Ultra4 Hotsprings Race Recap: Winning in the Woods
The surroundings at Hotsprings ORV Park bring a different twist to the Ultra4 National Championships with its heavily wooded area common to Arkansas. Woods racing is often difficult to spectate due to the tight trails and limited opportunities for seeing the action; but thankfully with all of the Johnson Valley-like rock sections there were plenty of places to get in on the action at 2016 Ultra4 Hotsprings. The fourth year of racing in this location, I’ve been able to attend each one, and this year held one of the most exciting races so far!
At the start, the first three 4400 driver’s off the line were Jason Scherer #76, Derek West #20, and last year’s Hotsprings winner, Clay Gilstrap #26.
Approximately 3 miles into the 7 mile course, I waited for the first round to come through at the punishing rock section called “Ingrid’s Revenge.” Due to the tight wooded section through the area, I expected to see the first three drivers come through in their starting order and was surprised to see that Derek West had already made two passes and came through first to tackle Ingrid’s Revenge.
For Derek, who’s from Missouri, woods racing is home. When he got to the top of Ingrid’s Revenge, Derek opted to take the optional route; an extra course area each racer would have to pass through once during the five-lap race.
Positions would change many more times throughout the race with finishers coming through after about 2 ½ hours of racing. True to Hotsprings reputation, mud and water plagued part of the course despite the days’ 70 degree weather and beautiful blue skis.
The race was hard fought - and for some the course fought back. Levi Shirley #81 had a great race until the last lap when he grazed a tree. The tree pushed him back where his back left tire made direct contact with another tree and created some serious race-ending damage to the car. But then again, it wouldn’t be Ultra4 if the course and obstacles didn’t threaten to wreck the racer’s vehicles – this is the toughest off-road racing out there!
The Campbell kids were the only Campbell’s racing this race as dad, Shannon, sat this one out. Both Bailey #35 and Wayland #3 kept it together and finished well. Arkansas proved to be a great tire testing ground due to the slick rocks, mud, dirt, and the vast quantity of sharp rocks which threaten to puncture sidewalls. Both the Campbell’s made it through the race without issue on their Nitto Trail Grapplers.
At the finish line, it was Clay Gilstrap who managed to wrangle in a first place win for the second year in a row at Ultra4 Hotsprings! Derek West came in second after some pit mis-communications caused him to drop back a couple places and Wayland Campbell rounded out the podium in third.
Many of the finishers were able to qualify for their spot in the 2017 Nitto King of The Hammers race held in Johnson Valley, CA this coming February.
This race was a great way to start the 2016 Ultra4 Eastern Series! The next Ultra4 race will be on the West Coast at Glen Helen, CA June 10-11th (read the full race recap here.) It’s followed by the next Eastern Series race is in Attica Indiana at the Badlands Off-Road Park on June 24-25th. See you there!