2020 Ultra4 Lasernut Area BFE Beatdown in Moab: NITTO Podiums in Three Classes and Sweeps the 4400 Class
There's no doubt that this year's race season has been a complicated one, but that hasn't stopped the dedicated, hardcore off-roaders of Ultra4 Racing from taking it all in stride and getting in on some competitive action where they can. This last weekend, Ultra4 drivers were at it again, this time racing at Moab, Utah's Area BFE for the Lasernut Area BFE Beatdown. And when Team NITTO hits the ground, you know it's going to be a good time!
A New Location
Located just North-West of Moab proper, Area BFE is a privately owned plot of 320 acres of off-roading paradise. With over 15 trail systems and tons of land to explore, it provided the perfect location for Ultra4's last regional race of the 2020 season. Originally, the group was set to race in Reno for this event leading into the October Nationals, but due to the current pandemic and permitting hurdles, Ultra4 announced the event had been moved to the famed Area BFE back in August. Current regulations didn't allow for spectators at the race, but that didn't stop all of the Ultra4 drivers from putting on a show, which per usual, was broadcast live on the company's website and social media pages.
Thursday afternoon, pre-running began, allowing all drivers on site their first look at the newly crafted racecourse under Race Director, JT Taylor's management. The course was five miles long and full of many technical aspects that would challenge any driver. From silt and sand, to rock ledges and tough climbs, JT laid out an impressive course for every class to show off their skills.
Friday afternoon, qualifying began at 4pm for all classes. Dust hung in the air as competitor after competitor took on the qualifying course, stretching just three-quarters of a mile, but featuring a little bit of everything each competitor would experience on Saturday's larger course. First off the line were the 4600 Class drivers, including 2020 King of the Hammers winner Jesse Haines, who put down the fastest qualifying time of the class, as well as Team NITTO driver John Snell, who qualified in third after getting hung up on one of the rock ledges mid-course.
Next up was the 4900 Can-Am Motorsports UTV Class, which saw Cole Clark, who was racing for points for fellow UTV driver James Cantrell this weekend, take the pole position. Team NITTO driver, Travis Zollinger qualified mid-pack in the class, with a time of 1 minute and 18 seconds.
The 4800 Branik Motorsports Legends Class and the 4500 Yukon Gear & Axle Modified Class followed the UTVs in qualifying. Out of 28 competitors in the combined class, Cade Rodd of Team NITTO ran the quickest time with a one-minute and seven second qualifying run, placing him in the pole position for Saturday's race. Other Team NITTO drivers, John Hultsman and Matthew (Murf Dog) Murry, qualified third and 10th respectively.
Qualifying for the 4400 Class kicked off just after 6pm with 13 Team NITTO drivers in the pack. Despite visibility issues and the course having been burnt in, it was Team NITTO that swept the top three positions, including the pole position, which went to Paul Horschel in his new single-seat IFS car with a time of just 59.05 seconds! Nine out of the top 10 qualifiers were NITTO drivers, including Horschel, Bailey Cole, Loren Healy, Shannon Campbell, Vaughn Gittin Jr., Raul Gomez, Wayland Campbell, Cody Addington, and JP Gomez, with just over six seconds separating first from 10th. Qualifying in 11th was Ryan Miller, who stepped in for Bailey Campbell. Twelfth went to Bryan Crofts and 13th to Kevin Sterns. Last, but certainly not least, Jeremy Hammer qualified 36th.
On Saturday, racing got started with the 4600 Class taking off at 8am MST. The Stock Class faced just three laps of the 5-mile course, but it was no easy feat as the ever-changing terrain took its toll on both man and machine. Leading for the first two laps of the race, Haines dropped back after his third time past the start/finish, unable to finish the required three laps and making room for Atteberry and Snell to take first and second places respectively.
Following the 4600 Stock Class was the 4900 UTV Class race. Off the line first was Cole Clark, being chased by 16 talented UTV competitors, including Travis Zollinger who went of f the line 9th. With four laps to complete, Clark battled to stay out front and ultimately landed on the top of the box in just under 24 minutes. Feeling the abuse of the course as the laps went on, Zollinger fought to catch and overtake his fellow competitors, ultimately finishing the race in 7th place with a time of 50 minutes and 50 seconds.
Out of the gate at 12:30pm, the Legends and Modified classes raced in a joint race, with Cade Rodd leading the pack in the pole position. By the time the race started, the course was pretty well chewed up and competitors had to take on new rock and sand obstacles created by the previous races. Five laps stood between racers and the finish line, which Cade expertly navigated for the win. Joining Cade on the podium for the 4800 Legends class was Cody Young and Matthew Trebino. Team NITTO drivers John Hultsman and Matt Murry also finished all five laps, putting them in 6th and 7th place finishing positions respectively. Battling to the podium in the 4500 Modified class was Dan Fresh, Shawn Rants Sr. and Kenneth Goodall.
After the carnage from the morning and afternoon races was pulled from the track, the big guns hit the starting line at 4pm. Wind-blown but ready to race, competitors faced down eight brutal laps of the 5-mile course, which had drastically been burnt in and changed since pre-running the day before.
Off the line first in pole position was Paul Horschel, who had to fight hard to hold off fellow competitors Bailey Cole and Loren Healy chomping at his heals second and third off the line. With the expertise of a competitor who knows his car inside and out, Horschel was able to stave off the pack for the majority of the race. But, this was an elapsed time race, and at times, it was fellow NITTO car, No. 35AZ driven by Ryan Miller for Bailey Campbell, that was giving Horschel a run for his money despite being physically a few cars back.
Unfortunately for many of the Team NITTO drivers, attrition began to set in early on. Mechanical failure took out Wayland Campbell on the third lap, while his dad, Shannon Campbell, was able to make it nearly to the same location on his fourth lap before having to call the race. Cody Addington was forced to call his race after just two laps, while Jeremy Hammer and Kevin Sterns both completed just six of the eight laps. Despite ultimately completing all eight laps, Loren Healy battled overheating issues during the race, causing him to fall back in the pack and ultimately finish in 15th.
Despite his gaining edge, Miller battled popped tires among other things, which pushed him back once again in the pack and led him to a 17th-place finish for Bailey Campbell. Bryan Crofts took the lead among the Campbell crew, ultimately finishing 8th in the race. Bailey Cole also battled issues throughout the race, causing him also to fall back off of Horschel's heals a bit and finish in fifth place.
Vaughn Gittin Jr., despite putting Brocky through its paces, finished 7th overall. And then there were the Gomez brothers, JP and Raul (despite being registered to race, Marcos Gomez had to stay back to help with the fire fighting efforts in California).
Battling it out to keep their tires intact and under them, both brothers ran a clean race, chomping at the bit to knock Horschel out of first. JP was successful when all was said and done, when he pushed ahead of Horschel on elapsed time and finished eight laps in just 23 minutes and 49.4 seconds for the win.
However, Horschel valiantly fought to keep his top position, ultimately finishing in second with a time of 24 minutes and 15.7 seconds.
Not far behind was Raul Gomez, sweeping the podium for Team NITTO with a time of 26 minutes and 43.3 seconds.
An amazing but brutal race in a new location proved to be challenging for Team NITTO, but ultimately they prevailed! We'd like to congratulate all of our drivers on their finishes at the Lasernut Area BFE Beatdown, and we look forward to seeing all of them next month at the Nationals at Cross Bar Ranch!