Winch rac­ing is back, and it’s wilder than ever.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS DAN EVERETT

THOSE new to the four-wheel drive scene may be sur­prised to learn four-wheel driv­ing wasn’t al­ways like it is now. The stan­dard to­day is over-bear­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tion laws and bu­reau­cracy, but things used to be a lit­tle more, well… wild.

In no un­cer­tain terms they were the glory days of 4x4ing, where ve­hi­cles were built for pur­pose and the tracks were wild and open. Ev­ery few months, if you knew where to look, the hills of ru­ral Vic­to­ria would ring loud with the roar of V8s, the clack-clack of com­pe­ti­tion winches and the cheers of crowds as driver and nav­i­ga­tor bat­tled the clock and the ter­rain. It was wild, it was glo­ri­ous, and it’s back.

Af­ter count­less meet­ings with Baw Baw Shire Coun­cil, James Hill and Barry Smethurst were able to cut through the red tape and put to­gether what is set to be the pre­miere winch chal­lenge in Vic­to­ria: the Wild Dog Winch Chal­lenge.

If you’re un­fa­mil­iar with winch rac­ing you’re se­ri­ously miss­ing out. The stages are a mix­ture of high-speed cor­ner­ing through tight tracks, pre­cise driv­ing through tech­ni­cal ter­rain, and more than a few climbs that are so steep noth­ing short of a

com­pe­ti­tion winch and a heavy hand of wheel­spin will get you to the top.

The 2016 Wild Dog Winch Chal­lenge drew mas­sive num­bers of both spec­ta­tors and com­peti­tors. Sold-out crowds turned up all week­end to watch 42 in­di­vid­ual teams and their large “sup­port crews” fight tooth and nail for a spot on the podium. For some, the week­end brought glory; for others, bro­ken dreams and busted 4x4s. How­ever, every­one left with a smile.

“It was an ab­so­lutely gar­gan­tuan task to get ev­ery­thing to­gether,” James Hill told us af­ter the event. “We spent lit­er­ally hun­dreds of hours pre­par­ing fenc­ing, stages and spec­ta­tor tracks so it would all run smoothly. We’d have to print a full page of names just to cover the amount of peo­ple who helped out, from the vol­un­teers of the Snatch’em 4X4 club through to Alan and Karen Mcmullen, the prop­erty own­ers.”

The event was such a huge suc­cess the Wild Dog Winch Chal­lenge will be back in 2017, big­ger than ever. Spec­ta­tor tick­ets will again be lim­ited, so make sure you line up early or risk miss­ing the wildest 4x4 event in Vic­to­ria.

With tracks de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, fin­ish­ing be­came a chal­lenge. Phil and Rob from The 4WD Shed held an im­pres­sive pace. Bider­s4wd proved teamwork was more im­por­tant than mods. Crews warm­ing their bones around seven tonnes of camp­fire.

Even the sim­pler sec­tions of track can be per­ilous at speed. Jeremy from Sharp Ex­hausts took the never lift ap­proach... A snapped winch­line had Reds Rac­ing do­ing quick wheel work. A dou­ble-line pull was used to get through the deeply rut­ted creek.

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