Past Events > 2001 > Optima Power Challenge

Optima Power Challenge

25th November 2001

Team YORC... Dave White/Lee Cromwell in Dave's Range Rover and Matthew Sykes/John Davies in Matthews 110.

As our second challenge event loomed it was felt that a slight change in vehicle line-up would give us a better chance for glory, Matthews 110 seemed the ideal vehicle apart from one slight problem - it had no winch. On this kind of event a winch is not just a luxury, it's part of the essential equipment so the search for another Warn 8274 was launched. Rumours of a winch lying dormant under a bench at Lanro 4x4 proved to be correct and Martin Dransfield agreed to loan the winch to Matthew (Thanks Martin !). So it was that the week before the event was spent manufacturing a mount, installing the winch, a (borrowed) fairlead and a new wire rope. This also meant moving the auto oil cooler and the cooling fans.

My Range Rover needed little work doing to it but renewing all the suspension bushes was a priority. As a "luxury" an internal winch switch was fitted together with a new Superwinch solenoid pack and the new "Plasma 12" synthetic winch rope replaced the wire version.

So Sunday morning saw us meeting up at Tong at 7am, stickers and numbers applied, a quick eligibility check and into the drivers briefing. Here we were told, amongst other things, that the prologue would not determine the teams to go to Saddleworth first. Instead these teams had been randomly selected and the prologue would be just for points. We were among the "lucky" teams to go to Saddleworth Moor first, The prologue consisted of a quick winch test where one of the vehicles had to winch the other team member up a hill using a snatch block and ground anchor. We struggled at first to get the plough anchor to bite so quickly reverted to Matthews more basic spike setup. We still failed to get Matthews 110 up the hill in the time allowed but we came very close !

Saddleworth was awful. Arriving in thick blanket fog with a strong wind blowing the rain sideways across the moor we were guided to a featureless hill. At the top of the hill was a marshal who must have done something REALLY bad to Brian to deserve such a penance. We were told that somewhere out on the moor were a series of 10 punches all we had to do was find them, get to them in pairs and return to the top of the hill. We did have a sketched map which showed features such as a ruin, the M62, a stream etc... but the fog was so thick that although we could hear traffic on the M62 actually seeing it was another matter. The ruin was nowhere to be found so we just set off in the vague hope that we might find a punch somewhere.

The first punch we found (punch 3) was at the side of a slippery track halfway down a hill. Matthew got the punch first and had no option but to continue down the hill. I followed but despite taking the same route as Matthew, the chain on the punch was 2 inches too short. By this time John Carrol and the LRW team had arrived and were watching our struggles with some amusement. After dropping down into the ruts and eventually clawing my way back up the hill with the assistance of as many bodies as were available I managed to get close enough to the punch and began the treacherous run down the hill towards the stream. the next hour of the allotted 2 hours was spent walking and driving around the moors trying to find punch 4. Eventually this was found and each vehicle in turn was lowered by winch to the punch. With 20 minutes left all we had to do now was get to the top of the hill to claim our points. Unfortunately punch 4 appeared to be surrounded by bogs and steep slippery climbs up wet grassy slopes. So it was that after much winching, balls out launching of vehicles, cursing and swearing we got to the top of the hill. All points were lost as we were late back. Back to Tong...

The trip back down the M62 gave us a bit of a problem when we found my fuel tank vent pipe had blocked causing fuel starvation as the vacuum built up inside the tank but once that was cleared we got back OK. A short break for lunch and we had to choose our first task. The trials sections sounded right up our street so we headed off to task 4. This involved a short hill descent, a 90 degree right turn down a gulley, a left turn out of the gulley. Fine apart from the trees that someone had thoughtlessly dotted all over the place. Matthew got down the slope OK and turned into the gulley. I fed the Range Rover gingerly down between the trees having to take a few shunts to avoid some of them. At the bottom of the slope I was faced with two trees directly in front and a tree on the left threatening to take its vengeance on the bodywork. 10 minutes later after much maneouvering I got to the bottom with a reshaped rear quarter and as for the door - well as Lee said he can always get in at my side... With the aid of a winch Matthew managed to get part way down the gully but mangled a front wing in the process and we were out of time. I set about the passenger door with a lump hammer and soon the door would open and close again with a minimum of force.

The rest of the tasks all had queues at them so we moved about a bit trying to find another task. We ended up at task 3 where we had to find and then drive through pairs of trees with yellow paint on them. We didn't do too badly at this, despite a shaky start when Matthew headed into a gulley and needed winching back out. We missed out on scoring with my Range Rover on the last "gate" we tried after plowing nose first into a deep ditch and burying my winch in the bank.

A quick run up the "Rubi Tong Trail" was next which involved getting both vehicles along a trials section set along a man made rock climb. A few nasty rocks catching on diffs, chassis etc made it interesting with the final few gates requiring a winch from the other vehicle. We lost a bit of time on the task when Matthews winch cable looped back and had to be freed off. Then on my run I needed to winch over a rock that was catching my back diff.

Next was another trials section up a gulley that myself and Matthew had driven a few years back. This being a trial involving winching and extreme off roading though we had to drive 100 yards up the gulley, Turn sharp left up the sheer wall of the gulley before dropping back in again. This section had some really nasty bits in it, especially as we were only allowed one vehicle on section at a time so couldn't assist. Matthew did a great job and managed to clear the section, leaving me about 15 seconds to go... I drove through the 1 gate and that was that.

We only had time for 1 more section and with the light fading we headed off for the "tulip section" where we were to folow tulip diagrams to navigate around the task noting down lettered plaques and gathering punches while we went. Doing this in the dark caused us a few problems and we suspect we must have missed a few punches - the white diamond shaped letter cards were easier to spot among the trees but still kept us on our toes. The punches had no markers as such and were chained to trees, spotting a thin chain tied around a tree in the dark isn't easy !

We eventually finished 4th in our class (standard class) just 1 point behind the 3rd place team. Once again a learning curve with the trial and error of different techniques, particularly winching techniques. As for the Plasma winch rope that I spent a fortune on ? Well it was brilliant, the ease of handling saved us a lot of time, when it looped back a quick pull freed it whereas the wire equivalent required a screwdriver to lever the coils apart. I'll have a good look at it in the next week but, unlike the wire rope, it doesn't appear to have sustained any damage at all. In this kind of extreme off road competition with no time to spool wire in under tension it isn't unusual to require a new rope after each competition.

John Davies has supplied pictures from the event and these can be seen on the following pages... More images will be posted as they become available.

Dave White.

Pictures of the event can be seen here
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