The big event this year at the Badlands Off-Road Parks’ Ultimate Motorsports Championship wasn't the monster trucks, motocross, or rally cars...it was much the anticipated, much talked about, and highly regarded Ultra4 2014 Eastern Regional Series event, Ultra4 @ Badlands.
That's right, Badlands went all out this year for their 4th annual UMC event, including not only food vendors carrying everything from frog legs to cotton candy, but a parade from the park to downtown Attica where fans got a closer look at the buggies and talked to drivers.
You'd think the monster trucks, motocross stunt riders, and Ultra4 racers were enough excitement for one weekend, but there was one more surprise in store... RAIN! Just a couple of hours before the start of the race was underway, copious amounts of rain fell - and just for good measure, an additional helping of the wet stuff came down just as the race was getting started.
Badlands is making quite a name for itself between the mud fest of last year and the repeat conditions during this year's Ultra4 race there. Mud doesn't kill an Ultra4 race though...but it does kill alternators! In fact, Jason Shipman, Dustin Sexton, and Michael Heston all went down with alternator issues after completing only one lap. The frustration continued, knocking out alternator after alternator and making the race incredibly difficult and impossible for some.
Nitto Racing teamates Erik Miller and Loren Healy were both plagued by alternator issues as well. Erik, who qualified in first, managed to complete five laps before stalling out on one of the steep rock obstacles that make up the “Quarry." A rock wall that is difficult when dry, much less with water and mud-covered tires, the Quarry would put a halt in more than one attempt. It's where Erik Miller ran out of juice - attempting to winch up the slippery climb, when his winch went powerless leaving him perched on the rock face like a Billy Goat.
Trying to avoid back tracking, Erik opted to make the long, squishy run back to the pits in hopes of finding a battery. Luck continued to evade him and he was able to return with only a "Jump Pack." Skeptisicm aside, the jump pack was his only choice, and it provided power enough to propel him up the last half of the rock face. Luck didn't stay on his side long though, as the time spent trying to rectify challenges timed Erik out, he was able to get only 6 laps in and 13th place overall - this is more proof though that Erik and Miller Motorsports live by their motto..."We Never Lift."
Loren Healy faced major electrical issues as well. Although Loren runs two alternators, he experienced failures on both units - and even though he'd brought a spare alternator with him he'd lent it out to a competitor, the common theme in this highly competitive series being sportsmanship. Loren cites that, “I ran 2 laps with all the fans, radio, etc off - only the fuel pump running. Right as the car started to sputter with low voltage, I hit a really deep puddle and my alternator decided to come back to life. It lasted 1 lap before quitting for good, but charged the car enough to get me to the finish line with 3rd place.”
The other Eastern Series contender Nitto Tire driver, Derek West, got off to a great start from his strong qualifying standing of third place. Derek led much of the race until an unfortunate snapping of a rear axle shaft - preventing him from climbing the rock walls in the Quarry. The issue led Derek to only be able to complete 5 laps, taking 19th place overall.
The racers say you need a perfect day to win an Ultra4 race, and each event that passes shows that to be the case! Placing 1st at Badlands was Shannon Cambell #5, followed by Mike Colville #4418 in 2nd and Loren Healy #67 in 3rd. Enjoy more pictures in the following gallery, or click here for a video of some of the action!