There’s no shortage of people who will tell you rock crawling is dead. I’ll get right to the point; they’re wrong. What is true is that rock crawling is not growing at the exponential rate it once enjoyed. It’s probably not growing at all—meaning just as many people fall off as join in. Rock crawling—the segment all about climbing—is flat. The main reason is simple, short course came along and went bang in a big way. Everybody is buying short course trucks and short course gear. Rock crawling has also shifted from being all about 2.2 comp rigs to being mostly focused on scale rigs. This brings up an interesting point. While short course is certainly the current hot topic, rock crawling is more than partially to blame for its waning popularity (or more specifically, it’s in ability to be able to share the stage with short course). The competition side of crawling did everything but shoot itself in the foot. Comps are still going on and there will be some big ones this year, but the turn outs will be smaller than previous years and the hobby as a whole is not exactly waiting on bated breath to see who wins. The reason is that competition rock crawlers quickly evolved away from what made them popular in the first place—scale appeal. They were also allowed to get far too complicated. It was “cool” to proclaim that rules should never hinder innovation. Rock crawlers failed to learn any lessons from the demise of electric touring cars. Remember when touring cars were the biggest thing in RC? The lesson is that if you make a segment so specialized and complicated that you have to be a real diehard to successfully participate, you’ll only have a small group participating. If you don’t think that this is exactly what happened to 2.2 comp crawlers, you’re crazy. Axial was smart to develop and release its motor-on-axle XR10. Axial had to do this to keep the brand competitive. Everybody had switched to motor-on-axle crawlers, but I more than firmly believe—I know—competitive rock crawling would be much bigger and healthier if motor-on-axle rigs were never allowed in the 2.2 class and if the body rules called for competitors to run larger, more realistic bodies or a tube chassis. Make no mistake; rock crawling took off because it had scale appeal. Same with short course. These segments brought the hobby full circle and did a great job of bringing in the proverbial new blood as well as reenergizing enthusiasts who might have lost interest in RC. Today, the rigs competing in the 2.2 class look nothing like anything I’ve ever seen at a full-size off-road event. I’m not alone and, overall, interest has suffered. That is, however, a far cry from being dead. So, where do we go from here? Rock crawling needs to regroup and recreate rules focused on ensuring competitive crawling has a future. I suggest two classes for 2.2. One could be called Open 2.2 and the other called Pro-S 2.2. The Open 2.2 class is basically what we have now, but I would say that by no later than 2012 the non-scale bodies are out. Pro-S 2.2 would be limited to shaft driven trucks and get equal treatment and not be called a sportsman class or get some other “lesser” designation.
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