Nitto Sweeps the Podium at the 2023 Ultra4 Race at Visions in Jay, Oklahoma
The 2023 Ultra4 race Visions in Jay, Oklahoma in the MidAmerica Outdoors off-road park was a crazy battle with multiple lead changes and a tough course that whittled down the field over the 8-mile course.
Most Ultra4 races are an event all on their own, however this race week is during Visions. Visions is a circus like event with the literally has more racing action than you can handle, I sat watching several live feeds all at the same time on Friday and Saturday. This event was more action packed than any out there with the exception of King of Hammers. With Rock Bouncing, Nitro Cross, Short course for UTV and truck, and Remote Controlled buggies all happening on the same campus.
The UTV classes raced on Thursday, with a few of the drivers hopping from Ultra4 car to Short Course car, mid-day. The side by sides had to be set up differently because they are handling two completely different terrains so huge props to all the racers that not only race multiple classes but different series. And one of the drivers who came out and set the weekend on fire was Todd Beckett, after qualifying 19th he battled though the field all the way to first place by crushing the course.
The hot weather provided a dusty track in the open areas, with the woods sections being tight and leaving very few areas to pass. "The course wouldn't prove to be very difficult except for a hill climb that followed a water crossing" said Cody St. Clair, the Texas kid who races 4500 class and won in the EMC, however mother nature had other plans. The rain set in on Friday morning and created all sorts of problems for racers, and with the Every Man's Challenge class running 37" DOT tires, traction is always in need compared to the 40-42" sticky of the big dawgs in the 4400 Class.
The Stock class win was picked up by John Shafer's Jeep, that was piloted by his co-driver Sergio Pinillos in his first time behind the wheel beating out the powerhouse big bad broncos. His run was perfect, but he did get a flat tire like most of the field in the EMC.
The pole for the 4400 Class was set by Paul Wolff, followed by Cade Gallimore in second, and Vaughn Gitting Jr. in 3rd.
The rain came and the mud made for a much more challenging course than anyone could expect, and the attrition rate was much worse than anyone would have anticipated. So, starting the race is was pouring down rain, shortly it became hot and sunny, which brought on humidity, and with race cars and electronics, water and humidly can create all kinds of problems.
Cade who started second had caught Paul within the fist lap of the race and was leading the entire race, all while Paul's plan was to take it easy for the bulk of the race and then push it hard later in the day. Cade pushed it hard and had a power steering failure thus putting him out of the race on only his 2nd lap. Pip Justice, of Rufus racing, who had maybe the most epic rollover of the day crashed coming out of the woods right in front of the start finish line, and it made for great TV as well as for a speedy recovery for fellow team mate Chip MacLaughlin who pulled directly into the pits after leaving the starting line. Why? Because, not only did he receive crucial points for KOH qualifying but he was then able to help any other competitor. Waylon Campbell was having a great race until his day ended with him pulling into the pits with a coolant issue— he has battled a stack of problems with his new engine.
However his sister, Bailey Campbell, and father Shannon Campbell were both ripping right behind him. Shannon screamed down the course all the way to 4th place from a starting position of 13th and Bailey was ripping through and ended up in 9th— what a heck of a run.
Loren Healy, half of the Fun Haver team, was tearing though the woods when he twisted a driveshaft and couldn't finish the race. Chad Hundt however was able to pull a finish out of the race but spent the entire last lap on a flat because after he blew past the pits there is no way to enter, and his team knew he would be a more conservative driver and they wanted him to push hard, pulling in with most of the tire still intact.
The story of the day was the finishing battle in the last few laps between Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Paul Wolff. Paul had been pushing hard but conservative to help keep the car together as well and his brakes were staring to fail.
Water filled the creeks that the Ultra4 racer had to deal with and it became a growing problem when the rain started. There was a few spots where it was a wall of water which began to play havoc on the buggies with more electronics than ever before, not to mention it was so cold when you are soaking wet.
Paul ended up pulling into the pits and his team leaped to work clamping the rear passenger brake line— magically, "the brakes worked the best they had the whole race." Said Wolff, which was apparent during his last lap of 13:32 and it was the fastest lap of the day, by anyone.
This was Vaughn's chance, he roared passed the pits and became not only the physical leader but took the lead position. Unfortunately for VGJ it wouldn't last, the water that they had been splashing though all day finally worked its way into the electrical system and killed the monster Bronco, and wouldn't immediately start, so they sat dead for a while until they eventually they got it started, but not before falling back to second. They Fun Haver team would battle electrical issues all the way to the finish, but still made it to the podium after having a wild day of racing.
The final result was a Nitto Trail Grappler Tire sweep of the podium.
2023 Ultra4 Visions Oklahoma Results
- Paul Wolff
- Vaughn Gittin Jr.
- Bryan Crofts