COMPETITION rock crawling is a world where spectators very rarely get to peek inside.
It’s often held in remote properties more known for their rugged isolation and rocky outcrops than their spectator-friendly grandstands, and while it has been hidden away from prying eyes, rock crawling has been growing from strength to strength.
Across the country the sound of welders buzzing and rattle guns hammering has been heard ringing out of workshops, garages and driveways; each team burning the midnight oil to get their crawlers ready for W.E. ROCK, one of the biggest competitive rock crawling events in Australia.
There’s no denying a day in the rocks is a bit of challenging fun for most off-roaders, but the W.E. ROCK crowd take things to a whole ’nother level. 40-inch tyres, coilover suspension, portal axles and rear steer are all fabricated into hand-built rigs with a fuel range measured in hours rather than hundreds of kilometres. Some still resemble the street-going rigs they started out as, while others are more akin to a single-seat moon buggy than any traditional 4x4.
At the recent Sydney 4WD & Adventure Show we snuck in early on the Friday to avoid the crowds and get an up-close look at the behemoth known as the Tough Dog Mountain. A concrete wall laid-out specifically to bring rock crawling to the masses, with grand stands and food stalls all skirting the course.
Where some events reward outright speed, W.E. ROCK is a series of tight technical tracks all designed to test not only the capability of the vehicles but the skill of the navigators and the nerve of the drivers.
As the timer counts down from 10 minutes with an eagle-eyed marshal keeping watch, driver and navi work together to pilot their rigs through treacherous lines that’d roll just about any street-driven rig silly enough to try.
It’s the kind of terrain where taking the wrong line or hesitating on the loud pedal can see rollovers all the way to the bottom of the mountain, and it has happened once or twice before.
Vehicles are broken up into three main categories: Unlimited, Promod and Extreme. In the Unlimited class, imagination is the only limitation; wild built tube buggies reign supreme. Promod is ‘limited’ to 40-inch tyres and must resemble(ish) a production vehicle. Extreme is aimed at entry level rigs to give all budgets a shot at taking the glory.
If you’ve been putting off heading to the Sydney 4WD & Adventure Show, make sure it’s on your to-do-list for next year. The teams from W.E. Rock will be more than happy to put on a show like no other you’ll ever see.
#816 – Driver: Matt Reitsma. Navi: Trent Norris
#27 – Driver: Warren Hatherly. Navi: Keith Dyson
#32 – Driver: Steve Grima. Navi: Mark Lenstra
#1600 – Driver: Phil Myres. Navi: Troy Whitelam
#23 – Driver: Tim Scutt. Navi: Luke Schmahl
#66 – Driver: Anthony Ayoub. Navi: Chade Blazejko