The Dragon Slayer: Shannon Campbell's Latest Race Creation

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Carbon-fiber body panels, mid-engine design, and 800 naturally-aspirated horsepower. While those features may sound like the blueprint for the latest Italian supercar, the fact is, they’re part of an all-American desert-devouring machine. It’s the brainchild of two-time King of the Hammers winner and Ultra4 National Champion Shannon Campbell. His latest build is the culmination of years racing and building knowledge. 

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Car 5AZ, also known as the Dragon Slayer, is not only an evolution of his previous race chassis, but a continuation of a smart build strategy which consistently marriages functionality and style, a signature for Campbell Enterprises. For the veteran builder Campbell, simplicity is always at the core of each build. He understands that these machines are designed to battle brutal conditions. As such, they often require frequent service and sometimes on-the-go mending.

shannon campbell dragon slayer 5az nitto 14  We got a chance to peel back the layers on the newest build at Campbell’s race shop in Gilbert, Arizona. In the hustle and bustle of a full-fledge fabrication facility, the Dragon Slayer stood out like a misplaced work of art. Removing the carbon-fiber cladding unveiled even more craftsmanship as the chromoly chassis was a modern exercise in strength and design.

shannon campbell dragon slayer 5az nitto 1  Each one of Campbell’s race machines are hand built, taking countless man-hours and pre-planning to create. For his latest creation, Matt Taylor drew out the chassis using Solid Works. Once the final design was approved, the crew at Campbell Enterprises began the long process of piecing together the chassis from the pre-set dimensions.

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For strength and weight savings, this chassis was comprised entirely of 1¾-inch chromoly tubing. In areas of high impact (such as the front bumper for example), the chassis is sleeved with 775 aluminum tubing. While Campbell’s team usually MIG welds their chassis, this build was entirely TIG welded.

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Bodywork on the vehicle is minimal and purposeful. With the exception of a metal roof, all of the body panels are comprised exclusively of carbon fiber. The lightweight and extremely strong side panels help to channel air to the engine as well as protect Campbell from debris.

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Located mid car, the Turn Key 490ci tall-deck LS RHS V-8 is built to handle the strenuous race conditions. The balanced-and-blueprinted engine is fit with a 13.5:1 compression ratio, Racetec pistons, Brodix BR 7 heads, FAST LSXR intake manifold, and a custom-built DynoMax exhaust system. To keep the all of the vital fluids cool, Ron Davis oil coolers and radiator were used. Channeling the 800hp and 700 lb-ft of torque is a Hughes Performance TH400 transmission.

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Ulrta4 Racing is a typically a mixed bag of high-speed desert two-track and extremely challenging rock sections. To make sure the car had additional gear reduction for the more technical portions, a Trail Worthy Fab Hero transfer case was installed. The gear-driven T-case is fit with a 1.5:1 low range, which is a good fit for the massive amount of power the car has. Attached at each output you’ll find 3.5-inch-diameter 0.95-wall Arizona Driveshaft drivelines that were fit with massive 1480 U-joints.

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A trick feature of the new chassis is the ability to quickly install an additional 30-gallon Pyrotect fuel cell. Working with the primary 40-gallon fuel cell, the removable tank offers Campbell extended range for the longer race courses and the ability to shed weight when the extra fuel simply isn’t needed.

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The four-link rear suspension uses triangulated uppers and trailing arm lowers to secure the Currie 9-Plus rear housing. Packed inside of the custom Currie housing you’ll find an ARB Air Locker and 5.40:1 differential gears. The full-float axle uses ProAm Racing hubs. For the ultimate strength, Currie built a set of 300M axleshafts.

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The rear 3.0 Fox coilovers are paired with PAC 200-pound primary rate coils, which ride atop the 300-pound secondary coils. This custom-valved setup works with the Fox 3.5 series bypass shocks to produce an impressive 26 inches of vertical wheel travel. While suspension travel is similar to the outgoing car, Campbell was able to squeeze out more up travel with the new chassis. Adding stability to the setup is a Currie AntiRock rear sway bar.

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One of the hottest topics in Ultra4 racing is whether to run a conventional solid front axle or more modern independent front suspension. When asked about the complexity of the IFS frontend on his car, Campbell said it was absolutely worth it and couldn’t see going back to a solid-axle setup.

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Using his own design with components from ProAm Racing, Campbell has had great success with the independent front suspension. The high-clearance setup offers 18 inches of usable wheel travel, and has an ARB Air Locker stuffed in the ProAm Racing front diff for when he hits the rocks.

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Stopping power comes by way of ProAm Racing six-piston Trophy Truck calipers, which clamp on 13 ½-inch rotors.

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A goal for the new chassis was to sink the powertrain down for an even lower center of gravity. Despite the low 65-inch roof height, the new setup retains 19½ inches of belly clearance.

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Inside the cabin, it’s all business. A Sparco steering wheel controls the Howe Trophy Truck series rack-and-pinion steering, while Racepak gauges provide the visual link to the rigs stats. The single-seat racer doesn’t have the luxury of a navigator, so the Lowrance GPS was located in an easy-to-view location. An Art Carr shifter controls the TH400 transmission, while a set of cutting brake levers give Campbell increased maneuverability when he gets in a jam in the rocks.

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Securing Campbell safely in place is a MasterCraft Safety 3G seat. The race-series suspension seat is designed to dissipate and absorb energy, which not only keeps the driver safe, but reduces fatigue.

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Campbell’s rig sports a 116-inch wheelbase and an 88½-inch track width. These dimensions are complemented nicely by the 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers. Mounted on Forged aluminum 17-inch Walk Evans beadlock wheels, the K-spec Trail Grapplers have the grip and carcass-strength needed to survive the brutal terrain he’s constantly up against.

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This multi-purpose racer is equipped for nighttime driving as well. This is thanks to an assortment of KC Lights that run throughout the vehicle.

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Chasing The Dragon

If you’re new to the world of Ultra4 Racing, you might wonder the significance behind the name Dragon Slayer. It’s a moniker meant to poke fun at one of Campbell’s top competitors, Loren Healy and his Red Dragon.

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