2014 Top Truck Challenge - The Real DealPosted in Top Truck Challenge: 2014 on October 27, 2014
It takes courage for competitors to participate in Top Truck Challenge. The off-roading is brutally challenging and often far different than what they’re used to on their home turf. During competition, video and still cameras track their every move, microphones record audio, scores of competitors and support staff watch intently, a quintet of stone-faced judges oversee almost everything with ticking stopwatches, millions of people follow the action on social media, and there’s in-depth reporting on their performance both here in the magazine and on fourwheeler.com. If they do well, it’s there for all to see. If they don’t, it’s there for all to see. It’s the real deal, and it’s a blast.
Top Truck Challenge, commonly known as TTC, celebrated its 22nd anniversary in 2014. In case you’re not up to speed on how TTC works, here’s the rundown. Four Wheelerreaders selected the 10 competitors from reader-submitted entries. You can read all about the competitors and their rigs in the November 2014 issue of Four Wheeleror on fourwheeler.com. TTC is held at the Hollister Hills SVRA, located near Hollister, California, and it’s a weeklong competition comprised of seven off-road events. Each event is designed to test the vehicle and driver in a different way. During every event, each competitor is being timed or their distance measured. Scores are kept for each event and the driver with the highest score at the completion of TTC is the Grand Champion. Simple, huh? Not so fast. To do well -- and they all want to do well -- a driver must possess outstanding off-road driving skills and think clearly under pressure. Strategy is also a key factor. Example: Going wild during the first event and risking catastrophic breakage is not good strategy because there are still six events remaining.
This year, drivers came from five U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. As it turned out, a couple of competitors faced challenges soon after arriving at the event but prior to competition. Daryl Horsley trashed the front suspension on his F-250 while pre-event testing, forcing him to do significant repairs. Earl Middleton had to repair battery and alternator issues that sprung up in his International-bodied truck during Tuesday morning’s vehicle photography. That’s TTC -- a surprise around every corner that forces the drivers to react quickly. Sometimes that reaction requires a steering wheel and other times it requires a wrench.
Over the next several pages you’ll read detailed information about TTC 2014. This year was filled with awesome action, incredible drama, and several surprises. There’s a description of each event course, a play-by-play of how every competitor did in each event, scores of photos of the competitors in action, quotes from the drivers, and much more. Oh, and you’ll find out who won TTC 2014 and how they did it.
Turn the page to dive in.
|Tracker J. Bain||1969 Ford Bronco|
|Matt Christian||1995 Chevy S-10|
|Joshua Hardy||1988 Suzuki Samurai|
|Josh Harris||1992 GMC Jimmy|
|Daryl Horsley||1991 Ford F-250|
|Rob Inglis||1996 Dodge Ram 1500|
|Rick Jensen||1963 International Harvester Scout|
|Earl Middleton||1972 International 1210|
|Jeff Noggle||1992 GMC K1500|
|Richie Tremblay||1996 Chevy S-10|
Day 1 Event 1: The Tow Test
You know what a truck pull is, right? Truck, sled, dirt? Well, our Tow Test is like that, only way better. For one thing, our 150-foot-long track isn’t flat. It climbs approximately 13 feet in elevation over its length and has a maximum angle of approximately 16 degrees. This adds an element of challenge not found in a normal truck pull. You didn’t expect it to be a run-of-the-mill pull did you? This year, each competitor’s rig was tethered to a ’89 BMY Harsco M936A2 5-ton 6x6 that weighed approximately 36,200 pounds. Each competitor was allowed one pull, and there was no time limit. A pull was completed when the front axle of the 6x6 crossed the finish line or when forward momentum ceased. This event grabs competitor’s full attention, because it’s the first event and has the potential to quickly weed out weak components. This year, only two competitors completed a full pull.
Finish Line Quotes
“Tires worked great, they were hooking up, but I just didn’t use the throttle right. Could’ve done better.” –Joshua Hardy
“The hill wasn’t as big as I thought it would be, but the rig was harder to pull up. Maybe I should’ve went with a longer strap. I don’t know.” –Jeff Noggle
“I’m mad about my run. I got into it too hard. I should’ve eased into it a little better and then got into it. It is what it is.” –Richie Tremblay
“It was great. Truck pulled hard. We were hoping that setup would keep us from bouncing and it worked.” –Rob Inglis
“Lightweight rig, lower horsepower, I think we did OK.” –Josh Harris
“I wanted to be up there about another 100-foot, but it’s a pretty good run.” –Rick Jensen
“I think I was a little shy on the horsepower.” –Earl Middleton
| Results |
(Ranked By Time Or Overall Distance Traveled)
|3.||Jensen||119 ft. 07 in.|
|4.||Horsley||119 ft. 02 in.|
|5.||Harris||111 ft. 10 in.|
|6.||Bain||110 ft. 10 in.|
|7.||Tremblay||108 ft. 08 in.|
|8.||Noggle||108 ft. 05 in.|
|9.||Hardy||102 ft. 06 in.|
|10.||Middleton||99 ft. 00 in.|
Bain: First competitor. Ran with 25 psi in the front and 20 psi in the rear 44-inch tires. The NP435 transmission was in Second gear and the NP205 T-case was in low range. Easy pull off the line and acquired good momentum.
Christian: One of two competitors that completed a full pull. Attached a spare wheel and tire to the front of the rig to add front-end weight. Ran with the Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires at 20 psi front and 25 psi rear. Began the run with both T-cases in low range and the TH400 transmission in Third gear, but had to downshift to Second gear along the way.
Hardy: The Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case was in its 3.8:1 low range, the TH400 transmission was in Drive, and there was 20 psi of pressure in each of the 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires. A slight bit of hop off the starting line forced him to back off the throttle. Slight pull to the driver side of the track near the end.
Harris: Some wheelhop from the 44-inch tires, which were aired to 20 psi. Ran with the NP203/205 T-case setup in low range and shifted the TH350 transmission from First to Second gear along the way.
Horsley: Straight, no-drama run with good results. Ran with the NP205 T-case in low range and the C6 transmission in First gear. The large 54-inch tires were aired to a miniscule 2 psi front and 4 psi rear.
Inglis: Unleashed the 512ci big-block engine and completed the course in only 14 seconds. The 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires were aired to 18 psi rear and 15 psi front. A custom two-strap towing setup attached to a pair of D-rings welded to the crossmember under the bellhousing and a pair of D-rings welded to the rear diff.
Jensen: With the 440ci V-8 roaring, the Scout had a strong pull. Some bouncing about halfway through. The NP203 T-case was in low range and the NP205 T-case was in high range. Tire pressure in the 44-inch meats was 25 psi rear and 20 psi front.
Middleton: Ran with a 210-pound wheel weight on each of the front B.A.D. beadlock wheels. The rear 49-inch tires were aired to 3 psi, the left front at 2.5 psi, and the right front at 30 psi (someone forgot to air that tire down, we’re told). Both T-cases were in low range. Unbeknownst to the driver, the rear line-lock was stuck on.
Noggle: Aired the 44-inch tires to 11 psi and ran with both T-cases in low range. The driver toggled the TH400 transmission between gears in an effort to control wheelspeed. Restrained run.
Tremblay: In and out of the throttle in an attempt to control wheelhop. Ran the NP205 T-case in low range and with “too much” tire pressure in the 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires.
Day 1 Event 2: The Frame Twister
In case you’re wondering, the Frame Twister has really twisted the frames of vehicles over the years. It has also wasted driveshafts, destroyed tires, mangled sheetmetal, annihilated axleshafts, and thrashed suspensions. Through the years, the Frame Twister has evolved, and this year, it changed again. The course was only approximately 580 feet in length, but it contained a mind-boggling number of obstacles that made it feel like 5,800 feet to many competitors. Approximately 288 feet into the course, competitors arrived at the infamous Squeeze Rock section with its eye-opening boulders and dogleg. If competitors avoided the Squeeze Rock’s Kung Fu grip, they soon came face-to-face with the dreaded log section. This section had nine logs placed perpendicular to the direction of travel with deep water and mud filling the space between each log. Following the logs, there was a nasty loose-log pile, as well as a pile of tubes and tanks, to crawl over. Cones marked the course boundaries, and each competitor was allowed 10 minutes to complete the course. If a competitor violated a safety rule, one minute was added to their overall time. If they hit a cone they were penalized 30 seconds per cone. If they traveled out of bounds their run was ended at that point and their score was based on overall distance traveled. This year, four competitors crossed the finish line, while the other six succumbed to the Twister.
Finish Line Quotes
-“I wanted to come over and get through these logs so bad. Those rocks are just super tight.” - Daryl Horsley
“My plan was to pull in and pull cable and my mind changed when it appeared smaller than I thought it was and that wasn’t the case.” - Jeff Noggle
If I can’t win, I’m gonna make sure everybody else is happy to watch me. - Jeff Noggle
“The biggest problem is that I needed another hand. I couldn’t hold the winch controller, steer, shift, and work the rear-steer.” - Rick Jensen
“Feeling good, feeling good, best feeling in the world.” - Rob Inglis
| Results |
(Ranked By Elapsed Time Including Penalites Or Distance Traveled If DNF)
|1.||Inglis||2 min. 00 sec.|
|2.||Christian||4 min. 32 sec.|
|3.||Jensen||8 min. 52 sec.|
|4.||Hardy||9 min. 56 sec.|
Bain: Strong run that found him entering the Squeeze Rock section with 28 seconds on the clock and exiting with 56 seconds on the clock. Became stuck in the logs with 2:40 on the clock and was under winch power. He chose to end his run with 8:10 on the clock due to a broken clutch linkage.
Christian: Entered the Squeeze Rock section with 25 seconds on the clock and exited 25 seconds later with no drama. Stuck in the logs with the spotter rigging winch cable with 1:25 on the clock. Clear of the logs with 3:56 on the clock. Blasted over the log pile in only 5 seconds and finished on the clock.
Hardy: Quickly traversed the Squeeze Rock section in only 21 seconds, exiting with 52 seconds on the clock. Became stuck in the log section, immediately began winching, and cleared the logs with 5:11 on the clock. Became stuck in the log pile with 5:56 on the clock but winched clear with 9:48 on the clock. Crossed the finish line 8 seconds later. The 350ci V-8 engine began to overheat near the end of the course.
Harris: Arrived at the Squeeze Rock section with 30 seconds on the clock and traversed the obstacles in only 27 seconds. Used the Warn 9.5cti winch to pull the Jimmy through the logs and cleared the section with 3:52 on the clock. Entered the log pile with 4:40 on the clock and attempted to power through. With approximately 5:16 on the clock, the vehicle traveled out of bounds, and the run was ended at that point. Along the way, the passenger-side sheetmetal was damaged in the Squeeze Rock section, and the rear shackle mounts were bent in the log section.
Horsley: Entered the Squeeze Rock section with 1:45 on the clock. Spotter exited the truck with 5:55 on the clock to help guide the rig through after forward travel had ceased. Cleared the Squeeze Rock section with 9:25 on the clock. Timed out prior to the logs. Ran with 6 psi in the front and 4 psi in the rear 54-inch tires. Damage report: Significant passenger-side sheetmetal damage in the Squeeze Rock section.
Inglis: Blazing run that earned the fastest time of the event. Entered the Squeeze Rock section with 27 seconds on the clock and exited with 59 seconds on the clock. Flew over most of the logs with 1:38 on the clock. Completed the log pile with 1:55 on the clock and finished 5 seconds later. No winching.
Jensen: Toggled through numerous T-case gears during the run and utilized the rear-steer. Ran with 12 psi in all of the 44-inch tires. Entered the Squeeze Rock section with 25 seconds on the clock and exited with only 46 seconds on the clock. Became stuck in the logs but winched out with 4:14 on the clock. Stuck again on the log pile, but winched off with 8:06 on the clock. Completed the course with one 30-second cone penalty.
Middleton: Slow, calculated run. Entered the Squeeze Rock section with 54 seconds on the clock and exited with 2:12 on the clock. Gathered some passenger-side sheetmetal damage along the way. Became stuck in the logs with 3:00 on the clock and began winching. A problem with the winch clutch slowed the recovery. Exited the logs with 9:48 on the clock and timed out prior to the log pile.
Noggle: With only 43 seconds on the clock, entered the Squeeze Rock section and blasted through, exiting with only 58 seconds on the clock. Entered the log section with 1:17 on the clock under heavy power, which launched the truck airborne. The landing under power spun the Dana 60 centersection on the tubes and damaged the front pinion yoke, ring-and-pinion, axlehousing, transmission tailhousing, a wheel, and blew the two front tires. The truck also gathered passenger-side sheetmetal damage in the Squeeze Rock section.
Tremblay: Blasted to the Squeeze Rock section in only 20 seconds. Bumped hard into a boulder, and the vehicle lost all power due to a loose underhood power wire. With 1:10 on the clock, the hood of the vehicle had been removed in an effort to troubleshoot the problem. The team attempted to find the problem for almost six minutes with no luck. Tremblay chose to end his run with approximately 7:00 on the clock.
Day 1 Event 3: The Mini Rubicon
Surprise! Normally competitors would be directed to our infamous Mud Pit event at this point in the competition, but due to the California drought, the Mud Pit was replaced with the gnarly, waterless Mini Rubicon. You may remember the Mini Rubicon as a TTC staple that was replaced in 2013 with the Coal Chute. This year, the course was approximately 140 feet in length and packed with boulders and rocks of various sizes. To keep things exciting, there were no penalties for winching, stopping, or backing up. Instead, we gave each competitor 5 minutes to travel as far as they could. Cones marked the course and hitting one resulted in a 30-second penalty, while a safety violation resulted in a 1-minute penalty. Traveling out of bounds resulted in disqualification at that point.
Finish Line Quotes
“I hate the mud, so I’m glad we get to do two rock courses.” –Josh Harris
“I’m not much of a rock banger, I prefer to crawl that nice and slow and easy, but you know what? This was still better than mud. This is what this truck was built for. It’s a tank.” –Rick Jensen
“I hate mud. And we normally run rocks back home, so that’s fine with us.” –Matt Christian
“I didn’t know what to think. We’re not rockcrawlers, so this is the first time you’ve ever seen this truck on rocks.” –Rob Inglis
“What a blast!” –Earl Middleton
| Results |
(Ranked By Elapsed Time Including Penalites Or Distance Traveled If DNF)
|3.||Jensen||1 min. 36 sec.|
|4.||Horsley||2 min. 02 sec.|
|5.||Bain||2 min. 05 sec.|
|6.||Inglis||2 min. 27 sec.|
|7.||Hardy||2 min. 53 sec.|
|8.||Middleton||3 min. 49 sec.|
|9.||Harris||3 min. 52 sec.|
Bain: Came to the event with 10 psi in the 44-inch tires and a spare clutch linkage installed to replace the one damaged in the Frame Twister. Sailed by the halfway point with 1:10 on the clock and the three-quarter point with 1:45 on the clock. The replacement clutch linkage broke on the way back to camp after the event.
Christian: Strong run with the 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires aired to 10 psi front and 8 psi rear. Had to back up to avoid a cone penalty near the finish line. Second fastest run of the event.
Hardy: First competitor. Consistently gained forward progress. Cleared the quarter-course mark with 1:30 on the clock and the halfway point with 2:08 on the clock. Finished 45 seconds later. Had to back up a couple times to realign but did not have to winch.
Harris: Prior to the event, he had to straighten some shackle mounts that were damaged in the Frame Twister. Slow start at the beginning of the course but then rallied and cleared the halfway point with 2:55 on the clock and the three-quarter point with 3:35 on the clock, finishing 17 seconds later.
Horsley: Arrived at the event with slightly higher tire pressures to improve diff clearance, and the floats in the Holley 950 cfm carb had been lowered to decrease stalling. The truck stalled early into the course with 45 seconds on the clock but did very well through the remainder of the course. Cleared the first third of the course with 1:15 on the clock and the two-thirds mark with 1:35 on the clock. Damaged the rear passenger-side lower link bushing on the rocks.
Inglis: The big Dodge cleared the first third of the course with only 1:00 on the clock and the three-quarter mark with only 1:25 on the clock. Slowed down a bit near the end of the course in an effort to avoid breaking a steering knuckle (an ongoing problem the owner says) to finish mid-pack. The big 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires were aired down to 8 psi. Penalized 30 seconds for hitting one cone.
Jensen: Ran with 8 psi in the 44-inch tires. Good communication between the driver and spotter, which contributed to crossing the three-quarter mark with only 1:05 on the clock.
Middleton: Only 3 psi of tire pressure in the 49-inch tires seemed to be a big help in navigating the boulders. Cleared the quarter-course mark with 1:20 on the clock and the halfway mark with 1:55 on the clock. Tilted to the passenger side near the end of the course with 3:00 on the clock. Damaged the passenger-side rear shock along the way.
Noggle: Suffering axle and driveline damage from the Frame Twister, he chose to simply nose the big Chevy six inches onto the course in an effort to gather a point.
Tremblay: Blazing run through the course in only 23 seconds to earn the fastest time of the event. The 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires were aired to 5 psi front and 6 psi rear. Destroyed the sidewall on the driver-side front tire along the way and bent the lower rear passenger-side link bar.
Day 2 Event 1: The Obstacle Course
We renovated the Obstacle Course for 2014, which meant that if competitors were expecting last year’s course, they’d be out of luck. For one thing, the long downhill section at the beginning of the course was deleted. Also, in response to the California drought, it was an entirely dry course. Was the course easier? Nope. Our demented course builders made sure this first event on the second day of competition would be a real eye-opener for competitors and set the tone for the day. The course consisted of an “upper section” and a “lower section.” Competitors began in the lower section, which was pockmarked with evil holes, off-camber sections, and gobs of loose dirt. They then traveled to the upper section that included a pair of deep, nasty holes and the infamous “U-Turn Hill.” From there, it was into a ravine that stood guard over the finish line. This event was less about speed and more about accuracy. There was a 10-minute time limit, and the course was marked with a huge number of cones. Hitting a cone resulted in a 10-second penalty each. Times varied widely for the competitors who completed the course, and there were four competitors who were stopped cold.
Finish Line Quotes
“My hat’s off to any competitor that’ll finish this, that’s for sure. I just hope that I got enough parts to get it going for the rest of the events. I got my doubts anybody is going to make it this far as I did.” –Richie Tremblay
"That was fun. Can we do it again?" - Joshua Hardy
"Last few times we went wheeling, I've just been practicing with the rear-steer, getting used to it. We got a Stazworks auto-centering kit on there and that helps out a bunch." - Matt Christian
“That was nasty. That’s as nasty as I’ve ever seen it. I’ve seen it two other times before, you know, being here. That’s as nasty as I’ve ever seen it.” - Josh Harris “I came through this section a little hotter than I would’ve cared to, but it’s like you see that flag at the end there and you’re just going for it.” - Rick Jensen
| Results |
(Ranked By Elapsed Time Including Penalites Or Distance Traveled If DNF)
|1.||Jensen||1 min. 59 sec.|
|2.||Christian||2 min. 14 sec.|
|3.||Inglis||3 min. 07 sec.|
|4.||Harris||4 min. 19 sec.|
|5.||Hardy||4 min. 55 sec.|
|6.||Bain||8 min. 15 sec.|
Bain: Arrived at the event with a new clutch linkage featuring revamped geometry. Exited the first bowl in the lower section with 2:10 on the clock. Entered the first hole in the upper section with 2:38 on the clock. Winched out of the second hole and was mobile with 5:49 on the clock. Contacted eight cones to gather 80 seconds in penalties.
Christian: Blew through the lower section, exiting with only 40 seconds on the clock. Left the second hole in the upper section with only 1:30 on the clock, finishing 44 seconds later. Penalty-free run.
Hardy: Came to competition with a new radiator cooling fan and with the 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires aired to 16 psi. Exited the lower section with 2:30 on the clock and was out of the second hole in the upper section with 3:25 on the clock. Something in the steering system locked up momentarily near the finish line with 4:15 on the clock. Hit three cones to gather 30 seconds in penalties.
Harris: Departed the lower section with 1:16 on the clock and entered the first hole in the upper section with 1:42 on the clock. Did a front “dig” in the second hole, which worked, but broke six teeth off the ring gear in the Dana 60 axle. Exited the second hole with 2:06 on the clock and entered the ravine with 2:47 on the clock. Hit seven cones for a total penalty of 70 seconds.
Horsley: The 472ci V-8 stalled in the first hole in the lower section with 16 seconds on the clock. Exited the lower section with 2:55 on the clock. The front wheels were airborne while climbing up the dirt hill to the upper section. With 6:20 on the clock, the engine had stalled and the starter was not functioning due to heat damage from a bent header. Timed out in the second hole in the upper section.
Inglis: Installed a new starter and header gasket prior to the event. Exited the lower section with 1:05 on the clock and made quick work of the two holes in the upper section, exiting with 2:11 on the clock. Entered the ravine near the finish line with 2:47 on the clock and finished 10 seconds later. Hit one cone for a 10 second penalty.
Jensen: Fastest time of the event. Entered competition with an adjusted T-case linkage to solve a problem with the NP203 not wanting to stay in low range. Flew through the lower section, exiting in only 38 seconds. Entered the second hole in the upper section with only 1:08 on the clock and dropped into the ravine with 1:39 on the clock to finish 10 seconds later. Hit one cone along the way.
Middleton: Carefully cleared the first two holes in the lower section with no problems and the Tuff Country leaf springs flexing nicely. With 27 seconds on the clock, he traveled out of bounds and was disqualified at that point.
Noggle: Worked until 3 a.m. to repair damage incurred in the Frame Twister. Cautiously entered the first hole in the lower section. The suspension flexed nicely, but with 30 seconds on the clock, the front axlehousing broke again (the centersection spun) and destroyed the U-joint straps. He chose to end his run with 1:00 on the clock.
Tremblay: First competitor. Entered competition with a slipping TH400 transmission. Became stuck in the lower section and winched clear with 6:05 on the clock. Entered the first hole in the upper section with 6:45 on the clock, He traveled out of bounds shortly after with approximately 8:13 on the clock and was disqualified at that point. The transmission was barely functioning, and he mangled a passenger-side lower four-link bar along the way.
Day 2 Event 2: The Hill Climb
If you’re ever having a bad day and need a pick-me-up, look at photos or video of the TTC Hill Climb event and relish the fact you’re not on it. The Hill Climb isn’t the standard run-of-the-mill hill climb. Oh, definitely not. We take a nasty, steep, 600-foot-long hill that has an average angle of approximately 60 degrees and modify it to TTC specs. We bring in heavy equipment and dig strategically placed holes that are designed to give competitors nightmares. Yes, we effectively add hills to our Hill Climb. As icing on the cake, we spread loose dirt everywhere to impede traction. Factor in the reality that most of the time the competitors can only see sky through the windshield as they claw their way up the hill, and the challenge becomes crystal clear. Competitors must think on-the-fly and have lightning reflexes. Naturally, the competitors love it. There is a 5-minute time limit, and during that time, competitors can winch, back up, or stop and take in the view of the Hollister Hills. They may not travel out of bounds or violate a safety rule. This year, the race was tight, and less than 10 seconds separated the top five finishers.
Finish Line Quotes
“Ain’t much else you can do when you got a 7,000-pound truck and a short wheelbase. Just counting on being built low to the ground and having these Boggers just dig.” - Rick Jensen
“Very intimidating. Video does not do it justice.” - Rob Inglis
“I’ve had anxiety for two months, and now I’m just like I haven’t had anxiety since I’ve been here. Everything is paying off. Pure bliss, man.” - Tracker J. Bain
“That was awesome. I’ve never seen a hill like that. All the off-camber stuff, the rig stayed stable. It was amazing.” - Josh Harris
(Ranked By Elapsed Time Or Distance Traveled If DNF)
|6.||Hardy||1 min. 17 sec.|
|7.||Jensen||2 min. 17 sec.|
Bain: Ran with 10 psi in the 44-inch tires, the NP205 T-case in low range, and the NP435 transmission in Second gear. The 460ci V-8 engine stalled about three-quarters of the way up the hill but was quickly restarted.
Christian: Fastest run of the event. Pulled down the rearend with the rear-mounted 12,000-pound winch to “keep the shocks from unloading on the sidehills.” The Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires were aired down to 6.5 psi, the NP203/205 T-case setup was in double-low, and the TH400 transmission was in Second gear. The 5.3L V-8 was in the rev limiter near the top of the hill.
Hardy: Came to the event with an additional cooling fan (three total) and the addition of AMSOIL Dominator Coolant Boost in an effort to solve overheating issues. Stopped and backed up near the top of the hill to gather momentum. The 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires were running 16 psi, the Advance Adapters Atlas II 3.8:1 T-case was in low range, and the TH400 was in Second gear.
Harris: With the help of team Noggle, he installed a new Revolution Gear & Axle ring-and-pinion in one hour prior to the event. The GM 6.0L V-8 helped give him a good head of steam, and the slide shackles on the front Tuff Country leaf springs helped provide the needed wheeltravel. Ran with only 5 psi in the 44-inch tires, the rear transfer case in low range, and the TH350 transmission in First gear.
Horsley: Unspooled the 472ci V-8 engine and easily climbed the hill to earn the second fastest time of the event. Kept the NP205 transfer case in low range and the C6 transmission in First gear.
Inglis: Slowed down near the halfway point of the hill because the rig was tipping. The four-link suspension with King remote-reservoir shocks did a great job of keeping the big 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires (aired down to 15 psi) in contact with the uneven terrain. Used the 2.72:1 low range setting in the NorthWest Fabworks Black Box and First gear in the TH350 transmission.
Jensen: First competitor. Had the NP205 T-case in low range, the TF 727 transmission in First gear, and the 44-inch tires aired to 12 psi. Occasionally used the rear-steer to crab-walk the rig and stay centered on the course.
Middleton: With 30 seconds on the clock, he was backing up to gather forward momentum. He couldn’t gather the needed speed and chose to winch. With 1:17 on the clock the spotter was connecting the winch. The winch cable was spooled in and the truck was under its own power with 4:20 on the clock. Timed out approximately three-quarters of the way up the hill.
Noggle: Did not run due to damage sustained in the Obstacle Course.
Tremblay: Did not run. Was in the town of Hollister using a press to straighten the four-link bar that was damaged in the Obstacle Course.
Day 2 Event 3: The Coal Chute
The Coal Chute event used a section of the newly developed Upper Obstacle Course at the Hollister Hills SVRA. This course is mega challenging, so it’s the only course we don’t customize for TTC. It was exactly as you’d find it as a visitor to the park. This year, the course was approximately 525 miserable feet in length and it featured steep walls in excess of 7 feet in height, as well as a mind-boggling collection of rocks and cement tubes. This course gets with the program right away and throws two large rock wall climbs at the competitors in the first few yards. The course was divided into three distinct sections. Each had its own character and obstacles. None was easy. The course culminated with a steep cement wall at the finish line. Each competitor was given 20 minutes to complete the course and were penalized 10 seconds if they hit a cone or 1 minute if they violated a safety rule. This year, five competitors completed the course.
Finish Line Quotes
“This is clearly not our forte. We didn’t get the mud that we wanted this year, we ended up having to do that Mini Rubicon. So really, we’re here for the Tank Trap. –Jesse Meakins (Daryl Horsley’s spotter)
“A lot of fun. Holy cow, that’s very intense. Great, great run, thanks to my spotter. This was my first time ever actually doing this full run and first time in this rig. Got through because of my man over here, Jared.” –Joshua Hardy
“It was awesome. It was harder than I anticipated. I’m glad there was no water because I was able to grab Third gear doubled down and just shoot right out of it. I was more worried about getting off of whatever I was hung on back there.” –Tracker J. Bain
“Way more than I expected. That wasn’t much crawling finesse. That was more Canadian driving. Canadian-mix rockcrawling.” –Rob Inglis
Oh man, that was awesome. I wish I could run it again. I think we could do it quicker. --Matt Christian
|Results (Ranked By Elapsed Time Including Penalites Or Distance Traveled If DNF)|
|1.||Christian||6 min. 42 sec.|
|2.||Inglis||6 min. 45 sec.|
|3.||Bain||11 min. 05 sec.|
|4.||Jensen||12 min. 56 sec.|
|5.||Hardy||18 min. 10 sec.|
Bain: Fought to get on the course with the 44-inch tires aired down to 10 psi. Winched with 2:35 on the clock over the first rock climbs. Exited section one with 7:25 on the clock, said goodbye to section two with 9:19 on the clock, and finished the course 1:26 later. Penalized for hitting two cones. Bent the lower front four-link bars along the way.
Christian: Fastest elapsed time of the event. Cleared the first two climbs in section one with only 1:15 on the clock, exited section one with 2:30 on the clock, completed section two with 3:50 on the clock, and completed the course with no winching and a time of 6:22. Penalized 20 seconds for hitting two cones. The 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires were aired down to 6 psi front and 5 psi rear.
Hardy: The 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires were aired down to 16 psi. Cleared the first section with 2:22 on the clock and the second section with 6:00 on the clock. Got hung up in the final section and began winching with 10:20 on the clock. Powered up the final hill after a few tries. Penalized 10 seconds for hitting one cone.
Harris: Became stuck on the rock climbs in section one with 50 seconds on the clock and put the Warn 9.5cti winch to work. Cleared section one with 6:52 on the clock and made it into section three about 5 minutes later. Became incredibly stuck near the finish line with 11:50 on the clock and tried to winch, but even though the winch was lifting the front of the rig from the ground, the rearend would not break free from the rocks. Voluntarily ended the run with 19:22 on the clock.
Horsley: Unbeknownst to the driver, the winch controller had swung and actuated the front line-lock early into the course. The long wheelbase rig couldn’t get over the ledge at the beginning of the first section, so Warn 9.5cti winching ensued. With 7:24 on the clock, the rear tires had cleared the troublesome ledge. With approximately 8:30 on the clock, the tie rod broke, and he chose to end his run with 8:49 on the clock. Along the way, the driver noticed that the transmission was beginning to operate erratically.
Inglis: Used the 512ci V-8 to power through the course, never looking back. Cleared the first section with only 1:35 on the clock and crossed the finish line less than 5 minutes later. His raw time in the big Dodge was only 3 seconds slower than the fastest time of the event. Penalized 20 seconds for hitting two cones. Slammed into a metal post at the finish line, which damaged the exocage.
Jensen: Drove through the first section with no winching. Became hung up in section two with 5:03 on the clock and winched out. Utilized the entire width of the course and often used the rear-steer. Completed the course with 12:46 on the clock but was penalized 10 seconds for hitting a cone.
Middleton: Problems climbing the first major ledge, so he attempted to start winching with 2:48 on the clock. Dealt with winch clutch issues for over 5 minutes. Middleton shut off the truck to exit and help the spotter, but then the starter wouldn’t function correctly (the problem was eventually traced to a faulty battery isolator). Chose to end his run with 18:55 on the clock.
Noggle: Did not run due to vehicle damage.
Tremblay: The rig’s TH400 transmission was slipping badly the entire run and only worked in First and Reverse. Tried the left line at the beginning of the course, but that didn’t work, so switched to the right side with 1:35 on the clock. Worked over the rock walls at the start with no winching. A frozen fitting on the propane tank forced him to shut down the 496ci V-8 engine with 9:04 on the clock due to poor fuel flow. He swapped the line to another propane tank and was underway in short order. Winching with 11:29 on the clock. Transmission failure forced him to end his run with 14:30 on the clock.
Day 3 Final Event: The Tank Trap
This is the event most TTC competitors anxiously await --or dread. The Tank Trap is a quarter-mile-long course designed to force each competitor to fight for every inch of forward progress. The Tank Trap is a standard feature at the Hollister Hills SVRA, but for TTC, it’s modified to our specs using heavy equipment and water. As in previous years, Tank Trap (located in a deep, natural valley) had an approximate 195-foot climb in elevation from start to finish. Due to water restrictions caused by the California drought, we had to cut back on the number of water holes, though we used the same numbering system as in previous years for continuity. A few yards into the course, competitors had to navigate the 5-foot-deep Water Hole 2. From there, they entered the infamous 100-yard-long “Canyon” that contained steep rock walls in excess of 7 feet in height, slippery steep rock waterfalls, nasty ledges, and generally inhospitable terrain. If they made it through the Canyon, it was onto Water Hole 3 and then a series of deep, slippery, dry climbs and descents. Provided they were still moving, they came fact-to-face with the deep, off-camber “Crevice” before dropping into Water Hole 6 and Water Hole 7. The final obstacle was a long, slippery dirt hill that stood between them and the finish line. Competitors were not allowed to see the course prior to competition and were given 30 minutes to complete the course. Because of its difficulty level, Tank Trap is worth double the points of the other events, so a competitor can gather needed points or extend a lead by doing well.
Finish Line Quotes
“I thought it was awesome. Can I do it again? When they were talking about needing people to help get the other fella out, we’re like, oh, well, we’ll just hook on to him and pull him up with us.” – Tracker J. Bain
“It’s awesome, it’s amazing, I love it.” –Josh Harris
“Been up it a couple times, but this compares to none of them. Much, much more difficult and a lot of fun.” – Josh Hardy
That waterfall was crazy. I couldn’t believe how steep that was. – Daryl Horsley
“The hole in the Canyon got us. We fell off in it and thought we might have to winch for a second to get out of it, but we finally made our way around it.” – Matt Christian
“You don’t count a Middleton out!” –James Middleton (Earl Middleton’s spotter)
“Loads of fun. I would highly recommend it.” –Earl Middleton
| Results |
(Ranked By Elapsed Time Or Distance Traveled If DNF)
|1.||Christian||11 min. 25 sec.|
|2.||Bain||14 min. 05 sec.|
|3.||Harris||21 min. 49 sec.|
|4.||Hardy||25 min. 50 sec.|
Bain: Ran with the windshield frame removed to eliminate damage. Dropped into Water Hole 2 with 58 seconds on the clock. Became stuck in Water Hole 2 and began winching with 1:31 on the clock. Fast winching with the “twin” Warn 8274 winch and was off the cable with 2:35 on the clock. Traversed the Canyon and entered Water Hole 3 with 6:08 on the clock. Winched three more times including a portion of the final hill. Completed the course on the clock.
Christian: Tried several different lines to exit Water Hole 2 and eventually climbed out without winch power with 1:39 on the clock. The spotter exited the rig in the Canyon to help guide with 2:42 on the clock. Entered Water Hole 3 with 6:28 on the clock and exited Water Hole 6 with 7:49 on the clock. Couldn’t get traction up the final hill, so the winch was used and the cable was pulling tight with 10:05 on the clock. Crossed the finish line 1:20 later to earn the fastest time of the event.
Hardy: Dropped into Water Hole 2 with 35 seconds on the clock. Became stuck, but winched out with 4:20 on the clock. Blew the front driver-side tire in the Canyon with 4:55 on the clock. Winched in the Canyon, out of Water Hole 6, and through Water Hole 7. The cable in the cradle-mounted front winch bound up on the final hill, so with 23:25 on the clock, he quickly removed the cradle-mounted winch and used his permanently-mounted front winch to help pull the rig with 25:34 on the clock. Crossed the finish line 16 seconds later.
Harris: Entered Water Hole 2 with 50 seconds on the clock. Used his Warn 9.5cti winch to help pull the rig out of Water Hole 2 with 4:30 on the clock. At 5:02, the rearend was hung on a rock, and the cab was stuffed into the wall in the Canyon. Winched out with 8:32 on the clock, but the cable got wrapped around the front tire. Dropped into Water Hole 3 with 14:17 on the clock, began winching out of Water Hole 6 with 20:02 on the clock, and winched up a portion of the final hill to finish on the clock.
Horsley: Ran with the vehicle’s hood removed. Entered Water Hole 2 with 1:10 on the clock, but became stuck on exit. The carburetor and transmission were acting up. Tried a couple of lines out of Water Hole 2 prior to relying on the Warn 9.5cti winch. Exited Water Hole 2 under winch power with 4:59 on the clock. Slow going in the Canyon and used the winch. Entered Water Hole 3 with 25:40 on the clock. The C6 transmission expired after exiting Water Hole 3 with 26:55 on the clock. Chose to end his run.
Inglis: Added a small tire to the driver-side exocage to act as a buffer between the exocage and the Canyon wall. Entered Water Hole 2 with 44 seconds on the clock. Winched out of Water Hole 2 with 5:35 on the clock. Rolled onto the passenger side in the Canyon with 8:10 on the clock but reversed and the vehicle dropped back on its wheels. A short distance further, the rig rolled onto the driver side twice more. The vehicle was on its side with 29:10 on the clock, the winch was not working due to a faulty winch controller, and a hydraulic line for the front and rear steering had broken. Timed out.
Jensen: Ran with 12 psi in the 44-inch tires, the windshield removed, and the engine computer relocated high on the rollcage to keep it out of the water. Entered Water Hole 2 with 48 seconds on the clock. The engine stalled due to an oxygen sensor failure with 58 seconds on the clock. It took approximately 15 minutes to get it running, during which time winching with the Warn 8274 was taking place to get the engine free of the water. With the engine still not running well, he entered the Canyon with 18:20 on the clock. Was winching in the Canyon with 28:08 on the clock. Timed out.
Middleton: Became stuck exiting Water Hole 2 but used the Warn 8274 winch to pull free with 7:39 on the clock. Stuck in the Canyon with 9:22 on the clock and began winching with 14:40 on the clock. The power steering quit working in the Canyon. With 19:24 on the clock, the winch cable became wrapped around the bumper in a knot and was unusable. He unleashed the big-block Ford engine and resumed forward travel with 24:41 on the clock. Easily traversed a larger portion of the course,but timed out in Water Hole 7.
Noggle: Did not run due to vehicle damage.
Tremblay: Came to the event with a new transmission installed. Entered Water Hole 2 with 35 seconds on the clock. Became stuck coming out of Water Hole 2 and was winching with 4:15 on the clock. Engine became wet and wouldn’t make decent rpm. Stuck in the Canyon with 8:50 on the clock, free with 17:30 on the clock. Dropped into Water Hole 3 with 18:40 on the clock. Airborne into Hole 4. During the rough landing, the engine’s air-cleaner housing contacted the hood, which pulled the dual propane mixer setup’s adapter bolts out, stalling the engine. By the time the problem was found, the time limit was almost reached, so he chose to end the run.
|Final Results (Points)|
The Grand Champion of the 22nd Top Truck Challenge is Matt Christian from Duncan, Oklahoma! With the help of spotter Josh Gammill, he drove his supercharged, 5.3L-powered, Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC-shod, AMSOIL-lubed, ’95 Chevy S-10 to the win.
Matt had a strong showing in all of the events. He won three events and placed Second in the other four. At the end of the first day of competition, he had a two-point lead over the nearest competitor, Rob Inglis. At the end of the second day of competition, that lead had widened to seven points. Winning the Tank Trap, and its double points, gave Matt the decisive victory.
Interestingly, Matt’s Chevy suffered no breakage throughout the competition. To what does Matt give the credit for no breakage? “Being consistent and all the time we put in before we came to make sure nothing broke. Just checking and double checking, rebuilt the transmission, I think all that adds up,” Matt says. His spotter Josh says, “Tried to be smart about the driving, just not go all out for one event.” Matt says his nightly routine at the event was to “give it a once over and cook dinner,” while Josh added, “Make sure everything was still tight and there wasn’t any welds cracked on the link mounts and try to get to bed early.”
Matt says the toughest event was the Tank Trap. “That Canyon is gnarly,” he notes. He says the biggest surprise of the competition was the Hill Climb. “We were so nervous we were about to puke at the bottom of the Hill Climb because we were not wanting to do that. I was nervous about going over, but by the time we got to the top of that, that was awesome and we wanted to do that again.”
Immediately following the award ceremony, Matt summed up his feelings. “I feel awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better turnout for sure. I couldn’t have done it alone though. My crew, if it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have been here.”
TTC Scoring: How It Works
There is no complicated scoring system for TTC. We keep it very simple. All of the events, except Tank Trap, award 10 points to the First Place finisher, 9 points to the Second Place finisher, and so on. The incredible Tank Trap is worth double points, so the First Place finisher is awarded 20 points, Second Place 18 points, and so on. If a competitor is unable to compete in an event, they received no points for that event. To eliminate tie scores, the First Place finisher of Tank Trap is awarded an additional extra point, Second Place is awarded .9 of a point, and so on. This procedure not only eliminates tie scores, it also rewards those who do well in Tank Trap. Each team’s final score is the sum of the points they’ve accrued in all seven events.
At TTC’s celebratory awards ceremony, we also doled out several specialty awards. This collection of awards recognized TTC teams and/or drivers in specific areas. Here’s who took home the plaques.
Long Distance: Rick Jensen, Valley, Nebraska (1,748 miles round-trip)
Hard Luck: Jeff Noggle (his ’92 GMC K1500 suffered significant damage in the Frame Twister, and though he tried to return to competition, the truck was too badly damaged)
Team Spirit: Joshua Hardy and Jared Bishop (worked great together, great communication, and a great attitude)
Never Give Up: Earl Middleton and James Middleton (recovered from an incredible deficit in the Tank Trap to almost complete the course)
People’s Choice: Rick Jensen, ’63 International Harvester Scout (the people have spoken regarding this big-block-powered, Rockwell-equipped ‘binder)
Judges’/Editors’ Choice: Richie Tremblay, ‘95 Chevy S-10 (the truck is sick, and Tremblay drives like a not-so-controlled explosion)
Do You Want To Compete in TTC 2015?
If you’ve been dreaming of competing in Top Truck Challenge, your golden opportunity is here. Right now. Simply fill out the official entry form in this issue, enclose a high-quality photo of your rig that shows the entire vehicle, and send the pair to the address listed by the due date. Even easier, you can scan the entry form, attach a high-resolution digital image, and email it to us (instructions are on the entry form). We’ll publish a collection of TTC 2015 hopefuls in the April 2015 issue of Four Wheeler. You may become part of TTC history as one of the 10 rigs that are chosen by Four Wheeler readers to go head to head with TTC’s seven legendary events in Hollister Hills, California.
We Tip Our Hats
It’s all hands on deck in regards to Top Truck Challenge. The entire Four Wheeler staff is called upon to lend a hand prior to and during the event. We also draft assistance from great folks that are part of The Enthusiast Network family. But that’s not all. Top Truck wouldn’t happen without the assistance of some dedicated people, most of whom take vacation from real jobs to help out wherever needed. As a matter of fact, the ratio of support staff to competitors is 7:1. The work isn’t glamorous, and often these folks return home dog-tired and scratching poison oak. Some of these folks are reimbursed, while others are volunteers. The Four Wheeler staff has significant admiration for these individuals, and they’re part of the TTC family. To them, we tip our hats.
Thanks To Our Sponsors
A big thank you is in order to the official Top Truck Challenge 2014 sponsors. We deeply appreciate these companies’ support and we ask you to support these businesses by contacting them for your parts and service needs.
Presenting Sponsor and Official Retailer: 4Wheel Parts, 4wheelparts.com.
Official Tire: Mickey Thompson Tires, mickeythompsontires.com
Official Lubricant: AMSOIL, amsoil.com
Official Winch: Warn Industries, warn.com
Official Suspension: Tuff Country, tuffcountry.com
Official Axle: Revolution Gear & Axle, revolutiongear.com
Official International Harvester Parts: IH Parts America, ihpartsamerica.com
Event Coordinator Robin Stover. He’s the master of multitasking and the leader of logistics.
Mike Mansmith and crew at Mansmith’s BBQ, for keeping us all fed, and thus, happy.
Hollister Hills SVRA staff and rangers, including District Superintendent Jeff Gaffney and Parks and Recreation Specialist Peter Jones.
Blecks Fire Prevention and Excavation, for the equipment support.
Gatos Bro’s, for the use of the 1989 BMY Harsco M936A2.
Get the TTC DVD!
Now that you’ve read the incredible story and seen the riveting photos of TTC 2014, you need to see the official high-definition TTC DVD. This DVD is packed with hours of TTC action and includes driver interviews, as well as much more. This professionally produced DVD is hosted by former TTC competitor extraordinaire Stan Prueitt and is a must-have companion to the coverage here in Four Wheelermagazine and on fourwheeler.com.
There’s only one place you can get the DVD, and that’s 4 Wheel Parts, so call 800/213-5668, visit 4wheelparts.com, or get to your local 4 Wheel Parts retail location.
Thanks to the generous Top Truck Challenge sponsors, the competitors were loaded up with cool stuff prior to and after the event. What did they get? Read on for the lowdown.
AMSOIL, Official Lubricant, amsoil.com: Filled all the competitors’ rigs with product prior to the event. The company also provided oil throughout the event if it was needed for repairs. All crew members received an AMSOIL T-shirt and decals. The Grand Champion received a $1,000 shopping spree.
4 Wheel Parts, Presenting Sponsor and Official Retailer, 4wheelparts.com: The Grand Champion received a gift certificate for a $1,000 shopping spree.
IH Parts America, Official International Harvester Parts, ihpartsamerica.com: All teams received hats, shirts, key chains, and so on, prior to the event. The Third Place finisher received $100 cash, Second Place received $300 cash, and the Grand Champion received $500 cash.
Mickey Thompson Tires, Official Tire, mickeythompsontires.com: The Grand Champion received a free set of truck tires up to 35 inches in height.
Revolution Gear & Axle, Official Axle, revolutiongear.com: All competitors received a $250 gift certificate.
Tuff Country, Official Suspension, tuffcountry.com: Each competitor received custom TTC shirts, a pair of Tuff Country mechanic gloves, and a set of four SX8000 nitro gas shocks.
Warn Industries, Official Winch, warn.com: The Grand Champion received a ZEON 12 winch.
Dealing With The Drought
Top Truck Challenge 2014 had a new challenge - a historic drought. The state of California mandated that we cut our water usage at TTC by 25 percent, so we cut back on the water in the Frame Twister, replaced the Mud Pit competition with the dry Mini Rubicon, deleted the water holes in the Obstacle Course, eliminated the waterfall at the end of the Coal Chute, and only used water in four of the seven sections that are usually wet in the Tank Trap. We estimate that TTC water usage was decreased approximately 40 percent from last year using this formula. Because of the dry conditions, we also proactively brought over 70 fire extinguishers and had them placed every few feet during each event.
A Bet Is A Bet
Richie Tremblay and Rob Inglis were both competitors in TTC 2014 and are close friends. Richie drives a Chevy and Rob drives a Dodge. Prior to the event, they made a bet: The person who scored lower at TTC had to get a tattoo of the other person’s make of truck. Tremblay lost the bet, so he’s rocking this new Mopar ink. We bet that hurt in more ways than one.
Safety is the dominating principle at Top Truck Challenge. We enforce the rules that govern the Hollister Hills SVRA, and we establish our own policies to ensure everyone’s safety. For example, all of the rigs are inspected before competition to ensure they meet the official vehicle requirements (i.e.: rollcages, seatbelts, safe attachment points, and so on). We also record important safety information for each vehicle. This includes, but is not limited to, what type of passenger restraints are used, where the battery is mounted, and where the ignition shutoff is located. This is done to ensure a safe and quick response in case of emergency. Further, all drivers and co-drivers are required to wear a helmet and seatbelt any time the vehicle is in motion, whether under power or not. Safety of the environment is also a priority, and we have spill kits at the ready should any leakage of vehicle fluids take place during competition.
“Top Truck was amazing. So much fun. Such a good group of guys. Killer obstacles. I think they made ‘em more difficult on some than I’ve seen in the past. It was awesome.” –Josh Harris
“I think it’s great. I wish there was more things like this that we could go do as a group. This is priceless to me. I’ve been wanting to do this for about 15 years now I think. It’s going to be one of those things I’ll never regret.” –Tracker J. Bain
“It’s definitely enjoyable. They make it difficult. I look forward to next year and what they’re going to do. Hopefully they make it even more difficult. That would be rad. Our vehicles keep progressing and becoming more capable, more efficient, more fluent in any situation, so it’s always interesting seeing what designers and fabricators come up with, and then also the designers of the course to make it a challenge.” –Joshua Hardy
“Oh, I loved it. I enjoyed myself tremendously. I’m disappointed at the luck that got served my way, but no regrets at all. It was a blast.” –Richie Tremblay
“I had a blast. Challenging. I would say, guys, go out there and build something. It doesn’t take a whole bunch of money; it just takes a little bit of heart. And engineering.” –Earl Middleton