Rewind four years. The Mountain Mafia group was about to put on its first Mountain Havoc event. Although a few of them had experience in off-road competition, none of them had ever run an off-road event before. The plan? Bring a mega-buggy competition back to the States, encourage “havoc style” racing, and do it under enthusiast’s terms.
Why was their plan different from so many others? Well, first of all, they bought their own ranch. The Purcell Trench Ranch just above Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, was acquired exclusively to use as a venue, allowing them to build their own courses and set up camping and spectating areas around the property. Twenty competitors would vie for First Place during a weekend competition that was open for the public to watch—and at a venue where they could camp all weekend with some accommodations.
It was a great plan, and the first year went . . . OK. Some obstacles on the courses were too difficult. A few spectator areas needed improving. Everyone was learning where they needed to be. But they pulled it off successfully and were already making notes for the next one.
Four years later we were witness to a much more organized Havoc 2018 event. With some experience under their belts, the Mountain Mafia has fine-tuned its game. The event crew was ready for the onslaught of fans and competitors traveling from all over the U.S. and Canada to be part of the largest mega-buggy event in the world. And it’s only growing. Starting in late November, you will be able to catch even more of the action in six episodes of the Mountain Mafia TV show that will be airing Saturday mornings on the Velocity channel.
Mountain Havoc consists of five events. The action started Friday afternoon with the timed runs through deep mud dragging a giant tractor tire. Saturday morning brought the start of the hillclimb event and later moved on to what’s called the Hill ’n Hole: a small, flooded short-course track being raced upon by mega-buggies that can become very exciting, very quickly. After that, a rock course that consists of boulders, buggy-deep holes, logs, and tires does its best to take out what competition it can.
That leaves Sunday open for the Mountain Man: a timed run down a rock-strewn, gully-filled mountain side, down to muddy and water-filled channels that put the majority of competitors wheels-side up. Is it a little brutal and unrefined? Yes. But isn’t that what you want out of a competition like this? To quote one of the organizers, Ben Spinney: “Family friendliness, smiles, and radness, with a bit of vehicular violence.”
After the dust settled and the mud stopped dripping, there was a new king of Havoc this year. Brett Harrell had taken the crown away from Leroy Latham, who had reigned for three years before earning a Second Place finish this year. And as if that weren’t enough for the Harrell family, Brett’s 16-year-old son, Brent, took home Third Place. It was an awesome finish and an excellent end to a season of racing for the Havoc community.
A twisted-up moose knuckle! James Pickard’s Jeep-based buggy Mooseknuckle was recently gone through with a subframe redesign and Axletech 4000 axles. Looks like the suspension is working pretty well!
Every Havoc rig is unique, but the one that stood out the most was the tiniest one in the lineup. John Martinsen’s Fiat-based buggy on Unimog axles is brimming of style. As close as this event is to Washington, Martnisen happened to be the only competitor representing the Evergreen State.
“No one holds the throttle down like Justin Haft.” That’s what we were told, and we did notice that it was one of the rigs you see the back of more than the front. Haft won this year’s Badass Award, automatically giving him a spot at next year’s Havoc.
This is the Ford known as GORD. Nolan Skopliak was last year’s Badass Award winner thanks to his work on course.
Leroy Latham has become sort of a living legend in the Havoc community. Besides being the king of Havoc the last three years in a row, he is an innovator who built his own rig from scratch, designing and developing many of the parts that he could not find available to build his buggy the way he wanted. In fact, we were told that almost all of the competing buggies at Havoc run parts that Latham builds.
The Western Canadian Rockwell crew didn’t just sponsor this year—they also competed in their WCR Booster Moose test platform. Under the well-formed entanglement of tubes is a 12-valve Cummins diesel engine that is juiced for all sorts of power. A juiced Booster Moose!
After buying an older buggy (and what some consider to be the original mega-buggy), Bryan Foss had it reworked and morphed it into the Foss Hog. To this day it still stands out in a crowd.
Brent Harrell, 16, competed for the first time this year as the youngest competitor in Havoc. There are seven qualifying events to earn a spot as one of the the Havoc competitors. There is also a Last-Chance Qualifier in May just before Mountain Havoc for a single spot. The top three drivers as well as the Badass Award winner from last year’s Havoc automatically earn a spot to return for competition the following year.
Greg Tory screaming down the mud strip with a tractor tire in tow. This event is no doubt growing. Ag Tires, 1,000hp engines, custom chassis creations, and crazy drivers make for an entertaining show. And thanks to partners like Amsoil, Mac’s Tie Downs, Miller Welders, Sandpoint Auto Haus, Car Quest, Tuff Country, Warn, and Western Canadian Rockwell, the Havoc event at the Purcell Trench Ranch has been an absolute blast to spend the weekend at.
When you think of launching a Fiat off a jump, you probably picture some new rental car in a poorly filmed YouTube video.
This is about the time that Tracker Bain’s Bronco said, “I need a break.” And yes, that was a terrible pun.
Here is a closer look at Bain’s Bronco break. The inner C on the rear steer axle started coming off the tube! Luckily it never completed separated. AL Compressed Gases quickly had it pressed back on, welded the Miller MIGs, and had it ready for competition later.
And closer . . .
While some Ford guys run Chevy engines, King Leroy’s buggy is powered by a big-block Ford sniffing nitrous from time to time. It runs AxleTech 4000s front and rear with Latham’s own rear steer setup and custom return-to-center.
The Mike Flake–built chassis definitely has some style to it. Greg Tory made sure to put it to the test.
Big Skop wasted no time in GORD coming up the hillclimb.
Best winch line anchor ever. We believe those are D(ring) cups.
Runnin’ line is all part of Havoc. It is rarer to see someone complete certain courses than it is to see winch line out.
Kelly Day going for a flying finish up the hillclimb course.
The green Change Order buggy was consistent all weekend. That’s why Brett Harrell won First Place and King of Mountain Havoc 2018. While his skill got him the win, he had some help in the form of Overson axles, cut tractor tires, and a twin-turbo LS engine that absolutely screamed.
Competition was still going on late Saturday night, but Justin Haft showed little fear entering the rocks.
Steven Montpas showed up with a brand new Willys: a Willys 3.0 on 54-inch Boggers. While guys obviously build new rigs once in a while, what was a surprise is that Montpas did this in complete secrecy without a single person knowing. It wasn’t until it was spotted on the trailer somewhere in Oregon on the way to Havoc that people figured out this was all new.
Lights on for safety, or to look a bit scarier.
Do you see this tree trunk that Leroy Latham is pulling a tire up? It had been a rough obstacle to navigate around in the rock course for the last three years.
The tree is no longer an obstacle.
The advantages of having Amsoil umbrella girls is that meetings are always better in the rain.
Jeff Noggle lost his front driveshaft after bursting into the first rock pile, but he still managed to hammer over this second one in rear-wheel drive!
That’s never good.
The 2018 Mountain Havoc recovery crew and staff.
Steven Montpas pulling the front Bogger up of Willys 3.0.
Do you like cool trailer setups? What about Leroy Latham’s lair on a lowboy?
Brent Harrell was not letting off the throttle at the top of the hillclimb.
Some people had a microphone and others had a . . . stick.
If you’re coming to Havoc but really need to arrive in style, then that can be arranged. Just contact Mountain Mafia Entertainment.
We almost feel bad even adding this photo to the story, as this was not the first time this hole had upended the Foss Hog. At this point, Bryan Foss was still in the running for the podium and just seconds into the final event, the Mountain Man. The tricky corner hole won this day.
All sorts of recovery equipment was on hand, as were giant 4-inch Mac’s Tie Down straps to drag even the biggest of the mega-buggies out.
Steven Montpas stretching the legs of Willlys 3.0 in the rocks.
This is a more common sight than you’d think in the bottom of the Mountain Man challenge.
The Havoc recovery crew is getting quicker and more efficient every year.
There’s no end to the action. It runs well into the night on Saturday and Sunday.
Jay Cooper’s Zero Drama Racing buggy is based on an Avalanche Engineering chassis and 2 1/2-ton Rockwell axles with WCR Hater kits.
Entertainment didn’t just come from racing. Live bands played, food trucks pulled in, and the National Guard was on hand with their portable climbing wall and helping kids learn the ropes all weekend.
The Foss Hog taking advantage of rear steer.
Steven Montpas was taking it easy since his buggy was brand new.
Remember when 44-inch Swampers used to look big?
Chris Kaufman’s 1984 Toyota is LS powered and sports snorkel equipment to guarantee nothing but air gets sucked into the engine.
Kelly Day and his Predator in the mud pit.
The idea is to straddle it and not fall in. Which doesn’t always work.
The end of the first Friday afternoon of Havoc racing was the only nice day. Saturday and Sunday poured rain and hailed.