Backdoor VisionX Shootout the big carnage at King Of the Hammers 2017

Backdoor VisionX Shootout the big carnage at King Of the Hammers 2017

Like every year, early during the week leading to King of the Hammers, there is a show that no-one would willingly miss: The Vision X Shootout.

How to explain this weird custom to someone who’s never been there?

First, let’s set up the place. The Johnson Valley, located in south California, right next to the Joshua tree National Park is where all the racing happens. It kind of resembles Morocco, with rocky hills and sand all around in the valley. None or almost no vegetation is higher than a couple feet. And around the temporary gathering place (Hammer Town), in a 15mi radius, are located multiple rock crawling trails, each more grueling and difficult than the other. Those trail have interesting names, ranging from Sledge Hammer, to Chocolate Thunder (in reference to a basketball move), Wrecking Ball, Full of Hate, Hell’s gate,… Those are not for the faint hearted.

That said, there is one trail, the most famous one, almost mythical, called Backdoor. This trail is the closest one to Hammer Town, sitting just a couple miles north. It is a small canyon with a width ranging from 5 to 10m (16 to 33 ft). Going up, this canyon starts slow, with a few small car-sized boulders here and there, a short stretch of sand and then, THE Backdoor wall. A, giant, 2m+ (7+ ft) high wall, a crazy, almost un-drivable rock face. To add some hardcore status difficulty, there also is a 60cm (2ft) deep trench at the bottom, dug out by the vehicles that failed to climb it. Because Backdoor, that’s why. Once this obstacle climbed, assuming that you managed to, a short flat spot will allow you to take a well-deserved break. But don’t get all relaxed as there is still another difficulty standing between you and the end of the canyon. Just for good measure. It’s a smaller 1.2m (4ft) ledge, called Resolution which, when hit with some speed can be very treacherous and loves to flip rigs on their sides.

That’s the Backdoor Trail for you.

In this natural arena, which our roman ancestors would have loved, a big crazy circus game happens. The engines screaming at the rev. limiter, fire spitting through open-headers, full-throttle assault, metal mashing, kind of game. This, is the Vision X Shootout, a timed run of the Backdoor canyon. Or put simply, a crazy offroad rock crawling drag race.
In order for the difficulty level to be raised a notch (because that’s an obvious requirement, remember, we’re at the King of the Hammers, the hardest offroad race in the world), the Shootout happens at night. Don’t worry, spectators won’t miss anything, Vision X is the main sponsor of the event and placed enough LED light bars in the canyon to light it all up.

When the sun is starting to set, some strange migration happens between Hammer Town and Backdoor. Hundreds of persons hustle to find a good spot to watch the show from the spectator area. And by area, I mean a steep hill with rolling rocks and a good chance to tumble down into the canyon if you’re not careful where you put your feet at. On both sides of the trail, the crowd grows, awaiting our modern times gladiators who will line up at the starting line. After one last walk to gage the craziness the drivers about to climb, a quick prayer (we’re in the USA, remember), the first car sets off.

There are roughly 3 vehicle categories, the Rock Bouncers (mainly from Eastern USA), Ultra4 cars (generally from the West Coast) and some cool, unusual, oddball contraptions like a square body Chevy pick-up’s on 54” tires, a Pre-Runner etc…

A total of 15 different states were represented during this event. 45 racers each more enthusiastic than the other and willing to tear up their vehicle to put on a show, winning the big purse, being able to secure a spot in the main race or all that combined. But Backdoor isn’t tamed easily. It’s a buggy chewing wall, which eats up Dana 60s for breakfast, breaks heims and link bars for lunch, coilovers for dinner and just flips your rig over and over, all day long.

Time to beat: 22.6sec that Bobby Tanner, the famous driver of the Rock Bouncer Screaming Blue set in 2015.

Intensity is at its peak when each vehicle reaches the big wall, and then, madness happens. Flat out, with engines often pushing more that 600hp, no-one backs-up, everyone keeps their foot to the floor. Some close their eyes (Yes, I’ve got pictures to prove it!), but everyone valiantly give their best go at it. For the best ones, the wall is climbed straight, some go left, some go right, trying to get traction where they can in order to propel themselves to the top. It is a show you HAVE to see at least once in your life to believe, like the KOH race. You can smell burnt rubber, hear the roar of the high cube V8’s, feel the ground shake when the rigs hit the ground, truly a crazy experience! If those drivers are not insane, they’re not far from it!

On 45 people starting the race, less than half will reach the top of the trail. For the others, their faith is harsh. Multiple breaks, roll-overs, flips on the roof, lid, etc… But rest assured safety is always first and no-injury whatsoever happened.

Of those who succeeded, it took the slowest a little over 3mn and the first one… BEAT Tanner’s previous record in 22.008sec! Kyle Crouch, in his Bad Donkey Rock Bouncer buggy, brought home a $7500 check with the win. Amazing for his first time hitting the trail!

Shootout rankings:

  •  1 KYLE CROUCH 22.008 KY
  •  2 BRYAN MALONEY 28.358 CA
  •  3 WILLIAM STEWART 29.719 TN
  •  4 SIMON GOWRING 30.362 CA
  •  5 JASON GRAY 31.553 OR
  •  6 RYAN WEBB 31.579 LA
  •  7 ADAM RINGER 32.279 WV
  •  8 RICHIE KEITH 35.559 TN
  •  9 SCOTT GOFORTH 36.219 TN
  •  10 PAUL PASSIEN 43.65 OR
  •  11 JUSTIN HAFT 45.251 OR
  •  12 MIKE RACZYNSKI 50.171 MI
  •  13 AARON SELDON 55.111 TX
  •  14 TREVOR FULTS 57.653 MO
  •  15 LUKE WILSON 58.776 KY
  •  16 BRETT HARRELL 61.134 OR
  •  17 JIMMY SMITH 61.611 MO
  •  18 DAN WRIGHT 74.958 UT
  •  19 GUY MILLER 78.144 CA
  •  20 ETHAN BROADWAY 81.137 AR
  •  21 JOEY WEBER 98.636 ALB, CAN
  •  22 RYAN BRAMHALL 103.834 KS
  •  23 BRANDIE REYNOLDS 120.144 KY
  •  24 CHRIS KAUFMAN 201.975 OR
  •  25 DANNY SMITH DNF TN
  •  26 MIKE BISHOP DNF CA
  •  27 KENNY FORBES DNF MO
  •  28 BRAD MULLIKIN DNF CO
  •  29 KEVIN PORTERFIELD DNF OR
  •  30 MATT CHRISTIAN DNF OK
  •  31 KRIS FRASER DNF BC, CAN
  •  32 BRIAN TREMPE DNF MI
  •  33 MATT MYRICK DNF AL
  •  34 CJ BYNUM DNF MS
  •  35 PHILLIP MCGILTON DNF OH
  •  36 AARON HERRING DNF CA
  •  37 STEVEN ROBINSON DNF TN
  •  38 AARON SLIKKER DNF OR
  •  39 JASON MOON DNF OR
  •  40 BOBBY TANNER DNF TN
  •  41 JASON BARTRAM DNF OR
  •  42 JAMES HASKIN DNF CA
  •  43 JACK PORTER DNF MS
  •  44 GEORGE PRONESTI DNF CA

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