Welcome to the first-ever Real Truck Challenge, presented by Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels! But, uh, just what the heck is the Real Truck Challenge? Well, over the years we have noticed that the vehicles in Four Wheeler's signature event, Top Truck Challenge, have become more radical and extreme. While we still require the vehicles to be registered and insured along with being street-legal, some of them definitely push the envelope way past what is realistically legal. Short of buying a vehicle-code book for every state and running the license plates and registrations to make sure they match the vehicles, there is not much we can do about this. Plus, we're not police officers. We'd rather have fun at Top Truck than spend time enforcing vehicle codes. Still, having less extreme vehicles engage in battle with wacky tube-frame creations did not seem fair. We needed to showcase the latest in four-wheeling technology, but we also saw a need for a competition for the guy with a real-world truck. So we came up with the Real Truck Challenge.
What is the difference between Real Truck Challenge and Top Truck Challenge? First, Real Truck Challenge competitors are limited by a specific set of rules. They must have a factory frame--no tube frames allowed--and in future editions can run a tire no bigger than 40 inches. A host of other rules also apply. Other major differences include the fact that RTC is held at the Badlands Offroad Park in Attica, Indiana and takes place over a weekend, instead of being held at California's Hollister SVRA over the course of an entire week. To see a more complete set or rules, and, even better, enter what next year will be known as Real Truck Club Challenge, an event designed for four-wheeling clubs, check out page 43.
In any case, RTC is an effort to feature competitive trucks that are real-world in nature, vehicles that you might actually see on the trail. This year we were under a massive time constraint, so we hand-selected our entrants. So kick back and enjoy while we bring you the highlights from RTC '03. If it looks like fun, enter Real Truck Club Challenge '04.
When we first laid eyes on the hillclimb, we thought it looked like a piece of cake. It wasn't particularly steep and we figured our competitors would blow right through it. However, the "dunes" of the Badlands Park, which in its former life was a quarry, consist of pea gravel, not sand. Pea gravel is a lot heavier than sand, and is not as easy to move. This fact meant that our rigs would have a much harder time plowing through it. But just to make things interesting, we also decided to include a sweeping turn and a downhill section so that our hillclimb resembled more of a horseshoe.
The Rock Garden
The Rock Garden is just plain nasty. It is a collection of huge rocks of various size sprinkled about with no apparent good line through any of them. While some rocks are small, there are also plenty of huge ones. If that wasn't enough, there is a small hill to climb right off the bat. Then if you make it to the end of the Rock Garden, there is a large ledge, with a large pucker factor, to traverse. The Rock Garden would definitely not be a piece of cake, and to make it even tougher, our penalty-point system would be in place. Every time a driver came to a complete stop it cost 1 penalty point; backing up cost 2 points; a person exiting the vehicle cost 5 points; using a jack or winch cost 10 points per vehicle length; and not using a cable weight while winching cost another 10 penalty points. And just to make it interesting, a 20-minute time limit was instituted.
The Obstacle Course
Slow and steady usually wins the race in the rocks, but in the obstacle course, things are different. Here, speed is the key, so getting on the gas is the best thing you can do. Too much throttle, however, can hurt you, because cones are strategically positioned around the course. Kill a cone and 10 seconds are added to your final time. Also, with plenty of twists, turns, climbs and water crossings, careful, precise driving is needed to navigate the course quickly. And to make things interesting, competitors were required to do two laps of the course. In the end, the rig with the quickest time twice around the course was the winner.
Buzzard's Roost is an interesting piece of terrain. First off, there is mud everywhere. Then there are big water holes with plenty of mud at the bottom of them. Big rocks are also present, with drop-offs and steep, sharp, rocky climbs thrown in for good measure. Trees are also scattered in bad places, making for plenty of tight squeezes. Navigating through the Roost would take all of our competitors' skills--and some luck. Competitors had all night to prepare, as the Roost was the first obstacle they faced on the second day of competition. Scoring Buzzard's Roost is easy. Because the Roost is very difficult, we threw out the penalty points. Instead, the fastest time through won. One last thing: Buzzard's Roost carried a 30-minute time limit.
The Mud Race
Indiana has plenty of sticky, stinky black mud. It's the kind of mud that will suck your shoes off of your feet as soon as you walk into it, and convert mud tires into big balls of goo. Making progress through it can be a challenge, so we decided to have a race through it. Staged in what used to be a bottomland cornfield, our course resembled a giant Slip 'n Slide for our rigs. Luckily, it was plenty of fun, and the fastest time through was the winner.
The Envelope, Please?
With two days of competition complete, everyone could take a quick rest. The judges, however, were busy figuring out who won what. Then the scores from all the events were put into our super computer and the final winner was figured out. After all the data was downloaded, the honor of winning the first-ever Real Truck Challenge went to Kevin Walden and his trick International Scout 800. The rest of the field stacked up as follows, with the lowest points being the winner:
Special Thanks To:
Real Truck Challenge didn't just happen. It was the result of a great deal of thought and hard work on the parts of lots of people. First of all, we'd like to thank event sponsor Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels, for its support, and for supplying our frist prize awards--a set of tires. Also, Superwinch, which supplied the second prize, and to West Texas Offroad Performance, which supplied a Redneck Ram, which went to the third place finisher. Additionally, we would like to express our special appreciation to Doug Major, who served as chief judge; to Troy and Lisa Meyer, owners of Badlands Off Road Park, who closed the 4x4 side of the park for us and who saw to it that the courses were prepped to our specification; to Adam Pagels and the Hardcore Offroaders of La Porte, Indiana for their help in coordinating the competition events, for hanging sponsor banners, for setting up cones, for helping with recoveries, and for general event assistance; and to Four Wheeler staffer Ken Brubaker, who did much of the pre-event organization.