I.O.C.C. (International Offroad Carpet Championship) is held in Las Vegas Nevada at the Westgate Hotel and Casino's Paradise Ball Room. This year the event fell on Thanksgiving weekend due to some scheduling conflicts but that didn't deter over 300 entries from attending making this years IOCC twice as large as the year before. When this race's entries opened it sparked my curiosity about carpet off road racing and I knew right away I wanted to attend.
The parent race that runs the week prior is the IIC which is the road race event that Scotty Ernst has been running in Vegas for the past 13 years. It was a bucket list race that some day I would get the time off to race it. Being more involved with off-road over the past several decades the IOCC was my chance to put the two together and with having most of the week off due to Turkey Day it made perfect sense to make sure I was in attendance and bonus was the fact that I now run for one of the strongest competing companies in Carpet off-road racing; Schumacher.
Wednesday morning Matt Maroney, Brooklynn Gibbs and myself loaded up all of our gear and set off toward Vegas to get checked in and set up for the event. We arrived just after 1pm and found the Paradise Ballroom and to our amazement the track was set up and ready to run. To say the least Matt and I wanted to drop our buggies down right then and there! Alas, we got checked into the event and found our pit spots alongside the other Schumacher drivers most of who were from outside of the U.S. (England, Poland, Austria, New Zealand and Australia)
Thursday morning I was awake before the sun was up, my mind racing and not so patiently waiting for 8am when the doors to the ballroom opened and we could get underway with practice. Matt and I made it down to the doors sometime around 730 and found several other racers waiting for the flood gates to open. Once inside it was a race to get batteries charged and tires glued to partake in the first round of practice. I sent Matt out with a set of tires that we had brought with us that matched the spec tire for the event. He returned about 10 minutes later with a smiling look of concern and stating "This is going to be a challenge!"
As we found out the track and the surface (both of us being newbs to carpet) was tricky. Nothing you have ever driven on will prepare you for this much grip! Even with the current EOS points leader, Schumacher's own Michal Orlowski's help with setup could we fathom the difficulty to keep from making mistakes. You literally had to drive slow to go fast. Having put in three rounds of practice we still were a bit nervous going into Fridays practice rounds for seeding us into our qualifiers. Today however was Thanksgiving and included with our entries was a complete turkey dinner with all of the trimmings for all of the racers to enjoy. We were able to discuss some set up changes with other seasoned carpet racers during this time which made for a better nights sleep.
Friday: Just like Thursday we were up before dawn, coffee at the cafe and then to the ballroom doors by 730. This time we had some practice packs charged and car set ups were changed the night before so we were on the track right at 8:05. Matt and I were still riding the "struggle bus" with driving technique. My 4WD buggy was under steering and both of our 2WD buggies were over steering. Further changes were made and by the start of the first qualifying round that afternoon both of us felt pretty confident in our set ups. Further changes were made and we felt a little better about going into Saturday's rounds of qualifying. Time for tacos and beer once again provided with our entries as the "event sponsor meet and greet" / driver social session was underway in the same banquet room as the Thanksgiving dinner was from the night before. Everyone were having a great time as the beer flowed and the laughter was near deafening from all around the room. The tension of the day was gone which again made for a great nights sleep.
Saturday: The terrifying knowledge that your "stuff" better be on point because you only have 3 more shots at putting together A main runs. We used each run to learn more and vowed to make less mistakes and improve. With nearly 60 entries in Matt's class (17.5 2wd) his qualifying efforts placed him in the D main. In 4wd 13.5 I would start 2nd in the B and in 40+ 2wd Mod I would start 5th on the grid for the triple A mains on Sunday. With our tails somewhat between our legs it was time for dinner and rest for the mains on Sunday.
Sunday: Matt would come up first for his D main run and the hopes of running the alphabet to get into the A was just a single spot away as a critical error over the "wall" jump put him back to 6th after a great start and nipping at 1st from the 2nd position. He fought hard and drove excellent to his march back up to 3rd just missing the transfer. My B main for 4wd 13.5 was now up and I had confidence in my Schumacher L1 to take me to the front as there was only one spot to be bumped to the A. It wasn't to be as I made a early race mistake and fell back. I drove a bit too aggressive and ended on my lid more times than I ran laps. My 2wd class was up next and I vowed to not make mistakes. I simply was out driven and ended up 4th for A1. The 2 other subsequent mains were fought for but my lack of carpet off road experience showed through and I would finish 5th overall for the triple A main totals.
So..... Seemingly a dismal end to a great event? Not even close! Matt and I learned so much and met some incredible people. Scotty Ernst has one of the greatest events that you will ever attend. The time schedule is followed to the letter (or number in this case) the atmosphere was electric! (all puns intended) and the racing was great from all classes. We are looking forward to not only this event next year but also more carpet off-road events in the near future!
From Matt, Brooklynn and I a huge thank you to Schumacher, the Orlowskis, Tony Newland, George Brewer, Mark Gregory, Amp Draw Hobbies for the parts support, Scotty Ernst, Charlie Suangka and the entire IIC/IOCC crew and the Westgate Hotel. We look forward to seeing you all next year!