Getting Started in Rock Crawling Competitions

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When you arrive at a comp, check in with the event organizers and register. This is also when they will usually tech your vehicle to make sure that your rig is within legal restrictions.

Rock crawling is an absolute blast. Competitions, however, take it to a whole new level. If you really want to up your game and have some serious fun, you need to check out a rock crawling competition. You’ll also meet people who are as into rock crawling as you, and you’ll almost certainly find the rock crawling crowd to be very inviting and helpful. If you’re interested, and I know you are, this article takes all the guess work out of making the leap from just crawling to competing. So, have fun and see you on the rocks.


Be prepared to be outside all day. Dress appropriately for the weather and bring plenty of water.

Know Your Class

Like their full-size counterparts, RC rock crawlers’ come in many shapes and sizes. Most of the clubs around the country abide by the USRCCA rules and have 2.2 and Super classes. The trucks in the 2.2 class have 2.2 size rims and aren’t allowed to run rear steer or a wheelbase over 12.5 inches. They must also be less than 12.5 inches wide. The Super class has less restrictions and use larger bodies and tires. Some clubs around the country also use a scale class, in which the goal is to mimic full size street legal rigs. Overall, the 2.2 class is the most popular, but most large clubs run every class with strong turnouts.


Most comps have more than one course per class, so if you do bad on one, you can always make up for it on another course.

How it Works

Thankfully, rock crawling competitions aren’t as complicated as the racing scene, but they can be a bit intimidating if you have never been to one before. Before showing up to an event, check the local club rules and see if there is anything you need to change on your rig. Also, see if there is an entrance fee. When you first arrive at the event you’ll want to check in with the event organizers and register. This is also when they will usually tech your vehicle to make sure that your rig is within legal restrictions. After everyone is signed up and inspected, there will usually be a brief drivers’ meeting where the judges go over some basic rules and tell you how things are going to run that day. Don’t worry, you do not have to judge an event unless you have been to a number of events and decide to volunteer your time.

There are two common ways that events are run. The first one is that a random starting order is picked for the courses and you have to be at a certain course at a certain time. Pay attention to the order and make sure you are ready to go. If two courses are run, the second course is often run in reverse order, but sometimes the running order is based on the scores from the first course. The event organizers will explain the system they use. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The second way, which larger clubs are starting to use, is called a “free for all” course setup. Three or four courses will be set up and you decided when you want to run each one. You just show up to the course and sign in with the judge. You have to complete all the courses by a certain time restriction, so don’t goof off too much. At the end of the day, the judges will tally up the scores, and the person with the least amount of penalties will win.


Comps are a great place to meet many other crawlers.

Typical Comp Day

Every comp and every club is different. Smaller clubs with smaller turnouts will usually have much shorter days, but here is how a typical comp might go down at a large club:

9:00 AM Competitors arrive and register. Tech is usually performed now and courses are being designed

9:30 AM Courses are being finished by the course designers

9:45 AM Drivers’ meeting takes place; event organizers outline how the day will go and explain the basic rules

10:00 AM Drivers will start running courses. Sometimes multiple courses are run at once, so make sure you know where you have to be.

1:00 PM First class will finish and courses will be set up for second class

1:30 PM Drivers will start running courses for the second class

4:30 PM Second class will finish

4:45 PM Scores are tallied

5:00 PM Awards are presented

5:30 PM Bad food and trash talk at local fast food joint


Rock crawling is a judged competition. Each course will have a judge and usually an assistant.

Basic rules

Unlike traditional RC racing, rock crawling is a judged competition, and points are added for penalties. Like golf, the lowest score wins. Except for the starting and finishing gates, each gate successfully cleared is worth a “-1” point; a maximum score of 40 is allowed per course, and it is possible to have a negative score. The most common penalty is for using reverse, but you can also get penalties for having to roll your vehicle over and for hitting gates. There are often time limits for each course and exceeding the time limit will result in a Did Not Finish (DNF). Any time you have to touch your vehicle (for a repair, by accident or to reposition it other than for a simple roll over) it is deemed a touch penalty and it will cost you 10 points. In addition, when a touch penalty occurs, your rig must be placed with its rear axle at the last gate you cleared. Roll overs are only worth five points, but you must only simply roll the vehicle back over to either side. You can not pick it up and place it back on all four tires.



Reverse +1

Rollover +5

Vehicle Touch +10

Gate Marker +10

Out of bounds +10


Make sure you walk each course before running. Planning out a line is key.

Keys to success

– Pre-run. Actually pre-running a course is against the rules, but you absolutely must study each course ahead of time and pick out your line. Also, look for alternative routes and optional lines—you might need them if things don’t go according to plan.

Scope out the competition. Watch other competitors run, so you can see what does and doesn’t work. Try to see exactly where they place their tires.

– Take your time. The more you rush, the more likely you are to make a costly mistake. The good drivers drive slow and are highly focused. Take your time and really plan out your line. Go slow and study the course. Look for places that might have good traction and also look for spots to avoid that might unbalance your truck.

– Think big picture. Don’t attack each gate as individual obstacles. Instead, think of rock crawling like a game of chess in which you have to think about multiple moves at once. You don’t want to clear one gate to only be left in an impossible position for the next.

– Foot work. Make sure you don’t make careless mistakes like stepping on a gate. Watch here you walk so that you don’t step on any gates.

– Be happy. Everybody makes mistakes. Don’t lose your focus if you make a mistake as getting frustrated will only lead to more mistakes.

– Practice makes perfect. Lots of wheel time will allow you to really get to know your truck’s abilities and limitations. Knowing what your rig can and can’t do will keep making costly mistakes. Practice will, of course, also help hone your driving skills and master new techniques.


This TCS Edge is built for the popular 2.2 class.

Comp Survival Tips

Going to a rock crawling competition is all about having fun, but if you’re not prepared, what should be a fun day of crawling on the rocks can turn into a long, grueling day. Here are some basic survival tips to help get you through the day and ensure you have a good time:


– Whether it’s hot or cold, bring plenty of water

– Bring a snack and/or lunch

– Bring sunscreen and bug spray

– Use a big RC pit bag (preferably with wheels) for your rig(s) so you’re not lugging around multiple bags

– Wear hiking boots with high grip soles

– Bring money for registration

– Run 2.4GHz radios to prevent frequency interference

– If you’re running scale class waterproof your rig (you never know)

– Electrical tape and cable ties can be a life saver

– Bring your basic tools, Phillips, hex wrenches, small pliers and a 4-way wrench

– Know the rules ahead of time and don’t be afraid to ask questions

– Make sure your batteries are charged and that you have spares

– Bring a good attitude and don’t take it too serious


This rig is custom built for the rapidly growing scale class. 


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Updated: December 7, 2010 — 7:04 PM
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