"It's nothing like I expected. There's a whole lot of adrenalin here, that's for sure." These words were spoken by Jason Gray, immediately following his pull in the Tow Test. Gray was the very first competitor in the first event of this year's Top Truck Challenge, and his insightful comment was right on the money. From the moment Top Truck starts, the adrenalin begins.
What is Top Truck Challenge? Well, TTC, as it's known, is a weeklong event that we created 18 years ago. It takes place near Hollister, California, at Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. It features 10 vehicles that are chosen exclusively by Four Wheeler readers. Each vehicle contains a "team," which is defined as a driver and co-driver. These teams compete in seven events consisting of the Tow Test, Frame Twister, Mud Pit, Obstacle Course, Hill Climb, Mini Rubicon, and Tank Trap. Each of these courses is custom-made and one-of-a-kind. They are designed to push even the most well engineered rig to its breaking point. They're also designed to be a form of mental calisthenics for the drivers, as they're forced to think on-the-fly. The seven events we create represent almost every discipline of four-wheeling. The legendary Tank Trap, the final event of TTC, is an unrelenting compilation of thick mud, steep hills, deep water, and evil rocks all packed into approximately 1,320 feet. Tank Trap forces teams to confront their off-highway demons while the clock is ticking. Over the years, Top Truck has drawn competitors from coast to coast, as well as from Canada and Israel. This year, we had a competitor from the Territory of Guam. As you can imagine, the video footage gathered at Top Truck is riveting, and recently, footage from TTC 2009 was featured on country superstar Brad Paisley's H20 world concert tour.
This year saw some incredible drama in addition to the unrelenting action. For instance, Brian Barker had awful luck when his Ford Ranger's C6 transmission case blew apart in the Frame Twister. When piecing it back together didn't last, he refused to give up, and ultimately the truck ended up at Quality Transmission in Seaside, California, where a rebuilt transmission was quickly installed so Barker and his team could compete in the Tank Trap. Another dramatic turn of events hit Ryan Knoche. His Suzuki Samurai suffered massive front suspension failure in the Obstacle Course, which allowed the front axle to rotate. Thanks to help from many of the other competitors, Knoche was able to repair the damage in a short amount of time and return to competition without missing a beat.
This year's TTC brought together a group of fascinating rigs and incredibly talented drivers. The action was spellbinding and the teamwork inspiring. A lot went on and we've summarized each event for you in detail. It begins when you click to the page.