FARMINGTON — Cars and trucks deliberately rammed into each other.
That was one of the highlights at the Davis County Fair’s Demolition Derby, where more than 30 drivers tested their vehicles’ crash-worthiness to see who would have the last car running.
Learning how to compete in a demolition derby doesn’t happen overnight, said 28-year-old Edwin Hanford, of Ogden, one of the drivers who competed.
Anyone can be taught the basics, Hanford said, but drivers need to get out and experience the raw adrenaline of playing adult bumper cars.
“We call it seat time, just like riding a bike. The more seat time you’ve got, the better experience you have to get a feel for the derby and how other people drive,” said Hanford, who has been competing in demolition derbies for 12 years.
There also are certain strategies derby drivers use to try to be the last car running.
“If you can keep your car moving around and not take a hit, or not get a flat tire, you have more of a chance than someone with a flat tire,” Hanford said.
Also, knowing where to hit a car to disable it — for instance, attacking the front tire rods or ramming the back end of the car — comes in handy during a competition.
For Mike VanAlfen, owner of Intrepid Motorsports in Roy, the company that promotes the demolition derby for the Davis County Fair, said competing in a demolition takes a lot of skill and luck. As a demolition derby driver for nearly 30 years, the 49-year-old has seen his share of the contact sport.
“People don’t understand that there is a lot of skill involved, but a lot of luck, too, because anything could happen that you don’t foresee,” VanAlfen said. “You might go to hit someone in a corner, but you have to pay attention to what’s going on behind you, because you could get buried.”
Hanford compares the sport to going fishing.
“It’s a toss-up thing because sometimes you can do really well, but sometimes you get nothing,” he said. “You don’t know if someone is going to get a lucky shot on you or you have a tranny (transmission) go out. My attitude when I go to a derby is to have fun, and if I win, it’s a bonus.”
Hanford said he’s been through the highs and the lows of the sport.
Recently, Hanford competed in the Weber County Fair Demolition Derby and came in first place in his division, driving a 1979 Chrysler Cordova. However, using the same car at the Davis County Fair derby Wednesday, he ended up breaking a drive shaft and came in second.
Demolition derbies appear to be a dangerous sport; however, the only injuries Hanford and VanAlfen report having seen were a few bruises and broken bones.
“It can be a very dangerous sport, and there are a lot of safety requirements. But throughout my years, I haven’t seen anything extreme,” VanAlfen said.
Safety is a key component to the derbies, with each car meeting a detailed set of rules to make sure it is as safe as possible. Specifically, that means stripping the car of all glass, putting the appropriate roll bars in place, and knowing the sacred rule of never ramming into another car’s driver-side door.
Hanford, who is married and the father of three, said he has dealt with a few bruises or broken ribs, sprained fingers and whiplash over the years, but his body has become accustomed to it.
“For the first two to four days after the derby, you’re a little stiff. But your body kind of adjusts to it,” Hanford said.
Another top priority for demolition derby organizers is to make sure the playing field is even by eliminating all unfair advantages. Consequently, Chrysler Imperials older than 1973, ambulances and hearses are banned, given that those vehicles are considered stronger and would destroy anything in their pathway.