Back in 2011 I attended a rock crawling event at the Cisco Grove Campground called the Axial West Coast Challenge (AWCC) (see the picture gallery here). It consisted of a few courses – a rock crawling circuit and a couple G6 trail events. It was a laid back event with roughly 250 people in attendance, a pretty hefty number for a bunch of people driving RC cars in the woods. Or so it seemed…
Jump forward to 2016 – Axial’s event retains the same location at the Cisco Grove Campground but has now been re-labeled as ‘Axialfest‘. The event is even more about fun, family and bringing the RC community together … and boy did Axial do that. They sold the campground out, renting out areas of the campground that haven’t been used in years. They had approximately 900 registered drivers, however that doesn’t include friends and family members that tagged along to just enjoy the show – we’re looking at another 200-300 drivers for a total closer to 1200 people. But that’s not even the amazing part.
Since the name change to Axialfest in 2012, the event has been open to only Axial-based vehicles. So, yeah, that’s 1200 potential drivers – all with AXIAL vehicles! It’s an awesome site to see mom, dad, little Johnny, sister Kate and even grandpa all walking through the campground driving their Axial rigs.
To keep everyone busy through the 3-day event, Axial set up a number of classes that allowed anyone of any age to participate for your $50 entry fee. There was the Adventurist class, Rock Racing and the Ultra Challenge – let’s take a quick look at each of these classes.
The Adventurist class was all about fun. There were seven trails to drive on, each sponsored by a manufacturer; AMain Hobbies sponsored Trail A, RPP Hobby sponsored Trail B, CKRC Hobbies sponsored Trail C, Pro-Line Racing sponsored Trail D, RC4WD sponsored Trail E, Tower Hobbies sponsored Trail F and Altra Running sponsored Trail G. These courses were available to drive on day or night and could be driven at whatever pace was comfortable, with Axial providing a printed score card for you to use. Drivers were not required to use this score card; it was merely a souvenir of your time on the trail. Trail G was a dual-purpose trail, but we’ll talk about that in a sec.
The second class for drivers was the Rock Racing course. It was a circular course laid out in the center of all the Adventurist courses and required drivers, in groups of 10, to start from a set point and race around the track. It was a motocross start that led up to a wooden ramp that vaulted cars onto an outside lane of the track; the drivers would have to stay on the inside lane and follow their rigs around the course. The races were 2 laps long which, in terms of normal racing seems really low, but after chasing behind your car in the hot sun whilst navigating rocks, weeds, logs and, most importantly, other drivers, 2 laps were plenty! The hardest section of the track was the final leg of the course that required drivers to crawl through a very technical rock garden. Some drivers were able to pick the right lines and speed right through (sort of), but since there were so many drivers on course, it became very difficult to pick a consistent line! This was a make-it-or-break-it part of the track that caught alot of the favored drivers out, sending them farther down the finishing lineup.
Altra Ultra 5K Enduro Challenge
Remember when I mentioned Track G? Well, the Ultra course was Trail G was one in the same, receiving special course treatment for dual purposes and was sponsored by Altra Running Shoes – which was actually a very appropriate sponsor! Also sponsoring the Altra Ultra 5K Enduro course was BFGoodrich, Method Race Wheels and Magnaflow exhaust … yes, the actual full-scale companies! This was a very physical event; drivers started off in pairs and proceeded to do 8 laps of the Ultra Challenge course. Each lap required them to crawl over rocks, up steep hills, down steep hills, over shale, weeds, roots and downed trees. Then there was the man-made bridges and water obstacles – there was even a pass through the staging pavilion that led to a wicked rock section with a small waterfall. Oh, I forgot to mention – the total distance of the track (8 laps) was a whopping 5KM (or just over 3 miles)! Yes, you read that right – to win this event, you had to drive your rig at speed through all those above obstructions while running along side of it – for 8 laps. You had to avoid other competitors, keep your vehicle from breaking AND keep it between the track barriers. I walked the track 2 times taking pictures and one additional time doing a ‘One Lap with Charlie Suangka’ (see video below). It was one of the coolest races I’ve seen, really pushing the drivers (and their trucks) to the limit!
Most of the people attending the event showed up either Thursday or Friday, but for those that wanted to show up earlier, they could attend the Concourse show held in the upper pavilion. There were quite a few vehicles entered in the different classes; Best Daily Driver, Best Axial Heritage, Best Trail Weathered, Most Adventurist, Best Adventurist Trailer, Best Work Trailer, Best SCORE International Trophy Truck and Best of Show. Each class would be judged individually with the overall winner (Best of Show) being judged last. I had the honor of being a judge in the event and have to say there were some CRAZY good entries! It took a couple hours to filter through all the rigs, but the eventual winners really deserved the trophies. Funny story – the Best of Show entry wasn’t even entered in the Concourse event. I happened to notice his truck and trailer off to the side and asked why he wasn’t entered. His wife gave me some story about a sponsorship or something like that, but who cares – it was an awesome setup! The judges had a short meeting, decided he was eligible and forced him to enter, a decision that would be one of the best of the weekend. We let the winners of the other Concourse classes pick the Best of Show, and this killer rig won with a unanimous decision!
After the Concourse, the Adventurist courses were unofficially open for drivers to check out what Axial had in store for them.
Friday started with Tech inspection for the Altra Ultra 5K Enduro, making sure all driver’s rigs were prepared according to the rules. The National Anthem was sung followed by the pre-race setup for the Ultra Challenge race. As I mentioned before, this was an 8-lap race (just over 3 miles), testing the physical endurance of the drivers and the durability of the vehicles. We even saw Casey Currie, a huge Axial supporter, take his shot at the Ultra Challenge event, taking a very respectable 3rd place finish! It was quite the grueling event – see the Ultra Challenge Picture Gallery below to see for yourself.
The official start of Axialfest and the Opening Ceremonies was on Friday afternoon. Everyone was invited to gather at the pavilion for a group shot, however it took quite some time to get everyone together and settled in. The resulting shot was fantastic – kids, parents, friends and staff all gathered together for one purpose – to enjoy Axialfest.
Around noon, Starkey’s Food Truck rolled up to treat everyone to pizza and sushi. Yes, I know, it’s an odd combination, but the food was actually amazing! I had pizza multiple times (as did my wife) and we loved it! I didn’t partake in any of the sushi, but those that did were surprised at how good it was coming from a food truck! Talking to Dave (owner of the food truck), he was floored by the amount of people at the event and guaranteed us he’ll be back next year. That makes for a happy Tony – that pizza was delicious!
Throughout the day, drivers were flooding the trails to have some on-course fun, a time that lead deep into the night. We started heading to bed around 11:30pm and there were still a ton of vehicle headlights dancing in the woods.
The start of the day had racers lining up over at the Rock Racing course for Tech Inspection. Turn out was expected to be a bit low due to the physical nature of the event, but we were all pretty surprised at the droves of RCers headed our way. The RR10 Bomber/Wraith class alone had over 60 entrants! This extended the time the Rock Racing event was supposed to last, but that didn’t seem to bother any of the participants.
The Adventurist Trails were open all day and drivers had a chance to finish off any trails they didn’t complete. By 7:00, attendees were corralled towards the upper pavilion for the Awards and Raffle. It was like the opening to a concert; family and newly-met friends all filtering into the staging area. Everyone was very calm and collected as they picked their spot, set their chairs down and prepared themselves for the awards and one heck of an amazing raffle!
Drivers from the Concourse, Rock Racing and Ultra Challenge were all awarded trophies and prizes for their efforts. Some got Axial swag while others got amazing prizes from other Axialfest supporters – Magnaflow, Altra Running Shoes and BFGoodrich!
The Axialfest raffle was, by far, one of the best I’ve been to in my RC career! There were parts, tires and apparel from companies like RC4WD, Pro-Line, CKRC and Boom Racing as well as quite a few Axial car kits – including the newly-released SCX10 II! Non-RC sponsors also had quite a few things to donate; Altra had several gift certificates for running shoes, Magnaflow was giving out some exhaust systems, a Transition BLT mountain bike valued at over $1200 (John and Rodney had a little fun with this one on Axial’s Facebook Live), BFGoodrich donated some full-scale tires sets and there was even a few gift certificates for sets of Method Racing Wheels! The final prize was one of Axial’s new SCX10 II kits – you can see how happy that kid was – he’s in the picture at the top of this article!
Axialfest is definitely a go-go-go event, even if it’s at your own pace. The event actually ends on Saturday so you can use Sunday as a travel home day or a relaxation day – the choice is yours. Either way, we saw people sleeping in, others hanging out around the early morning fire with their coffee and yet others working in one more trail run before they headed home. That’s the beauty of this event; it’s a thousand friends just hanging out. People are incredibly nice and have no problems striking up a quick conversation. It really is a family event – a real BIG family event.
If you haven’t been to an Axialfest event yet, do yourself a favor and go to one … just one. It doesn’t matter if you’re into RC rock crawling or racing, just go. It’s a whole different side of the industry that I guarantee you’ll enjoy. I’m in. I’m there, and without question I’ll be competing in one (or all) of the events next year.
Editor’s Note: Both Danna and I were invited to Axialfest as Staff members to help out at the event. There is a tremendous amount of planning that goes into an event like this, especially when it runs as smoothly as it did. It took the entire Axial staff as well as a large amount of volunteers to make Axialfest 2016 happen, so we’d like to officially thank everyone for making our adventure an absolute honor.
Axial, as well as CompetitionX, would like to thank all of the following sponsors for being a part of Axialfest 2016. I’m sure we’ll see them next year as well!
Altra Running Shoes, www.altrarunning.com
AMain Hobbies, www.amainhobbies.com
BFGoodrich Tires, www.bfgoodrichtires.com
Boom Racing, www.boomracingrc.com
Braven Audio, www.braven.com
CKRC Hobbies, www.ckrchobbies.com
Fast Eddy Bearings, www.fasteddybearings.com
Gear Head RC, www.gearheadrc.com
Gigabit Off-Road, www.gigabitgames.com
Knight Customs, www.knightcustoms.com
Magnaflow Exhaust, www.magnaflow.com
Method Racing Wheels, www.methodracewheels.com
MKS Servos, www.mksservosusa.com
Phoenix Design Labs, www.phoenixdesignlab.com
Pro-Line Racing, www.prolineracing.com
Rivas Concepts, www.rivasconcepts.com
RPP Hobby, www.rpphobby.com
Rugged Radios, www.ruggedradios.com
Scale Builders Guild, www.scalebuildersguild.com
SOR Graphics, www.stuckonracinggraphics.com
Starkey’s Food Truck, www.starkeys-tahoe.com
Tekin Racing, www.teamtekin.com
Tower Hobbies, www.towerhobbies.com
Transition Bikes, www.transitionbikes.com
Two Chainz Scalerz, www.facebook.com/twochainzscalerz/
Below is a glimpse of each day’s activities. To see the full photo gallery, visit the CompetitionX Photo Gallery page.