When it comes to women in the off-road industry, we’re not talking about glammed-up gals sitting along the sidelines. Sure, there are plenty of those, but the ones we really find impressive are the women wrenching, riding and racing just like the men; getting their nails dirty; and wearing mud and dirt just as proudly as a makeup. Bree Molitor is definitely one of those gals- a true wheeler at heart, avid Rock Bouncer and a proud contributing member of 4×4 Nation.
Off Road Xtreme sat down with rock-bouncing phenom Bree Molitor for an interview recently. Here’s what the woman behind the wheel had to say:
Bree Molitor: “My dad and older brother have always been interested in anything with a motor and off-road sports in particular. They have raced, driven, and built everything from motorcycles and dirt bikes to go karts, Odysseys, Jeeps, and now rock racing buggies. So I grew up around that and naturally gained some of the same interests as them.”
Off Road Xtreme: How did you get into racing with your dad?
Bree: “My dad is really the whole reason I got started in the sport of rock racing. He has been an avid off-roader for most of my life, so I used to go wheelin’ with him when I was younger. I wasn’t involved through my high school years, but then my dad started 4×4 Nation, which centered around the sport of off-road rock racing and all camaraderie that goes with it.
“I began hosting the show, and naturally started to drive my dad’s vehicles too, which had evolved from Jeeps, Scouts, and an M715 Kaiser to a tube chassis rock crawler.
“My dad sold the rig he had to begin building something even better, which eventually became our new buggy the Avenger, and realized that I needed something to drive and practice with in the meantime, so he got a Jeep YJ buggy (the “Juggy”) for us.
I love that this is something that I can do with my dad–we both say that we probably wouldn’t be in the sport in the magnitude that we are if it wasn’t for each other. He is my co-driver, mechanic, and biggest fan.”
Bree: “I had raced at a few county fairs before, but I first began rock racing because of good old fashioned peer pressure–we went to the first race of the Southern Rock Racing Series (SRRS) in 2012 to watch, and to film for our show, and we had the Juggy, which I had only driven a few times. But a few friends took me out and showed me the hills and eventually talked me into racing.
“I watched the other racers go flying up the hill and tried to do the same thing, and promptly blew out an axle and several other parts. But even after that race I stayed with it and finished the series, and have been racing since. Now I have a buggy that can withstand my heavy right foot a little better, although I’ve still been known to break a few parts!
“Since that first race I have continued racing the SRRS, and now two other race series that began this year. I also enjoy riding at home on my family’s farm.
“This is my third year of racing, and besides having a sweet new buggy (which my dad and I both race), I have really grown to love the sport and the people in it. Even though we are there to compete against each other, there is so much camaraderie and everyone is just having a good time.
And as far as driving, nothing makes you better like ‘seat time’! I have so much to learn still, and every race, hill, obstacle, and buggy is different, but I learn something each time. Sometimes it’s something technical with the rig, or dealing with a new kind of terrain, but sometimes it’s just the confidence that comes from conquering a hill, or making myself get in that driver’s seat and race even though a thousand people are watching.”
Bree: “Rock bouncing is much like the name –we are “bouncing” up terrain that is usually rocky, muddy and steep, as fast as we can. It is also called rock racing, and is not always on a rocky hill in the woods somewhere–we have raced on motocross tracks, slick chutes of water, huge rock ledges, and everything in between.
The sport differs from other genres because of the terrain that we race on (no deserts!), and the fact that the races are usually quite short, anywhere from just 15 seconds to a few minutes long. There are often two or three individual hills or courses within a race day, with one’s combined times from all of them counting towards your standing for the day.”
Bree: “It’s hard to pinpoint where and how exactly ‘rock bouncing’ got its start, but the Southern Rock Racing Series is what first brought organization to the sport, bringing together those with a competitive spirit and a love for off-roading to pit their vehicles and skills against each other for the chance to win money and bragging rights.
I think it has caught on so quickly for several reasons: It is such an extreme sport with wrecks, rollovers, and crazy stunts happening at any given time, off-road driving and racing already appeals to a large segment of society, especially here in the South, and the events are just fun to be at.”
ORX: What’s it like being a female Rock Bouncer competing against the guys? Are there a lot of females that participate in your sport?
Bree: “I am currently one of the few ladies that races in the series, although I think that will be changing soon as more and more women are becoming interested in driving, and especially because of the start of ‘Powder Puff’ races this year at the events. Hopefully the girls will get hooked during powder puff and want to race in the ‘big’ races!
“A bunch of the guys will give me tips and show me the lines they recommend, and they get excited for me when I do well. And I know if I were ever to break anything or need help, any of them would take care of me.
At the end of the day, this sport is just as much about camaraderie as it is competition, whether you’re a male or female racer.”
ORX: How many races have you won in your career so far?
Bree: “I have won three powder puff races this year, one in the Adventure Challenge Series and two in the American Rock Crawling Series. I won second place in the woods race at the Hogwild Shootout in 2013, third place in the Dixie Run rock race in 2013, and have had some good placings in individual series races.
Hopefully someday soon I’ll be a series winner!”
ORX: What has been your favorite thing you’ve been able to do in the off-road scene?
Bree: “There are several: I like traveling, so going to off-road parks all around the southeast is fun for me. I love getting to meet so many people that I otherwise never would have crossed paths with. And, of course, who wouldn’t love getting to drive a buggy like the Avenger as their hobby?”
Bree: “It is a sweet ride, and I’m super blessed to be able to race it! The chassis was a crazy four-day build by the guys at Essentially Offroad, and all the finish work was done at Charlie’s Custom Creations. My dad also had a big hand in the entire process.
It has an LS3 motor with a Competition cam and a tune, an Atlas transfer case, TH 400 tranny (PTC), 14-bolt aluminum drop-in axles with 40-spline RCV shafts and custom knuckles by EOR, triple bypass FOX shocks, Raceline forged 20-inch wheels and Interco TSL SX 43-inch tires. For the look of it, we wanted to incorporate our 4×4 Nation logo with the graphics and color combinations. We kind of took a chance with that, but I think it turned out pretty well.”
ORX: We know you were at the 2014 King of The Hammers event. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience there?
Bree: “Going to KOH this year was definitely a highlight of my rock racing career so far. There are so many similarities between the Ultra4 world and what we do, and yet so many differences, so to be able to experience it in person was very cool.
“I liked the atmosphere and the feeling of excitement from the spectators all week, juxtaposed against the tensions from the race teams trying to prep their machines and all the late nights and long hours that went into that.
“I certainly have a lot of respect for those racers after being out there myself.
“It was great to meet tons of new people from all over who have a love for off-roading.
“I also really liked being able to take the Avenger out to play on the dry lake bed and in the dunes–obviously we don’t have anything like that in Tennessee, so it was an awesome opportunity to ‘break in’ the buggy on new terrain.
“Speaking of breaking in, racing in the Backdoor Shootout was certainly a highlight of the week – it was the first real obstacle we ever did in the Avenger. Unfortunately the rear ring-and-pinion broke during the race, but it was still a great experience to be out there with a huge crowd and to be able to represent with the other ‘bouncers’ that made the trip.
Of course, the whole reason we decided to go to KOH was to cheer on our good friend Richie Keith who raced his buggy (the Plowboy) in the main race, the first bouncer to ever do so. So it was really special to be part of Team Plowboy and support their efforts.”
Bree: “My dad and I have been competing in all three of the rock racing series in the southeast this year (Southern Rock Racing Series, American Rock Crawling Series, and Adventure Challenge Series), and plan to race as many events as we can throughout the season. The more seat time in the Avenger, the better, especially since we just got a self-centering device setup for the rear steer.
We enjoy doing the Tough Truck competitions at local county fairs that will happen later in the year, as well as just trail riding with friends when we have the opportunity. We will also be attending the Unlimited Off-Road American Show & Expo in Louisville, Kentucky in June of 2014, and are very excited for that event, as there hasn’t been one like it on our side of the country before.”
Bree: “I’d love to win a main series race or an entire series–I have won powder puff and placed well in several other races, but I’m never quite fast enough to be at the very top, plus, then I could say I beat my dad.”
ORX: What would you like to do in the future as far as racing goes? Any chance you’ll try other forms of motorsports?
Bree: “For now, I’d like to continue with rock racing and see where this sport evolves as it continues to grow. It’s hard to say what the future might look like, but if I had the opportunity I might try another type of motorsport. Rock racing is a pretty involved and expensive hobby though, so if I were to branch out in another direction I might need a sponsor or two.”
ORX: What advice would you give young women who are looking to get into off-road racing, particularly Rock Bouncing?
Bree: “Don’t be afraid to get in the driver’s seat, and don’t let breaking a few parts intimidate you. Everyone has to start somewhere. And even if competition is not your thing, off-roading is still a great way to get outside and spend time with people.”
At Off Road Xtreme, we could not agree more with rock bouncer and off-road activity advocate Bree Molitor when she talks of getting in the driver’s seat, whether it be for competition or recreation. That’s what off-roading is all about–getting out, building and driving awesome machines, having a good time with friends, and getting a little dirty in the mean time.
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