An Ultimate Thriller at Ultra4 Glen Helen!
Three lead changes in the last mile of the race, a first time winner, 41 adrenaline and horsepower fueled racing addicts in the 4400 main, and a substitute driver winning the Legends the first time in the car… the Glen Helen Grand Prix was full of excitement, stories, and last-lap drama. Tucked away in San Bernardino, CA, the roughly 4-mile Glen Helen course combined both a motocross track and a traditional Lucas Oil short course track to wreck havoc on the mighty beasts of Ultra4 off-road racing.
Part of the magic of “Ultimate 4x4” (Ultra4) is the wide range of courses on which the cars have to be prepared to race. The King of The Hammers is the ultimate representation of the entire series in one intense day, but the regular season combines fast and technical short courses such as Glen Helen, with desert racing like the Vorra 250, tight wooded racing such as Hot Springs and The Badlands, as well as man-made challenges like the ones found at the MetalCloak Stampede. The National Championship race in Reno, NV, compresses all of these elements into a fan-friendly masterpiece to end the season. With cars truly capable of conquering any terrain, Glen Helen proved that short course racing can also be endurance racing.
4400 Class Race Recap
Friday’s preliminary and Saturday’s qualifying heats were 6 laps long, while the main was 20 laps and took almost 2 hours to complete.
While some race fans scoff at the idea of Glen Helen being “a real Ultra4 course”, the brutal cornering, constant beating, sky-high jumps, and getting in and out of the throttle and on and off the brakes for 2 hours created exactly the type of environment that represents Ultra4 racing: be prepared for anything, keep your car together, overcome everything, and try to outlast your competition.
Dominate Team Nitto driver Loren Healy #67 took the lead on the first lap and was showing why the Red Dragon is a beast to be reckoned with. Loren maintained the lead, putting distance between he and his competitors through the first half of the race. But at Lap 11 the race gods had a disappointing surprise in store for Loren as he lost oil pressure, and just like that his day was over as his new motor gave up the ghost. Having won 3 of the previous 5 races at Glen Helen, Loren’s early exit opened the door for a new face to take the top spot.
Team Nitto driver Wayland Campbell #3AZ entered the short course with a seemingly unbeatable lead on his way to the checkered flag and his first Ultra4 victory, when the track suddenly got the better of him and he rolled the 3AZ near the end of the short course. Recovery teams quickly put the car rubber side down, but a bad alternator led to a drained battery and Wayland could only watch as Levi Shirley #81 momentarily took the lead.
A host of top drivers such as Jason Scherer, Tom Wayes #321, Jason Blanton #996, and Shannon Campbell #5 also fell victim to the punishing nature of the course. Only 5 of the 41 drivers in the main finished on the lead lap.
Levi then suffered heartbreaking mechanical failure on the short course near Wayland, coming to a standstill as well, allowing a hard-charging Paul Horschel #19, in his new for 2016 Jimmy’s 4x4 IFS car, to dramatically take the lead with less than a mile remaining of the race. Shane Chiddix #7777 took 2nd place, also in a brand new Jimmy’s car, while reigning King of the Hammers and Team Nitto driver Erik Miller #4421 rounded out the podium in 3rd place. Despite living on the East Coast, Erik has committed to racing the West Coast series of Ultra4 this year in his quest to also capture the Ultra4 National Points Championship.
This created an opportunity for long-time rock crawler Shane Chiddix to bring home 2nd place with Cody Folsom in the co-driver seat. Shane and Cody have been putting the finishing touches on this new Jimmy’s car and took home 2nd in the car’s first full race. This was actually Shane’s 2nd podium finish of the day as he had taken the top spot in the UTV class earlier!
In addition to the toll taken on the cars at Glen Helen, the driver’s were physically taking a beating as well; several drivers were fighting nausea and vertigo prior to racing. 3rd place finisher Eric Miller fought through the sickness in between heats to push through the 2-hour race and stand once again on the podium. A member of the elite “2X King of the Hammers” club, Eric has been on the podium in every Ultra4 race he’s entered thus far in 2016.
First time Ultra4 winner Paul Horschel took 1st place, going from 3rd to 1st on an insane final lap. As if he was just really getting comfortable in the new car, which first raced at Ultra4’s MetalCloak Stampede two months ago, Paul took full advantage of everything the new car could give him.
With such a dramatic ending to a weekend of racing, The Glen Helen Grand Prix and all the Ultra4 race teams did not disappoint.
4800 Legends Class Recap
It was not just the 4400 class that provided stories of teamwork and overcoming challenges. Team Nitto driver Rick Waterbury #444 again threw down a convincing performance and landed the pole for the 4800 Legends class main event. During prelims, however, Rick started experiencing severe vertigo. Phil Blurton stepped up, got in the car, and delivered a perfect race his first time driving the car. A true example of teamwork, prep, and communication, the transition was seamless. While Rick was the official driver of record, the entire team worked hard to take the top spot and finish 1st in class.
2nd place went to long time off-road, rock crawling, and dirt sports icon Jason Bunch #4841. Piloting the white PSC Steering 4841, Jason qualified strong and then delivered in the main. Jason and crew pushed the car hard, airing it out on the short course and showing his technical skills on the motocross section. The final podium spot in the Legends class went to Dave Schneider in the #4871, fighting off Cade Rodd #4807 and Bailey Cole #4854 to bring home the hardware.
4500 Modified Class Recap
The 4500 Modified class was an “instant classic” battle between Jordan… and Jordan. Jordan Townsend in the #4580 fought Jordan Pellegrino #4585 off in the main to bring home the victory. Jordan and Jordan provided an exciting fan experience as Pellegrino pushed Townsend the entire race. Cheered on by friends, family, and his recently announced fiancé, while taking home 1st place, Jordan Townsend continues to show why he’s one of the top drivers in the Modified class.
Jordan Pellegrino took 2nd in class with a new powerhouse under the hood. Having just graduated high school a few weeks ago, Pellegrino proved why he’s one of the Young Guns of the sport. Team Nitto driver Jimmy Jack #63 put his new Get Bent Fabworks car on the podium, finishing the day with a 3rd place finish.
4600 Stock Class Recap
Albert Contreras #4605 claimed first place in the 4600 Stock class while putting two full laps on the rest of the field. Despite taking out a shock towards the end of the race, Albert kept airing out the LJ and driving hard. The Glen Helen course was tight, technically challenging, and choppy even for non-stock class vehicles. Albert did it on “35s with a single shock per corner that are limited to no more than 14” of travel.
Sean McNamara #4696 brought his XJ home in 2nd place despite the day ending early with an overheating fan leading to a blown motor. David Bell #54 pulled a surprise move and resurrected Dave Cole’s old Toyota 4-Runner for race day, taking home 3rd in the process. While maybe not a traditional “classic car”, the white Toyota is legendary in Ultra4 circles and it was great to see it hitting its top speed of 57 MPH and catching air once again.
A full list of 2016 Glen Helen results can be found at ultra4racing.com. Ultra4 rolls on with the next event being an Eastern series race on June 24th at Badlands Parks in Attica, IN - read our Badlands race coverage here.
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