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The Outback Challenge

Posted in Events on November 1, 2001
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Neil Lennard attempted Cliffhanger for almost 30 minutes but couldn’t get up. With a turned-up diesel, 36-inch Swampers, and lots of weight, we were sure the ’95 Nissan Ute would blow chunks all over the place, but it held up. Neil Lennard attempted Cliffhanger for almost 30 minutes but couldn’t get up. With a turned-up diesel, 36-inch Swampers, and lots of weight, we were sure the ’95 Nissan Ute would blow chunks all over the place, but it held up.
This Ford Maverick did its best impersonation of an East L.A. lowrider. It looked like they were goners, but the coil suspension stuck the landing. This Ford Maverick did its best impersonation of an East L.A. lowrider. It looked like they were goners, but the coil suspension stuck the landing.
The Prologue kicked off the first day of the event at The Line of Load in the town of Broken Hill, set atop a 100-foot pile of mine tailings. Most of the locals came out to watch them run a timed course featuring a water pit, 10-foot berms, double jumps, and various other obstacles. The Prologue kicked off the first day of the event at The Line of Load in the town of Broken Hill, set atop a 100-foot pile of mine tailings. Most of the locals came out to watch them run a timed course featuring a water pit, 10-foot berms, double jumps, and various other obstacles.
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Aussie grub. Kangaroo jerky and an emu-egg omelet? Those who   starve in the outback are wusses. Aussie grub. Kangaroo jerky and an emu-egg omelet? Those who starve in the outback are wusses.
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If you look just behind the driver-side window you can see a stream of water. These were the only guys with an on-board bilge pump and, therefore, the only guys with dry socks. If you look just behind the driver-side window you can see a stream of water. These were the only guys with an on-board bilge pump and, therefore, the only guys with dry socks.
The driving runs are timed, which makes for some good entertainment. Most guys lost their mind and floored it with the tranny in neutral when the gun went off. One guy was even still in Reverse. Here Stephen Booth winds up the turbodiesel in his ’99 Nissan Patrol Ute. The driving runs are timed, which makes for some good entertainment. Most guys lost their mind and floored it with the tranny in neutral when the gun went off. One guy was even still in Reverse. Here Stephen Booth winds up the turbodiesel in his ’99 Nissan Patrol Ute.
<i>4x4 Australia</i> photographer Stu Grant talked us into trying a Penny melon. If you&#146;re hankerin&#146; for the taste, just spray some Raid in your mouth. And yes, they are poisonous. Thanks, Stu. 4x4 Australia photographer Stu Grant talked us into trying a Penny melon. If you’re hankerin’ for the taste, just spray some Raid in your mouth. And yes, they are poisonous. Thanks, Stu.
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The Silverton Pub makes up about 25 percent of the town of Silverton. It&#146;s where they filmed a lot of Mad Max 2 and a lot of music videos and Australian commercials, and where proprietor Jo Casey will wet your whistle playing the potato game. The Silverton Pub makes up about 25 percent of the town of Silverton. It’s where they filmed a lot of Mad Max 2 and a lot of music videos and Australian commercials, and where proprietor Jo Casey will wet your whistle playing the potato game.
The Sand Wall at Denian. These   poor guys had to drive as far up   as they could, then the spotter had   to sprint up the rest of the way with the   sand anchor. The only problem was that   most of the time the anchor couldn&#146;t get enough bite and only a few competitors made it to the top. The Sand Wall at Denian. These poor guys had to drive as far up as they could, then the spotter had to sprint up the rest of the way with the sand anchor. The only problem was that most of the time the anchor couldn’t get enough bite and only a few competitors made it to the top.
The shrinkage factor taking effect. The water wasn&#146;t much warmer than 50 degrees F. Most of the time it was the spotters who suffered, but for this stage at Wilga, the driver had to hump the winch cable 100 yards to the opposite bank. The shrinkage factor taking effect. The water wasn’t much warmer than 50 degrees F. Most of the time it was the spotters who suffered, but for this stage at Wilga, the driver had to hump the winch cable 100 yards to the opposite bank.
Steven   Tjepkema   and   Steven   Hudson   got First   Place and   the trip to   ARB in Seattle   and Moab. Lock   up your daughters. Steven Tjepkema and Steven Hudson got First Place and the trip to ARB in Seattle and Moab. Lock up your daughters.
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It’s OK to hate us. We’re usually the first ones to get our hands on really cool new products. We wear shorts and greasy T-shirts to the office. Our bosses encourage us to beat up our trucks. We get paid to wheel. And if that’s not enough, every so often we get sent on exotic, all-expenses-paid trips to cover cool events.

In this case, Ron Moon, the editor of 4x4 Australia magazine, invited us to his magazine’s second annual ARB/Warn 4x4 Outback Challenge. The Outback Challenge is sort of like our own Ultimate Adventure, Four Wheeler’s Top Truck Challenge, and the now-extinct Camel Trophy Challenge all rolled into one, but with a decidedly Australian flavor. The event tests not only the capability of the vehicles, but the bush, survival, first aid, and navigational skills of the two-man teams.

The Competition

The competitors are put through five days of excruciating trails and activities specific to surviving the Outback in a 4x4. They endure physical hardships such as pulling a winch cable 100 yards through a freezing cold chest-deep billabong (that’s water hole to you and me, Russ), to hauling spare tires up 20-foot embankments while fighting the clock, to dragging sand anchors up a sheer dirt cliff. But the hardest part is the mental game. If they’re lucky they sleep about three hours a night. Sleep depravation and physical exhaustion make it all but impossible to complete necessary tasks like navigating by GPS, staying on course, and just finding your way from one stage to the next.

The Layout

The event is based in the mining town of Broken Hill in the state of New South Whales. Base camp was just outside of town, but the event takes place at 12 different stages that are spread over a 300-mile radius. It wasn’t uncommon for a team to finish an event at 3 a.m. and then have to haul ass 200 miles over Australia’s unimproved, kangaroo-infested roads to make it to their next stage by 7:30 a.m.

The Terrain

The event organizers go out of their way to make sure there’s a little bit of everything. Terrain ranged from soupy mud like you’d find in Louisiana, to rocks, to sand, to water crossings up to 8 feet deep if the wrong line was taken. And trust us—the wrong line was taken.

The Vehicles

We only saw about three Jeeps in the entire event. The rest of the time we were asking, “Now what was that again?” There were Range Rovers (always break the transmissions), Nissan GQs (bombproof and look like a Dodge Raider), Toyota Land Cruiser utility flatbeds (what to have if you don’t have a Nissan), some old-school Toyota FJ-40s and FJ-55s, and a few other odds and ends. Engines ranged from four- and six-cylinder turbodiesels juiced-to-the-moon, to swapped-in Ford and Chevy V-8s. Tire size for the competition is limited to 36x12.50, with many of the competitors running Swamper TSLs, BFG Muds, and the unfamiliar, but aggressive, Simex. However, the thing that set these vehicles apart from most competition vehicles in the states is that they are actually driven to the competition, thrashed, then put back to duty as the daily driver/grocery getter.

The Fun

You 4x4 junkies like us, if you’re considering taking a trip down under you’d be stupid not to have it coincide with the Outback Challenge. There’s tons of cool things to see in Broken Hill (it’s the jumping-off point for the outback as well as where they filmed a lot of Mad Max) and you get to see a lot of the countryside while traveling to and from the stages. But best of all, you get to see the Australian version of the “Billy Bob” thrashing junk like you wouldn’t believe. For more info on the event or to find out about Broken Hill, contact 4x4 Australia, Outback Challenge, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh Vic, Australia 3166, 4x4australia @acpaction.com.au, or Broken Hill visitor information center, 61-08-8087-6077, www.murrayoutback.org.au.

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