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Seven Grueling Levels of Top Truck Challenge

Tow Test
Ken Brubaker
| Senior Editor, Four Wheeler
Posted June 7, 2013
Photographers: Four Wheeler Staff

Top Truck Hell Week

Top Truck Challenge was created as the ultimate test of "engineering smarts and driver know-how." Even after all these years, Top Truck Challenge has stayed true to the original goal of testing machine and driver in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. In case you're not familiar with the event, Top Truck takes place over the course of a week near Hollister Hills, California, at the Hollister Hills SVRA. Teams compete in seven events that represent almost every discipline of four-wheeling and consist of the Tow Test, Frame Twister, Mud Pit, Obstacle Course, Hill Climb, the new Coal Chute and undoubtedly, the infamous Tank Trap! All of these events are challenging and will put quite a hurt on the competitors’ trucks throughout the week. Simply put, it’s Hell Week for off-road trucks! To give you a better idea of what the competitors will be challenged with, we’ve compiled a list of descriptions for all the seven grueling levels of Top Truck Challenge!

Tow Test
We tether each Top Truck Challenge rig to a 40,000-pound cement mixer that dwarfs the TTC machines and we have ’em attempt to pull the mixer as far as they can from a dead stop. Uphill! Yep, you read that right, uphill! We give ’em a short run on flat ground to gather some momentum and then our nasty dirt slope climbs 13 feet in altitude over its 150-foot length at a maximum angle of 16 degrees.

Frame Twister
The Frame Twister is a mix of concrete, rocks, logs, and water. The fact is, 424 feet isn’t really that long of a distance. As a matter of fact, at 65 mph a vehicle can cover that distance in less than 4½ seconds. However, when it’s 424 feet of Frame Twister, it’s a completely different ballgame. This course contains a banner collection of items designed to challenge driver and machine every inch of the way. Highlights include the sheet-metal-mashing boulder pile, tire-grabbing log section (logs placed perpendicular to the direction of travel with deep water holes between each log), deceptive 5-foot-tall log pile, and final large culvert pipes.

Mud Pit
If there’s one constant with our Mud Pit competition from year to year, it’s that it’s constantly changing. We keep this event fresh and exciting by manipulating the mud density and depth so that competitors never know whether our 138-foot pit is going to be a high-speed sprint or a slow speed crawl. We worked up a bunch of soft dirt and then pumped in thousands of gallons of water. Like a fine recipe, we let the whole works marinate until almost all the water had disappeared into the soil. It looks deceptively easy, but is a test of each rig’s cooling system, drivetrain beef, and tire traction. The starting line is further from the Pit to give the competitors a 45-foot-longer run at the mud.

Obstacle Course
This ¼-mile-long course is filled with an eye-opening collection of obstructions. The event begins with a long, slippery hill descent that ends with competitors smack-dab in a deep water hole. From there, the course gets worse. It consists of a lower and upper section and highlights include the aforementioned deep water hole in the lower section, pair of deep water holes in the upper section, and a gnarly 90-degree dogleg-turn a short distance from the finish line. There’s also a shelf drop-off in the upper section!

Hill Climb
Our Hill Climb should probably be called the “Hell Climb.” It takes place on a poison oak-lined, steep hillside that boasts a gnarly 60-degree average incline. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we bring in a massive excavator and dig a number of deep, strategically-placed holes and we leave lots of loose dirt lying around to further complicate things. This masterpiece is approximately 600 feet of misery and it has a reputation of stopping rigs in their tracks and sometimes even putting them on their sides.

Coal Chute
The Coal Chute is not only new to Top Truck Challenge this year, it’s an entirely new course in the Hollister Hills SVRA off-road park. We call it the Coal Chute because it’s a jumbled mess of a climb up the side of a mountain. It’s not particularly steep but it is littered with lots of boulders, ledges, cement pipes, concrete obstacles, and more. And, just like every event at Top Truck, we plan to modify the course a bit from the way it looks during the other 364 days of the year, just to give it that little something extra and increase the difficulty. We think the competitors will absolutely love our little surprise.

Tank Trap
We save the best for last! Often spoke of in hushed, reverent tones, Tank Trap is legendary, and for good reason. It takes place in a nasty, quarter-mile-long, deep, natural valley, which we modify in such a way as to make every inch of forward progress a battle. It’s a merciless course that can humble even the most well-built rig. The course begins with a nasty pair of water holes. From there, the course transitions into the Canyon, which is approximately 100 yards of steep slippery rock waterfalls and ledges, all bordered by sheer rock-laden walls! After the Canyon there are five more deep water holes separated by steep, loose-dirt hills. The course encore is a steep, rutted, slippery hill climb out of the last water hole. Tank Trap climbs approximately 195 feet in elevation from its starting point to the finish line and it’s lined by dense foliage that is either protruding thorns or covered in poisonous oil.

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