Once again Jason and Heather Kanakry and Mark Rowe of Great Lakes Raptor Excursions teamed up with Ford Raptor Forum, this time for Havoc 4. An excellent off-road event, this year’s Havoc event took place September 22 - 25, 2016 at the Phoenix Offroad Park in Wintersville, OH. If you have participated in any of GLRE’s past events, you know that there is no shortage of fun trails, capable raptors and good people.
This year was the 4th Havoc event to-date and boasted the largest attendance and best off-road course yet. In the past, event courses were designed to accommodate stock or close-to-stock Ford Raptor suspensions. However this year, HAVOC extended the invitation to all pre-runners with 11+ inches of wheel travel. There were a total of 55 trucks that participated, 6 aftermarket vendors, and 2 food vendors at the Phoenix Off-Road Park. Entrance fees were $300 for each driver and co-driver, $75 for each additional passenger, and $125 for each non-driving participant. The park has 1,000 acres of off-road territory, and the folks at GLRE got ahold of some heavy machinery and designed 5.8 miles of Raptor-appropriate trails, jumps and challenges that would keep all levels of participants on the edge of their seats. The course consisted of compacted dirt and crushed rock and had 7 healthy jumps for anyone ready for take off.
The fun got going on Thursday evening, September 22 as guests arrived to check-in, pick up their swag bags, door tags, course maps, and finalize other details for the weekend. There was a bonfire, fun music and an air of curiosity as drivers and passengers alike got settled into their weekend camp sites or hotel rooms, and shared off-road stories of the past and outlined expectations for the days to come. The track was open for the first hours of the night to any drivers who wanted to pre-run the short course upon arrival and crank up their level of driving confidence. About 30 trucks took advantage of this first night run.
After a breakfast of champions Friday morning, all drivers met together at 9am for a course meeting. As always, the GLRE staff is very faithful to outline the important details of the event driving expectations. Drivers are briefed on course characteristics, track rules and regulations, driving codes of conduct and other details important to assure all participants stay safe and achieve maximum enjoyment from the weekend. Following the meeting, Heather Kanakry of GLRE led 45 trucks on a paced recon lap for everyone interested at limited speeds which allowed drivers to get familiar with the unique course layout. Once the clock struck 9:30, the excited drivers grabbed their places in line to begin punishing the track.
One of the neatest parts of the design of this particular track is that it offered something challenging for all levels of drivers. Whether you like high-speed grated paths or test-your-shock-compression-settings jumps, or get-technical-through-the-forest-twists, this course offered all the bells and whistles that off-road enthusiasts crave. There was one large table-top jump in the course that trucks were approaching at 30-50 miles per hour and getting unbelievable air. At the base of the jump was a perfect spot for shooting photos of the trucks in the air, and the landing was wide and long so all levels of suspension upgrades could attempt smooth landings.
An added bonus to the weekend was that those talented heavy machinery operators were on standby throughout the weekend to repair or modify as needed different parts of the track. During the month leading up to Havoc 4, the land didn’t get much rain, so the course conditions were dry and dusty. The GLRE organizers were careful to stagger the starts of each truck on the course to try to minimize dusty conditions and to keep all participants safe. But just when drivers thought they had mastered the track, the sun went down and everything changed.
GLRE is very specific about the required gear that trucks running the event need to have on board. These things include good-condition tires, spare tire and/or patch kit, Snell 2000 or newer helmets for all riders, minimum 20-foot tow strap and D-rings for accidents, closed-toed shoes, rain gear, and good attitudes. Additional items such as first aid kits, VHF radios, extra gasoline, floor jack, come-alongs, and miscellaneous tools are suggested, but most prepared Raptor owners have these things in their trucks on a regular basis.
After dinner on Friday, the classic GLRE-style night run began. During registration, drivers are reminded that auxiliary lighting is optional for the run, but required for the night runs. Anybody who wondered why such a rule would be necessary quickly discovered why when they found themselves blind and stuck in the dark somewhere on the track with their stock headlights. Now, the Ford Raptor comes well-equipped from factory with an attractive and capable set of headlights. However, any true off-roader knows that those lights only extend so far ahead of the vehicle, and when driving at the high speeds that these drivers do, having your light beam stretch farther, wider and brighter beyond the path can mean life and death. The capable folks at GLRE drove a recon lap for all interested at the start of the night run and the rest is history.
Many find it harder to wake up for the 9:00am driver’s meeting on Saturday morning after a night of driving and reliving endless off-road stories with their new best friends around a campfire. However, the coffee is percolated stronger, the meeting is simpler and everyone is off and running for another great day at the track. Drivers and passengers get to spend another full day on the track, if they wish. Many folks take time this day to visit with the vendors who are available to help answer product questions or sell Raptor parts. There is also a lot of ride sharing between participants who like to check out other Raptor set-ups and just have a good time with other Raptor lovers. As with all GLRE events, there are the occasional vehicle bumps and bruises that take place due to part failure or drivers running out of talent, but this doesn’t dampen the fun of the weekend.
Fortunately one GLRE Raptor was equipped with the new RPG Offroad hidden bumper winch that was used to set up the course, as well as multiple times to pull broken trucks off of the course. Overall, the good folks that attend these events have one thing in common - they love their trucks and they have fun with other folks who love their trucks. So when one Raptor brother or sister gets stuck on the side of the road, they count to ten and someone is there to help pull them out. If it weren’t for the people in the Raptor community, it wouldn’t be much fun. All in all, each truck at this year’s event finished an average of 7 laps.
Saturday night ended the day driving with a delicious catered bar-b-que for all participants. The GLRE crew and folks at Ford Raptor Forum spoke and thanked their sponsors and vendors, some extra fun stories were shared from the weekend thus far, and everyone enjoyed a bonfire and live music. There was a charity raffle at the end of dinner where participants could win items donated by the supporting vendors of the event, and all proceeds benefited Be The Match, a medical research organization that specializes in bone marrow transplant therapies used in cancer treatments.
If you are a Raptor owner and haven’t yet experienced a HAVOC event, please consider signing up for next year’s run - you won’t be disappointed. But be quick about signing up - the events sell out quickly!