Sometimes in life there are precursors to future events. At times they seem to appear as haunting images from the past strung together loosely, somehow flashing forward to a day yet to come.
As we watched the practice and qualifying sessions of the 4 Wheel Parts Glen Helen Grand Prix, these sort of images not only flashed upon the LCD screen of our cameras when we inspected our exposures, but on the visual recording apparatus of our minds.
A handful of competitors in the 4400 Ultra4 Class kept running the hottest laps and it was some of these drivers we would see again on the podium. However, the track was long and tough, breakage was common, and Lady Luck was not always kind.
For others it was not to be there day in the sun. Many that day told stories of ups and downs, and unfortunately some of the more than 115 teams that entered the 4th annual 4 Wheel Parts Glen Helen Grand Prix would not get back up and running.
ATX Wheels and Nitto Tire driver Loren Healy smoked the pack during qualifying in his new four-wheel-drive IFS car. He was running blisteringly fast laps, and drove an overall fastest qualifying lap of 05:10.228 to sit on the pole of the premier 4400 Ultra4 Class for the main event.
Nick Nelson, Shannon Campbell, Levi Shirely, and Greg Adler followed in quick procession, all setting top five qualifying lap times; the top three within five seconds of each other over a long and treacherous race course.
Greg Adler, who drives the #210 4 Wheels Parts car in the 4400 Ultra4 Class and had the fifth overall fastest lap time during qualifying, told us, “I had no real problems, and should do well in the main.” His partner, Brent Goegebuer was not so lucky in his #4473 4 Wheel Parts car during qualifying.
Goegebuer flew through the course and then suddenly disappeared. When we found him in the pits, we learned why. “The last lap [of qualifying] I saw smoke coming from the trans tunnel. The main wiring loom is fried, and if we can get it fixed we’ll go to the LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier), so we are working as fast as we can.”
The King Returns
One driver did remain up front and that was the current King Of The Hammers title holder, Loren Healy. Levi Shirely kept him from getting lazy through, and stayed close to his tail at every turn, jump, and straightaway. The only time Healy wasn’t in front was during a brief pit stop for fuel, and then he soon re-gained the lead from Shirely before the start of his next lap.
Having competed in four Ultra4 races on two continents in the last five weeks, including a first Ultra4 win in Italy, Levi Shirely started the main event just behind Healy. Shirely remained in the second position throughout all 20 laps of the main.
The battle for third was much more dramatic, with Jake Hallenbeck starting off in third and keeping his position for most of the first half of the race. On the 10th lap, Wayland Campbell had moved up aggressively and overtaken Kevin Sacalas and Hallenbeck.
Wayland was running strong going into the final lap, but Hallenbeck poured it on hard and passed Wayland in the final stretch of the race to grab the third place podium position for the second time in consecutive events.
In addition to the unlimited 4400 Ultra4 class, Glen Helen was also the largest regional race to date with more than 40 limited class vehicles registered. Ultra4 classes competing at Glen Helen included 4500, 4600, 4700, and 4800 cars, as well as UTVs. In the 4700 Spec Class, Wes Agee took the win, with Jessi Combs following up her Stampede win with a second place finish, and Chris Ridgway finishing in third position.
With more than fifteen 4500 Class cars registered, this was also the largest regional race to date for the Rubicon Express Modified class. Jordan Townsend lead in both prelims and the main event for the class, and repeated his Stampede performance with another win over second place finisher John Currie, with third place going to Shawn Rants.
Mel Wade III, currently second in points in the 4600 Pro Comp Stock class was running strong until he took a spill during qualifying coming into a rutted-out downhill left hander. “The rear locker was not working right, because the compressor wiring was bad, and we rolled it, but we had fastest times first and second laps,” said Wade.
Wade and his team made the repairs and took fourth in the class that night. Ben Varozza, claimed his second 4600 Class win in a row, followed by Brian Behrend in second and Sean McNamara for third place.
A keen competitor in the 4800 Legends Class, Hans Oswald, was working furiously on his car when we came across him in the pits Saturday afternoon after qualifying. He told us, “We went hard into one of the back corners and broke the passenger-side stub shaft, but we will have it replaced by the main.”
Oswald did eventually claim third place on the 4800 Legends podium. Richie Carter took the 4800 Legends win in his first regional event for the class, with Richard Fenton coming in second. David Harvick won the UTV Sportsman Class, with Darren Mitchell coming in second, and Jon Nelson taking third.
The 4 Wheel Parts Glen Helen Grand Prix saw almost three times the number of entrants it had for the inaugural 2011 event, and there’s a good reason for that. Glen Helen Raceway is legendary and attracts racers from all over the country that might not enter another Ultra4 race aside from King Of The Hammers.
The three-mile track laid out for this event ran through the hills and hollows of the famous motocross course for some tight and twisty technical racing and then took the competitors out onto the high-speed straightaways, huge sweeping corners, and sky-scraping jumps of the off-road racing short-course track.
The drivers and their machines were tested like no other course can on the Ultra4 circuit other than the aforementioned King Of The Hammers. So the question remains. Are the results of the 4 Wheel Parts Glen Helen Grand Prix, held July 11-12, 2014, a glimpse of what we might see early next year in Johnson Valley?