Flip the calendar back to 2012. John Cappa, then editor of Four Wheeler magazine, decided that the Top Truck Challenge’s rules would be changing to better represent the average Four Wheeler reader. The competition would remain extremely competitive and hard, but the new rules unfortunately disqualified certain types of vehicles from entry into the TTC. The biggest demographic of the off-road world it affected: the mega buggies.
Mega buggies can be built from scratch or based on a manufactured vehicle. But they all have giant tires (think of 44-inch Boggers as puny), a minimum of 2.5-ton axles, and a lot of dirt and rock rash from countless tire-up situations. If a mega buggy has remnants of an original body on it, you can be sure every panel will be crushed.
One of these mega buggy owners has become a ringleader of sorts for the mega buggy crowd. When Clayton Kraatz of EMF Rod Ends found out about the TTC’s rule changes, he not only disagreed, he challenged the decision by putting together a brand-new competition, rounding up as many mega buggy owners as he could for the ultimate in big truck and 4x4 competition in Alberta, Canada: The Hardgrass Havoc. Kraatz was no event promoter—and still does not want to be—but he did pull it off for 2013 with the help of a lot of friends and a very patient wife. He (and friends) learned only too well how difficult it is to put on an organized competitive event. With 23 competitors in attendance, it was a definite success, but there were definitely some things to improve upon, some things to add, and some time needed to recover from the expenses and physical work that goes into something like this. Especially since this was something that Clayton and Erin (his wife) and countless volunteers put on without pay.
With a year to reboot and revamp the Hardgrass Havoc, the hosting crew was ready to go again in early August 2014 at a venue located near the tiny town of Pollockville, Alberta, Canada. The new terrain, new courses, and extreme difficulty assured that the second Hardgrass Havoc was going to be wreaking carnage on anything that entered.
The 2014 Havoc was divided into four events spread over two days. The first day would hold timed runs: the BR Flooring Log Trap, the EMF Havoc Hills course, and the Riste Backhoe Island Hop. The second day—if there were enough running vehicles left—would be the X-Treme Offroad Ironman competition, run over a course of four kilometers that would make a number of competitors rethink their cooling systems.
The first day started with the BR Flooring Log Trap course and the EMF Havoc Hills course taking place simultaneously, with competitors split into two groups, guaranteeing there was more than enough action for any spectators in the area. When everyone was done with both courses, the afternoon’s Riste Backhoe Island Hop was ready to tear back into the vehicles, flipping some upside down, breaking off drivetrain parts of others, and leaving generally every competitive vehicle with more wear and tear than it had just minutes before. Any beverage cracked open later in the night was surely deserved, as most every participant had hours of wrenching to do all day after the strenuous competition.
The next day started morning-ish. Just about everyone—judges, volunteers, competitors, and crowd—was running an hour or so late. The good news is that when everyone is running late, things still work out because no one is waiting. But of all days to start early, this was the one. Three hours into the competition, there were three vehicles that had tried to run the course, with zero finishers so far. It was going to be a long day. But the morning’s bad luck seemed to clear up as following competitors started to pull through the finish line. Thirty-five vehicles entered, and just over half managed to finish. The four kilometers of the X-Treme Offroad Ironman proved to be more than what most guys were ready for, and it twisted and tore more than one axle and suspension combination apart. Any new event will necessitate a learning curve for both promoters and participants, and we’re sure that these guys will be ready to run their buggies even harder for 2015.
With next year’s Canadian Hardgrass Havoc in planning stages now, there’s already been a new Mountain Havoc scheduled soon on May 29-30, 2015, in North Idaho for the first U.S. Havoc competition. If you’re into mega buggies, mud, and wild times, this is one event you will not want to miss.