2019 PCI Race Radios Rampage at Ridgecrest race recap

Much like Johnson Valley, home of King of the Hammers, Ridgecrest, California is a hub for off-road racing. For our second year racing in the vast desert, running adjacent to the Navy's China Lake, Ultra4 opted to do a joint race with two other well-known organizations, the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts (SNORE) and the Mojave Off Road Racing Enthusiasts (MORE), for the last race of the 2019 Lasernut Western Series. We called it the PCI Race Radios Rampage at Ridgecrest and just like last year, it didn't disappoint!

With the combination of three organizations and countless race classes came many challenges but also an amazing opportunity for Ultra4 competitors to race alongside other off-road racing classes and machines many hadn't ever encountering in competition before. The result was a long, hot weekend of nothing but dust, horsepower and tons of racing action! What more could you ask for? 

 

Qualifying: 

Qualifying day kicked off on Friday, September 13thwith business as usual – registration, tech inspections, pre-running, and racers setting up camp. At 3:30pm, Ultra4 classes, as well as a handful of SNORE and MORE classes started lining up in preparation for qualifying – a first-come, first-served affair. 

 At 4:30pm, qualifying kicked off with a 2-mile course plotted by Race Director, JT Taylor-- a fast loop that would give racers a good idea of what they were in store for during Saturday's race. Intermixed, Ultra4 cars qualified among Class 10s and Unlimited Trucks. The vast majority of SNORE and MORE's morning classes didn't qualify so the afternoon qualifier was Ultra4 heavy. 

 

Hot weather, little wind and the sinking sun made for a challenging qualifier, with dust clouds hanging sometimes endlessly in the air and glare making it challenging to see in some places. But the racers pushed through, throwing down some impressive times in pursuit of starting their race on Saturday out front. 

 Following a bad tumble by Albert Conteras, conditions became more and more challenging, and facing a line of qualifying hopefuls 30+ deep at 7pm, just half hour before qualifying was set to finish, it was decided to change the qualifying protocol in order to make Saturday's start as fair as possible given the circumstances. At this point, only those who thought they could throw down a top-three qualifying time were allowed to take to the qualifying course. Those who met that goal would start first in their classes on Saturday. The rest would start in Western Series points order, followed by a random draw for those who had not acquired series points. 

 

For Saturday morning's heat, Loren Healy took the pole in the Can-Am Off-Road UTV Class, followed by Cole Clark and Chayse Caprara. In the Spidertrax 4600 Class, Dawson Allington threw down the quickest time, earning him the top starting position and the KMC Hard Charger award for his class. Following him off the line would be Josh Atteberry and John Snell after Contreras was forced to retire from the weekend's competition. 

 For the afternoon heat, JP Gomez solidified his lead position with the quickest qualifying run in the 4400 Class. Following him off the line would be Cody Addington and Wayland Campbell. In the Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class, Bailey Cole took the pole followed by Cade Rodd and Jeremy Jones. Last but not least, for the Yukon 4500 Class, it was Rick Lavezzo who took top honors, backed by Dan Fresh and Travis Riley Sr. 

 

Race Day: 

Race day promised to be a squelcher in more than one way. With Ultra4 classes lining up amongst the SNORE and MORE racers, the heat was on first thing in the morning for the Can-Am Off-Road UTV and the Spidertrax 4600 Stock classes with the green flag flying at an early 6am. Twenty one UTVs started the race behind over 50 Class 10s, 1600s and Class 5 Unlimiteds and a few other sparse classes. Behind them, Class 9s, 1450 Sportsman, 1300 and 1500 Unlimited, and Class 2000 competitors were ready to do whatever they could to get to the front of the pack. Taking up the tail end were our four 4600 Class guys along with four Stock Bug Class competitors. 

 With over 120 racers in the morning heat, the battle for clean air was a frantic one right off the bat. The Ultra4 UTV Class fought for positions as a whole, making headway through to the top Class 10 competitors, but some individuals had better luck than others. Healy, who started at the front of the UTV pack after his top qualifying run the night before, suffered an early upset after a run-in with a Limited Class car took out his RZR's drivers' rear corner in the first lap. Other top qualifiers, Cole Clark and Chayse Caprara, were also taken out of the race early on. In the end, it was Jacob Versey who took the checkers, followed by Scott LeSage and Travis Zollinger. 

 

Battling the terrain was no easy feat for any race class, but it was the 4600 Stock guys who took the biggest beating. With miles of whoops and dust clouds you could cut with a knife, the 4600 competitors were up against the odds their entire 3-lap race. But if there's anything we know about Stock Class competitors, it is that they have perseverance, which especially paid off for second off the line, Josh Atteberry – the only Stock Class racer to complete all three laps. Following Atteberry in to a podium finish were Dawson Allington and Sean McNamera. 

 Stacked with Ultra4 classes, the afternoon heat kicked off at 12:50pm.starting with Ultra4 4400 Class competitors chomping at the heels of SNORE and MORE's Class 1 and Unlimited Truck racers. Having earned the pole in Friday night's qualifying with a quick 1-minute and 14.19-second run, JP Gomez led the charge, backed by heavy hitters like Cody Addington, Wayland and Shannon Campbell, and Paul Horschel, all looking to earn the coveted spot at the top of the podium. 

 

From the back of the pack, 4500 Modified Class racers had to fight their way up to the front, not only battling against their 4800 Legends Class counterparts right in front of them, but also SNORE and MORE's 6100 Class before ever seeing the taillights of the rear-runners of the 4400 Class. 

Four laps stood between the 4400 Class and the finish line, while 4800 and 4500 Class competitors had three brutal laps to tackle. With the heat index rising and no wind in site, racers found themselves battling not only their fellow competitors, but also Mother Nature as she dealt more than a challenging hand. 

 

The battle for the lead for the 4400 Unlimited Class was at a constant –  Bailey Campbell, Paul Horschel, and JP Gomez all taking their turn in the front. But in the end it was Gomez who pulled out the win for back-to-back Ridgecrest victories, just 38 seconds faster on corrected time than Bailey Campbell. With the top two into the finish in quick succession, the fight was on for the class' last podium position, which eventually went to Paul Horschel with a six and a half-minute lead on fourth place. 

No sooner had the first two 4400 Class finishers crossed the line that the top 4800 and 4500 class drivers were making their last push to the finish. After time corrections were taken into consideration, David Hartman was awarded the win in the 4800 Class with just 13 seconds to spare, followed by Bailey Cole and Andrew Gorman. In the 4500 Class, it was Rick Lavezzzo who claimed victory, sharing the podium with Dan Fresh, driving the Jessi Combs tribute car, and Shawn Rants Sr. 

 

Check out full race day results from the PCI Race Radios Rampage at Ridgecrest HERE!

Watch on demand coverage of the race HERE!

 

We're almost done with the 2019 Ultra4 race season, which will conclude next month at the Nitto Ultra4 Nationals in Reno, NV. While East and West champions have been determined, there's still one race to go before ultimately crowning the 2019 season champions. Be sure to join us October 19thfor the biggest and baddest season finale yet!

Story by Lindsey Fisher

Photos by Ryan Del Ponte (The Redline Projects)