Breathtaking cold water and leg-swallowing mud comprised the contents of Tank Trap’s murky Water Hole 3 where Team Dallner’s S-10 sat partially submerged on its driver-side. Forming a seemingly impenetrable barrier along the sides of the water hole was a collection of thick foliage that included nasty, thorn-bearing plants and poison oak dripping with its evil, poisonous oil. But worse yet, the team’s 30-minute time limit was ticking away so there was no time to dawdle. With the passenger-side 54-inch tires pointing skyward like satellite dishes and foul-smelling steam rising from the hot V-8 engine, the team scrambled to quickly right the rig and continue on through the rest of the brutal course. Like the other nine teams in Top Truck Challenge 2011 they were driven by the innate desire to cross the finish line. “It’s an endurance test. You gotta be in there for the full game,” said Ron Stewart, co-driver of Team Dallner, after he experienced the brutality of this year’s Tank Trap.
Top Truck Challenge is a weeklong event that we created 19 years ago and it takes place at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area near Hollister, California. The field consists of 10 vehicles that are chosen exclusively by Four Wheeler readers from entries submitted voluntarily by the owners of the vehicles. There is a Truck Class and a Buggy Class and each is comprised of five vehicles. Each vehicle contains a “team,” which is defined as a driver and co-driver. The teams compete in seven events consisting of the Tow Test, Frame Twister, Mud Pit, Obstacle Course, Hill Climb, Mini Rubicon, and Tank Trap. All of the courses for these events are custom-made and exclusive to Top Truck and together they represent almost all disciplines of four-wheeling. Each one of these events is tough and we make no excuse for that. Top Truck is an event designed to be the ultimate test of vehicle engineering as well as a test of the driver and co-driver to think under pressure, on-the-fly. Over the course of its 19 year history, Top Truck has been host to wheelers from throughout the continental U.S. as well as Canada, Israel, and the Territory of Guam.
Top Truck is filled with action from beginning to end, but as you can imagine, an event of this caliber creates drama far beyond the actual competition. For instance, this year Team Timson had the unfortunate luck of damaging a transfer case in the Frame Twister. The good folks at Advance Adapters in Paso Robles, California, stepped up and quickly made them an Atlas II case, which the team picked up and then installed so they could get back in competition. Unfortunately, the hydraulic steering ram mount on their YJ broke in the first event when back in action. This time, a flurry of help from other competitors culminated with the team being able to compete in the Tank Trap. There are numerous stories like this, where teams came to the aid of other competitors with tools, parts, or labor. There were also some interesting strategies as teams occasionally swapped drivers. One truck owner, Brooke Spencer, turned control of her Buggy Class rig over to driver Ron Adams and co-driver Ben Spinney.
This year’s TTC was filled with surprises. Hard luck and lady luck both made appearances and the result was anything but predictable. The action was incredible and the drama riveting. We’ve summarized each event for you in detail and it begins when you turn the page.