. The Class 10 vehicles are open-wheel, mid-full size desert racing vehicles that are light and quick, and flew through the course. They were lined up first. Max Baggett would take the lead from Ryan Sargent the first lap of the race, and seemed impossible to beat as he led every lap with a steadily increasing lead. Sargent ran second the entire race with consistent 1:25 and 1:26 lap times to secure second place.
The battle for third became the race to watch with the Bill Minteer pushing hard to close the large gap created by Dave Broome. Broome had just completed the fastest lap of the heat on lap five with a 1:24 before breaking off the right rear part of the car on the huge jump on the far part of the course allowing Minteer to pass and take third.
VORRA Class 9 vehicles competing in this heat were two open-wheeled buggies along with a VW and a Honda Pilot. It made for some interesting racing from the start, watching such variety of vehicles competing against each other. Once they spread out it was just a matter of everyone putting down the best laps they could with very few leader changes.
The final main event of the weekend was the trucks from VORRA Class T, and after watching them in Heat 1, we were really eager to see Ian Murray. Murray was driving a truck with an older Ford body against what appeared to be four other trophy trucks. He showed up late to his first heat as all of the other trucks already halfway through their first lap.
A man on a mission, Murray put down some really quick laps ,with his fastest more than six seconds faster than anyone else in his class in Heat 1. This final started with five trucks and Murray proved that the aggressive fast laps in Heat 1 were going to continue in the main.
With a truck that flew higher and farther than any of the other competitors, Murray dominated the race. Other racers were dropping out left and right as wheels broke off and parts started failing to keep pace. This became a survival race with only two of the five starters finishing. Second place went to Hank Van Ruiten who finished 40 seconds after Murray.
The next race for this series moves to the Wild West Motorsports Park in Reno, Nevada. This is a great event for racing and offers the best views for spectators. We hope to see all of these racers returning and many additional racers making future events bigger and better. Please check out the NCRR and VORRA websites for future event details.