BY JENNIFFER WARDELL
Clipper Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — These people are born to crash.
The 2012 Davis County Fair kicked off last night with a demolition derby, a no-holds-barred battle where cars try to destroy the competition while keeping their own vehicles together.
For Mike Van Alfen, a long-time demolition derby driver whose company ran the Davis County event, the only secret to winning is to get out there and drive.
“It depends on driving styles, technique, and lots of luck,” he said. “If you survive your heat, you get to go on to the main event.”
Van Alfen started competing in 1984, drawn by how much fun the derbies looked. He kept driving for the adrenaline rush of surviving heats that are a combination of hunting matches and the ultimate game of keep-away.
“You have to hit someone every two minutes,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re disqualified.”
Even as you’re using your car as a weapon, you still have to protect it Р the winner of each heat is determined by which vehicle is still running when the time is called.
In order to maximize each hit and minimize their own damage, drivers use a combination of knowledge and tricks to decimate the competition as efficiently as possible.
“Some like circling the arena with the driver’s side facing inward, because it’s illegal to hit someone in their driver’s side door,” he said. “There are also techniques about the best place to hit certain cars, but that’s different with every type of car.”
With a competition pool that can include anywhere from 14 to 70 cars, some of the more cautious drivers decide that bigger isn’t better.
“Some drivers take smaller hits as often as possible, because with every hit your two-minute clock starts again,” he said. “Their clock never runs out, and they don’t do damage to their car.”
Van Alfen found his position outside the ring almost by accident, when the only derby organizer in the area asked him and some friends to officiate a derby.
“Afterward, he said it was the best officiating they’d ever had, and asked me if I wanted to keep helping out,” Van Alfren said.
Though he hasn’t officially competed since taking over the business eight or nine years ago, Van Alfen and his crew will sometimes hold exhibition heats just for the fun of it.
At the recent Weber County Fair, the whole group fought using trucks.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
His affection for the sport hasn’t dimmed, and Van Alfen seems ready to crash cars forever.
With most of the cars in an average derby completely destroyed by the time the night’s done, however, he admits there’s a time clock he can’t control.
“I’ll do it as long as the cars hold out,” he said. “Derbies have gotten smaller and smaller, because cars have gotten really hard to find. Once I can’t find the cars anymore, then I’ll be done.”