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Top Truck Challenge 2013 - Strategy, Improvisation & Endurance

Vw Rabbit In Mud Pit
Ken Brubaker
| Senior Editor, Four Wheeler
Posted October 14, 2013
Photographers: Four Wheeler Staff

10 amazing drivers battle TTC's seven grueling events

Strategy. It’s a key element in almost all competitions, including 2013 Top Truck Challenge. It’s often the first thing to be kicked to the curb, too. Through the years TTC’s grueling events have swiftly and utterly destroyed the well-constructed plans of some competitors.

Improvisation. This is another key element in all competitions, and it’s what happens when strategy bites the dust. Through the years TTC competitors have come to know this well, and they’ve mastered the art of improvising. Top Truck Challenge 2013 was no different.

Top Truck Challenge, or TTC as its most often referred to, celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2013 with two significant changes. One was that all competing rigs had to be recognizable as production 4x4s. In other words, no buggies. The other big change was the termination of the Mini Rubicon event, which was replaced by the brand-new, wicked Coal Chute event. The Coal Chute joined TTC’s six other legendary off-road events, the Tow Test, Frame Twister, Mud Pit, Obstacle Course, Hill Climb and Tank Trap, to form the seven-event program. Each of these events tests the vehicles and competitors in different ways, and you can read a description of each event on the following pages. TTC is legendary for being tough. Each competitor is being timed or their distance measured in each event. This adds significant pressure one doesn’t find in recreational wheeling. Endurance is also a key factor in TTC and competitors must weigh the desire to do well in each event with the critical need to hold their rig together so they can compete in the remaining events. Add to all of this the scores of video and still cameras tracking competitors every move, and the incredible pressure is obvious.

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As usual, TTC was held in Hollister, California, at the amazing Hollister Hills SVRA. Throughout the week, some TTC competitors had to improvise mechanically. For example, Josh Middleton’s brand-new 468ci mill in his Bronco was dumping coolant into the crankcase. With no time to troubleshoot the problem, this meant he had to perform oil changes every evening after competition. For others, the improvisation took place during the events, when things didn’t go as planned. For Glen Green that happened at the very first event, the Tow Test. “Basically, I think the nerves got me a bit. All planning and preparation went right out the window. That’s what happens sometimes,” he said. One thing all of the competitors had in common this year was an impressive ability to improvise and it paid off. Each competitor that started the competition finished the competition.

Right about now you’re wondering how it all went down. Well, over the next several pages you’ll find a description of each event course, a play-by-play of how each competitor did in each event, scores of photos of the competitors in action, quotes from the drivers, and much more. You’ll also find out who won Top Truck Challenge 2013 and how he did it.

DAY 1 EVENT 1: THE TOW TEST

This is the only event in TTC’s seven-event repertoire that doesn’t require mud bogging, rockcrawling, or deep water navigation. Nonetheless, this kickoff event instills fear in competitors because it has the potential to annihilate weak components. The Tow Test is like a truck pull that drank a case of energy drinks. It takes place on a dirt hill that climbs approximately 13 feet in elevation over its 150-foot length and it has a maximum angle of approximately 16 degrees. Each competitor’s rig was fastened to a 36,000-pound cement mixer and each competitor was allowed one pull. There was no time limit and a pull was completed when forward momentum ceased or the front axle of the cement mixer crossed the finish line. This event favors heavy rigs with big power and grippy tires. This year, no competitors completed a full pull.

FINISH LINE QUOTES

- “That felt pretty good. I started to hop, but had to let off a little bit. I did pretty good actually; I thought I’d start hopping farther back.” –Justin Middleton
- “I just let off on the clutch a little too soon. With the weight on the back I think I should’ve slipped the clutch a little tiny bit to get it rolling and then pin it. I think I just tried to almost pin it with the clutch all the way out.” –Pepe Palomo
- “That was our worst fear was doing poor at the first event.” –Aaron Fava
- “I raised up my pressure hoping it wouldn’t hop, but apparently I didn’t have it all worked out.” –Matt Huit
- “I actually wanted to spin a little. I got 1-tons, didn’t want to break something right here. I wanted to go on to the next event.” –John Retzloff
- “I was just hoping to beat my brother.” –Josh Middleton

RESULTS (ranked by overall distance traveled)

1. Josh Middleton 109 ft. 6 in.
2. Smith 102 ft. 3 in.
3. Retzloff 102 ft. 0 in.
4. Huit 101 ft. 7 in.
5. Fava 101 ft. 0 in.
6. Skopliak 100 ft. 6 in.
7. Justin Middleton 98 ft. 9 in.
8. Green 97 ft. 4 in.
9. Palomo 85 ft. 0 in.
10. Boundy 78 ft. 3 in.

THE PLAY-BY-PLAY

Boundy: Unbeknownst to the driver, four-wheel drive was not engaged during the run due to a broken transfer case shift linkage. Ran with 11 psi in each of the 49-inch Interco Super Swamper Irok tires. Both alternators failed on the drive from camp to the Tow Test.

Fava: Issues with the front fuel pump caused the TBI 454ci V-8 to starve for fuel because it was drawing fuel only with the tank-mounted pump. Ran with both T-cases in low-range and the 54-inch Interco Bogger tires aired to 12 psi in the rear and 7 psi front.

Green: Unspooled the 540ci V-8 with the front 54-inch Interco Super Swamper tires at 4 psi and the rear tires at 3 psi. Both NP205 T-cases were in their lowest gear. Wheelhop forced the driver to let off the throttle momentarily, causing a loss of momentum. Tried to regain momentum, but lost traction.

Huit: Used the front and rear winches to draw down both ends of the truck to the bumpstops. Ran with 25 psi in the rear Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires and 20 psi in the front TTC’s. Both T-cases were in low-range. Some wheelhop during the run.

Josh Middleton: The brand new 468ci V-8 helped generate the longest pull of the event. Aired the 54-inch Interco Bogger tires to 15 psi front and 18 psi rear. Dramatic run with numerous steering corrections and occasional wheel lift.

Justin Middleton: First competitor. Ran with 22 psi in the Interco Bogger tires. Smooth, controlled power from the 6.0L V-8 engine. Slight front wheelhop.

Palomo: Second competitor. Ran with the Interco Super Swamper TSL tires inflated to 5 psi in the front and 4½ psi in the rear. The five-speed manual transmission was in First gear, the front Marlin Crawler T-case was in its lowest gear, and the rear Marlin Crawler T-case was in its highest gear. Slight engine sputter off the starting line due to quick release of the clutch.

Retzloff: Ran with the 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires at 32 psi and the T-cases in their lowest gear. Smooth, controlled pull from the propane-injected 454ci V-8. Skopliak: Straight run with very little steering corrections needed. Small amount of rear wheelhop, but the 496ci V-8 and 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw’s helped pull him to a mid-pack finish.

Smith: Years of truck pulling experience paid off and helped to generate the second longest pull of the event. The 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires were aired down to 15 psi front and 10 psi rear, the StaK three-speed T-case was in its lowest gear and the C6 transmission was in First gear.

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