4Wheel Parts Qualifying Round Day 1
February 7, 2012 (Johnson Valley, CA) – Ultra4 veteran “Easy” Rick Mooneyham has something to prove at this year’s Griffin King of the Hammers. Mooneyham has been on the podium twice in the past, but has yet to be crowned King. He made his presence known at Tuesday’s 4Wheel Parts Time Trials by laying down the fastest qualifying time, a blistering four minutes and forty one seconds. The only other sub-five-minute time was achieved by reigning King and Monster Energy driver Shannon Campbell, the last driver on course for the day. 4Wheel Parts president Greg Adler was the first competitor on course and his qualifying time of 5:08 stood for much of the day. By the time the dust had settled, Mooneyham and Campbell were the only two who bested Adler for starting position in Friday’s Griffin King of the Hammers. It is interesting to note that Adler was piloting a vehicle originally built at Trick Toys Fabrication by none other than Rick Mooneyham. Scott Ward drove a third Trick Toys Fabrication buggy to a sixth place qualifying time of 5:24, illustrating the effectiveness of the vehicle design.
Rick Mooneyham in Chocolate Thunder
Some wondered if the course through the boulders of Chocolate Thunder would be easier than the previous qualifying course up the vertical rock wall on Backdoor trail. These concerns were unfounded though, as many competitors found themselves at the mercy of the infamous Hammers trails. The psyche of teams became battered as competitors experienced repeated rollovers and mechanical carnage throughout the day. Only 55 of the 66 qualifiers who ran on Tuesday completed the 2.3-mile course, with some teams taking over 15 minutes. The carnage was not limited to those lacking experience or budget. Past Kings Jason Scherer and Loren Healy both struggled in the rocks and had to employ their winches for forward progress, costing them valuable time and pushing them back in the starting order.
The independent front suspensions of Shannon Campbell and Matt Messer’s buggies made short work of the whoops and sand in the desert, while veteran competitors Randy Slawson and Tony Pelligrino were arguably the fastest drivers in the technical rock section of the course, netting them identical finishing times of 5:09 to put them in the top five of the current standings. The 4Wheel Parts Time Trials, like the Griffin King of the Hammers, make use of a variety of terrains to test both man and machine. Wednesday brings a second day of qualifying with heavy hitters like Erik Miller and Robby Gordon on the course. Will the top times be able to stand up to their efforts? Only time will tell, but with the course getting progressively rougher and rain forecasted for Wednesday, Rick Mooneyham is feeling confident about his starting position for Friday’s fifth annual Griffin King of the Hammers.