Surviving the Tennessee Off-Road Challenge
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Extreme adventure is the siren thats continually calling us four-wheelers, and thats what separates us from most other sports. The personalities drawn to four-wheeling are those who loathe the thought of enduring a life dominated by sitcoms, minivans, and paved roads. Instead, we prefer the great outdoors, 4x4s, dirt roads, and seemingly impassible obstacles. We dont have to tell you that, right? Hence, its no surprise that the sport has spawned a new facet: Multi-day competitions that push competitors and their trucks to the limit. One of the star events of this burgeoning new part of the sport is the Tennessee Off Road (TOR) Challenge, and the 2001 edition of that event offered up a bumper crop of gnarly challenges that satisfied the hunger of even the most adventuresome personalities.
Monteagle, Tennessee, is the home of the TOR Challenge, and its a perfect host area because of its diverse terrain and the genuine support from the locals, who welcome this event, and others, with open arms. As a matter of fact, to show their support, the town of Monteagle and Jim Olivers Smokehouse Restaurant provided lunch for all the participants and spectators during Sundays competition.
The TOR Challenge was created by the crew at Tennessee Off Road in Nashville, Tennessee, to replace the now defunct Safari Triathlon. That event was held through last year in Floridas Ocala National Forest. But for this year permits for that event were denied to organizers due to National Forest Service policy changes created in response to pressure from environmental groups. The TOR Challenge filled the gap in grand form, and is drawing a number of past Safari Triathlon competitors. The event is held on more than 2,000 acres of private land that features a plethora of trails and obstacles. Event sponsors include Skyjacker, ARB USA, BFGoodrich, Premier Power Welder/Pull-Pal, Jeep Box, and JB Conversions.
If youre not familiar with how these types of events work, heres the deal: Each team in competition is made up of a driver and co-driver, who compete in land navigation, time-speed-distance (TSD) rallies, general four-wheeling, and special tasks. The teams are awarded points for completing each competition, and the team with the most points at the conclusion of the event wins. While four-wheeling is king at the TOR Challenge, there are events like kayaking and target shooting that require no wheeling, so youre often asked to use your mind and body, instead of your truck, to accumulate points. Still, competitors spend a significant amount of time behind the wheel, and while there are no set rules for how the competing vehicles have to be modified, the most competitive vehicles are designed to be pretty good at everything. In other words, they can crawl rocks, pull through deep mud, handle satisfactorily on the road, and so on. Because the terrain around Monteagle is challenging, its also a good idea to have lockers and a winch on the vehicle. This does not rule out the use of a lightly modified truck though, and this years event included some not-so-modified trucks that were actually competitive and scored highly in certain competitions, beating out the built-to-the-hilt trucks. A three-day competition is hard on vehicles, so sometimes the key to finishing well at the TOR Challenge is just to finish.
This years TOR Challenge drew 13 teams, and the members came from eight states. After three days of competition that included three special tasks like a timed tire swap, for instancetwo Navigational Rallies (each required finding 27 targets within 300 minutes), one TSD Rally (105 minutes to compete a lengthy course and finish at a pre-arranged finishing point), and a number of other competitions (bridge building, mud race, sand drag, etc.), the team of Tom Fitzgerald and Chris Jones from Virginia accumulated 1,695 points to win the 2001 TOR Challenge. They were followed by Second-place finishers John Conrad and Mark Lloyd from Indiana (1,615 points) and Third-place finishers Travis Hickman and Dan Schwartz from Tennessee and Missouri, respectively (1,525 points).
The TOR Challenge is an event that will test you both physically and mentally, not to mention the fact that its the equivalent of calisthenics for your 4x4. If this appeals to you (of course it does), you can get info on the 2002 TOR Challenge, which will take place June 21-23, by contacting Tennessee Off Road, 866/248-8638, www.tennesseeoffroad.com.