Past Events > 2004 > Muddy Truckers Trophy

Muddy Truckers Trophy

5th March 2004

The Muddy Truckers Trophy
March 5th-7th 2004

by Dave White

Photos by John Davies and Paul Everett

As many of you will know, I spent a good part of 2003 and the early part of 2004 building a new competition vehicle. The Range Rover, having served faithfully for a number of years was really starting to show the strain and was becoming more difficult to keep running.With some regret, it was time for the old girl to move on and I needed to build something which would reflect the needs both for club trials and challenge events. The build would start in July 2003 and be completed by early to mid February 2004 with a month shakedown time prior to the first challenge of the year - The Muddy Truckers Trophy.

So it was that my latest creation moved under it's own power for the first time in the third week in February and on the morning of March 5th I was still frantically trying to bolt/weld on the last few bits and bobs prior to driving to Maddison 4x4 for scrutineering. Aware that the trip to Maddison 4x4 was the furthest I'd actually driven the thing, my main aim for the event was simply to finish and still be able to drive it home from Scotland at the end of the event !

Having spotted a leaking hub oil seal prior to setting off I phoned Patrick and booked in to have it replaced so I could concentrate on packing all our gear into and onto the vehicle. On arriving at Maddison 4x4 the vehicle was put straight onto a ramp and Nigel (one of the mechanics) set about dismantling the hub. With the oil seal replaced, Nigel also spotted that one of the bolts holding the brake caliper on had seen better days and opted to replace it just in case. The other bolt looked fine so that was reused.. all went well until this bolt then sheared off as it was being tightened ! It seemed that the Land Rover gods were determined that I shouldn't make it off the start line. After the judicious use of a drill and tap NIgel managed to remove the remains of the old bolt and soon had the vehicle back together again so I could finally breathe a sigh of relief and get the vehicle scrutineered.

Finally "Team YORC" - myself and Paul Everett in my 100" and Matthew Sykes and John Davies in Matthew's 110 set off on the first road book that was to take us to the camp site prior to Friday's Night Event. An uneventful trip to a point just north of Helmsley took us into the main site, part of a huge estate with a mix of woodland and hills. Arriving at the camp site we soon had our tents set up and were joined by Tim Frankland who had volunteered as a marshal for the weekend.

As you may have gathered, this year's Muddy Truckers was to run to a new format. 2 nights and 2 days of off roading at 3 main locations - Helmsley, Wooler and Duns. Camping was mandatory on Friday and Saturday night and all equipment was to be carried on the vehicles. In the end, some leniency was given on these rules so we were allowed to set up camp prior to the night run on Friday.

Following a meal in Helmsley we went straight into the prologue. The teams had to split up and then communicate a word to their team mates using Morse code and torches. Local knowledge meant that we soon had enough of the phrase to fill in the blanks and our team was the first to hand in a correct entry. This gave us the dubious honour of setting off first on the night stages. We would have been quicker had Matthew actually waited for us to finish reading the instructions before he started signaling the letters !

The night stages actually turned out to be a single stage with a road book to follow to get us there. Arriving at what we thought was the first stage, the marshals explained what we had to do. It was a simple task, on foot in the dark on an open moorland, we had to follow a compass bearing using a hand held magnetic compass. On that bearing we would find a punch which we would collect and then follow the next bearing.... simple. Teamwork and tactics soon saw us back at the start having found all the punches, as we were first there and this was the only stage of the night, we had to wait until all the teams arrived before we could set of back to the camp. As it turned out we put in the fastest time of the night so went into Saturday as the event leaders. On the way back to the camp site, normality kicked in as Matthew's 110 died on the way down a hill and refused to restart. As I went back to tow him in, the front LH tyre decided now would be a good time to let all the air out... so it did.

Matthew managed to get the 110 restarted and, after putting some air in the tyre we headed back to the site and set about removing the tyre from the rim and repairing the tube. Matthew is an excellent "bush" tyre fitter so an hour or so later and the wheel was back on so we could all wander over to the camp fire. I understand the stew that Malcolm cooked up was great but the buggers had scoffed the lot by the time we got there.

After a cold night under canvas, Saturday morning seemed a little warmer although the snow on the ground didn't seem to have melted much. Each team was allocated a stage to go to, together with a map and a mix of grid references and tulip diagrams.

Our first stage of the day was "Round the bend", a straight forward run down a hill side through some trees, right into a small gully at the bottom, right again and then back up the hill. With the snow on the ground and unknown grip it was decided that I would lower Matthew's 110 down the hill then lower my own vehicle down using my rear winch. As soon as Matthew was down he would then start to winch back up the hill. As it turned out we'd have probably been OK simply driving down the hill but better safe than sorry with all those trees to slide into if things got away from you. We soon had both vehicles out of the stage, punch collected and ready to move on to the next.

Our second stage had another team in it and they looked to be getting nowhere fast. Keith Hutching's 90 looked to be fast on top of a tree stump so, rather than waiting, we elected to skip that stage and move on to the next.

The next stage was run against the clock and entailed a fairly simple drive along a rock strewn gully/stream. The real twist in the tail was the punch halfway along. In order to get to the punch (without rolling over) you needed to turn the vehicle at 90 degrees to the gully and winch/climb up the side of the gully to the punch. Using Matthew's long tree strap our navigators rigged up a suitable winching point while we drove the vehicles up the gully. The plan worked and before long both vehicles were out of the gully and the clock stopped.

Those of you who have followed our "challenge event career" will now be a little confused as everything seems to be going well doesn't it ?

As Matthew took a number of shunts to get the 110 back onto the track so we could head for the next stage he seemed to be making heavy weather of moving forward up a slight incline. It soon became apparent that the front half shaft we'd replaced in Ireland in October had snapped, leaving him with no front wheel drive. The next 3 hours of the remaining 4 and a half hours was spent stripping and rebuilding his front axle using limited tools and spares. While Matthew was busy I decided to investigate the knocking noise that had developed on the run down the the stage and found that the drivers side rear shock absorber had ripped it's mounting eye off. With no spare rear shock absorbers with us it meant I would be spending the rest of the day with one shock absorber on the back axle.

As luck would have it, the next stage was at the furthest point from the finish and took us the best part of 40 minutes to reach. Once there I managed to get to the start with the use of my ARB diff locks but Matthew with open diffs had to winch to the start. A quick team consultation showed that we had no real choice but to head back without attempting the stage as it had taken us 40 minutes to get to the stage and we had 45 minutes to complete the stage and get back to the finish. If all went well it was possible but the slightest hitch could see us losing our morning's points so we opted to head back.

Back at the camp site I had a word with Patrick and he arranged for a pair of Old Man Emu shock absorbers to be removed from the Maddison 4x4 shop display. Paul O' Byrne was heading back to Maddison's so he agreed to pick the shock absorbers up for me and I'd pick them up next time I met up with him.

Having stowed all our kit and picked up our road book we then headed north to the first of the night stages which turned out to be near Wooler. A quick meal at a Little Thief on the way up and we started to feel a bit better but to only complete 2 stages in a day wasn't good and we just wanted to get to the camp site, put our feet up for a bit and start fresh again the following morning.

The first of the stages that was free at Wooler turned out to be on the same ground that I had snapped my winch cable on last year's event. I was first into the stage and the numerous tree stumps made for slow going and a heavy reliance on our navigators spotting for us outside the vehicle. In a couple of places between the trees we had to take a few shunts to squeeze through but we were soon at the punch and on our way to the finish. As Paul directed me out of the worst of the tree stumps and back onto something resembling a track, I lost all steering to the right front wheel.

Paul had a look underneath and found that the track bar had sheared off about 2 inches from the end. The combination of steering guards and me "parking" on a hill with a good side slope made working on the track rod a bit more difficult than it should have been. Normally, our steering guards mean you have to remove a wheel in order to replace the track bar but this was proving difficult as any attempt to jack the vehicle up meant it would slide one way or the other. Eventually, with the use of the front winch and high lifts a wheel was removed and the spare track rod in place and we were soon back on the track. Paul O' Byrne turned up to offer words of encouragement during the repair such as "what eejut parked that there ?" but as he was also bearing shock absorbers we let him off.

Given the day we were having a team decision was made - sod the rest of the night stages, let's get to the campsite, set up the tents and have a beer or two. Which, other than a short but very smelly stage against the clock on our way north to Scotland, is what we set off to do. I had replaced the faulty Pro-Comp shock absorber on the back with one of the Old Man Emu ones, on the way to the camp site a familiar knocking showed that the other Pro-Comp had called it a day too, that could wait 'til morning.

Sunday morning was, I guess, a typical morning in Scotland in March - cold and wet. The consumption of bacon sandwiches and coffee seemed to help and before long we were ready to start again. My 100" now had a full compliment of shock absorbers and before long we were following a road book to our first venue of the day.

This first venue offered a number of different challenges, a dead vehicle trial was our first which caused us few real problems. Matthew as the "live" vehicle had some problems getting through one of the gates without touching it and then hooked up on a boulder that he ended up pulling out of the ground. Near the end of the stage I nearly rolled down a steep drop as, without engine power, I had no way to drive through it when the rear wheels lifted. All I could do was keep off the brakes and try and steer out of it which provided a few seat clenching moments.

On the way to the second challenge we picked up a couple of punches on the way. One was easy to get to, the other was surrounded by peat bog and took a bit of effort to get to. The second challenge was a speed relay event where each vehicle had to navigate a dual cloverleaf correctly then hand the baton on. We managed to set one of the top times for this.

The third challenge was a GPS challenge where we were given a gps grid reference for the first punch which then had the grid reference for the next etc... With hindsight we should have skipped this as it took over an hour and we only earnt the same number of points as a normal challenge that we might have finished in 10 minutes. We completed it though and moved to the next venue, Toot Wood.

Toot wood is a small area of woodland with a stream that runs through it. For a challenge event, it's most interesting feature is that most of the woodland seems to be close to or at vertical. When you drop into the stream at Toot Wood you do just that !

We completed two of the stages in Toot wood before heading to the finish. The first had a really vicious start that guided you through the trees before turning you down a very steep bank into the stream. Once again as Matthew doesn't have a rear winch, I lowered Matthew and the 110 down the drop off into the stream and then lowered my own vehicle in using the rear winch. The stage then meandered along the course of the stream until finally we winched ourselves back up the bank at the exit.

The second stage also started in the stream, although this time with an easy entrance, and ended with a long winch up the hill side to the finish.

After washing the vehicles off in the ford and receiving our plaques we broke camp and headed into Duns to the welcome sight of our hotel for the night with a hot shower and a bar. After a meal in the bar we then headed round to the informal meeting where many of our fellow Muddy Truckers and the organisers were having a meal. The rest of the night was spent re-telling exaggerated stories of daring do, comparing tales of woe, broken half shafts, winches, popped tyres until the land lady got fed up and kicked us out some time after all the bar staff went home.

The verdict: The new competition motor performed admirably and did everything asked of it without complaint, it even made the journey home under it's own steam. It's worth pointing out that NOT ONCE did Matthew have to tow me to the finish ! The event itself was tough and, on Saturday, seemed to go on too long - we called it a day early and got to the campsite at 1.30am some competitors did more but didn't get back 'til 6am and I know at least one crew didn't have the inclination/energy to set up a tent so drove the front of their vehicle up a hill (to recline the seats) and slept where they were. I understand that next year may be a single venue event, whatever way it goes we'll be there ! Thanks to the organisers and marshals who stood out in the dark and the cold so that we could make tits of ourselves and damage our vehicles and if anyone found a purple tree strop wrapped round a tree somewhere near Wooler - it's probably mine.

Pictures of the event can be seen here
 
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